What is EQing & How To Use EQs When Mixing- Tips & Tricks

Being able to use EQ controls to mix and blend tracks has been, and always will be a vital part of DJing.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of the foundations of EQing is crucial in reshaping and manipulating sound and will unleash your creative potential once mastered.

During this article, we will explain what EQing is, how it can be used and some EQing tips to apply to your mixes and sets.

What is EQing?

First of all, EQ is an abbreviated term for Equalisation, which is the action of adjusting the volume of different frequencies within an audio signal.

Before we continue, let’s discuss a little about sound. An audio signal is a representation of sound. Sound is a wave that consists of vibrating particles, and the reason we hear sounds is that the vibrations in the air enter our eardrums and cause them to vibrate.

When the vibrations are fast, you hear high frequencies such as hi-hats, when the vibrations are between you hear mid-range frequencies such as the human voice and when the vibrations are slow, you hear lower frequencies such as basses.

4 Elements That Define Sound;

  • Pitch (Frequency or Hertz) -How High Or Low
  • Dynamic (Amplitude or Decibel) – How Loud Or Soft
  • Duration – How Long Or Short
  • Timbre (Wave Form) – Unique Tone Color Of Each Instrument

Frequency Subgroups;

A human being can detect sounds in a frequency range from 20Hz to 20,000hz, these frequencies can be broken down into 7 subgroups;

  • Sub-Bass
  • Bass
  • Low Mid Range
  • Midrange
  • Upper Midrange
  • Presence
  • Brilliance

Full Three Band EQ

For this article, we will focus on the most commonly used frequencies in DJing. The full three-band EQ, which consists of the following;

  • High – This frequency will have your hi-hats, cymbals, snares and occasionally vocals.
  • Mid – The mid range frequency is the most recognisable and consists of a wide range of audio, guitars and most vocals will be found here.
  • Low – The low frequencies most commonly consist of kick drums and basses, these are vital to music composition and are usually the foundation of most tracks, especially within the EDM world.

These frequencies are controlled via knobs located on the mixer section of your DJ controller, or if you have an external mixer they will be located on there.

The number of knobs will depend on how many channels the DJ mixer or DJ controller has, for example, a 2 channel mixer will have 6 knobs whilst a 4 channel will have 12 knobs to control the different frequencies.

Related Read: What’s The Difference Between A DJ Mixer & A DJ Controller?

The default position of the knobs are as shown in the image above, turning them clockwise will increase the volume of that particular frequency while turning them anti-clockwise will reduce the volume of that frequency.

These knobs can be used in multiple ways to modify and shape the sound of the tracks, using them effectively can create an atmosphere, depth and drama within your mixes and mastering this will help you in defining your sound.

Tips & Tricks

Below are some tips & tricks to help you to effectively master EQing;

High-Range Frequency Tips;

Most commonly, hi-hats, snares, cymbals and vocals are found within this range and are important to the overall sound of your mix, below are a few ways you can use the high EQ control;

  1. If there is a particular sound within this frequency that you would like to highlight or bring attention to, for example a sharp sounding snare or hi-hat, this can be done by increasing the volume of the highs via the high frequency knob located on the mixer.
  2. You may want to swap the highs of one track with another track that you are playing, this can be used in transitions when introducing a new track, or fading a track out.
  3. The higher frequencies tend to be more sensitive to the human ear, if they are too loud it can be unpleasant, ensure you keep an eye on your levels.

Mid-Range Frequency Tips

Within this frequency range, you will find guitars and the majority of vocals. By using the control knobs on each deck, you can increase or decrease the volume of the mid-range frequencies.

  1. You can use the mid-range controls to emphasise a vocal from one track whilst removing a melodic or guitar element from another or vice versa.
  2. Try not to kill the mids of one track completely, this will be very noticable to the listener and will lead to a rough transition from one track to the other.

Low-Range Frequency Tips

The low-frequency range is where you will find kick drums and basslines, they are the foundations of the majority of tracks and create and carry a lot of the energy within the track, especially when it comes to EDM & Hip Hop music.

  1. You should only ever have 1 bassline playing at a time, having two can cause distortion and clipping.
  2. Bass swapping, this is a technique DJs use to bring in the bass from one track and take out the bass from another. Timing is vital when using this technique, you want to swap the bass at the end of the beat or phrase instead of doing so in the middle when the tracks are at full energy.
  3. When swapping basses between tracks, its important to be aware of the strength of the basses, for example, swapping a strong bass with a weak bass will be very noticable and the energy of the mix will drop. You can gradually fade a bass out whilst introducing a new bass to create a solid transition.

EQing Tips & Tricks

  • Avoiding Clipping – Clipping is when the volume is too high, this can happen if you have two of the same frequencies playing too loud, the frequencies are occupying the same space and the volume will rise and distort. This is usually indicated by the VU meters and can be rectified by using the EQ controls, for example reducing the low, middle or high of one track while increasing the other.
  • Listen To The Music To Blend & Manipulate The Frequencies – Use your ears to listen to the tracks and then utilize the EQ controls to your advantage, for example if you want to increase a particular element in the track, vocals or strings for example, do not simply turn the volume up so it can be heard, try cutting other frequencies in order to emphasise other elements.
  • EQ Blending – You can start by fully killing all frequencies of one track by turning all the knobs anti-clockwise as discussed above. Then you can practice by bringing certain frequencies from one track in while taking frequencies from the other track out, this allows you to play around with different elements in each track, giving you a deeper understanding of what sounds good together and what doesnt. For example, you may like the vocals from one track and the highs from another, only through practice, trial and error can you improve and become a better DJ.
  • Reset The Levels To Neutal For The Next Track – Resetting the knobs back to the neutral position before beginning to mix the track is important, or you may find your mix sounding slightly odd.
  • Swapping Basses – Dropping one tracks bass and bringing in another is a great way to keep the energy moving on the dancefloor.
  • Hi Frequency Adjustments – Many DJs will leave this knob in the neutral position and gradually fade one track out, removing the highs can remove important elements of the track making the transition rough and unpleasant on the ears.
  • Practice,Practice,Practice – Practice is the most important part of mastering anything, EQ controls are no different. Continue to push yourself, play around and have fun with the sound, through trial and error you will gradually become a better, more rounded DJ using EQs, it is a cornerstone of the art and vital part of a DJs performance.

Final Thoughts

Firstly, have fun when mixing, play around with the sound, manipulate different elements in tracks to create your own sound.

Remember the EQ controls will assist you in controlling volumes of each frequency to prevent clipping, and help you to place emphasis on individual elements in the tracks.

Keep practising and enjoying the process, using EQs will take your DJing to the next level then after you master these controls, the next step is moving on to the filter controls to add more creative juice to your mix.

Thanks for reading.

Leave a comment