EQ is a feature found on the vast majority of DJ controllers and mixers. However, there are many DJs who do not bother using the EQs at all, or if they do, they only use the low EQ for simple bass switch transitions.
There is a lot of power in using the EQ section of your controller or mixer. From being able to take away or accentuate certain parts of a track, to mixing exclusively with just EQ and not using the faders at all, there are several techniques for you to try that will ultimately improve your DJing.
So let’s break down the different modes of EQ, how they work, then go over some different techniques that will make you a better DJ.
EQ and Isolator modes
Most modern DJ software and many higher-end mixers allow for two different EQ modes, usually called EQ mode and Isolator mode. These two modes change the way the EQs affects the sound of the tracks you are playing.
The standard or classic EQ mode works like EQs on most classic analog mixers, by adding or subtracting a certain amount of low, mid, and high frequencies. If you turn all of the EQs “down”, ie all the way to the left in EQ mode, you will still be able to hear the track playing, just a lot quieter.
Isolator mode cuts the affected frequency range 100%. If you turn all of the EQs down in Isolator mode, you will not be able to hear the track playing at all. Assuming you have three-band EQ (low, mid and high), think of this mode like the volume fader but divided into three parts. Isolator mode is great when you are looking to take out whole frequency “chunks” from a track.
I prefer using the classic EQ mode in most cases because it prevents from accidentally removing too much out of tracks – but both have their uses. If you get the choice of both modes on your gear or software, try them both and see which mode you prefer!
We’ve listed three EQ techniques that you can use in your DJing below.
3 EQ Tricks
1. Remove elements in a mix
Probably the most used technique is the “bass swap” transition. This is simply bringing in the next track with the low EQ turned all the way down, then once that track is brought in all the way, turning the low EQ back to 12 o’clock while turning the low EQ of the track you are mixing out all the way down. This is done so the basslines or bass drums of the two tracks do not overlap and interfere with one another.
Another common use is for carving out the vocals of one track to make room for vocals on another. This is best done by putting the EQ in Isolator mode and using a similar technique but instead of using the low EQ, using the mid-EQ instead. This works because vocals occupy the mid-frequency area; higher than basslines and bass drums, but lower than hi-hats and cymbals.
Although in most cases this will not remove vocals out of a track completely, it can make enough space in the mids in a pinch. This can really help if you accidentally layer vocals over vocals, which is a huge DJing “no no”.
Likewise, if you fid your mix is sounding good but the hi-hats or cymbals are clashing, doing this with the high frequencies can clear the sound up, too.
2. Isolate parts of a track
Another useful way to use EQ is to try to separate a single part of one track to play on top of another. This is achieved by turning the two EQs of the frequencies you are looking to take out all the way down, leaving only the part of the song you are looking to play over the other track.
For instance, to pull out just the high percussion of a song, you would turn down the mid and low EQ, leaving just the highs playing. This works best with EQ set to Isolator, because it has a more potent effect.
3. Mix using only EQs
Since Isolator mode can cut frequencies completely, you can think of your three EQs as independent volume controls for the lows, mids, and highs.
Instead of just bringing the volume fader up to bring in the track, the Isolator EQs can be used to bring in a track one frequency section at a time. For example, you can begin by bringing in the percussion section of a song using the highs, then slowly bringing in the vocals using the mids, then finally turning the lows up to bring in the bass line and bass drum.
At the same time, you can use the Isolator EQs to mix out the previous track. You can slowly swap out each of the EQs (much like you would with the bass swap technique) but now do it across all three EQs. For long, intricate beatmixes, you get much more control this way, which is why some house and techno DJs especially prefer to mix like this.
Learning to utilise the EQs properly is a great way to make yourself a better sounding DJ. Take some time to play with both EQ modes and get a grasp of how they affect your sound, and then have a go at mixing with just your EQs.
What other EQ tricks do you use when you DJ? Share them with our readers in the comments.