If your guitar tracks aren’t “cutting-through”, they will most likely NEVER be heard by your listeners. We can’t force them to listen to your music, but WE CAN learn how to EQ a guitar.
Did you know that are MANY WAYS to go about doing this?
In fact, I will be sharing 3 TECHNIQUES that I personally use on ALL my projects.
Each method will grant us different degrees of precision, so…
We will start with the LEAST precise and work our way up to the MOST precise.
One of these methods doesn’t even require an EQUALIZER! (mind = blown)
You may find a preference for any of these techniques, but I encourage you to learn ALL OF THEM.
This way, you’ll be equipped for a variety of situations.
Also, keep in mind that these techniques can be applied to OTHER INSTRUMENTS as well.
We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started! Are you ready?
Why Won’t my Guitar Tracks “Cut-Through” the Mix?
Before getting into the practical aspect of EQing guitar, we need to understand WHY we’re doing it. You may want to read my article on equalization if you want a thorough explanation.
However, guitars, like ALL of the other instruments…
TAKE UP A LOT OF SPACE.
20,000 kHz may seem like a lot of room, but your signal isn’t the same once it’s been… DIGITIZED.
In order to hear ALL our tracks, we need to assign each one an exclusive place on the frequency spectrum.
The reason your guitar tracks haven’t been “cutting-through” is that they are COMPETING with all the other tracks.
In other words, our objective with this tutorial is going to be to “emphasize” the BEST attributes of our guitar.
Whatever we don’t need will be “eliminated” to make space for the other instruments.
By using an EQ, you can essentially “cut/boost” specific bands of frequencies to arrange this.
I always use the analogy of the puzzle to illustrate what we’re doing; making everything fit together seamlessly.
Once you achieve this “equilibrium”, ALL your tracks will be heard like never before!
Technique #1 | Using a Parametric Equalizer
Using a parametric EQ on each individual track is the most common method and the simplest. All major digital audio workstations (DAW) come with an integrated parametric EQ.
I prefer this type of equalizer for the following reasons:
- It is the ONLY equalizer that allows you to focus on the CENTER of a frequency band
- It usually provides a visual display of your work
- It offers multiple filters (low-pass, high-pass, bell, notch, low-shelf and high-shelf)
Your DAW will also come with some “presets”, so I encourage you to play around with these.
Everything can be used as a “foundation”, but ALWAYS use your ears as EVERY track is different.
There is no “one size fits all” solution!
So, let’s start “labelling” the different parts of the frequency spectrum to determine which part of our guitar’s tone they are associated to…
- 200 Hz | Fatness
- 400 Hz | Boxiness
- 600 Hz | Presence
- 1.4 kHz | Pick Attack
- 2-3 kHz | Piercing
- 4-5 kHz | Piercing/Fizziness
- 6-8 kHz | Fizziness
- 9-12 kHz | Whistle
- 15 kHz+ | Noise
A good way to determine what your sound IS LACKING/HAS TOO MUCH OF is by “boosting” a “notch” and sweeping through these frequencies.
Remember, less is more, so use your EQ sparingly.
However, there are some ESSENTIAL modifications we need to make to our guitar track.
You will be able to use these GUIDELINES for every project you work on…
- “High-pass” filter at around 100 Hz
- Pay close attention to 200 Hz and 600 Hz; “cut/boost” as needed
- 1.4 kHz is crucial for “pick attack”, you may need to “boost” here
- “Cut” around 2-3 kHz
- “Cut” around 4-5 kHz
- “Low-pass” filter at around 15 kHz
- Finish with a “high-shelf” to compensate for any loss of “brightness”
As you can see, EQing involves a lot of “active listening”, but you WILL develop this with experience.
Once you have a good “preset”, make sure to save it to save time in the future!
Technique #2 | Using a Multipressor (Multiband-Compressor)
You’ve probably never considered EQing your tracks with a multipressor (or maybe you’ve never even heard of a multi-band compressor). If your DAW does not include this MARVELOUS tool, you should think about acquiring one.
Basically, a multi-band compressor is a combination of multiple compressors (usually 2-4) that affect SPECIFIC frequency ranges.
