Eager beginners thirsty for knowledge will sooner or later meet some (or all) of these advices: “always cut, never boost” or “high-pass everything” or “cut somewhere from 150 – 400Hz to get rid of mud”. Let’s take a look at them one by one, so you can understand why recipes like these rarely work.
Cut but don’t boost – yeah, right
The first one, “always cut, never boost” simply neglects the fact that you can get (at least practically) the same results whether you boost lows or you cut highs; only sometimes it’s much easier to just boost a certain part of the frequency range, instead of leaving that part untouched and trying to cut everything else around that part. This advice will only make one scared to boost anything later on. There’s a reason why the gain knob of an EQ can go both ways, so be flexible and don’t fear the boosts when you think they will get you the desired sound.
Do you really need that hi-pass filter on everything?
High-passing everything is not such a straight problem, because doing so will help you out many times, or at least it will make things seem to sound better than leaving the low end untouched, especially when the recorded tracks are bass heavy to begin with. The problem with cutting lows on every track is that sometimes you end up losing useful sonic information. Many times you could get a similar sound with using low shelves or bell filters, or even just trying to get a good sounding balance before you start to automatically tinker with the EQ. That way you can make sure that you don’t lose that “plus” that will give your tracks a certain warmth and sweetness in the low end.
The general distaste for low-mids
Finally, the dreaded 200Hz, or 300Hz or for some people 400Hz. But for most mixing engineers and wannabes, there’s a certain frequency or frequency range that they like to get rid of somewhere in the low mids. For example, for Ken Scott, it’s 200Hz (or 250Hz on the Trident-A-Range). Anyway, just like the above mentioned hi-passing, cutting some of the low mids will seemingly improve your mixes in a well audible way; it will get rid of most of the so called “mud” present, resulting in clarity. Now who doesn’t want or even strive for sonic clarity when mixing music? Well, the problem with it is, you can actually get rid of too much of it, and suddenly your clarity will turn into hollowness, and your tracks will seem to be floating around pretty much disconnected in a big soup of emptiness, instead of forming a cohesive whole. That so called “glue” will be gone, and you’ll have a hard time if you try to get it back with using other tricks or devices.