Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum

Equalization is one of the most powerful tools that an audio engineer can get their hands on. Live engineers, post-production engineers, and recording engineers all have their specific uses for it. It’s so powerful that some beginner engineers habitually reach for it without understanding what it can ultimately do to a mix.

Let’s resonate on the concept of volume momentarily. It is in our human nature to enjoy music at high volume levels. Concerts are a great examples of this. Outdoor festivals and the like tend to blast our eardrums with massive amounts of volume that we cannot experience in any other format. To most, increasing volume directly correlates to better sound. In a mix setting, dramatically boosting various frequencies can be a crutch for inexperienced mix engineers. By increasing the gain of a specified frequency band on an EQ one can subsequently add unwanted gain to the overall mix. Typically the problem that follows is a battle to keep your master fader from clipping and you all of sudden feel stuck in a gain-staging paradox. This can happen to best of us.

In Use
Apply subtractive EQ techniques to your instruments. Instead of boosting your favourite signals try limiting yourself to cutting. We can call this concept “carving”. Let’s take a look at a musical example. This series of articles will demonstrate some key elements of a typical Rock Mix.

Generally the snare is the focal point of a typical rock oriented mix. I’ve started with all my faders down and raised the snare to a suitable level: 0dBu. This recording was tracked with two snare microphones. The bottom snare microphone captured the sizzle of the snare and the top microphone captured much of the attack.

Snare Bottom EQ

The first drawbacks I noticed when isolating the snare recordings Continue reading Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum