The Top 4 EQ Mistakes I See In The Home Studio

February 02, 2015 by Graham Cochrane

I want you to get better mixes with the gear you already have.

And one piece of gear that EVERY home studio has is an EQ plugin. This is by far the most powerful mixing tool you have at your disposal.

How you use it, for better or for worse, has a lot to do with how your mix will turn out. In fact, I see a few common mistakes in home studios when it comes to EQ and if you can avoid them, your mixes will be better for it.

Here they are real quick. See if you haven't made them before:

Mistake #1 - Trusting EQ plugin presets

This one blows me away. As much as presets can be helpful starting points with SOME plugins, the same cannot be said about EQ.

There is NO way a plugin manufacturer can have any clue what YOUR bass guitar (or fill in the blank) sounds like in the mix.

So how can they suggest an EQ curve to start with? They can't!

Can you learn something from a preset? Absolutely, and I'm not afraid of checking them out from time to time. Just know that they can't do much for you when it comes to EQ.

So don't trust EQ plugin presets. Trust your ears and start from scratch.

Mistake #2 - Boosting More Than Cutting

This is very common. It's all too easy to think that EQ is meant for boosting.

Sure it CAN boost. And sure I use boosts in mixing.

But that's the exception, not the rule. 

Boosting only adds noise, reduces your headroom, and is a sloppy way to EQ. 

Think of EQ more as a tool to remove the bad, rather than boost the good, and you'll come out ahead.

Mistake #3 - Focusing On What The EQ "Looks" Like

One thing we can fall prey to in the digital world is focusing too much on the graphical representation of an EQ, rather than what the EQ actually sounds like.

Have you ever found yourself looking at the EQ curve and saying: "That looks about right."

Bad idea. Close your eyes and actually LISTEN to what the EQ is doing. Ignore what the plugin is showing you. Use your ears.

No one will ever see your EQ curve, and guess what? They don't care! All they care about is how things sound. Think like a listener and you'll go far.

Mistake #4 - Assuming Every Track Needs EQ

This is huge.

Resist the urge to throw an EQ plugin on every track. I struggle with this one myself.

As you go through your mix you should ask yourself: "Does this track sit well in the mix? Or does it need some help?"

If it actually sounds great and isn't getting lost in the mix or overpowering another track, it probably doesn't need any EQ at all.

What a concept! Sometimes less IS more.

There you have it my friend. The top 4 EQ mistakes I see people making in the home studio. Did any one of them stand out to you? Keep that in mind on your next mix and see if you don't just get some mileage out of your stock EQ plugin by wielding it the best way possible!

Guest post for SoundBetter by Graham Cochrane of

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    If a track is good with no EQ, it can even be better with slight adjustments, removal of unneeded noise or rumble. Who boosts? Boost the compressor gain or volume of the track and EQ out the garbage.

    Don't expect to get anywhere mixing under two years. I don't think it's even possible. Even if the greatest mixer was mentoring you, your ears won't be developed enough to take advantage of it. I think it's prob more like 4 years. Many things I would not go to school for, and just take lessons from great teachers, but for mixing, I could see a young person going to school making a lot of sense.

  • Good tips, thanks!

  • Default-avatarby ezhulikov

    Of course HPF-related debate is simply not applicable to any portion of this advice. HPF is something you do to filter out frequencies that do not relate to th musical part of the given track. You would not usually want your HPF to change the sound of the instrument's bottom end whatsoever and if this is your target, you'd better grab a nice shelf.

  • Default-avatarby Ash Taylor

    API, SSL, Neve & Pultec are all famous for what they add in the EQ arena, that's where the joy of boosting EQ is. As long as your gain staging is in check, you can boost away.

  • Default-avatarby Ivan Houben

    And be carefull with high pass filters. They tend to create some phase shifting, especially the non-linear ones. I tend to tend to buss snare up and bottom and then eq IF HPF or LPF needed. Since I spent so much time have those mics nicely in phase.

  • Default-avatarby mike slick

    mistake #2 is definitely something I need to work on!!! Thanks for the insight

  • Default-avatarby Jens

    Thanks, great tips! It's pretty simple, but always actual.

  • Default-avatarby jurasick

    Remember pre eq and post eq as well

  • I would like to believe #4 is more a focus on stuff other than your basic high-pass filters, etc. It seems like a given, noting one of Graham's youtube videos on the subject. However, I do agree: if it sounds good, don't mess with it. And hey, maybe if it sounds good wo/ the highpass filters, and it doesn't make a difference either way, cool.

  • Default-avatarby J

    #4 is my issue too...I throw it on and start looking for problems to pull out before I even really listen. Once I sweep and find a frequency that stands out, it WILL annoy me from that point on even if it's something that is helping it sit right, and out it goes

  • Default-avatarby Banjomat

    Every track does need Eq, especially before you record it

  • Default-avatarby Rolando

    I have found myself victim of Mistake #4 - Assuming Every Track Needs EQ.
    It is hard to resist the urge to throw up processing (plugins) without first considering if there is even a need for it. Sometimes the best treatment really is no treatment at all.

  • Default-avatarby Vicenzo

    Yeah ArekG. Graham himself has a video on his YouTube channel suggesting to put a EQ with a high-pass filter at 100Hz and a cut at 400Hz in EVERY track (except for bass and kick drum) so he is contradicting himself.

  • Default-avatarby Niklas J. Blixt

    #1 is the best I think. Being an online session drummer, I mostly work only make rough mixes of my drums before sending it to clients for approval. And I have learnt a lot from EQ presets, but I've very rarely maybe ever (?) used the preset as is. I've also made my own presets, but even those I rarely use as is. Because every song is different!

  • Default-avatarby Paul Stefanowicz

    I agree with ArekG: I always use some EQ on everything, even if that is just a high-pass filter on some tracks. However, more often than not, I can find a frequency in every track that needs attenuating. There is always a "most-nasal", or "boxy" frequency, or some other less-wanted sound. This also creates space, before I apply complimentary EQ.

  • Default-avatarby ArekG

    Great tips, as always from Graham, but I would still suggest using high-pass filters on almost all the tracks. Start with something like 100Hz and then tweak some if needed. Even use it on bass and kick drum (but much lower - like at 30-40Hz).

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