How to equalize a track?

How to equalize a track: the introductory guide

Have you ever wondered how the equalization of a song works? Well, in this article I will give you as complete an overview as possible.

In this article you’ll find out how to equalize, during mixing, a song a little bit mixed by removing evil frequencies and you’ll find useful tips on which frequencies to use to give warmth, power and liveliness to your track.

EQ, or equalization, is a very powerful instrument that allows you to literally sculpt the sound of your tracks, balancing and/or emphasizing the tone of any instrument to achieve optimal balance.

First of all, it is important to understand what EQ is and how it works.

What is equalization?

We always talk about sounds using words borrowed from things we can see or touch: “sharp”, “bare”, “clear” or “dark” and so on.

In fact there is an obvious link between the colors we see and the colors we hear. The colors we see are determined by the light waves that reach our eyes, while the colors we hear depend on the sound waves that reach our ears.

Coincidences? Probably not. In the end all this is due to our brain trying to reorder all the information coming from outside.

But what does it mean exactly?

The name equalization comes from the first “equalizers” used to remove annoying frequencies from telephone communications through the devices of the early ’30s.

With the dear old telephone (the corded one), the aim of the technicians was to make the voice of the interlocutor heard on the other side of the handset as close as possible to the real one.

So the task of the equalizers was to make the frequency response, flat, linear and as faithful as possible to reality.

The first telephone equipment was far from perfect and it was necessary to use a preventive equalization that would allow to hear the human voice in the best possible way.

Nowadays, digital audio systems are designed from the beginning to have a very linear frequency and paradoxically we use equalization more to add color to the sound than to remove it.

If you visualize the frequencies produced on a spectrogram (like that of your favorite DAW) by a piano, symphony orchestra or even a rock band, you will see that graphically the frequency wave will be uniform, gradually decreasing only in the higher frequency spectrum.

This is normal: if all instruments were played in the same frequency range, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish them individually.

This type of natural equalization is a standard in music played with traditional instruments and especially in live performances.

Those who compose this type of music therefore tend to balance the different instruments according to their dominant frequencies and characteristics.

Once they all come together in one set the result will be that the whole frequency spectrum is covered, but every single instrument will be well distinguishable.

How to equalize a track without equalizer?

Following the approach of traditional music, let’s see how to equalize a track and balance it correctly, without necessarily having to rely on special tools (such as a plugin or a hardware equalizer).

Always to understand how equalization can be obtained without necessarily having to use an equalizer, think also of studio microphone techniques: position, distance and type of microphone used to record a guitar, a piano or even a drum kit (and in this case you would use more microphones), greatly affect the type of frequencies that that instrument will then occupy.

With synthesizers (both hardware and virtual), the speech is more or less the same.

Before learning how to equalize an instrument, let’s try to think about how to modify a patch, a preset or in which octave to play the synthesizer line, so that the final result does not overlap with any other instrument, making it confusing.

Let’s see some practice…

As in every aspect of production and mixing, the key to a great result is knowing what you want to achieve first.

For example:

  • Balance an instrument within the track (more “presence” in the bass or kick, or a sharper sound in the lead line);
  • Balance the sound of the track as a whole (for example, a darker, darker sound with lower frequencies, or rather a clearer sound with higher frequencies predominating);

If you want to equalize a bass, if you want to equalize a kick, if you want to equalize a complete track you must first understand what the frequencies are, what characteristics they have and how you can use them for your purposes within the track.