In this article, we are providing you with an in-depth understanding of how to EQ a lead guitar, as well as a few other useful information that you may need to get the most out of your EQing and mixing when it comes to leads and solos.
Briefly, while EQing, you should pay attention to what’s happening in the midrange and high-end and apply dynamical EQ to fix any issues that you may find along the way.
Aside from EQing, you should choose a mic that suits your needs the most, and place it directly in front of the speaker. Spend some time looking for the desired tone and you’re good to go.
How to EQ a lead guitar
There are a few things that are worth knowing while EQing lead guitar.
Firstly, you will definitely need to get rid of any resonant frequencies that you may find along the way. You can do it by applying very precise cuts in the areas that need your attention. Secondly, you may want to use a dynamic EQ to tend to a lot of issues that may appear, such as eliminating string noises in the specific parts, muddiness when certain notes are played, and adding more beef when you’re moving between chords. Thirdly, you may want to raise or reduce pick attacks depending on the case in the range of 1-2 kHz.
With lead guitar, as with any other instrument, you start with eliminating any low-end rumble, mud, and other unwanted noises. Generally, you have to use a high-pass filter of about 100 Hz. This makes room for kick and bass and adds a bit of open-back cabinet sound. Alternatively, you can use a high-pass filter to cut anything from 100-200 Hz, depending on your preferences and the genre of the track. You should stop cutting the low-end when your lead guitar sounds a lot thinner than it was before.
If you want to have a bassier sound, you have to apply a low-shelf boost of around 200 Hz. Also, you can use a parametric stage boosting somewhere around 100-150 Hz to gain the same effect.
If you aim at having a beefier sound, you can boost 2-3 dB within the range of 200-400 Hz using a moderate Q. But sometimes, it might be a better idea to use a surgical EQ within this range as you can find a lot of mud here from any other instruments and some might conflict.
In the midrange, you can start by boosting the range of 1-2 kHz to emphasize the tone between articulation and beef. If you boost post-distortion honk frequencies, you have a smoother and more prominent guitar solo. And if you boost pre-distortion honk frequencies, you have a more touchy feel in the upper notes.
Next, you can boost the range of 1-3 kHz to make the lead guitar sit better above rhythm guitars. After that, you may want to boost 2-3 dB to add more bite and aggression within the range of 2.5-4 kHz. To make the lead guitar cut better through the mix, you may need to apply a very gentle boost of 2-3 dB in the range of 3-4 kHz. But be very careful, so you won’t make the listener experience the listening exhaustion if you boost too much.
Although lead guitar tends to be played with mid and high strings, surprisingly, you don’t need to do that much with highs. So if your lead guitar lacks brightness and air, you should boost 2-3 dB around 7 kHz. And use a low-pass filter to get rid of all hisses around 10 kHz.
What else you need to know
Although it’s pretty obvious, it’s still worth mentioning that before you start recording your lead guitar part, you need to make sure that you have changed the strings. Old strings will mess up your recording session quite well, making your solo sound rather muffled and lifeless, which would be near impossible to fix while applying an equalizer. The next thing that you need to be aware of is that your guitar is in tune. You should spend some time re-tuning it before doing any new take.
You need to spend some time choosing the right mic for the job. The majority of music producers tend to stick to Shure SM57 because this mic can handle extremely loud volume without any problems and it has a bit of pronounced presence. Though, it’s better to choose something that will work specifically for you. As lead guitar tends to have more midrange and high-end frequencies, you will probably end up placing the mic right in front of your speaker.
Achieving a good drive tone is equally important as everything else, so you should spend some time tweaking the knobs on your amplifier or choosing the right parameters in your digital amplifier. Use effects pedals wisely, preferably without overdoing them, so that, as a result, you will get the tone that suits your musical idea the best.
Mic a guitar amp
Before you start choosing an optimal position of the mic to record an amplifier, you have to use a proper microphone first, there are 3 types of mics that have their nuances but still do their job just fine. Dynamic mics are great for mic’ing amps, especially for the gigs, and they have a presence boost of around 5kHz, but they don’t have any airy high end. Ribbon mics are more delicate and have a warmer sound, and they are the best choice if you need to smooth out some harsh guitar tone. Condenser mics are delicate, airy and crisp with open high-end, but they work better at a distance from the amp.
Also, there are 3 mic patterns that you also need to keep in mind while choosing the best mic for the job. Unidirectional mics pick up the sound, reject the sound from behind, pick up the sound in front of the mic, and are good for isolation. Bidirectional mics equally pick the sound from behind and in front, reject the sound from both sides, and are good for isolation, though they pick up more room tone. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all directions and capture the air and warmth of the recording space nicely but have rather poor isolation in a noisy environment.
After you make your peace with a proper mic, it’s time to choose an appropriate mic placement so that you capture the sound that you need. If you need to capture more bass frequencies, you have to put the mic as close as possible to the amp’s speaker. If you don’t need any bass at all, you have to put the mic further away. Note, though, that it doesn’t work like that if you use an omnidirectional mic. If you need to have less midrange and high-end frequencies, you should place the mic closer to the surrounding edge of the speaker. But since we speak about lead guitar, most likely, you will put the mic toward the center of the speaker to capture more midrange frequencies.
Place the mic, so it points out directly at the speaker, and if needed, angle it up to 45 degrees if you need to tame harsh frequencies.
Getting a good drive tone
As we talk about a lead guitar in this article, it’s worth mentioning a few settings of how to achieve a good drive tone by tweaking your amp settings. Firstly, you need to think about how you want your tone to sound. Generally, if we talk about lead lines and rock or metal solos, we mean setting a higher gain, which gives you more sustain and helps you with pitch harmonics that you might want to add. Also, you might want to add some delay to make the tone sound fuller. After that, you should choose an appropriate pickup setting that matches the tone that you want to acquire.
If you have a digital amp that includes a range of amps, you may want to spend some time getting used to the sound and tone that you like and be sure about those you don’t. If you have an analog amp, it’s worth presuming that you already know all tone nuances and like it for what it does. Then, turn the gain knob on the low position, and keep bass, middle, and treble at the 12 o’clock position. Afterward, spend some time jamming with this tone to know all nuances you like and notice any things you want to improve. Next, spend some time tweaking the knobs to eliminate those issues that you dislike.
After you make sure that everything is in place, you may want to add some effects that suit your tone the most. Then, you should adjust the gain to the appropriate level, which is somewhere in between when it no longer improves your tone and when it still adds minor changes. Remember or write down those settings and you’re good to go.