How to Mix with EQ, Panning and Reverb

Mixing live sound can seem like it’s all about volume control, but it’s more involved than simply raising or lowering the faders of various audio sources.

You’ll want to use a few simple tools to help create a mix that has depth, texture, clarity, and focus.

Fortunately most consoles have these simple tools built in (yes, even analog consoles).

EQ – the most powerful mixing tool

EQ can do more for your sound than just about any other gadget in your audio toolbox.

Use EQ to clean up your mix, separate instruments that may be competing with each other, and shape the overall tone of your soundscape.

Use high pass (also called low cut) filters to reduce low frequency rumble in channels that don’t need the low end, like vocals.

Dial in the pastor’s mic by using the sweepable mid EQ or parametric EQ, cutting the frequencies that sound tinny or harsh.

Panning for a new dimension

If you have a stereo or left-center-right (LCR) sound system, you can use panning to provide some great texture and separation in your mix. Panning can quickly clear up a cluttered mix by distributing the various instruments between the left and right loudspeakers.

Of course, you probably don’t want to get too drastic with your panning, like putting one instrument only in the left or right channel (this is called “hard panning”), unless you’re trying to create a specific effect.

Experiment with placing your main rhythm instrument like a guitar or piano front and center, while panning lead guitars, strings, or other melody/harmony instruments across the left/right stereo range.

Reverb effects in space and time

Reverb can do wonders for gluing your mix together in just the right way.

Adding reverb for lead or background vocals can provide a nice ambiance and space. You can use a darker or longer reverb time to push a background vocal back in the mix.

Using reverb on your drums can liven up the sound of the snare or kick if it is sounding too dry or sterile.

And practice inserting reverb or delay on certain instruments or vocals during special parts of a song like a lead or solo part. This can help that audio source shimmer in the mix during its featured moment.

Just be careful with reverb. A little bit goes a long way, and too much reverb can start to clutter a mix.

The rule of thumb to follow is that if you can hear the reverb standing out by itself, you might have too much.


Download this EQ Frequency Guide and learn more about using EQ in your mix.

Learn all about reverb and get the Great Church Sound Reverb Cheatsheet here.

Other mixing tools like compression can play an important role in your mix as well, but EQ, Panning and Reverb are three elements that can make significant, yet subtle difference in your mix.

Experiment with different settings. Practice using various mixing techniques during soundcheck or with a virtual multi-track soundcheck. Listen and adjust, listen and adjust, listen and… You get the point.

So get your finger off the fader and start twisting some knobs already!


Note: this originally appeared as a guest post on the TwelveThirtyMedia blog.

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