Low shelf EQ is a useful type of filtering which you can use to sculpt your audio when other filters aren’t appropriate. Let’s talk about what low shelf EQ filtering does and when you should use it in your mix.
Low Shelf EQ
A low shelf EQ is one of a few types of EQ filters. You can use it to create a shelf-like shape (hence the name). Specifically it resembles a flat raise or drop of all frequencies below a certain point. That said, you can adjust the Q to make more of a gradual line or diagonal line.
By the way, grab my free EQ cheat sheet as it not only explains how to best EQ every instrument in your mix but also gets into the settings like “Q” and different filter types more in depth like we’re talking here.
The “low” in low shelf refers to the fact that it affects all frequencies BELOW the point at which you create the filter. This leaves the frequencies above this spot untouched.
This is in comparison to a high shelf which only affects frequencies ABOVE the starting point, leaving lower frequencies untouched.
Again, we can use this to either boost or cut below a certain frequency.
When to Use Low Shelf EQ
A low shelf EQ is ideal when you want to emphasize or attenuate frequencies below a certain point, but to a greater degree and with a flatter response than a bell. It’s also useful when you want to attenuate your low end but don’t want to completely remove it via a high pass filter.
In other words, you should use a low shelf EQ when you need a solution that’s between the extremes of too much and not enough.
Note that you can still use a high pass filter or even a bell in combination with low shelf EQ. So maybe you want to create a bit more space for your bass guitar or kick drum on your guitar. You want to bring everything below 300Hz down a bit but don’t want to high pass until 50Hz.
You can do just that, placing a low shelf EQ at 300Hz and adjusting the gain down to soften the frequencies between 50 and 300Hz. Then you can add your high pass filter at 50Hz like normal. Just like that your guitar’s low end is reined in!
One last thing to mention – we typically think of a low shelf as being for the low end of the mix. We can use it just as effectively to attenuate any point on our mix. If you have something which is almost entirely high end like a tambourine, a low shelf EQ can work great as high as 1k or higher to soften the mid range frequencies without cutting them completely.
Because low shelf EQs provide a relatively flat boost or cut, they sound very natural, more so than even a wide bell curve.
Low Shelf EQ Tips
- Low shelf EQ is a specific EQ filter shape which is used to cut or boost at a constant rate below a certain frequency point.
- A low shelf is a nice compromise when you want something more macro than a bell but without completely passing a frequency range.
- Low shelves, like high shelves, sound very natural because of their relatively uniform boosts.
- You can use a low shelf in combination with other filter types such as a high pass filter to more gradually attenuate your low end on a number of instruments.
- Try using a low shelf in place of putting a high pass filter quite as high on your next track to keep a bit more low end energy in your track.