So we’ve got somewhat of a fusion between a multi-band EQ and a compressor; killing two birds with one stone.
For guitars in particular, I actually prefer this method over the parametric EQ.
The results are PHENOMENAL and you really get more precision this way.
The FIRST STEP is going to be setting our frequency ranges. You can work with as little or as much as you’d like, but we will be using 4 bands.
Just so we’re clear, we’re going to be compressing DIFFERENT FREQUENCIES of your guitar’s signal in parallel. Any “boosting/cutting” will give you the same results as an EQ.
So, here are the bands we will be using…
- 0 – 96 Hz
- 96 – 820 Hz
- 820 – 3,300 Hz
- 3,300 – 20,000 Hz
The only disadvantage here is that we aren’t targeting the CENTER of the band, but rather the entire thing.
So, we’re giving up SOME precision, yes, BUT…
You’ve essentially split your guitar signal in 4 allowing you to compress 4 DIFFERENT WAYS.
For example, you can compress your guitar’s “pick attack” one way, but give the “mid-range” a different dynamic range.
The remaining parameters of your multipressor will vary from track to track, but you can refer to my article on how to use compression on a guitar for more details!
Remember to save your “preset” once you’re satisfied, or you can copy mine.
Technique #3 | Using Multiple Parametric Equalizers
Now we’re moving on to the most advanced of the 3 techniques, but the MOST precise. You can imagine this method being somewhat of a combination of the other TWO.
The FIRST STEP to using multiple parametric EQs is to duplicate our guitar track multiple times.
For our purposes, we’ll be making 4 COPIES.
Can you see how this is starting to resemble the 2nd technique?
Basically, we’ll be applying a different EQ “preset” to each track to DIVIDE OUR FREQUENCY RANGES.
Unlike the multipressor, using this technique will allow us to focus on SPECIFIC frequency bands and to BLEND them together.
In the multipressor, altering one frequency band affects the WIDTH of the one next to it.
Using multiple parametric EQs, we will have 4 independent tracks that can be mixed together to achieve INCREDIBLE RESULTS.
Here are screenshots of each band (from lowest – highest) and I also include the EXACT settings:
- HP Filter | 85 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.71
- Notch | 106 Hz, +10.5 dB, 0.27
- LP Filter | 2,100 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.51
- HP Filter | 132 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.71
- Notch | 670 Hz, +7.5 dB, 0.30
- LP Filter | 1,620 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.51
- HP Filter | 285 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.37
- Notch | 900 Hz, +8 dB, 0.60
- LP Filter | 3,000 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.71
- HP Filter | 1,800 Hz, 24 dB/oct, 0.46
- Notch | 6,500 Hz, +10 dB, 0.60
I suggest you copy these “presets” and save them as your own for future reference, but remember…
These are simply GUIDELINES, so you will most likely have to ADJUST your “settings” for each project.
To simplify the mixing stage, you may want to group your guitar tracks into a “group track”. Make sure to put a lot of energy into creating the PERFECT balance between these 4 tracks.
You can even add compression to your guitar tracks to give you a perfect combination of techniques ONE and TWO.
Now you’re ready to EQ guitar like a pro!
Use EQ on Guitar to Enhance your Performance
Did you know that your guitar amplifier (or amp modeller) has an integrated EQ? You should get into the habit of relying on that before anything else.
Ideally, your tone should be PERFECT by the time it has been recorded.
Your mastery of sound recording will determine how accurate of an image you achieve.
I always like to give myself MORE to work with than I need because it’s easier to SUBTRACT than it is to ADD.
The “presets” I shared with you were actually created for “rock” guitar, so they can use the additional distortion.
However, you may want to preserve the “purity” of an acoustic guitar track by sticking to “subtractive” EQ.
The secret is to “set your levels” adequately and to record with the proper microphone (if you’re using a microphone).
If you’re recording straight into your audio interface, I recommend using a good direct box as not using one can lead to…
A LOSS OF HIGH-FREQUENCIES!
What did you think about this tutorial, do you have any questions that haven’t been answered? Let us know in the comments and please, feel free to share any of your own tips on how to EQ guitar!