Get to know how and when to use FAST Equaliser
We dive deeper into FAST Equaliser and explore how and when to use the plugin.
Q: When should you use EQ?
A: For every sound — it’s the most commonly used audio effect, and for good reason. EQ is a set of filters which allow you to affect frequencies you want to avoid hearing or want to hear more of.
It’s crucial to use EQ on your tracks, not just to bring out the true character of your audio, which is key, but also to have a balanced mix overall regarding frequencies. If you think about the number of instruments that share the same frequency spectrum, it’s difficult to distinguish between the parts. You also don’t want to have your mix with all low or high frequencies — you need to have a full range ideally, so it sounds balanced.
When AI learns the sound on FAST Equaliser, it labels particular parts to either boost or lower for the selected instrument profile. For example, the plugin will label guitar frequency bandwidths with ‘body’, ‘air’, and ‘picking’.
Different instruments have different characteristics and the characteristics that are labelled in FAST Equaliser are the vital frequency ranges for changing that particular sound (‘nasal’, ‘sibilance’, ‘body’). By learning these different areas of instruments and their character you can make quick and informed decisions; something that would've been trial and error or taken years to learn.
Q: Is there a list of rules when using EQ; cutting low and high frequencies, for example?
A: Yes and no — mixing is still a creative part of the music-making process, so finding the sweet spots in your instruments will be subjective. However, there are some go-to uses for EQ that will significantly improve your mix.
The human ear can only hear so much, from around 20 Hz to 20 kHz — sound exists below and above that range, but we can't hear them. However, having those frequencies in the mix can still impact the sound.
So, for example, bass on a large system (think about live shows) lower than 40 Hz has a big rumble which isn't ideal as you’ll feel it physically but not hear it. Plus, no two systems are alike; some may push out the air from these low frequencies while others may not. High-end frequencies above 18k HZ can introduce weird resonance and nuances, which you will want to cut out of your mix.
Q: How do you listen out for unwanted frequencies, and how do you remove them?
A: This is what is called a ‘frequency sweep’. This is done by creating a narrow frequency band on an EQ plugin placed on the intended audio channel to find parts sounding out of place or unpleasant.
It's a manual process which will take practice. Anything that is harmonically rich, with polyphony (multiple notes played at the same time), will have resonances in certain parts of the frequency spectrum. Some are good, and some bad — this is what makes instruments unique, after all. But some will be harsh on the ear, and you will want to fix these. As mentioned, it is best practice to do this during the mixing stage on individual instruments, not the entire mix.
A top tip: if you have buses on your project (a single channel that groups numerous channels that you have selected, for example, all of the guitar parts and a separate group of all the vocal parts), always do a frequency sweep on them. As you're joining multiple signals, they could create the resonances we’ve discussed that you’ll need to address.
Q: Should you EQ every individual track?
A: Yes! For all the reasons we’ve talked about already. It’s not to say that the audio will always need drastic changes, but you want to bring the best out of your audio while having a balanced mix in frequency. You will likely need to boost or cut for your voice and instruments to shine through and not get covered up by other parts.
Q: Should you use EQ on the master channel?
A: There’s greater control from using EQ on individual channels and buses; however, some producers might put it on the master channel to affect the whole mix. If you were to do that, your changes with EQ shouldn’t be drastic as you are impacting the entire track’s sound, so cutting a wide range of low and high frequencies will drastically alter the end result.
On the flip side, when mastering after you have mixed and bounced your track, the EQ will also be on the master channel here. The mix should be in the best place possible so that any EQ changes will be minimal; as previously mentioned, you’d be affecting everything, not just one element. One interesting thing to do is apply an analogue EQ, or analogue emulating EQ such as bx_console Focusrite SC, as it adds characteristics to the overall vibe of your track.
Q: Can producers remove the whispery ’ess’ sound in vocals with EQ?
A: You can start with EQ, as some of what you’re hearing are harsh high-frequency sounds from this sound (which is perfectly natural). With FAST Equaliser, the sibilance label will be your best friend in removing some esses, and from there, you can learn the frequency range where that kind of sound is on the spectrum.
There are dedicated ‘de-essing’ plugins on the market that work differently from EQ, but we won’t go into that here. With EQ, you can make the sound less noticeable in the mix, sometimes sorting it out entirely with certain vocals — each voice is unique.
Try FAST Equaliser for free and experience first-hand the state-of-the-art AI plugin that instantly polishes the sound of your voice and instruments. If you’re a Focusrite or Novation registered hardware owner, get 30% off your purchase. This discount is also available for FAST Bundle.