Understanding Sound Frequency: A Guide to Hz and kHz

The world of audio is wide, and measured in frequencies. (specifically Hertz or “Hz”and kiloHertz or “kHz”  Every sound has a frequency range, and understanding this will make EQing a mix far easier.   If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a basic rundown.  This is a general guide, but this will provide a good point of reference.

Willie Green breaks down the various sound frequency ranges and what pieces of your mix fall into each section. Additionally, he offers some insight into how tweaking each range will affect the overall sound of your mix.

200 Hz and below

This is the thump of your mix, where the bottom end of your kicks and basses lives.  Don’t get carried away boosting down here though – too much will throw off your balance.  For sounds that are not low end instruments, it is often useful to filter out this area.  It can dramatically improve the clarity of your mix.

200 – 400 Hz

This is where you’ll find the body of your low end instruments.  Notching out a bit here will improve clarity in a muddy track, but take out too much and you’ll have a hollow low end without definition.

400 Hz – 1 kHz

This is the low mid/mid area of your mix.  The body of guitars and vocals reside here – a slight boost can add presence, but too much can make things boxy sounding.

1 – 3 kHz

This area can be a real trouble spot, it’s where the nasal-y sound of many instruments and voices lives.  For drums however, the attack of kicks and snares is around here, and extends up to about 4 kHz.  You’ll also find the bottom of hi-hats and crash cymbals here, anything lower than this in these sounds should just be filtered out.

4 – 8 kHz

Here are your high-mids, the top end of most drums, guitars and organs, but also the home of sibilance in vocals.  This is also where you’ll find the body of cymbals.

8 – 10 kHz

Cymbals, cymbals, cymbals.  You’ll also find the top end of vocals here.

10 kHz and above

This is the “air”of your mix.  If your mix is sounding a bit dull, boosting here can open things up.  However, this is also where hiss and noise from gear lives, and boosting too much can bring that out as well.

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