How to EQ Heavy Distorted Guitars in a Mix

Hey, everybody. Jon here from the Reaper blog.

I’m doing a guest video for The Pro Audio Files today, and in this video, I’m going to show you how I go about EQing heavy electric guitars in a post-rock song.

Let me show you what I’ve got to work with here.

So, in this section, there are three guitars — there’s a left and right, and then there’s sort of a lead track that has delay and reverb and stuff already printed on it, but they need EQ.

So let me show you what we have here.

[guitars play]

So it’s a pretty good sound, but it’s a little grainy, there’s a lot of resonances in the top end that we need to tame, and just make everything kind of smooth out.

So let’s bring in the stock EQ from Reaper. I love this thing because it just works so well. It has unlimited bands and it takes up very little CPU, plus you can hide all of the controls and it’s — it’s just a fantastic plug-in and should not be underestimated because it is a stock plug-in.

I’m going to start on the left side, and I always EQ my guitars in mono. So in Reaper, it’s really handy to have this mono button on the master track. So I just click this, and now I’m going to be listening in mono to just the left side.

[left guitar plays]

Do you hear that there? That’s a really nasty resonance.

I’m boosting this 12 dB, which is a lot, but it helps find those nasty resonances that even at smaller levels will still poke out and sound nasty.

[guitar plays]

So once I find a peak like that, I’ll go into the controls and turn the gain down to somewhere between minus three and minus six.

Let’s see.

[guitar]

It’s a funny thing, you always hear it more when you bypass it where it may have sounded fine to begin with.

Really weird — I don’t know if that’s a psychoacoustic thing, but it’s always strange to me.

So let’s find a couple more in this guitar.

[guitar playback]

I could actually pull this down a little bit, depending on how much bass signal is in here. Let’s listen to it with the bass for a second.

[bass and guitar plays]

Something like that works.

So I’m going to A/B this so we can hear this left guitar with and without these EQ settings.

[guitar playback, EQ on and off]

Much smoother, much cleaner. Now we just have to copy this to the other track by just clicking and dragging. Reaper makes it really easy for us.

Let’s listen to these two guitars in stereo now with the bass.

[guitar and bass mix plays, stereo]

And I’ll bypass these EQs…

[guitar and bass mix, no EQ]

So they sit further down in the mix, which is nice. It really gets rid of those resonances that were pretty awful.

Now this sort of lead guitar — let’s hear this.

[lead plays]

There’s a lot of thumping in the low end from the pick, and there’s going to be a lot of those resonances as well.

I’ve got a shortcut in Reaper to open up ReaEQ. I just press Q on my keyboard and it inserts it on that track and opens it up for me. So that saves a ton of time.

This is my favorite EQ probably of all time, and I use it for everything.

[lead playback]

Alright, I think that sounds pretty good. Let’s A/B that.

[lead playback, with and without EQ]

So, really, really tamed all of those high resonances. Let’s hear this with the full band.

[mix playback]

Alright guys, that’s my approach to EQing heavy guitars. You find the resonances by a sweep of a narrow Q and then notch it out by a couple dB. Check, A/B your settings before and after, and make sure that you are making it better. Always be listening, and always be checking that you’re not just making things louder or changing the original intent of the song or the part.

Subscribe to The Pro Audio Files if you want to see more videos like this, and if you liked my videos and want to find out more about mixing in Reaper, I have a couple of classes called “Mixing in Reaper.”
There’s volume one, and volume two is about to launch. You can also find me on YouTube, the channel is called Reaper Blog.
Thanks again, see you.

Jon Tidey

Jon Tidey

Founder of Audio Geek Zine and co-host of the popular weekly podcast The Home Recording Show. Check out Jon’s music production studio at EpicSounds.ca where he offers recoding, mixing, mastering and lessons.
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