Recording and processing vocals in a home studio isn’t easy.
A lot of people go over the top when they EQ vocals.
The key is to keep it subtle.
The human voice is something that we hear every day. We know how it should sound.
As soon as you become heavy handed with EQ, vocals start to sound unnatural and weird.
You have to approach vocal processing with care. In this article, I want to give you 5 tips that will teach you how to EQ vocals with the right mindset.
But before we continue, I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make music that sounds professional in your home studio.
Getting the lead vocal right is important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
That’s why I created this new free training for people who want the entire framework for pro mixes.
Inside, I share the single most important recording and mixing discovery of my life.
This ONE thing that I discovered gave me the ability to walk into my home studio and finish a track that sounded radio-ready in a matter of hours.
So, if you want a shortcut to pro-quality mixes, watch this on-demand training now:
But if you just want to learn about EQ specifically, keep reading.
- The Mix Starts in the Recording Phase
- Tip #1 – Cut before you boost
- Tip #2 – Never boost or cut more than 5dB
- Tip #3 – Cut everything below 50Hz
- Tip #4 – A wide, gentle boost between 2-6kHz can improve clarity
- Tip #5 – Remove the mud
- Does vocal EQ really matter?
The Mix Starts in the Recording Phase
Decide on the sound and tone that you want to achieve before you start recording.
Want a warmer sound? Use a dynamic microphone and get close (2-5 inches).
Want a clear, open sound? Use a large diaphragm condenser and take a step back (5-10 inches).
You can’t change the tone of a vocal recording in the mixing phase.
The sound of the vocal is decided when you record it!
So make sure you spend plenty of time on mic choice, room choice, mic setup, and room treatment.
Now, here are 5 tips for when you EQ vocals.
Tip #1 – Cut before you boost
This applies to EQ’ing in general.
For example, if you want the vocals to sound warmer, cut the highs (maybe 6-10kHz) rather than boosting the lows.
You should always cut to make something sound better, and boost to make something sound different.
So cut away any odd room resonances, and then cut any elements of the voice that you don’t like (more on that in a second).
Then boost later to give your vocal a slightly different character if that’s what you want to do!
It’s always good practice to apply your cuts before compression and your boosts after.
Tip #2 – Never boost or cut more than 5dB
If you have a tendency to be heavy handed with vocal EQ, this is a great way to keep yourself in check.
This is just a guideline, to keep your vocals sounding natural. Never boost or cut by more than 5dB.
Tip #3 – Cut everything below 50Hz
Most voices are centered between 120-250Hz (depending if you’re male or female).
This means that, in most cases, everything below 50Hz is rumble and noise.
Cut it, and be done with it!
(Unless you have a male vocalist with an extremely low voice.)
Tip #4 – A wide, gentle boost between 2-6kHz can improve clarity
If your vocal recording sounds muffled or a bit too warm, try applying a wide boost of 2-3dB between 2kHz and 6kHz.
Make sure you do this after the compressor though, not before!
On the flip side, if the vocals sound harsh or brittle, try reducing these frequencies.
Tip #5 – Remove the mud
Muddiness is one of the biggest issues in most mixes.
Especially when we have the typical band set up of several guitars and a vocalist.
Most of these instruments are centered around 250-350Hz, so we soon get a build up of frequencies in this area.
Try a cut of 3-5dB around 300Hz (move it around a bit until you find a sweet spot).
This will only work on vocals that already sound full. If the vocal sounds thin, cutting around 300Hz will only make it sound worse!
If you have a muddy mix but the vocals can’t afford to lose anything around 300Hz, cut the other instruments around this frequency instead.
Does vocal EQ really matter?
So, now you know how to EQ vocals.
But this is just one small part of the process. You can do this perfectly and still end up with mixes that sound like bedroom demos if you’re missing this one crucial aspect (it took me 10 years to learn this).
There is SO MUCH that goes into a good mix. It’s actually pretty overwhelming.
Once you’ve learned how to EQ vocals properly, there’s a lot of other stuff you need to get right if you want your music to sound professional.
But what if I told you that you don’t have to be an expert (with years of experience) to make radio-ready music at home?
That’s the truth.
It’s likely that you’ve already wasted time, money and effort on the wrong things. I know I did. I wasted years focusing on the wrong things.
So, what should you focus on if you want fast results?
Inside this new on-demand training, I share the secret to making radio-ready music at home.
After I stumbled upon this new approach, I knew exactly where to spend my time and energy. I was no longer confused and overwhelmed by the recording and mixing process.
Honestly, I was annoyed I didn’t learn this stuff sooner. It would have saved me at least 7 years.
This new approach hasn’t just worked for me either…
One of my students – his name is Patrick – was pretty new to home recording when he came to me for help. I shared this idea with him and he went from his first ever home recording to high-quality, professional mixes in just 2 and a half months.
This same approach has worked for hundreds of other musicians too.
Now it’s your turn.
If you want to learn the *exact* steps that will take your mixes to a professional standard in under a year…
Watch the on-demand training now:
It’s only playing for a limited time – we’re always updating the site and this could get removed soon. So go and check it out now.
Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.