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EQ 101 for Sound Designers: How to Enhance Sound and Reduce Feedback in Live Performance

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Equalization, or EQ, is an important tool for sound designers and engineers, particularly in live performance situations where actors are using lavalier microphones. EQ allows you to adjust the balance of frequencies in a sound signal, enhancing certain frequencies and reducing others.

One common use of EQ in live performance is to reduce feedback, which occurs when the sound from the speakers is picked up by the microphones and amplified again, creating a loop that results in a loud, unpleasant feedback noise. Proper high passing, or cutting off frequencies below a certain point, can greatly reduce the risk of feedback by eliminating the low hum that is often the source of feedback. This can be done by setting the high pass filter on each channel to around 150 Hz, depending on the voice. For a higher pitched voice, you can get away with high pass filtering at higher frequencies. Use your ears! You always want to high pass filter as high as possible without affecting the vocal. Be careful not to have this too high as it will take warmth and body out of your vocals.

Another use of EQ is to enhance the clarity of the sound by reducing the "muddy" range of frequencies between 200-300 Hz and reducing boxiness around 400 Hz. This can help to make the sound more focused and articulate, especially when working with lavalier microphones that may not have the best frequency response.

In addition to these more technical uses of EQ, it can also be used to shape the tonal character of a sound. For example, reducing frequencies around 3 kHz can cure shrillness or harshness, while boosting frequencies in the mid-range can add warmth and fullness to a sound.

When using EQ, it can be helpful to "solo" a particular frequency band and increase the gain significantly to hear what it's doing to the sound. This allows you to make more informed decisions about which frequencies to boost or cut, and by how much. As you adjust the EQ, you'll quickly hear which frequencies have the biggest impact on the sound, and you'll be able to use this knowledge to shape the sound to your liking.

Overall, EQ is a powerful tool that allows you to enhance the sound, reduce feedback, and increase clarity in a live performance setting. By understanding how to use EQ effectively, you'll be able to craft a more polished and professional sound for your live performances.

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