An equaliser, or EQ, is a must-have tool in music production. It gives you precise control over the different frequency levels in music, allowing you to achieve the perfect, balanced mix. Everyone's familiar with EQs, but let's delve deeper into those "bad" frequencies in music. You know, the ones that cause discomfort and unpleasantness for listeners, referred to as "masking," "muddy," or "problem" frequencies. We'll start by identifying which frequencies sound off and then dive into why they don't sound right.

Which Frequencies?

Well, let's start with those painful muddy frequencies. They occupy the low-mid frequency range, typically around 80-400 Hz. These frequencies can cause a mix to sound cloudy and unclear, often resulting in a cluttered and undefined sound. The problem lies in the concentration of energy in this frequency range, which muddies up the sound and makes it difficult to distinguish it from the desired audible sound. In other words, say there are different elements in the mix, such as the bass guitar and kick drum, etc., which might be occupying the same frequency range and competing for space. The result is a mix that lacks clarity and definition, with elements of the mix blending together into an indistinct whole.

Next, let's talk about those pesky boxy frequencies. They reside in the mid-range frequencies around 400-1000 Hz, which can give a sound a boxed-in, confined quality. When there's too much energy in these mid-range frequencies, the sound can appear flat and lacking in dimension and depth. For instance, if the guitar, vocal, and keyboard frequencies overlap in the boxy frequency range, the mix can sound uninteresting and one-dimensional. As previously mentioned, there can be some competition for space in this frequency range, so the goal is to create a dynamic and distinct sound by reducing these frequencies.

Also, don't forget about those annoying nasal frequencies. These ones exist further in the high-mid frequencies around 1000-4000 Hz that can give a sound a "honky" or nasal quality. An excessive amount of energy in the high-mid frequencies will make the sound appear thin, bright, and piercing. In addition to vocals and guitar, there are many other instruments that can contribute to the nasal frequencies in the mix. It's important to keep in mind that different instruments don't all add the same amount of energy to the nasal frequencies. It depends on how the instrument is played, how it's recorded, and how it's mixed. A sound engineer has to be careful about the balance between all the instruments and tweak the EQ to make sure the final mix sounds good and well-balanced. The same applies to the frequency ranges mentioned before.

And finally, let's talk about those aggravating shrieking frequencies. These high-pitch sounds sit above 10,000 Hz and can be a real pain for the ears if the volume is too high. Think cymbals, high-pitched vocals, and the high notes on a piano or synth. When these frequencies have too much energy in the mix, the sound becomes too bright and harsh, making it hard to enjoy the music for long periods of time. So when you're mixing, make sure to balance out the high and low frequencies to create a smooth and well-rounded sound.

Alright, so here's the deal with those "bad" frequencies in music - it's all subjective. What sounds awful to one person might sound totally fine to someone else. It's all about personal preference. But, by getting to know the frequencies that tend to cause issues, audio engineers and musicians can use EQ to tweak the levels and create a mix that sounds good to the majority of people, understood? Good!

Enough for today! You will find out more in the next article about some reasons why certain frequencies can be problematic in music.