You may have come across EQ as an app, software, or setting on your mobile phone or television.
You might know about its reputation for improving the quality of sound, but not know how to use it.
Whichever it is, you have come to the right place. In this guide, we go over what EQ stands for, what EQ does, and how to use EQ.
EQ is one of the best audio processing tools that can vastly improve the quality of music, instruments, or individual recordings and sounds.
But What does EQ stand for and how do you use EQ?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about EQ!
What Is EQ In Music?
The answer to the big question: EQ, in music, stands for equalization, as well as equalizer.
Both of these terms refer to the same thing.
Equalization, or an equalizer, is a popular tool that is used to adjust the volume (decibel level) of different audio frequencies. This can change the tone and overall sound of a song, instrument, or recording.
An equalizer can be software or hardware. Equalizers are commonly used by music producers and sound mixers, DJs, musicians, and audiophiles.
On the whole, equalization is used to improve the tonal quality of music and sound.
What Does EQ Do, Exactly?
Equalizers work by adjusting the volume (decibels) of different frequencies on the audio spectrum.
Put simply, equalization is a tool for adjusting bass, mid, and treble.
In professional music production and live sound mixing, bass, mid, and treble are further divided into smaller frequency bands, offering greater manipulation of music, a specific, sound, live instrument, or recording.
For example, EQ can be used to add more bass to a kick drum, brighten up the sound of a vocal recording, cut the low end from a hi-hat recording, or mix the final master of a song so that it is ready for radio.
More simply, EQ can be used to fine-tune the sound of music, or the sound of a movie, to enhance the listener experience.
Ultimately, equalization is used to change the overall tone of a sound or song.
Audio Frequency Explained
To understand how equalization works, we need to have a look at the audio frequency spectrum.
The audio spectrum is a means to measure sound frequencies, specifically their pitch on a scale from low to high frequencies.
Frequencies are measured in hertz (Hz), ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
On visual audio spectrums (sometimes called music visualizers or sound visualizers), low frequencies (bass) are displayed on the left, starting at 20 Hz, with the pitch and frequency ascending towards the right-hand side of the spectrum (to a maximum of 20,000 Hz).
Frequency Bands Explained
There are seven main frequency bands. These include:
- sub-bass – 20 to 60 Hz
- bass – 60 to 250 Hz
- low midrange – 250 to 500 Hz
- midrange – 500 to 2000 Hz (2 kHz)
- high midrange – 2000 Hz to 4000 Hz (4 kHz)
- presence – 4000 Hz to 6000 Hz (6 kHz)
- brilliance – 6000 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz)
To better understand the frequency bands – and audio frequencies in general – here are short explanations of each frequency band, as well as some examples of sounds and their respective bands.
Sub-Bass (20 Hz To 60 Hz)
The lowest and largest sound frequencies. Includes the lowest notes of a bass guitar, or the rumble of a vehicle engine. Frequencies below 20 Hz are not able to be heard by the human ear.
Bass (60 Hz To 250 Hz)
Bass frequencies can include anything from the low strings of a bass instrument to bass drums and the low end of a snare drum. People with low voices can also produce sound frequencies within this band.
Low Midrange (250 Hz To 500 Hz)
The low midrange frequency band includes the general frequency range produced by the human voice, tom-tom drums, as well as the lowest strings of a stringed instrument, such as a guitar.
Midrange (500 Hz To 2000 Hz)
Midrange sounds can include the higher notes of the human voice, the upper-frequency range of a guitar, or the lower frequency range of drum cymbals. Between 1000 Hz and 2300 Hz is also considered the whistle register.
High Midrange (2000 Hz To 4000 Hz)
The high midrange frequency band includes the “midrange” frequencies of most cymbals, as well as the higher notes of a snare drum.
Presence (4000 Hz To 6000 Hz)
Sound frequencies in the presence band have a “tinny” quality. Adjusting the frequencies in this band can make a mix, or song, sound tinnier or not as bright.
Brilliance (6000 Hz To 20,000 Hz)
Sound frequencies in the brilliance band have a “bright” quality. Adjusting the frequencies in this band can make a mix, or song, sound brighter or duller.
How Do You Use EQ in Music?
To use EQ to change the sound of a song, recording, or instrument, you need to first have an equalizer – either a software equalizer or hardware equalizer.
A software equalizer might be into your phone, television, or speaker system, or available to use as a plugin within a DAW (digital audio workstation) or music editing software.
Hardware equalizers come in the form of electric equipment, guitar pedals, built-in processors within guitar amps, etc.
Ultimately, an equalizer will have knobs or sliders, respective to frequency, that can be adjusted to manipulate sound and tone.
Equalizers can also have any amount of bands. Of course, the more bands available, the more control you will have over the sound.
How To Use An Equalizer
The best way to learn to use an equalizer is to use an equalizer with a music visualizer or sound visualizer.
These equalizers – which can be software or hardware – offer a live representation of the sound and respective frequencies in real-time.
By using a music visualizer, you will be able to see where the frequencies are being hit on the audio spectrum.
As a result, this will allow you to adjust the equalization using the knobs/sliders and hear the difference with a visual guide.
Ultimately, learning how to use an equalizer like a professional is a matter of practice, as well as training your ears to identify different frequencies.
When it comes to mixing different tracks of a song, EQ is used to limit frequencies to make sure that every sound is audible and clear.
To conclude, music EQ stands for equalizer or equalization.
An equalizer, or equalization, is a software or hardware tool used to adjust the tone of a song, recording, instrument, or specific sound, by manipulating audio frequencies.
Equalizers are used by music producers and live sound mixers, as well as musicians and audiophiles.
EQs can be used with audio mixers, DAWs, and electric instruments such as electric guitars, and can also be pre-built into music editing software, mobile phones, televisions, and sound systems.