How to Contextually EQ Acoustic Guitar in a Mix
We’ll look at compression in a little bit, but as far as EQ goes, when an acoustic plays by itself, I want it to have – a lot of times, I want it to have a full bodied, warm sound. Some top end, but I don’t want it to be necessarily too bright. Just to my ear, I really like a full, warm bodied acoustic sound when the guitar is by itself, and then whenever I have a lot of stuff going on – drums, bass, keys, guitars, amps, all kinds of stuff rocking, background vocals, then that acoustic guitar takes more of a rhythmic percussive type shape, and has got more top end, way less bottom end, and those are the two main ways that I look at acoustics, and most of the music I’m working in.
That is no exception for this particular song, so similar to the bass, I’ve got what may look like a spaghetti mess on here, but a lot of feel and trial and error that goes into getting the guitars to sound cool. The main things we’re going to look at with this video are the bottom and the top.
At the beginning of this song – let me hit that clip again for you – we’ve got the acoustics sort of on their own with the drums. There’s nothing else in, the acoustics come in and they start the song.
Take a listen to this play.
Okay. So, I’m still working on this song, and as I listen to that, I’m thinking, “We may need a little more grit or something so that the acoustics have more character,” but sonically, I like that they’re a little more full bodied here, versus when the vocalist comes in, and you can see, as I click through, right here, you’ve got the low-cut filter, high-pass filter is at 110. When I click over here, you’re going to see that jump up a little bit. A little bit makes a big difference. It’s up to 142, and I’ve also automated this band here. Taking out some 223-200 or so, whereas here it’s not out as much. Just a couple of dB.
Then, the top on the other end, I didn’t want these acoustics to come in too bright, because it kind of hits you in the face and attacks you, but there’s nothing for them to really cut through. A little bit in the drums, but there’s not really much top end in the drums, and I didn’t want them to get too pokey and stand out too much at the beginning, so.
You look here, the high – excuse me, high-cut, low-pass filter right there is instantiated at about 16-17kHz, and it’s rolling off top end, and then whenever we move into the verse, watch what happens to this.
Cool. So we get that top back. Let me zoom in and show you how I’ve automated those real quick. Gotta love Pro Tools.
For any of you guys watching, I’ve got a couple of e-mails about, “hey, with your system, how are you getting so many Pro Tools errors?” Because sometimes when I do tutorials, I get those, but I record to two different drives. It may be a drive thing, but then I also have the video recording screenflow software that is rockin’ with a full mix here. A lot of times, tutorials I do at the end of a mix, and I go through and I pick out things, but anyways, my system is great. It works amazing, and then when I do tutorials, it can stutter from time to time, but anyways.
Let me actually get rid of the clip gain lines. Sometimes that can cause it. Let’s take a look back at the task at hand. Let’s watch – the top end is out at the beginning, whenever we transition to the verse, some of that top end is going to come back.
Okay. You can also see that if I zoom in here, I’ve got the acoustics at 63 left and rightish for the intro, and then they shoot out wide at the verse – that’s another cool thing for automation, but really, the top and bottom sonics for the acoustic guitar is what I wanted you to see from this, so one more time, in context, if we come out here…
Okay. And a lot of times, I’ll be honest, I will leave the top end out or filtered during the verses, and then let it open up at the chorus. However, for those particular acoustics, I didn’t feel like – they weren’t strumming. They were doing the palm muting – had the palm muting going on, so I felt like it was still appropriate to bring the top end back in and give a little bit of clarity so I kind of heard the pulsing. Kind of articulation I like to say of the acoustic.
This one’s kind of short and sweet, but again, when your acoustic is out solo by itself, be it a warm, picking part or a strummed part where there’s not much other stuff going on for it to compete in the top end, try taking out some of the top, opening up and letting some of the bottom in, but then whenever you get all of these other elements like bass, electric guitars, and keys, and all of that kind of stuff where you’re going to have more low-mids, lows, fighting, competing, building up, it’s a good idea to go in and treat these as two separate sonic sounds. Two separate sounds, depending upon the different sections of the song.
A good way to do that like we showed you is EQ’ing with simple high and low-pass filters. You could use shelves, you could use all kinds of things, but anyways, I hope you dig that. Here’s a quick one, and we’re going to move on to the next video! Thanks a lot!