There are a million ways to EQ percussion, especially when you consider how many kinds of percussion exist. The way you EQ a shaker, for example, will be very different from the way you EQ a set of congas.
Let’s dive in and explore a few methods you can use to EQ your percussion to fit it nicely in your mix.
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How to EQ Bongos
When EQing bongos, I typically like to get rid of extreme low-end below 60 Hz, as most of it will be rumble and air conditioner sound that you don’t want in there anyway. Depending on the recording, you might want to give your bongos a bit more ‘smack.’ This is where putting a small bump from around 1-2kHz works nicely.
If you notice any nasty resonant frequencies that you want to get rid of, you can use the “sweep and destroy” technique to look for them.
How to EQ Conga
EQing a conga is very similar to EQing a set of bongos. You’ll want to start by getting rid of any extreme low-end that doesn’t add to your sound but could affect your headroom negatively. You can definitely EQ with a high-pass filter up to 60 Hz.
If you have a sparse mix, you might be able to get away with keeping your low-mids in there or accentuating them, though you may want to tame them if they’re getting in the way of other drum elements in a busy mix.
If your congas need a bit more smack or bite, you can give them a small boost around 1-2kHz.
How to EQ Tambourine
Tambourine doesn’t need a lot of low-end, so the first thing I typically like to do is use a high-pass filter to get rid of it. Don’t be afraid to take your high-pass filter up to 500Hz or higher when getting rid of the low-end on a tambourine.
Sometimes, you’ll have tambourines that are really harsh in the high-end. These can often benefit from a high-shelf cut. I usually don’t recommend putting a low-pass filter on your tambourine unless you want to push it back in the mix. Otherwise, you could be taking out some prominent frequencies.
How to EQ Cowbell
EQing cowbell is interesting, as a well-recorded cowbell doesn’t typically need EQ. If anything, you’ll want to treat it similarly to other high-frequency percussion instruments and get rid of the low-end, so it’s not taking up space in your mix.
You can start by putting a high-pass filter on your EQ and pulling it up until you start to notice it impacting the sound, then push it back a bit. You can also adjust the click or smack of the cowbell by increasing or decreasing your EQ anywhere from 1 to 2kHz.
How to EQ Shakers
You can think of EQing shaker the same as you would think about EQing a tambourine. First, you’ll want to get rid of all of the unecessary low-end. Most everything below 100Hz will be noise and rumble that you don’t need. You can pull your high-pass fllter even higher if you’re working in a dense mix that doesn’t require that your shaker has a lot of content in the low-mids region.
Lastly, depending on the type of shaker you’re using, it might sound harsh in the high-end. To tame it, you can cut a bit of the top-end off around 10kHz and up using a high-shelf.
How to EQ Claves
Claves shouldn’t require much in terms of EQ. In most cases, you can use a high-pass filter to clean up the low-end. If you’re working with a sparse mix where the clave can have a bit more body, you can high-pass up to 100 Hz and leave the low-mids alone. However, if you’re working in a busy mix and you want to brighten up your clave to help it pop through, you can reduce the low-mids and high-pass up above 100 Hz instead of boosting the high-end.
If you notice any annoying resonances with your claves, you can use a notch filter to get rid of them.
How to EQ Guiro
Guiro is a high mid-range percussion instrument. When EQing a guiro, I often like to use a high-pass filter to ge rid of unecessary rumble in the low-end. You can usually high-pass anywhere from 100 to 200 Hz using a gentle slope to get rid of this junk.
The mid-range is the main focus for the guiro, and I often find that the super high-end sounds a bit scratchy for my taste. If the scratchiness is unpleasant, you can use a low-pass filter with a gentle slope to get rid of it. Try low-passing down to around 8kHz.
How to use EQ Guides
To help you get the most out of your EQ plugins, we've put together these detailed guides to teach you how to use EQ on some of the most popular instruments.
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