How To Mix Using EQ

Plastician is a multi-talented DJ and producer as well as a label boss at Terrorhythm Records. He recently joined us at our London DJ studios to share some essential DJ mixing tips for beginners.

In this article and video, Plastician covers what EQ stands for, what EQ does, and how to use EQ to get your mixes sounding really good.

To hone your skills as a band, producer, DJ or dancer, book a Pirate.com studio in the UK, US or Germany now.

What is EQ?

So, what does EQ stand for? It simply means equalisation. We use EQ to make two tracks sound balanced when they're playing at the same time in a mix.

What Does EQing Do?

Understanding EQ means you’ll be able to manipulate the individual sounds within a mix. For a DJ, EQ allows you to get creative and put your own personal spin on how the tracks you're playing sound.

This means you need to think about the tracks you’re using in terms of their individual elements. The elements in your tracks might be a kick drum, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, vocals, hi-hats, a synth, the list goes on.

How do you use EQ in mixing?

When you have two tracks playing at the same time, there will be multiple clashing frequencies, causing a muddy sound. As the DJ, it’s your job to take out the clashing elements and accentuate the pleasing ones, changing that muddy noise into something clear and deliberate.

You might also need to use EQ if you're playing unmastered music to get it sounding just as it should.

Navigating the ‘Low’, ‘Mid’ and ‘High’ frequencies

At Pirate, you’ll be using a Pioneer DJM-900 NXS2 DJ mixer which has a three-band EQ.

This three-band EQ refers to the frequency range each knob controls. The knobs on your mixer will be labeled treble (high), midrange (mid) and bass (low). These represent the various ranges on the frequency spectrum: the high frequency sounds, the mid frequency sounds and the low frequency sounds.

The low is normally going to affect the bass and maybe some of the kick drums. The mid is probably where the vocals are going to be set and the high is everything above that including high hats.

EQ mixing tips and tricks

Below are some key EQ tips to help you make the most out of each knob.

Bass (low)

As a rule, you should only ever have one bassline playing. If you have two tracks playing, one of your bass knobs should be turned up and the other should be turned down completely.

In practice, if you’re mixing one track into another, and you want the track you’re mixing into to assume authority, flip to the new track’s bassline by turning it up and turning the first track’s bass all the way down.

Mid-range (mid)

The mid eq knob controls the vocal range. If you want to accentuate a vocal in a track, turn the mid knob up slightly on the deck that track is loaded into. There are several instances in which you might want to use your mid level, I've broken down two popular applications below:

  • To make room for the vocals when mixing an acapella track with an instrumental track. Here, you would lower the mid on the instrumental tune and raise the mid on the vocal track until it sounds great.

  • To emphasise the bass. If you take out some of the higher frequency sounds, there are going to be less distractions from your thumping bassline. If that's what you want, simply turn the mid down. Turning the mid down won't eradicate the vocals in a track but it will allow the bass to take centre-stage.

Treble (high)

If you want to learn how to EQ dance music like house music or techno, this will be an important one for you because the high EQ controls all the nice instrumental detail in your tracks. Again, there are many reasons to use your highs, I've broken down three popular applications below:

  • The high knob is where you go if you want to bring out and accentuate a nice-sounding hi-hat. Here, you’ll simply turn up the high on the deck which has that track loaded in.
  • You’ll also want to turn up the high any time you need to add clarity and detail to your mix.
  • You might need to turn down the highs if the mix is sounding too crisp or bright, or hurting your audience's ears.

Now that you know the basics, watch Plastician demonstrate mixing with EQ in this video.

The EQ tips and tricks outlined above will give you a sound basis on how to mix sounds together smoothly. All that’s left to do now, is practice.

If you don’t have access to decks at home, you can book a DJ studio with industry standard equipment at PIRATE.COM in most UK cities, the US and Germany.

Alternatively you can research the best sound control software online and start DJ beat mixing on a laptop.

For more advice on how to DJ, head to the Pirate Blog where you can learn how to beat match, get DJ name ideas and much more.

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