If you have ever tried to mix and EQ music, you have probably realized that it takes time to get used to being in a state of mind where a person can perceive things for what they are. It’s like in art, where as kids people usually just draw an eye symbol and a mouth symbol and a tree symbol and a sun symbol etc., and then they call it done. Later on they might be able to see the world in just shapes and colors.
There’s a time to let go of what you’ve learned
The same goes with mixing. At first we tend to go back to recipes, things that seemed to work previously, be it presets or something we have read in a book or on a forum. Then later on, we start to just listen to the music as a whole and correct unpleasant sounds as and only when they appear. How does one prepare themselves for this transition? The answer is simple: you just keep doing it. It’s only natural to use all the help you can get at first. If anyone (including yourself) expects you to be able to churn out great sounding tracks right away, they are fooling themselves. So just don’t be in a hurry. Things will eventually fall into place. Or you’ll realize it’s just not for you. Who cares. Move on.
Practice and play your equalizer – it’s an instrument, if you want it to be
My suggestion is – if you haven’t tried it already – to open one of your favorite music tracks in your DAW and put an EQ plugin on it. Then start to play around with the track: boost and cut certain frequencies and listen to what they do to the sound of the music. After some time you will learn what’s the sound of certain frequencies, so you will be able to connect the numerical information written on the EQ with the changes it does to the sound, and you will know what to adjust when a problem occurs. If you’re already comfortable with it, after some time, start doing another kind of exercise. Try to adjust the equalizer dynamically throughout the song, then record it! That’s right, record what you do to a known track that’s been already mixed and mastered. It’s fun! And what do I mean by dynamic eqing? Well, keep twisting those knobs! Try different strategies: for example, make the verses exaggeratedly thin sounding, then give a lot of power to the choruses. The key is exaggeration, because let’s face it: chances are that these moves have already been done to the track, even in a subtler way. After some time, when you get really good at it, move on to your own tunes (or other raw recordings and multitracks made by other people), and do the same to them! By this time, you’ll already know what frequency does what, and you’ll also know what to do on the time line of the song, to make it sound more interesting and dynamic. Enjoy the fun.