Audio Recording Issues – The Right EQ for the Job Part 2In the past, I have mentioned that the ideal mastering session ends after a second pass listening test, where the best EQ choice was not using anything at all. Despite being true, it also drives home the point that when you have a great sounding record, you don't want to get in the way if you need to make a few subtle EQ adjustments. If everything sounds solid at the mastering stage but there are just a couple of tweaks needed, then use the EQ that accomplishes the tasks without changing the personality. This is not the time for the most colorful EQ, but a musical high end mastering EQ may work well. If using something in the super-clean mastering EQ camp, you also don't want to choose something that can sometimes sound thin or clean 'in the wrong way'.
Another saying involves passing the buck; where a track needs to be re-recorded, but "we can fix it in the mix". Then, when it affects the mix, "we can fix it in the master". Then, at that stage, with the problem buried deep and poor decisions and over-corrections, we give up to say "they'll never know the difference.” The final result is the sum of all parts that come before it. A great bass track should start with a great player, instrument, strings, tuning, amp, mic, preamp, room, and choice in tracking. All things that make up the original sound should be well-defined and well-designed. The same holds true if using a keyboard, VSTi, samples, loops, etc. If the sources are chosen well, there is still a good chance you are going to use some EQ through the mix process.
There are good reasons for doing so even with great tracking and all the requirements above being met. This is where we have the creative options of the mix engineer and producer, and anyone who chooses to be involved in the creative and technical shaping of the song. Before making the signature artistic statement, try to identify things that need fixing. Whether you need a surgical EQ or a personality EQ, make sure that the tools you reach for are an extension of your own thinking. For my own work, I think of this in terms of equipment that "hears things the way that I hear them.”