Have you seen the movie “The Waterboy” with Adam Sandler?

It’s a silly movie.

Bobby Boucher wants to play college football, but his mama tells him that “foosball is the devil!”

Well, today you need to imagine me with a thick Louisiana bayou accent (I grew up in Mississippi, so that shouldn’t be too hard for you) saying, “Boosting with EQ is the devil!”

Now, I think Bobby’s Mama was wrong about “foosball,” but I’m right about EQ.

Lemme explain.

Mixing can be tough. No doubt about it.

But a common tendency among beginners is to use EQ to “add to” the sound.

They think EQ is meant to be used to:

  • add more bass and warmth and “punch” (by boosting the lows)
  • add more “presence” to the track (by boosting the mids)
  • add more “air” to the track (by boosting the highs)

Add, add, add.

Boost, boost, boost.

You end up with MORE than what you started with.

In my opinion, the best way to mix is to start with a bunch of tracks and start TAKING THINGS AWAY. (Think of it as a sculpture.)

It’s already a challenge to get all the tracks to blend together nicely. Why make it even MORE challenging by boosting frequencies, thereby adding MORE sound into the song?

You’re working against yourself.

More cuts, less boosts.

Boosts aren’t always bad, but if that’s your go-to EQ move, you might want to re-think your approach.

Cutting is the way to go, but only if you do it right. Otherwise, you might as well be boosting.

To learn my non-boosting, devil-free approach to EQ, hop on your fan boat and skim on over to:

www.UnderstandingEQ.com

  • Lohan Van Der Westhuizen

    I understand that boosting frequencies adds coloration to the instruments/sounds which is not ideal, however if you think about it, boosting does not add more than you previously had – its all about balance. If you boost mid frequencies @ 1Khz, then you’re making 1K louder and the rest of the spectrum softer. So boosting 1K is the same as cutting the lows and highs around 1K, except like I said – boosting adds coloration. Boosting IMO gives a more audible sound than cutting everything around what you want to boost- And yes cutting gives a softer sound which in turn gives more overall volume (loudness wars). Still, boosting sounds better for me. More piercing, punchy and crisp

    • I don’t think I agree that boosting adds coloration. It just boosts a set of frequencies.

  • Roger

    Hi, Joe.
    I believe I understand what you are saying, but ’emptymusic productions’ gave an example closer to what I was thinking. In the example given (with screenshots), the final EQ curve is the same but:

    a) Would it be easier to carve out with several EQ frequencies and ‘Q’s to get that same final curve? In the above example, there was still a boost, followed by lowering the overall volume. If we were trying to achive that EQ curve, all the settings would be different;

    b) Wouldn’t we add more ‘probles’ like phase shift associated with messing around with more frequencies?

    Cheers

    • Roger

      Sorry, I meant to write “problems”…

  • Bill

    I am really new to this home recording stuff so please hang with my stupid questions. There are lots of experts that recommend recording everything flat then adding or subtracting specific EQ frequencies during the mix to influence the presence of the instrument. What you’re suggesting is it’s better to reduce specific frequencies (not increasing them) to achieve this presence, correct?

    I also have to say I just found your site the other day and I love all the great info. I have learned more in the last few days reading and viewing your articles than I have in the last few months.

    • Hey Bill! Yeah, I tend to think it’s better to take things away with EQ rather than add back in. That’s not to say I don’t boost, but my gut instinct is to cut first, and then boost if absolutely necessary.

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  • Michael

    Everybody…listen to Joe! What he says here is true, and a simple guideline to follow. A music production friend educated me in this and it literally changed my mixes for the better.

  • Roger

    Hi there, Joe. Thanks for your excellent work.
    I would like to ask you something regarding this EQ carving subject. Let’s say (as an example) that we have a track that’s not sitting well in the mix, and we ‘fix it’ by reducing 6 dB below 600hz and 4 dB above 3 Khz (just a random example).
    What’s the difference between doing that or making a boost of 6dB starting at 600hz and ending at 3K with smaller boost (4 dB)?

    I’ll put it in another way: if the final EQ curve ends up being the same, what’s the difference (besides the overall volume)?
    Sorry if this sounds like a stupid question.

    • Not a dumb question at all. I would say try both. Don’t just take my word for it. But I’d bet that if something is not sitting in the mix, boosting two separate frequencies won’t make it “sit” any better. I bet if you do boost them, you’ll then have to turn the overall volume down.

      Either way, it’s really a mindset thing. I like simplicity. Rather than asking, “What can I add to this mix?” I’d rather ask simply, “What can I take away?”

      Besides, doing two boosts takes more effort than one cut. Why would you do two boosts when one cut would do the trick? Occam’s Razor: The simplest solution is usually the best. (Paraphrase.)