Just like I mentioned in my guide on how to EQ male vocals, female vocals have a number of key frequencies to pay attention to. These ranges can be cut or boosted to correct whatever is problematic or lacking in your vocal. Let’s talk how to EQ female vocals, band by band.
How to EQ Female Vocals
As I always mention, I made the following cheat sheet on how to EQ female vocals using my go-to favorite EQ of choice, FabFilter’s Pro-Q 3 which I did a review of recently. Aside from the normal features you’d find on an EQ, it has a slew of added features like the ability to turn any EQ move to a dynamic band, something I’ll be mentioning in this guide to EQ female vocals.
Let’s cover each frequency band separately to further explain how and why to make the moves I recommend.
High Pass at 130Hz – High passing on your tracks should be a habit you get into to remove boominess, room noise, and non-musical sounds from your tracks. Generally 100Hz is a good starting point, but when EQing female vocals the fundamental or body of the vocal is typically a bit higher.
You can certainly still begin at 100Hz, slowly sweeping up until you hear the vocal begin to thin, then pull back 10Hz or so.
On female vocals, I generally find on average that 130Hz is a good spot to set that high pass filter, keeping the body intact while cutting out all the noise we don’t need. This cleans up the low end, clears out the mix’s mud, and all without taking away from the vocal itself.
Boost/Cut at 200-300Hz – I just referenced the fundamental body of the vocal. This is where the lowest end of the voice itself resides.
Depending on what our female vocal is lacking, we can boost or cut here. If the vocal is too thin, try a small boost here. If the voice is too boomy or feels muffled, try a small cut here.
Note that you don’t need to make a change here for the sake of making a change, but know that this is the range of the body and that’s the effect a boost or cut will have.
Cut at 500Hz – This is a move I generally always make when I EQ a vocal female – a cut at 500Hz. Whether it’s a product of microphone placement or unwanted reflections in the room itself, there’s an unwanted boxiness which exists around 500Hz.
It’s not musical and doesn’t add anything to your track. In fact, making a small cut here will add clarity to your vocal as a whole. It doesn’t always act up and can be more pronounced on certain words, phrases, syllables, etc. As such I prefer to make this a dynamic EQ cut so that the cut is deeper when there’s a greater build up here.
Boost/Cut at 1-2k – The 1000-2000Hz region on a female vocal is very much like the body in that this overtone region will yield drastically different results depending on if we boost or cut here.
The nasal quality in a vocal is especially prominent here. If the singer or the room has yielded what feels like a nasally voice, a cut here can literally save your vocal track. Just like that boxy frequency range, this can be a problem which is more prominent on certain sounds than others, so I recommend a dynamic cut if you do cut here.
Conversely, if you’ve got a hollow sounding vocal which is typically the product of poor microphone placement relative to the singer, a slight boost here can fill in some of the missing gaps. We’re beginning to get into the frequency region that our ears are sensitive to, so boost carefully, and don’t discount the use of some saturation to fill in and thicken out a thin vocal, as well.
Boost (or Cut) at 3-5k – Usually the complaint I get about female vocals is that they’re too bland, lack life, or don’t soar over the track.
A boost in the 3-5k imparts clarity to your vocal which can make it come alive in your mix, but it should be done conservatively.
Overdoing a boost in the 3-5k region, bringing out too much of the overtones here can lead to a harsh vocal because our ears are very sensitive to this region.
Less is definitely more when making a boost in this region, and be sure to use references in mixing alongside your mix while you work to remind yourself what a good vocal sounds like.
Conversely, if your vocal is already a bit grating, you might try a small cut here instead.
High Shelf at 10k – I preach the same thing on male vocals; a high shelf EQ filter at 10k brings out the air from the vocal and adds some crispness.
I like to lift up this region with a shelf by a dB or two (or three) when I need a bit more clarity without worrying about the aforementioned harsh abrasive frequencies.
Our ears aren’t as sensitive to this area, in fact they have more difficulty picking up frequencies as we approach 20k. To put it another way, we feel as much as we hear this region, and a high shelf works nicely for this purpose.
Low Pass Filter at 20k – You can go a bit lower on male vocals, but when I EQ female vocals I generally like to low pass around 20k.
Once again this is to cut out non-musical or even inaudible frequencies. Despite the fact that we can’t hear what’s going on above this point, it still adds to the overall headroom of our mix so that we can have a naturally louder master when we send our mix to our mastering engineer.
Repeat this on every vocal and virtually every track in your mix to get the full benefits.
EQ Female Vocals Tips
- EQing female vocals allows us to cut out what’s not working to better emphasize or even boost what is.
- High pass filter around 130Hz to remove noise, inaudible and non musical frequencies to clean up the low end and add headroom.
- Boost or cut at 200-300Hz to add body or clarity/remove boominess, respectively.
- Cut at 500Hz with a dynamic EQ band to attenuate boxy sounds on certain parts, adding clarity to the vocal.
- Boost or cut at 1-2k to correct a hollow vocal or mitigate the effects of a nasal vocal, respectively.
- Boost or cut at 3-5k to add clarity or remove harshness, respectively.
- Add a high shelf at 10k to bring out some sizzle, crispness, and air from your vocal.
- Low pass filter at 20k to remove inaudible frequencies to add headroom to your mix.