EQ Tips: Applying EQ to your vocal tracks is essential to make the audio cut through the mix without overpowering the instruments.
If your vocal tracks couldn’t be heard clearly, it can be tempting to just throw on a little gain to make it louder.
However, adding too much gain could possibly suppress the other instrumental tracks, which will most likely be a poorly mixed final song.
Before we dive into how to use a vocal EQ frequency chart, I wanted to go over some things you need to know about EQ.
EQ in Music: What is It?
EQ or equalization is the process of adjusting and balancing the different frequencies within a digital audio signal.
EQ can be used in several ways to your advantage when mixing and mastering music.
Still, the two main uses are using EQ as an enhancement tool and using it for sculping things in terms of tone.
Using EQ as Corrective / Enhancement Tool
Recording in an area with minimal acoustic treatment, like your bedroom or living room, can cause unwanted sounds traveling into the mic.
Adding an EQ can save your track and save you the time of re-recording or finding a quieter room.
You can use a noise gate to adjust the volume threshold, or you can use an EQ as your best bet.
Using EQ for Shaping and Sculpting Tones
Music producers often use an EQ for shaping and carving tones to boost frequencies.
They usually do this method to achieve the right tonal balance to enhance the tracks and make an excellent mix.
Using EQ as a Creative Tool
Just like sidechaining or dithering, using EQ can also be used as a creative tool.
It depends on what you want.
You can shape the tone of your tracks to become more distinctive and unique.
You can also modify the frequencies to create a tone that can not only enhance the sound of your audio tracks but also alter the sound and create something different tonally.
Using EQ is an art.
It will take time to master, but you came to the right place to have a head start.
In this article, I will give you guidelines on how to properly EQ vocals in a mix to make it stand out without clashing with the other tracks.
Vocal EQ Frequency Chart
The vocal EQ frequency chart will serve as a guide for you when you are adding EQ to your vocal tracks.
It is a rough guideline that can help you determine the crucial frequency areas you need to pay attention to when adjusting the EQ.
Before using this chart, you may want to consider the factors that will affect the proximity of the fundamental frequencies, which is:
- The vocal range
- The style of singing
- The natural timbre of the singer
- The gender of the singer
- The age of the singer
This vocal chart is not meant to be followed exactly as shown because of the underlying factors to consider.
Instead, use it as a guide or estimate when adjusting and balancing the EQ.
I will explain the different regions and ranges.
All you need to do now is change the EQ within the particular range depending on the style of vocals.
There are no exact numbers between each range, so it is your job to fill the gaps and find that sweet spot in your EQ.
1kHz to 4 kHz
These are the mid-range frequencies that are responsible for some vocal qualities.
When adjusting the EQ of this area, you need to pay extra attention because it is a busy area where other instruments dwell.
Building up this frequency is common when you are just starting to learn music production, and it produces a harsh and unpleasant sound.
Make sure you pay attention to the high mid-range, mainly if your tracks include multiple vocal layers.
Make sure you add the right EQ for this area.
If there are too few adjustments, the vocals may sound muffled or distant.
Experiment a little to find that sweet spot.
10kHz to 20kHz
Some producers like to roll off the higher frequencies.
However, these ranges can also benefit your vocal sound because the natural harmonics and overtones dwell in this frequency range.
If your song includes airy synths and cymbals, make sure you still roll off this range to make space for those instruments.
20Hz to 80Hz
This range is vocal types that do not consist of a lot of negative frequency energy.
Since it is not significant for vocal tracks, you can go ahead and shave off these frequencies so instruments such as bass and kick drums can occupy this range.
When recording vocals, make sure that you use a pop filter to filter plosives and avoid vocals reaching this frequency range.
100Hz to 300Hz
The 100 to 300Hz mark is where the most critical vocal frequencies will often be found.
With that being said, you should pay attention and focus on this frequency if you do want to make your vocals sound great in the mix.
When you roll off the lower frequencies, make sure that the threshold is between 80 to 200Hz.
You can always experiment until you reach the EQ that suits your taste the most.
350Hz to 600Hz
This range is where most of the vocals are found.
The body of the vocals is found in this frequency range.
This frequency range is the area where you want to focus on the most when mixing and adjusting vocal EQ.
Adjusting the EQ in this area, however, can be a little tricky.
You can scope out 350 to 600Hz on your backing vocal tracks and adlibs to make them seem more distant, adding a cool effect to your vocals.
This technique can also give more space and headroom for the lead vocals to shine.
- How can you find the vocal range of a singer?
Knowing the vocal range and vocal timbre of a singer would help you in mastering vocal tracks using EQ. Although it is not necessary, it can give you an idea of which EQ frequencies you should focus on. To determine the vocal range of a vocalist, you can read a vocal range chart.
- What are the best EQ VSTs?
Well, there are tons of free EQ VSTs you can download on the internet, but I think you should start using the built-in EQ in your DAW. Almost every paid and free DAW has an onboard EQ, which you can use to adjust your track’s frequencies so that they wouldn’t clash and sound better mixed. DAWs such as Reaper, FL Studio, and Logic PRO X has excellent EQ that you can use once you purchased the DAW license.
- What are the different types of EQs?
Graphic EQ- These EQs operate on a fixed number of preset frequencies.
Peaking EQ- This type of EQ allows a cut or boost to be applied to a source signal with the use of a bell-shaped response curve.
Parametric EQ- This type of EQ has a variable center frequency where the “Q” is adjustable.
3-band EQ- This EQ is one of the most common types. It is usually divided into three bands, the low (bass), mid, and high (treble).
2-band EQ- This EQ is more like the three-band EQ, except for having a mid-band. You can use this EQ to boost and cut an audio signal simultaneously.
Shelving EQ- This type of EQ is used to reduce or boost all frequencies beyond the threshold evenly.
Sweepable EQ- a sweepable EQ has a variable center frequency, just like a parametric EQ. The only difference is that the “Q” is remained fixed.
Paragraphic EQ- This EQ is a special type of graphic equalizer the allows the adjustment of the center frequency for each band.
All the techniques above are not guaranteed to work because, as I mentioned before, some factors need to be considered, such as the type of voice, gender, and age of the singer.
The vocal EQ frequency chart serves as a guideline, but whichever sounds best for you is what needs to be done when mixing.
There are no standard EQ settings, and every track will be different.
Just remember that the more tracks you have to mix may not fit in the frequency range, which means that you will have to be ready to sacrifice and make small compromises to the tones in order to create an ideal mix.
Adjusting EQ can be challenging, but you probably knew that already before entering the music production game.
I hope you conquer the challenges and don’t stop creating excellent music with high-quality audio!