The 4 stages of Vocal Eq processing

Learn how to eq vocals professionally and quickly using these 4 simple steps!

Dynamic Processors


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Equalising vocals falls into two categories: Corrective and Compensatory.

Corrective equalisation is used to remove redundant and problematic frequencies.

Redundant frequencies are frequencies that we do not need. However, do NOT confuse this with frequencies that we cannot hear but are integral to the texture of the sound being processed. A wonderful example of this is when eq-ing the harmonics as opposed to the fundamental of a sound. It needs to be there or we will only be managing the gain of something that is not there, so think about what needs filtering and what doesn’t.

Band-pass filtering

I always start by inserting hi pass and low pass filters at either end of the spectrum. In effect I am using band-pass filtering/equalisation.

A filter that passes frequencies between two limits is known as a band-pass filter.

A band-pass filter attenuates frequencies below and above the cut-off and leaves the frequencies at the cut-off. It is, in effect, a low-pass and a hi-pass together. The cool thing about this filter is that you can eliminate the lower and higher frequencies and be left with a band of frequencies that you can then process without the worry of redundant frequencies creeping up on you and summing gains and tripping compressors.

Once I have the two filters in place I start to move them around until I have cut all the frequencies not needed. In the video I explain exactly how to do this and how best to set the filter slopes so as to avoid bleed or choppy cuts. The slopes are very important as each slope will shape the eq response differently.

Removing boxiness from vocals

Once we have band-passed the vocals we are left with the frequencies we want to keep and treat – the ‘good’ frequencies so to speak.
The next step is to create a node anywhere on the spectrum. Narrow the bandwidth, boost it by a few dBs and solo it. Now we can sweep the spectrum listening for nasty frequencies. As the band is in solo we are only hearing that band and nothing else. This level of isolation allows us to easily find the nasty frequencies. Once you have found the frequency you want to remove you only need to invert or attenuate the band and you have a cut. I use this technique to remove boxiness and that terrible nasal effect you hear on so many vocal takes.

Compensatory equalisation

Finally, we can colour the vocals. I use compensatory equalisation here whereby I replenish the good frequencies lost or compromised in the corrective stages and supplement that with boosts for good frequencies and the ever valued air band.

Instead of creating a ton of eq bands in your EQ and then moving them around in the hope that things will sound better why not try this simple 4 stage process that always works for me when I want to eq vocals?

In the video I show you my 4 step technique in how to eq vocals perfectly. I explain equalisation in detail making sure to cover the different filter types and their slopes and I end the tutorial with industry tips on how to get a perfect sounding vocal take using only equalisation.

Plugins used in this video:

Steinberg Studio EQ

FabFilter Pro Q3 Equaliser

Topics covered in the video are:

  • Shelving/Shelf
  • Bell/Peaking Filter
  • Slopes and Gradients
  • Sweeping
  • Notch versus Broadband
  • Air Band processing
  • Bleed in/out
  • Response