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Is it bad to use EQs to an "extreme" extent? I use that word because of what my friend said about the settings of an EQ on a song we were helping a mix and master. He had something like this, but more a extreme frequency cut at ~75 and ~125 hz.

extreme eq

I didn't think it was a big deal. I do something similar to the image above on a lot of the tracks in my songs (drop levels at ~100 and ~200 hz usually) to make room for the kick and snare. Only difference is mine aren't as intense as the image above, so medium level you could say.

My friend said this was wrong and that EQ curves should be much gentler and curve smoothly instead of sharply creating steep angles like the image below.

gentle eq

Why does he believe that using the EQ like the first image is wrong?

I hope this makes sense to everyone. Feel free to edit and reword.

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3 Answers 3

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Notch filters are perfectly valid in certain key cases to deal with a particular problem with the sound. For example, when trying to deal with a single frequency buzz (like a 60hz line buzz) it is ideal to cut a very narrow band to deal with the problem. In general however, this is only true when troubleshooting a problem with the recording. For a general EQ of an ideal recording, the EQ should generally be fairly smooth to avoid distorting the sound of the recording (unless such distortion is desired for artistic reasons).

The real question to consider is, is it better to make a jarring change that may make an audible gap in the sound, but minimize the impact on surrounding frequencies or will a gentle transition that makes it feel smooth better serve the purpose.

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great answer! Makes a lot of sense. I only do the somewhat intense peaks on my kick and snare. It gives the kick a big punch and the snare a strong pop, which is what I was going for. It kind of is jarring, but I like it that way and it fits the songs I make well (/^_^)/ –  Travis Dtfsu Crum Feb 6 '13 at 18:04
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Another point to consider is the harmonic content of the instrument that you are EQ'ing. Above (and sometimes below) the fundemental note and frequency of the instrument there will often be harmonic and distortion that make up other portions of the sound. This is the main reason that you can't just slash away everything but the fundemental. Sure you would make a lot of room for all your instruments in the mix, but they would all sound very strange.

I agree that sometimes a severe notch is very useful for killing a troublesome frequency (poor mic placement, resonating room etc) but in general, if you like the sound of what you recorded and are just looking to make it fit better in the mix, gentler treatment is better. A rule that a lot of people use is to not go much further than 3 or 4 db change. This will look like a small amount on the EQ but it is a lot. For example, try turning down your entire mix by 3db on the master fader, now consider that you are doing that to only a particular frequency with similar level of change.

The only other case I can think of is hi and lo pass filtering, and if the instrument genuinely has no content in those regions (cymbals up top and maybe sub bass down lo) then yeah it can be very useful to remove any lingering content that isn't really adding to the character of the sound.

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As an aside... 3 dB = twice the power (<--amplification) 6 dB = twice the amplitude (<--voltages) 10 dB = twice the perceived volume (<--subjective of course) –  JoshP Feb 18 '13 at 13:16
    
Cheers, that's the formula I was trying to remember when I was writing this. –  Philip Graham Feb 18 '13 at 13:55
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In my opinion EQ'ing is an art with no strict rules. Sometimes you are working on some strings or a voice where harsh EQ cutting would make the sound unnatural or empty. However, when working with heavy electronic music I sometimes use extreme EQ'ing to create a sound that is very unique. What i'm trying to get at is that the amount you EQ is ultimately based on what goal you want to achieve.

For example:

Say if I have a really mean sawbass in the high end, I might exaggerate some of the high end to get that crunch and completely squash the low end. Then I would layer the sound with something with a lot of bass and boost it to taste.

There is so much you can do with EQ and I encourage you to experiment. The main thing to remember is to not overdo it. If you doing extreme boosts and cuts use them in moderation and think about the space they occupy in relation to the frequency range of the other sounds in the mix.

Happy Eq'in

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