Subtractive methodology or turning a boost into a cut

My friend, Joe, over at HomeStudioCorner can often be heard talking about using cuts rather than boosts for EQ. His recent post “why boosting with EQ is the devil” got me thinking. So I called him to talk more about it. Let’s create a simple example for argument’s sake. Say you boost 3 db at 500hz and 6 db at 12 kHz.

Since you are adding gain now, it’s likely that you’ll need to do some gain reduction to avoid eating up all your headroom on that channel.

So say you reduce output by 6 db here is what you’re left with:

Now as you can see, it looks like we’ve done a pretty significant cut across all frequencies and essentially “normalized” the EQ by taking my biggest boost and putting that at zero. The curves are totally identical.

So that is how I can turn a boost into a cut. Why does all this matter? I think it’s all a matter of the mind. The mindset of boosting and the mindset of cutting are drastically different. As Joe will tell you, a lot of people make the mistake of just grabbing an EQ and start boosting more out of habit than necessity. The boosting mindset says something is missing and I need to add it, which often isn’t so successful. The boosting mindset is very narrowly focused. The cutting mindset is broad. The cutting mindset is all about sculpting, pulling out the fluff until you are left with the core – focused on the end result of getting a great mix.

Bottom line there are plenty of times you’ll boost, but the next time you reach for your favorite EQ consider doing more sculpting. Stop and listen, then make your best call. Of course, make your life easier and just get it right at the source.


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