It’s not uncommon for me to see beginners asking questions like: “I use a lot of samples and virtual instruments. Since they are already professional sounds, do I need to use EQ?”
There is an inherent problem with this question because it exposes two flaws in how you should be thinking about mixing and EQ in particular. I will try my best answer this question, and hopefully, I can increase your thought process on how to approach EQ.
Why Even Use EQ in The First Place?
So before we go all out on EQ and whether or not you should slap it on sample or VSTi we need to answer a bigger question: Why even use an EQ? or What can it do for my tracks?
EQ is your most useful mixing tool because it takes tracks that have overlapping frequencies and helps them each shine in the mix, on their own. Eq is there to help you get your mix balance, so there is more clarity to the song. If you are using an EQ properly, everything should be heard, and nothing is covered up.
So if you are using EQ to help bring clarity to all your tracks, then it’s important to remember that you don’t need any EQ if all your samples and virtual instruments already fit well together.
Why Are Samples So Special?
I think we have already come to the conclusion that EQing isn’t really about changing the tone of your tracks but more to help them fit together. Now we need to address the fact that sample and virtual instruments seem to be in the upper echelons of sounds. And how because they are samples that they don’t need to be processed like the stuff you record at home.
I mean, sure some of those drum samples and virtual instruments were probably recorded by some talented engineers in some of the greatest studio facilities in the world, but it doesn’t mean that they are exempt from any potential EQ moves. The main reason is that EQing is about fitting sounds together and not so much about changing the tone.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great the samples are because if they don’t work well with the other tracks in your song, then they will need some EQ correction. They are not excused.
We Are All Created Equal
It’s important to classify each sound as an equal as they sit in front of you while mixing. Of course, some of the samples will sound better or more professional, but none of that matters.
As a mixer, it’s your job to take whatever sounds are in front of you and fit them together in such a way that the final stereo file sounds clear, focused, and very musical. Anyone listening to your song is not going to care what you used to create it. They won’t even care how many instances of EQ you used.
The only thing they are going to care about is the song. If they can’t hear the song correctly then it’s probably because things are being covered up by other sounds. So instead of asking questions about whether you should EQing your samples or not, you should be asking yourself whether or not the sounds fit well together. You will make more progress this way.