Maybe you’re wondering: 'What’s the hype about learning how to use DJ EQ techniques for mixing?'
Well, if you’re a beginner DJ, I’m almost certain that you haven’t yet realized the full scope of utilizing EQ techniques in your mix. Even if you’re a bedroom DJ that’s played out a couple of times, I’ll bet my rarest vinyl there are still plenty of EQ tricks that you haven’t discovered yet!
Understanding how to use your EQ settings properly gives you way more control over your mix and helps to take your DJ skills to the next level.
Here, I’m going to walk you through a few key concepts, before sharing 5 top tips to get you using EQs to their full potential.
EQs are controls on your mixer that let you adjust the different frequencies in your mix.
EQ techniques give you more control in your transitions, let you customize the sound, and prevent the output from sounding saturated and ‘muddy’.
Learning EQ tricks for your DJ sets allows you to blend and swap certain bandwidths for smoother transitions with greater impact.
Using software like DJ.Studio can help you perform advanced EQ techniques to make learning to DJ more fun and easy.
What Does EQ Mean in DJing?#
EQ stands for equalization. Whether you’re DJing using hardware, software, or both, you’ll usually find 3 EQ knobs (aka. EQ dials) for each channel labeled ‘Hi’, ‘Mid’, and ‘Low’.
Each EQ knob controls a particular frequency range or ‘bandwidth’ of the audible spectrum. Let’s take a closer look at each of them:
Hi = High-Frequency Equalizer Band#
Th EQ knobs on your mixer that are marked ‘Hi’, ‘High’, or ‘HF’ adjust high frequency sounds, typically in the bandwidth of 5,000 to 20,000 Hz (Hertz). High frequencies are sometimes known as ‘treble’ and, in EDM, are comprised of high-pitched percussion like hi-hats, cymbals, and claps.
Mid = Mid-Frequency Equalizer Band#
The EQ knobs marked ‘Mid’ or ‘MF’ control sounds that fall into the mid-frequency of the spectrum. Mid-EQ typically controls a bandwidth between 200 to 5,000 Hz. The majority of acoustic instruments, vocals, and lead synths fall within the midrange.
Low = Low-Frequency Equalizer Band#
The ‘Low’ or ‘LF’ knobs on your DJ mixer control the bass frequencies. Here we’re talking between 20-200Hz. This is where you’ll hear bass synths and kick drums that comprise the most fundamental part of the beat in EDM genres.
Why DJ EQ Mixing Techniques Matter#
On your DJ mixer, tracks are typically faded in and out with a crossfader or volume faders on each channel (aka. channel faders). But these will fade the entire track rather than specific frequencies.
EQs on the other hand can be used to fade tracks in and out by one bandwidth at a time. For example, you could just fade in the high frequencies before bringing in the mids and lows later.
This gives you a lot more control over the sound and makes your sets more dynamic, creative, and impactful.
Using EQs can also help balance frequencies and make your transitions smoother and cleaner. Making transitions purely with crossfaders or channel faders risks similar frequencies clashing. This is especially problematic with basslines, which often sound oversaturated and ‘muddy’ when mixed together.
Lastly, EQs can be used to cut or boost certain frequencies so you can manipulate the balance of a single track. Maybe the lead synth in the mid-range is really popping, and you can’t resist giving it an extra edge. Beware of boosting too much though – you’ll see why in a minute!
DJ EQ Terminology#
Before I share some essential DJ EQ techniques with you, you’ll need to get familiar with the terms I'll be using to describe them:
EQ gain is the measure of the volume of each EQ dial. Technically these increments are measured in decibels, but DJs usually refer to EQ levels as if the dial was a clock:
When you cut an EQ up to 10 o’clock, you’ll really start to hear that bandwidth entering the mix.
12 o’Clock or 0db (when the EQ control is in a central, neutral position) is also known as ‘full frequency’ and sets the volume of that EQ to the track’s original level.
1 o’clock is the maximum you should ever turn your EQs up to in a DJ set – any more could distort the sound and cause problems in your mix.
Some mixers also have isolators that completely cut out high, mid, or low frequencies from the channel.
On your mixer, you’ll typically have volume meters or ‘VU meters’ for each channel, and also for the master (the total output of the mixer).
When your volume is at safe levels, the lights on the VU will be green, but if you keep increasing the gain either on your volume faders or EQs, the lights will start blinking red.
‘Going into the red’, or ‘audio clipping’ is a common mistake by novice DJs with potentially dangerous consequences for the sound system and the listeners’ ears!
5 Essential DJ EQ Techniques and Tricks#
Track A and Track B#
To make things easier to explain, I’m going to refer to the track that’s currently playing as ‘track A’, and the track that you’re mixing in as ‘track B’.
