Knowing how to EQ electric guitar comes down to a general understanding of your guitar’s frequency response. This understanding, as well as using your ears, should help you to achieve the sound you want. But as a general rule, consider the following…
Begin by cutting below 80 Hz, then boost around 100 Hz to add bass. Look for other unpleasant sounds to cut, such as the muddy sounds around 200-350, 1-2 kHz for harsh ones. Boosting around 5 kHz will put your guitar upfront in the mix, and adding 10 kHz will give it more clarity.
Mixing distorted electric guitars should be done carefully when it comes to high-end frequencies. So let’s take a deeper look for a clearer understanding.
EQing electric guitar explained
Considering the vivid and long history of electric guitars, one might think that mixing them should not provide a challenge. Unfortunately, there is no magical button that will make your guitar sound awesome. Mixing electric guitars very much depends on the situation, and something that you would do on one mix might not work on the other. Even if those two mixes are very similar, there still would be enough variations to throw you off.
In other words, you can not cut off 200 Hz every time you mix the electric guitar and expect great results. Generally speaking, knowing how to EQ comes with experience. You can learn this just by doing it repeatedly if you are very patient and know how to pay attention. That being said, knowing how we perceive the different frequencies of an electric guitar will help you tremendously and will make your workflow way faster. But actually, there are a few things you could do even before you start EQing.
Although EQ is a very powerful tool and could potentially fix a lot of problems, it rather is a good idea to avoid those mistakes beforehand. First of all, you have to have a general idea of what electric guitar sound you are looking for. If you are aiming for a thick, humbucker Less Paul-type sound, you won’t want to use a single-coil Strat and vice versa.
Secondly, although it might sound very obvious and you already know this, you definitely should change your strings before the recording session. Old strings will make your guitar sound dull and lifeless, which would not be that easy to fix by EQing. And, of course, you have to make sure that your guitar is in tune. It may feel rather tedious, but you have to check your tuning before each take.
Finally, although not every one of us has that luxury, but you have to choose the right amp and microphones for your recording session, given that you have a few to choose from. Professional recording studios usually have a somewhat large collection of amplifiers and microphones. So, choosing the right combination for a particular task could save a lot of trouble in the mixing stages.
Amps and mics
When it comes to home recording, if we do not take into consideration various software emulations, we usually have one amplifier and a couple of microphones at best. Although it seems like there is not much of a choice to make here, you still can change the shape of your electric guitar sound even with this limited set of tools.
A proper mic placement will save you a lot of EQing later and might give you some options in terms of the overall tone. Generally, you will get a lot of powerful mids if you place the microphone directly in the front of the center of the speaker. And you will have a more contained sound if your mic is slightly next to the corner of the speaker. And the distance on which you are placing your mic is something to experiment on.
Basic principles of EQing
As a tool, an equalizer is designed to make some frequency bands louder and the others quieter. Although there are different types of EQs, it all comes down to those two basic moves. You either subtract or add volume to different frequencies. Some EQs have fixed frequency bands, and others will let you be extremely surgical and choose the precise frequencies and the shape of the equalization.
One thing to remember is that there are a lot of digital EQs that emulate various vintage or modern analog equalizers. This means that you can add some coloration and character to the sound of your electric guitar. It’s rather beside the point of this article, primarily because using an analog EQ is purely an artistic choice. Still, we found that analog EQs will give you a lot more benefit if you use additive equalization. No matter which EQ you prefer, there are some common ideas that could be used on any electric guitar.
When it comes to the low frequencies, electric guitars do not carry much useful information below 80-90 Hz. If you do not cut those frequencies, there is a great chance that you will end up with a very muddy and incoherent mix. In general, all of the bass frequencies of electric guitars lay within 100-150 Hz. But the problem is those frequencies will conflict with a bass guitar. So if you’re looking for clear bass and a guitar with a powerful low-end, you are going to have to find a compromise between those two instruments.
Most of the time, a narrow cut around 100 Hz and a slight boost between 100-150 Hz should do the trick. Another neat trick that you could implement is to automate your EQ. With automation, you can boost the low frequencies of your electric guitar every time it’s soloed and cut it when the bass guitar occurs. If there is no bass guitar, there is no reason to cut those frequencies, so you might as well boost it to emphasize the fullness of the sound.
Usually, most of the information that electric guitar contains lies within the mid-range. But the problem is most of the instruments on the mix will overlap at this range. So obviously, sacrifices have to be made.
As a general rule, all of the so-called “mud” in electric guitar sound lays within 200-350 Hz. So those frequencies should be cut in order to make your guitar sit better in the mix. But be warned, though, if you cut too much, you will end up with a very thin-sounding guitar, cut too little, and you won’t fix the problem with muddiness. So, as you can see, it is all about balance and precision.
The body of the guitar normally could be found somewhere around 500 Hz. So you can use those frequencies if you want to add some weight to the sound of your guitar. But do not forget to take into consideration that those frequencies might overlap with the same frequencies of the bass guitar or other instruments. Typically, if you boost something, you should check if there is no conflict with other elements of the mix.
Normally, the sound of the pick is very noticeable, somewhere between 1-2 kHz. So unless you are looking for the very raw and realistic sound, you might consider cutting those frequencies. Within the same range, you can find frequencies that are considered to be harsh and unpleasant when it comes to the guitar sound. So boost or cut according to your own taste.
To add presence, you might boost somewhere around 5 kHz, but be careful because if your guitars are distorted, those frequencies might be rather emphasized already. Also, it is worth mentioning that those frequencies might conflict with those in drum overheads. So, you will have to choose what is most desirable.
The boost around 10 kHz might add some clarity to the sound of electric guitar, but yet again, if your guitar is distorted, you may not want to do this. Frequencies above 15 kHz might not be very useful, but most people probably could not be able to hear those anyway, so cut at your own will.
Guitar vs Guitar
Some problems may occur if you have several electric guitars in your mix. Since they will have a somewhat similar frequency response, they could not be EQed in the same way. One thing to do is to experiment with boosting on different levels, but as a general rule, you are going to have to choose which of them should have to sound fuller and which – brighter. In most cases, you’d want to add presence to your lead and soloing guitars and add body to your rhythm or background guitars.