How to EQ Rap Songs

by Contributor

Each genre of music requires a different set of equalization, or EQ, settings to bring out the elements that most enhance it. One must consider the instruments involved in the production, the environment in which it will be played, and the audience that will be listening to it. For example, classical music requires a wider range of subtle dynamics and may be listened to intently in a quiet living room, while rap music may be played at top volume in a crowded dance club -- both immersive experiences, but with very different EQ requirements. For the booming sound characteristic of rap songs, combine EQ with compression, and leave few dynamics.


Give every instrument its own place in the mix. The rule with EQ is subtract, don't add. To get a booming kick drum, don't raise 60 Hz by 9 dB; instead take out all the frequencies from the other instruments that are getting in its way. For instance, snares sometimes have a tone at 60 Hz that blocks the kick from booming all the way through. Also, if you have a kick and a deep bass line, lower the kick at 60 Hz, and raise it slightly at 120. Raise the bass at 60 Hz by no more than 2 dB.


Compress all the individual instruments. Separate drums from another as well. Kick, snare, toms and highs all need their own tracks. Crush the waveform to just before the point where lose the texture and the attack of the sound gets lost and it ends up sounding like a heartbeat. Kick drums are especially prone to develop this unwanted "breathing" or heartbeat sound. Look at your waveforms zoomed out. They should look like rectangles, or as close as you can get them without the breathing sound taking place.


Once you EQ and compress each track, to EQ rap songs, put the final compression and EQ on the master track. This is best done with a multi-band compressor, not an EQ followed by a compressor. Pro Tools and most other audio editing software has this effect built in. Most rap songs benefit from a slight push at the edges (60 Hz and 10 kHz) and a dip in the middle around 1kHz. Because you gave it its own spot in Step 2 by EQing everything else out of its way, this push should not dull the voice. After that, push the compression by squashing as much as you can. Remember that the first priority of the intended audience of club-goers is likely to be the bump feeling and the perceived volume, over fine points of sound quality. Push and squish to the limits of acceptable sound quality, with that in mind. Your master level should be hitting the top of the meter at every kick drum and should bottom out at about -3 db.

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