EQ’s come in many different variations: they can be plugins, pedals, racks, parametric, graphic, you name it. But there’s one tool that far fewer people are aware of that can be a secret weapon when used intelligently.

What’s Dynamic EQ?

A standard EQ will either boost or cut a specific frequency range by a specified number of decibels (or “db”). This will change the overall sound of your instrument in either a subtle way or a major way depending on the settings.

These changes are constant through time. Your EQ will ALWAYS cut or boost your specified frequency by the specified amount until you change the settings.

On the other hand, a dynamic EQ is like Batman. It hides in the shadows and only comes out when it needs to save the day.

Once you set the frequency area, it will only start cutting a frequency if it hears that frequency hit a certain volume level. If that frequency is not very loud (below the threshold you set) it won’t subtract volume from it.

To explain things in simpler terms…

You tell a conventional EQ “I want you to cut 5db at 800Hz.”

You tell a dynamic EQ “I want you to cut 5db at 800Hz, but only if that frequency is this loud.”

Nerd-Talk Aside, How Does That Help Me?

Let me give you a couple of examples where this type of EQ is a beautiful tool to have.

Palm mutes are something that every mixer has struggled with. In a riff where you have both open notes and palm muted notes, you’ll find the palm mutes tend to be louder and increase the low-end frequencies significantly.

The easy method to balance that out is to simply find the frequency area of that low end “boom” during the palm mutes and subtract a few decibels from that area.

The problem is that you’ve also removed that thickness and low-end punch from your open notes too, so while your palm mutes sound balanced your open notes now sound thin because your standard EQ is always active. Ugh!

One solution would be to automate the EQ to turn on and off at specific times, but this is tedious and time-consuming, you could be spending that time on more important things.

A dynamic EQ will let you set the volume threshold required for activation. So, when you’re playing open notes it’s not doing anything, but when the palm mutes are played and those bass frequencies get louder that’s when the EQ will automatically lower that frequency range.

Another example would be one that’s surprisingly common: “hot spots.” Many guitars and basses have certain notes on the neck that are louder than the rest. This can be for a variety of reasons including construction and the resonant frequency of the instrument itself.

The quick fix would be to just slap a compressor on it to lower the volume of the loud notes and call it a day. The problem here is that when you’re not playing that note, you still have a reduced dynamic range and increased noise level. You’ve fixed the issue, but not without negative side effects.

Set your dynamic EQ’s frequency on that exact pitch that you’re finding to be louder than the rest and set the threshold accordingly, you’ve now created a form of automated compression without the downsides mentioned previously.

It’s a simple and easy way to make your EQ changes entirely automated.

Closing Thoughts

There are lots of gimmicky new tools out there that simply aren’t practical, but a dynamic EQ can be a complete game-changer. They can easily be found for free, with paid versions being more fully-featured. Whatever you use, we hope this gives you a leg-up on your next mix!

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