boost?To complete this series of EQ mistakes, we’ve got to talk about the big boy. The thing we all WANT to do when we first start messing around with EQ.

We’ve looked at EQ-ing without listeningnot EQ-ing in solo, and EQ-ing out of context. Once you’ve really mastered those three, what do you do once you’ve got the EQ open?

The tendency is to say This kick drum needs more low end and high end. So we reach for the low and high bands and start boosting. As I mentioned recently, removing some of the low-mids (around 400 Hz) can accomplish the same thing…and it usually sounds much better and more natural.

Cut Before You Boost

I guarantee that almost every track in any session you’re mixing will need some sort of EQ attention. But how you wield that EQ depends on your mix philosophy. I’m a huge proponent of subtractive EQ. Why? Because there’s already SO MUCH happening in the song. You’re trying to cram all of these tracks into one stereo mix.

Something’s gotta give. It’s silly to think you can make everything fit in the mix by applying EQ boosts all over the place. If you recorded the tracks properly, you have everything you need to get a great-sounding mix. Chances are you don’t need to do any boosting. You need to take things away.

That’s what we did this past weekend at the Simply Recording Academy. We literally only used EQ to cut out frequencies in the tracks. We didn’t boost ANYTHING.

And? Yep, it sounded great. Because Graham and I have magic ears? Nah. it sounded great because we simply took away a few dB here and there on all the tracks. We made subtle adjustments to the individual tracks. When you add up all of these little changes, you end up with big, powerful results.

Every time I mix a song I’m surprised by how much more effective cutting is than boosting. Honestly, I’m still surprised by it. I think it’s my American brain. I assume that if the track sounds great, then boosting the great parts even more will make them sound even better. But the theory of less is more proves to be true…every time.

Are your mixes getting better? Need some help wrapping your mind around how to use EQ to make those tracks shine? I’d love to help. Go grab a copy of Understanding EQ and see if your mixes starting sounding better.