Using Parametric EQ to Find the “Sweet Spot” of any Musical Instruments

Most of the EQ suggestions in this blog are very specific such as:

Boost +6dB 100Hz for Kick Drums Q=1.4

However in real world EQ adjustment, different musical instruments are not exactly unique in sound although they are still kick drums, bass guitar, vocals, snare, etc. Their purpose in the mix is NOT the same from one track to another, so specific EQ recommendation will only serve as a starting guide and not as a fixed rule for all tracks in your audio mixing projects.

A good example is the vocals. In this mixing vocal tutorial. I recommend the follow EQ settings:

Cut 200 Hz (high pass filter)= -6dB
Boost 3000Hz Q = 1 = 3dB
Boost 15000Hz Q = 1 = 3dB

However a lot of people are believing that this is a one-size-fit-all settings which is actually not. It is because supposing you are mixing a vocal tracks of a singer with alto or bass voices. Then the above EQ suggestions will not work for that singer, since a boost at 3Khz is only be appropriate with high pitched vocal tracks.

This is where the skill to find the “sweet spot” of any musical instruments is extremely very important to an audio mixing engineer. To define “sweet spot”, this is the specific range of frequencies that strongly defines the “good” sound out of the musical instrument. For example, it make sense that the sweet spot of a bass guitar is somewhat in the bass frequency range. 30Hz to 200Hz. However the entire bass frequency range is NOT the bass guitar sweet spot. It is because this depends on your project or the sound you are working.

For example, the sweet spot of a jazz bass guitar solo could be around 100Hz to 200Hz while the disco bass is around 40Hz to 70Hz. Take note that “correctly” identifying the sweet spot of any instruments in your mix is one of the secrets to audio mixing success. It will help your mix to sound clean, nice, defined and punchy.

OK, below are the steps on how you will find the sweet spot of any instruments you are working when doing an audio mix (whether it is vocals, guitars, piano, etc.):

1.) Load up the parametric EQ. You should be able to sweep through the different EQ ranges while playing the music. Some old audio mixing software like Adobe Audition 1.5 won’t allow you to do this in real time, instead you stop the music first – assign center frequency and Q values – then play the song. This is a time-consuming process, although it works but it will be a bit “harder” to find the sweet spot.

The best and easiest type of parametric EQ to find the sweet spot is the one that allows you to adjust using “knobs” instead of assigning numerical values. Some software like FL Studio allow this feature. So in this case, while the music is playing, you can rotate knobs which will also sweep the frequency from either high to low or vice versa.

There should be two knobs, one for EQ (center frequency sweeping adjustment) and one for Q (width or bandwidth adjustment).

2.) First, assign a boost of around +6dB (at any frequency, but preferably around 2000Hz) and narrow down the bandwidth to near minimum (very narrow) such as shown below:

Sweet Spot curve

Sweet Spot curve