A look at the audible frequency spectrum

Contributed By

Building on previous article, and information from other sources, I have tried to compile a more complete look at EQing the audible frequency spectrum.

There is always a lot of chatter going on in our forums about EQing, who does what and how. Previously, George wrote an article with a basic look at simple EQing ideas for various instruments.

With this new article I took his suggestions, added to them some of my opinions, got some info from the EQ geniouses at Har-Bal and gathered info from a collection of other sources to try and present a more centralized, more complete, look at the overall musical frequency spectrum.

Other content here that will compliment this article are these:

It is my hope that the articles listed above, plus my deeper look into the frequency spectrum as I did so below, will help you have a greater understanding of the frequencies and how to use them to your advantage.

  • Catches the boom "boom" of tom tom's
  • Cut to decrease bass "boom" and increase overtones to help bring out bass lines

  • Good place to boost kick drums slightly to give it some low end area of the spectrum to cut thru the mix, also advisable to cut other instruments around that area.
  • Rolling off the electric guitar in this area is sometimes advisable as well.

  • A decent range to boost the bass instruments. Shuffle your boost around in that area and work to not interfere with other instruments in theis range.
  • Boost can help add warmth and fullness to guitars, vocals and horns

  • A subtle and gradual scoop out of toms can emphasize the more highs and lows to still get a good tom sound and provide room in the mix for the other instruments.

120Hz and lower
  • These frequencies are generally responsible for warmth in a recording. Too much and the recording will sound muddy.

  • Generally the cut off point for the subwoofer signal in dedicated subwoofer setups like 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 and greater surround sound systems. This provides the rumble of the low frequencies often associated with explosions in the theatre and other dynamic action content.
  • Also the low end of music such as kick drums and bass guitar.
  • This are also is the bottom of an acoustic guitar and piano, a slight boost or cut here can add good sound quality, which to do kind of depends on the other instruments involved in the piece.

  • These frequencies give depth to a recording, giving vocals and other instruments a strong sense of presence without being clinical. On the other hand, these frequencies are where you're most likely to experience problems with vocal resonance. Too much in this area can be particularly fatiguing.

  • A finicky area. Be careful bosting in this area as it can guickly muddy up the sound.
  • This is a good area to get the "gong" out of cymbals.

  • Fatten up a snare in this area, varying slightly from snare to snare depending on head type, shell thickness and other factors.
  • This are also is a good range to boost acoustic guitars slightly for more fullness to the sound.
  • Scoop vocal here if muddy.

  • Common area to cut the kick to remove some of the "cardboard" sound of drums
  • Also a decent area to try to scoop the bass guitar a little bit.

  • These frequencies also give presence but of a generally harder nature. High output in this region is fairly common in rock music as it gives it a hard edge that suites the genre.

  • Boost the bass guitar a little bit at this level to add punch to it's sound.
  • Cut the electric guitar in this range to remove the "cheap" sound

  • In this area you can emphasize the "smack" of the kick's beater.

  • Good for adding to a dirty guitar for some real sizzle.
  • Boost this area for bass guitar if using the pop/slap style.

  • For clarity with an acoustic guitar and piano.

  • This is the area where vocal sibilance resides. 3kHz-5kHz is a very common peaking area in rock music because human hearing is pretty sensitive here and extra output here makes it sound louder.

    It also adds a harshness that is particularly fatiguing so don't over do it. Because of the high sensitivity in this region you can add warmth without loss of clarity by attenuating this region a bit.

  • Boost vocal here for presence.

  • Add a crisp, sharp "crack" to the snare.
  • Also a good place to add some attack to the toms.
  • Cut on background parts ot make them sink in to the back a bit

7kHz +
  • Cymbals etc, and all the other components that add the sense of quality and accuracy. Above 10kHz too much output may make your recordings sound like they are lacking some definition.
  • Cut vocals to decrease "s"ing sound

  • Cut or Boost this air to increase or decrease the "shimmer" or brightness or cymbals and hihats

  • A boosting area for piano at time to give it some clarity.

Obviously, when it comes to EQing it's all subject to your personal wants and tastes, but I think these basic guidelines should be enough to at least give people a starting point to work from.

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User-submitted comments

Jul 21, 2006 05:12 pm
This is good stuff.
And I love you for it.

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