1. Boosting and Cutting EQs on a Single Track#
A good way to get to know your EQs and how they change the sound is simply to play with them on a single track. This can also be done in your DJ set to bring out certain elements of a tune. But it’s important not to get carried away with EQ boosting!
For example, if you boost a bass frequency too much, it might sound cool for a moment, but it’ll also sound like an anti-climax when you turn it down again or mix in another track with a weaker-sounding bass line. You don’t want to keep turning up the EQs or it’ll sound jarring and risk damaging the sound system.
A better way to make the bass frequencies stand out is to turn down the mid and high frequencies. That way you can bring the relative volume of the bass up and down without going into the red and distorting the sound. The same applies to bringing out high and mid frequencies, too.
Now, let’s look at using EQs for mixing two tracks together.
2. Remember to Beat Match With EQs at 12 O’clock!#
Before mixing two tracks together, you'll need to get the beats of your two tracks lined up. To do this, you’re going to need to hear all parts of the incoming track crystal clear in your headphones - so remember to set all EQs to a neutral position! If any of the EQs are cut, you won’t be able to hear the full beat, and you’ll struggle to beat match properly.
Precision beat matching used to be the hardest part of DJing and would take years to master, but thanks to innovative software like DJ.Studio, beat matching is done for you, allowing you to focus on having fun with your mix.
3. Mix in the Treble, Then Drop the Bass!#
One of the easiest ways to get basic transitions sounding silky smooth is to simply mix in the treble of an incoming track before turning up the mid-range and bass. This is a game-changing trick for beginners and so effective, it’s still used by pros, too!
Once you have the beats on both tracks lined up, turn down the mid eq and low EQs on track B, but keep the high EQ at 11 or 12 o’clock. Be brave and fade track B in quickly. Since the highs are the most subtle part of the spectrum, this is a great way to sneak in the new track that will simply sound like an extra element on the existing track.
Now that track B has a foothold, slowly dial in the mid eq and the bass. As you bring these up, begin to reduce the same EQs from track A. Use your ears to guide you, and with fine adjustments, blend in the new track with a smooth and seamless style.
Tip: If the high-frequency percussion on your incoming track is particularly loud, turn the high EQ down to 10 or 11 o’clock before fading in so that you don’t cause an abrupt change or over-saturate the higher frequencies.
4. Basic Bass Swapping#
Most EDM music emphasizes bass lines. If you were to fade in a new track with all of the EQs on both channels at full frequency, you’d likely flood the mix with too much bass and go into the red. To avoid this, you can use an EQ technique called bass swapping:
Start by beat matching your tracks with all EQs at 12 o’clock, then gradually fade in track B. When you can begin to hear it come through, slowly cut the bass EQ to 11 o’clock on both tracks.
With tiny nudges on the faders, gradually fade in track B. Listen carefully as you transition, and keep a close eye on your master VU - if you go into the red, it’s normally the bass that’s to blame. Turn down the bass further on track A if you need to.
Listen out for the point where track B becomes the dominant bassline. Now you can begin to fade track A out more rapidly and crank up the bass on track B. If you can turn it up to full frequency as the bass drops, you're doing it like a pro!
Bass swapping is a simple principle, but it takes a lot of practice to get right. More advanced bass swapping techniques like hard swapping usually require experience to master. Thankfully, DJ.Studio has an automatic bass swapping function that makes slick, professional-sounding transitions possible even for brand new DJs.
5. EQ Blending#
It’s not only the bass lines that can be tricky to mix. Two tunes that emphasize high or mid eq can also require some help from your EQs to blend smoothly.
Tracks with a lot of vocals are notorious for this – mixing two vocal-heavy tracks together without blending EQs will never sound good! The human voice usually falls within the mid-range so to mix vocal-heavy tracks you’ll need to cut the mid-range right back on track A before bringing it in on track B to avoid clashing.
EQ blending takes practice and skill, especially when dealing with the mid eq because you’re playing with most of the main instruments that give a tune its personality. Go slowly and use your ears.
Mixing different melodies together traditionally required a lot of skill and understanding of the musical keys. DJs would spend hours using tools like the Camelot Wheel to figure out which tracks would work together harmonically.
These days, advanced harmonic mixing tools on software like DJ.Studio matches the harmonic properties of different tracks in your playlist, saving DJs massive amounts of time when lining up their mix.
Using these tips, you'll soon be a master at EQ mixing. Solid EQ technique is a versatile tool that's essential to learn, not only to make amazing sounding mixes but also to add more character and expression to your set.
Using software like DJ.Studio to help you with beat matching and harmonic mixing gives you a huge head start, so you can focus more on your EQs and other advanced DJ mixing techniques to make your mix unique.
FAQs About EQ Techniques
- Why do some mixers have 4 EQs instead of 3?
- Can I change the bandwidth of each EQ?
- Now I’ve mastered EQ mixing, how can I take my DJing to the next level?
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