To mix well, you have to rely on great EQ skills. To develop great EQ skills, you have to train your brain to "see" frequency separation bands and your ears to pinpoint them. Let's talk about how we can achieve that.
If you think the art of equalization is simple, I will agree with you 100%. You see, when we are born, we inherit some of the most refined frequency separation tools on earth: our ears and brain.
Our brains are built to pinpoint frequencies, note differences in tone and texture but most importantly, tell us what is comfortable and what is not. This is where the more technical art of "frequency separation" comes into play.
I know what you're thinking... "I'm gonna have to learn all these frequencies for all instruments and music is gonna become science instead of art". Well, yes and no. All you have to remember is this: if music were the 100m dash, each instrument would need their own separate lane and could not step out of it in fear of getting disqualified.
Now the knowledge of what instrument goes in what lane is both natural AND technical. It is natural because you know a bass guitar does not belong in the same register as a high hat. It is technical because having a better knowledge of what frequencies separate those "lanes" speeds up the process AND helps to create mental markers of where the lanes should be traced.
That's it. The rest is trial and error, experimentation and taste!
To get started, simply look at the following chart and pay close attention to the medium grey vertical bands and what the boost/cut tips are. This will get you started on the path of EQing like a boss (Rick Ross grunt).
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You don’t need anything. You can achieve incredible mixes on your white iPhone earbuds for all I care, given that you understand their frequency response (what they sound like at each crucial frequency bands). So my short answer to the question in the title is: headphones. Plain and simple. Oh… and here are 5 reasons why.