EQredEqualization seems like such a simple task. Want it to have more air? Add a bit of 12 to 14kHz. Want thicker low end? Try a touch of 60 to 80Hz. But adding gain with an EQ isn’t the only game in town. Reductive equalization is a very important part of mixing, too. This method can help you to make poorly recorded instruments or synth tracks sound much more natural, fix a boxy vocal, make room in a dense arrangement or get rid of unwanted or useless sub frequencies or noise.

The idea is this: Using a precision EQ like the UA Cambridge, Avid EQ3 or any other EQ that has a very narrow bandwidth setting, you can identify harsh or undesirable frequencies by pushing the plugin to extreme settings. For instance, if you’re working on a vocal that has too much “bite” to it, you might set the EQ to around 2.5 to 3.5khz at a very narrow bandwidth, add an extreme amount of gain and then sweep the frequency control until you hear the offending frequency become quite exaggerated.

Once you’ve found the that annoying frequency, remove it! I find that reducing it by just a few decibels results in a more natural sound. Remember to check the harmonic frequencies as well. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic) If you’ve subtracted a bit of 500Hz, check out what’s happening at 250 and 1kHz. There may be more than one offending frequency in a track. Don’t forget to apply the high pass filter to get rid of unwanted rumble that is just sucking up the available headroom in your mix!

Learning and applying this simple step before adding any EQ gain or dynamics will definitely make mixing easier. On a large majority of the mixes I do these days, reductive EQ, panning and level balancing are the very first things I do. Working this way helps me to identify problem areas and avoid over-processing when I really don’t need to. As a result, my mixes don’t have a ton of plugins all over them anymore. Try it and tell me what you think in the comments section below.