Equalizers are a fundamental part of any music production toolkit, and while their primary function is to adjust the frequency balance of individual tracks or the overall mix, there are many creative ways to use EQ to shape and enhance your music.
We’ll explore together five creative ways to use the EQ helping you to be more creative in your music production. By experimenting with these techniques, you can add unique character, depth, and texture to your tracks, and learn some great new creative ways of integrating the EQ in your music!
5 Creative Ways to use the EQ
1. Creating Space and Depth in Your Mix
One of the most creative ways of using EQ is to create space and depth in your mix. By using EQ to shape the frequency spectrum of individual tracks or the overall mix, you can make your music sound more immersive and dynamic.
For example, you can use a low-pass filter to cut out some of the higher frequencies in a track, which can make it sound like it’s further back in the mix. Conversely, you could use a high-pass filter to cut out some of the lower frequencies in a track, which can make it sound like it’s closer to the listener. Or yet another creative way to create space could be by cutting out the mids entirely and just keeping the low-end and high-end.
Dimebag Darrell, the legendary guitarist of Pantera, was famous for popularizing a unique and groundbreaking guitar tone. His “scooped” guitar tone involved removing practically all mid-range frequencies from his signal, giving his music a signature sound that many metal contemporaries were inspired by in later years.
To achieve this sound, Darrell used high-gain Randall amps and an old-school MXR 6-band EQ pedal. He not only removed mid frequencies at 400Hz and 800Hz, but also boosted around 150Hz-200Hz to give his down-tuned riffs a fat and chunky quality. Hear it in Pantera’s punchy Cowboys From Hell!
2. Emphasizing the Rhythm Section
Another creative EQ tip is to emphasize the rhythm section of your mix. By boosting the mid and low frequencies in the kick drum, snare, and bass guitar, you can make the backbone of your song more prominent and powerful. This can help to drive the energy of the track and keep the listener engaged.
Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” is an excellent example of this technique. The kick drum and snare are both heavily emphasized in the mix, giving the song a powerful and driving rhythm that is impossible to ignore. Of course, just boosting mid and low frequencies didn’t achieve the massive drum sound. Another important part of this sound is given by the heavy compression of a 1176LN!
3. Creating Unique Sound Effects
EQs can also be used to create unique and interesting sound effects. For example, you could use a band-pass filter to isolate a specific frequency range, and then automate the cutoff frequency to create a sweeping effect. You could also use an EQ to create a formant filter, which can give a vocal track a robotic or otherworldly sound. You can also add EQ together with other fx such as distortion, reverb and much more.
A clever unique sound effect using EQ on vocals can be heard on “Climbing Up the Walls” from Radiohead’s iconic OK Computer. The eerie sound of the vocals are equipped with many effects, however, one of the vocals tracks has the low frequencies completely EQ’d out, which make it sound very thin. Paired with reverb, distortion and double tracked vocals, this effect demonstrates an incredible creative way of using EQ as a sound effect!
4. Boosting your Guitar in a band setting
Another creative way to use an equalizer is to boost your upper mids and top-end to help your guitar cut through the mix. This technique can be especially effective for lead players such as Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, using this type of EQ to cut through the mix. This is also very effective when guitar and bass play similar lines as in Bulls on Parade.
Additionally, many EQ pedals feature gain controls that can raise the overall output of your signal for a volume increase, such as the popular MXR 10-band EQ.
Whether you’re looking to add clarity to your mix or boost your signal, using an EQ can help take your sound to the next level.
5. Filter Sweep
Looking for an unconventional sound to add to your guitar playing? Look no further than the filter sweep effect achievable with an EQ pedal. Although commonly used in electronic music, this effect can also be used in experimental contexts to add a synth-like quality to your playing.
To achieve a convincing sweep, it’s important to use a parametric EQ pedal that allows you to move the center frequency and boost the decibels at that frequency. This can also be achieved by pairing an EQ with an expression pedal which will morph the gain of the set parameters.
You can hear this effect clearly at the beginning of Rush’s Tom Sawyer and also in the chorus…
So next time you’re working on a new song or production, don’t be afraid to experiment with your EQ. Try using it in new and creative ways to see what kind of interesting and unique sounds you can create. There are countless ways to use EQ creatively, what are yours? Let us know in the comments!