Spend a little time listening to veteran engineers and you’ll hear them talk about “magic numbers.” Phrases like “adding some 250” or “removing a little 1 k” are common. It almost sounds like relaying coordinates to the mothership.
What they’re talking about is the frequencies that are most often manipulated when EQing voices or instruments. For instance, you’ll find that a specific vocalist and microphone combo makes an unpleasant peak at around 1 kHz. If you can hear it, EQing is a lot faster.
But it’s more than just that vocalist. Boom, honk, hiss, presence, air, and all those terms occupy their own little part of the frequency neighborhood. You’ll find that they crop up again and again in different sounds. Once you know where they are, it is much easier to seek and destroy. Or seek and gently boost to create a lovely vocal track. Whichever.
You can speed up your workflow by taping a list of problem frequencies to your keyboard and referring to it when mixing. I’m actually going to do that right now….
Having a rough time seating the vocals? Well, check out what Bob Owskinski has to say about it:
• Low Mids — The midrange between 250Hz and 2000Hz contains the low order harmonics of most musical instruments and can introduce a telephone-like quality to the music if boosted too much. Boosting the 500Hz to 1000Hz octave makes the instruments sound horn-like, while boosting the 1kHz to 2kHz octave makes them sound tinny. Excess output in this range can cause listening fatigue.
That’s just the beginning with plenty more advice on frequent EQ hot spots.
Now, I’m all for experimentation, and you should continue to investigate on your own. In the meantime, use a little expert advice to home in on the most important frequencies.