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How to EQ Piano So It Cuts Through Your Mix

A huge frequency range going as low as 27 Hz and higher than 4 kHz, a large dynamic range and versatility make the piano a difficult instrument to EQ.

EQ choices will vary extremely between each genre and even the same song depending on the track, so let’s dive into how to handle this legendary instrument. 

SIDENOTE: For this tutorial, we will be using Ableton Live with stock effects and plugins only. 

The Sample

The piano sample we will be using in this tutorial is from Splice, a simple chord progression.


We will be working with the sample in solo, then with some bass to get a better idea of how different EQ choices will help the piano fit in a mix better. This is what we will be getting the sample to sound like after EQ’ing:

How to EQ Piano?

Subtractive EQ

When EQ’ing an instrument, it is important to first start with removing frequencies rather than boosting them. That way, you can then add some compression to tighten the sound after you’ve cleaned it up a little, and then boost with another EQ after the compression. 

Getting rid of the unwanted rumble in the sub 50 hz region with a high pass is a good first move with piano, then moving the high pass slightly higher to taste. 

How to EQ Piano?

If you are mixing piano on its own with an accompanying instrument such as a vocal, it’s a good idea to leave sub-bass frequencies in on the piano, as there won’t be any other instruments competing for the sub-bass frequencies if it is just piano and vocal. 

If there are other instruments in the sub-bass range however, such as a bass, bass guitar etc. then you will need to find the frequencies of where your bass sits and cut the piano at those frequencies to give the bass room. 

The sample has some muddy frequencies between 100 Hz to 250 Hz, so I’ve put a wide 3.6db cut in this area, which has tightened up the overall sound quite a lot without losing the warmness of the piano. I also added a narrow cut at 770 hz to tame the low mids.

muddy frequencies between 100 Hz to 250 Hz

Let’s hear what we’ve got so far: 

Piano without EQ 

Piano with EQ

Now, let’s boost some frequencies!

Additive EQ

Since this is an EQ-only tutorial, we won’t be compressing like I usually would here. Instead, we will be boosting frequencies to enhance the sound and add some richness to this piano sample. 

This piano sound is quite dark and warm, so a boost in the mids will  help add some clarity and presence to the sample. Mid-range boosts are common with piano, but don’t overdo it as it can get piercing on the ears quite easily! 

Also common with piano EQ is adding a high shelf in the frequencies above 5 kHz to give the piano some sparkle or “air”. I have boosted the mids at 2 Khz quite widely by 3db and added a big high shelf of 5db at 5 Khz to give this dark sample a lot more brightness. 

Additive EQ

Let’s listen to the sample before and after the additive EQ: 

Piano without boosts

Piano with boosts

What you boost at this stage of EQ’ing can be very much personal preference. The current sound we have in this article is quite bright and would suit a pop mix for example.

A darker sound without any of the boosts, however, would fit a warmer sound more influenced by hip-hop. 

EQ’ing With Bass

When mixing piano with bass, we need to find where the bass frequency sits and then cut that out of the piano. In a mix, the bass often is in charge of the low end, and the piano sits on the low mids and mid-range. When done correctly, a mix can sound very full with these two instruments. 

After using a notch EQ to find resonance in the bass above 50 Hz at 80 Hz, I added a narrow cut of 4DB on the piano at 80Hz. With this cut, the feeling of the low end of the bass cuts through the piano, and they layer on top of each other quite well. 

EQing With Bass

Let’s listen to the bass and piano with and without the 80 hz cut: 

No 80 hz cut

80hz cut 

Now, onto other EQ’ing pianos and other mid-range instruments 

EQ’ing with other mid-range Instruments 

Similarly to mixing bass, you will need to prioritize sometimes which sound occupies a frequency more than another, for example, vocal and piano.

Both have the potential to clash in the 1-5 kHz range and higher. Cutting the piano in this area if the vocal is the priority is a good way to solve this, or vice versa if the piano is the focus of the track. 

Always EQ in the context of your track, if it’s a bass-heavy track, the piano will be focused in the mids. If the vocal is the focus, make sure the piano isn’t clashing with it in the mids. Or, if it’s just piano and vocal, make sure the piano sound isn’t thin and lacking in the low end. 

In Conclusion

When EQ’ing any instrument, use your ears first and foremost. Instruments can play numerous roles within any track, and it’s important to listen to the song and judge for yourself what takes priority when carving out a space for an instrument with EQ. 

Is the vocal the focus? Is the piano accompanying the bass or mid range? What’s the point of the instrument in this song? These are all some of the questions you should be asking yourself when using EQ. Best of luck out there! 

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