If you want to get a proper mix of your drums, you need to learn how to EQ cymbals.
The equalizer is the primary tool to get the bright and clean sounds of cymbals in the mix, and you can use it to shape your high-frequency sounds.
When recording drums, you will use the overhead mics that will undoubtedly pick up some other unwanted drum kit sounds.
To properly EQ cymbals, you will need to use the high pass filter to cut the rumble in the low-end and address the low-mids and high-mids if necessary.
Cymbals need to be heard very clearly and balanced with all other sounds, or it will badly affect the whole mix.
So without further ado, let us tell you how to equalize cymbals properly.
How to EQ cymbals: step by step
EQ (or equalization) is the process of altering the level of frequencies of the sound in order to create a clear and balanced mix.
You can increase or decrease the signal of frequencies, improving a song’s dynamics, color, and tone.
The following steps will show you how to EQ cymbals.
Step 1: High pass filter
The high pass filter will cut the unnecessary low-end frequencies created from resonating drums and hardware.
You need to eliminate the low-end frequencies of the kick drum and the snare that can get into your overhead microphones.
To do that, cut all the frequencies below 350 Hz with a high pass filter.
With this step, you will remove unwanted mud and mic bleed from the snare drum and get rid of the harsh metallic sound you get from cymbals.
Step 2: Mid-range frequencies
Cuts in this area should be done very carefully since they will significantly reduce the punch and weight of a cymbal.
However, you might need to remove some of the mid-range frequencies and reduce the boxy sound of the snare drum that may come to your overhead mics.
This sound is usually found around 500 Hz, and you can give it a 3 to 6db cut.
On the other hand, it might happen that you will need to add some weight to the mid-range frequencies.
You can boost the frequencies from around 400 Hz to 800 Hz if the cymbal’s sound is too thin.
Step 3: High-shelf EQ
Finally, you will want to address the high frequencies, which is basically where the cymbal’s sound is located.
In the area of 10000 Hz and above, cymbals can have a lot of sizzle and ugly harmonics, so take care of it if necessary.
Typically, cymbals can have some harshness, and you can reduce it by making a high-shelf cut to around 16kHz.
However, you will want to boost some frequencies and brighten the sound of your cymbals. You can do it by adding a high shelf at around 12k.
If you want to add some clarity to your cymbals, boost around 6kHz to 8kHz.
Subtractive vs. Additive EQ
If you are new to mixing sound, you might find some terms such as subtractive and additive EQ confusing.
In simple words, additive EQ is the process of boosting frequencies, while subtractive EQ refers to the process of lowering the frequencies.
Both approaches are equally important, and when mixing cymbals, you will need to use both of them.
On the low and lower-mid frequencies, you will use subtractive EQ, but for the higher frequencies, you will need the additive EQ primarily since you don’t want to lose all cymbal sounds.
You can do the subtractive EQ with parametric EQs such as SSL E-Channel and G-Channel equalizers.
Use the narrow bands with high Q values to find the problems in your recordings, or try the sweeping technique:
- Narrow the Q on of the EQ bands
- Increase the gain on that band as high as possible
- Carefully sweep through the available frequencies on the band
- Stop when you hear the problematic frequency and reduce the gain
Additive EQ is usually done with broader, more colorful EQs such as API consoles featured on the API 550 and 560, the Scheps 73, or the RS56 and PuigTec EQs.
Typically, you will need to use additive EQ on these frequencies:
Low mids: 200Hz – 500Hz — boost it a little bit if you want to add some weight to your cymbals, but you will usually make more cuts than additions at this frequency range.
High mids: 3kHz – 5kHz — boost them if you want to add some presence to the cymbals, but be careful since too much can be harsh and fight with the vocal.
Highs: 7kHz – 12kHz — address these frequencies if you want to add some ‘air’ to your cymbals.
Before you start perfecting the sound of your cymbals with EQ, here are some additional tips that might help you with the overall process:
- Group the high-frequency sounds into a bus channel and add a multiband compressor to keep the cymbal’s volume constant.
- If you don’t want high-frequency sounds to poke in the mix or create high-frequency masking, compress them separately from other drum sounds.
- Create space, width, and depth for the cymbals with the delay.
- Add the tape saturation if you want your cymbals to sound warm and crunchy.
How do you get a proper mix of your drums? It’s easy! Just learn how to EQ cymbals.
The equalizer is the main tool for shaping bright, clean sounds in the mix—but it can be used for much more than that.
When you record your drums, you’re going to use overhead mics that will pick up other sounds from the drum kit.
To properly EQ cymbals, use a high-pass filter, which will help keep unwanted low frequencies from getting in the way of your mix.
You will need to work on your low-mids and high-mids with additive EQ, but you might also need to do some cuts with the subtractive EQ.
EQ cymbals can make a huge difference in your mix – and get you closer to the sound or recording you are looking for.