EQ can make poor quality gear sound great, or great quality gear sound poor. Often times knowing how to EQ lies in the knowledge of what frequencies are being represented by the instruments on stage. Here are the Top 10 Essential EQ Tips and Tricks that can help you to master EQ.
Great EQ Tips for Churches and Worship
1. Space Maker – One of the main reasons EQ is necessary is to “create space” for the instruments on stage. A common misperception is to pan the instruments to create space. This technique really only works with recordings. It’s better to create space with your EQ, for example, vocals have a tendency to sound muddy in the 500 Hz to 1.5 kHz range but guitars sound great in that range. By cutting the vocal channels in those frequencies we are making space for the guitars.
2. Cut – before you boost. Always. Remember that EQ is in line after gain, by boosting the EQ you increase your chances of feedback. This is all the more important when it comes to the master EQ on your sound system. I’ll take it one step farther and say never boost the master system EQ. Boosting the EQ on individual channels for better tone is acceptable, but rare.
3. Cut Again Speaking of cuts, drop the low-mids without hesitation! If your kick and/or bass is sounding muddy without the hit you were expecting, your mids and lows are likely the cause. Drop them down 100-300 Hz (not the master) and that should correct your bass blues.
4. Reset – When you notice that every EQ knob is boosting, reset all your EQs to 0 and reset the gain structure. If all the EQs on a channel are boosting you are no longer manipulating tone, you’re just making that channel louder. It’s better to start over with a proper gain structure on your channel than trying to adjust volume with EQ.
5. Proper Mics Selecting the proper microphone for the appropriate instrument will help in not needing to EQ as much. For example, the AKG D112 is a mic designed to respond well to kick drums. The Shure SM57 is a great mic, but it won’t respond the same way to a kick drum as the D112. By using the D112 you minimize the amount of EQing necessary on a kick compared to the 57.
6. Start Fresh Each Session – Unless your church uses the same musicians every week on the exact same channels, zero the board before soundcheck. By setting all your gains, monitors, and EQs to zero you allow a fresh foundation to build a mix on. Also if your tech team has several different sound techs, each of you may have a different flavor to add to the EQ. What you like the next guy might hate, it’s better to start off with your foundation than someone else’s.
7. Find and Eliminate – If a certain frequency is bothering you and you want to get rid of it, set your EQ to a narrow Q setting and slowly sweep through the frequency range with a 5-10dB boost until the errant sound jumps out at you. Once you’ve identified it, change the boost to a cut.
8. Proper FX – Reverb can often cause an unwanted low rumble that can if left untreated can really mess with your sound! Running a high-pass filter on your reverb and cutting your low-end tracks should fix it right up.
9. Stop and Listen – Finally, there are many instruments that may sound just fine without adjust the EQ. That’s great! Don’t feel like just because you can, you should.
10. Slow Grasshopper – Mastering EQ generally doesn’t happen overnight – it takes lots of practice of working with your worship team, so make sure to attend the rehearsals as much as you can and experiment.
Let me take a minute here to plug digital boards a bit. Since the advent of digital mixing consoles, we can now save all our gains, EQ, monitors, even fader levels as a scene. If your church is thinking about buying a new board, go digital. It truly makes life easier for everyone!
What tips would you add to this list? What have been the most helpful tips you use every week when mixing in church?