What is EQ...

 

To understand EQ is to understand limits. It is in it's essence an understanding that allows the whole (the song) to sound bigger by making the elements (the tracks) sound smaller, more narrow, and dare I say it in the world of phattness, thinner. This is because the audio bandwidth is itself limited. There is only so much space you have and if you fill it up with frequencies that overlap and conflict, you will not be able to hear the music through the sound. Stated positively, if you carve out a distinct sonic space for your instruments, you will hear each more clearly. That is the basic point and essential understanding that goes into developing a mix. Always remember, it is not how things sound in isolation that matters, it's how well they sound in the mix.

When one masks anything you can't tell what it really is and its the same with audio. When you have 2 or more parts sharing the same sonic space you will only hear the loudest, the other sounds will weaken to the point where you can't really tell what they are. Some examples: A Bass that masks the kick will make a great kick sound like its not there. A full spectrum distorted guitar will make words incomprehensible. A bad vocal track will mask a great sounding instrumental mix. 2 guitars using a similar tone will make a jangly mess and you can't tell what either is playing.

The solution to masking problems usually involve a combination of 4 Possibilities.

1. Fix with panning. By moving things left or right you can cure many masking problems. But not all. You can't move the kick of bass or vocal too far from the center or the whole mix gets lopsided. But you can move rhythm guitars, synths and percussion way off center and it helps.

2. Fix with EQ. Bass removal from your tracks does wonders. At minimum put a low cut (high pass) filter on every track except the kick and bass (which get their own more extensive treatment).

3. Fix by dropping one instrument for part of the mix so both the mask and masked are not playing simultaneously.

4. Removing the track entirely.

And remember that no channel should ever go higher than 0db no matter what. That keeps things from going over the top.