Learning to EQ properly is probably one of the hardest and most challenging aspects when mixing. You can expect that you will struggle a lot with learning to EQ, and how to get it to interact well with the track if mixing are new to you. First I would like to say that there is no easy or magical ways to learn how to EQ perfectly, but I am going to share with you some guidelines that work really well for me when I am mixing.
EQ As A Carving Tool
First off, see the EQ as a carving tool that will help you to remove competing frequencies. You will probably face some masking problems when you throw up the all the faders on your tracks. Which means that two or more tracks will fight over the same frequency and everything will just sound muddy. For example, If you want your kick drum and bass track to pop out more, just remove the low frequencies on all the other tracks to make some space. This “technique” works on everything. Removing what you don´t need. You will also save some headroom, which in the end will let you send less signals to your mix bus and this will allow for a cleaner summing process later on.
Boosting Is Good, When Needed.
Note that I am not saying that you can´t boost frequencies. I am just pointing out that my way to do it is by removing stuff I don’t need as well as sounds that interfere with the sound I want to highlight. If I still need some frequencies to stand out more I just simply boost them. When you are EQing like this, you wont have any ugly artifacts, because you have already made room for the frequencies you would like to boost. This technique also means that you don’t have to put in so much gain when boosting.
My personal rules when I am doing EQ are: Find the problem, remove the problem and then enhance frequencies that actually will add something to the mix in the end. When every instrument has its own space, mixing is becoming so much easier and you can put your focus on all the funny creative things.
Another Very Important Thing Is Acceptance.
Accept the fact that you can't fix everything. I remember when I started to mix for my friends, I often received “not so good” basement recordings. I struggled so much to fix things with my EQ. I tried to add bite to guitars that didn’t contain any attack. I also tried to add presence to vocals that were recording with to much distance from the mic. Maybe it sounds obvious but I still meet people who make this mistake over and over again. You can't boost something that doesn’t exist. It´s as simple as that.
Get Yourself A Workhorse.
Yes it is what you think it is. It is an EQ that you always go to first. It should be easy to use, good sounding, and have a low CPU usage. Think of it as your best friend, the one you always can trust in. If you have to get another, you should get an EQ with a lot of character, that provide the mix with something special.
This is my way of doing EQ when I am mixing and it´s work great for me. Remember the most important thing is that you find a flow that works best for you. Because there is no right or wrong when mixing as long as you get a good sounding track in the end.