How to EQ Vocals

Symantec Corp.

 How to EQ vocals to get to that sweet spot in your mix.

Recording Vocals

We have all been there, great song, great gear, great vocal performances, but it’s just coming together.  The magic of those beautiful voices is lost in the “mix”.  Here are a few tips on how to EQ vocals.  Bring out the best in your vocal tracks by getting the frequencies lined up right.  Below is a good place to start but, as always… TRUST YOUR EARS!

Female VocalsFree shipping and the guaranteed lowest price as SamAsh.com

• 100 Hz – Low End.  Cut everything lower than 100 Hz using a high-pass filter with a 20 dB octave slope. This can help clean up problem frequencies like mic stand rumbling, air popping and other low-end noise. On female background vocals lower the slope to 12 dB octave HPF set in the 400 to 500 Hz range to open the low-end and clean up your mix.

• 140-360 Hz – Body.  Sweep between 140 to 360 Hz to find the “body” in the female vocal track. Therefore, if the vocal is too low boomy or too thick, cut here with a medium bandwidth to thin out the vocal or boost to give the vocal some fullness.

• 800-1000 Hz – Nasal.  Reduce a couple of decibel between 800 Hz and 1000 Hz to remove a nasal sounding vocal.

• 3 kHz – Intelligibility.  Boost around 2.8 or 3.7 kHz for female vocals to increase the “intelligibility” of the vocal track. Use a parametric EQ with a medium to wide bell.

• 5-7.8 kHz – Sibilanc.  Take away sibilance (e.g. offending T and S sounds) between 5 and 7.8 kHz by using a narrow bandwidth parametric EQ.

• 10 kHz – Air.  You can give the vocal some ‘air’ or ‘space’ by boosting from 10 kHz and up using a shelving EQ with a medium bandwidth of 12dB octave.

Male Vocals

• 80 Hz – Low End.  Give the vocal some ‘air’ or ‘space’ by boosting from 10 kHz and up using a shelving EQ with a mid size bell bandwidth of 12dB/octave.)

• 130-360 Hz – Body.  Sweep between 130 to 360 Hz to find the main body of the vocal. If the vocal is to boomy or too thick cut here with a medium bandwidth parametric EQ to thin the vocal. Try to, boost this range to give the vocal some fullness.

• 800-1000 Hz – Nasal.  Reduce a couple of decibel between 800 Hz and 1000 Hz to remove a nasal sounding vocal.

• 2 kHz – Intelligibility.  Boost around 2 or 2.5 kHz for male vocals to increase the “intelligibility” of the vocal Track. Use a parametric EQ with a medium to wide bell.

• 5-8 kHz – Sibilance.  Take away sibilance (e.g. harsh S and T sounds) between 5 and 8 kHz by using a narrow bandwidth parametric EQ.)

• 10 kHz – Air. You can give the vocal some ‘air’ or ‘space’ by boosting from 10 kHz and up using a shelving EQ with a medium bandwidth of 12dB IK Multimedia's MODO BASSoctave.

Background Vocals Low End

• 120 Hz – Body.  Having several vocals tracks in the background of the mix will make a lot of unwanted frequencies fast. So, you need to be taking away a lot more in this range rather than boosting it.  When the background vocals are all male singers, you will get a build up of low frequencies.  It becomes very dense around 120 Hz which you can cut using narrow to medium wide bell curve. Better yet, is to use your high pass filter at that 120 Hz with a slope of around 10 to 20 dB.  This will clean up the low-end and make room for other instruments and the lead vocal.

When you have all female background singers, the body or fullness sits around 200 to 240 Hz.  Frequencies below that can fill up the “Misery” range very quickly. It is best to use a high pass filter up to about 150 to 190 Hz.  Make sure the female vocals don’t sound too thin.  If they do, then lower the frequency on the high pass filter a bit. When you have both male and female singers in the background vocals the solutions lie somewhere in the middle. Still use a 12 to 24 dB high pass filter between 100 and 160 Hz to clean up the low-end.

• 200-340 Hz – Boom.  If the background vocals are very boomy, you can cut between 200 and 340 Hz with a narrow to medium bell curve.

Background Vocals Mid – Highs

• 2.5-4 kHz – Presences.  If the background vocals are too up-front, you can fix it this a narrow to medium “Q” bell curve and cut a few decibel between 2.5 and 4 kHz.  On the other hand, If they are too distant or not intelligible you can give this range a slight boost with a wide bell curve.  With a lot of vocals present a cut in this range can give some air or transparency to the background vocalists.  Also, that obnoxious, ear-piercing, or irritating frequencies can climb up rapidly in this frequency range.   Again, a narrow to medium bell curve cut will help you control this.

• 5 kHz – Clarity.  A very small boost around 5 kHz can bring some crispness to the vocals.

• 6-9 kHz – Sibilance.  Aggressive S and T sounds can become a real problem in background vocal tracks.  Especially, if these are all sung by the same artist because “characteristic frequencies” in the singer’s voice are compounded with every overdub . Find the annoying frequency between 6 kHz and 9 kHz and cut with a narrow to medium bell curve. Don’t be afraid to use a 6 – 12 dB per octave low pass filter at around 8 to 9 kHz to see if this reduces any extraneous or shrill high frequencies.

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