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How to Use Different Types of EQ Curves for Mixing Electric Guitar


Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here.,

We’re going to be taking a look at using some different kind of EQ curves in order to get a guitar to work out.

So, let’s play this record just as the guitar came in.


Sounds pretty good, so I think we’re off to a good start.

Now, let’s throw on the EQ.

[song, guitar with FabFilter Pro-Q 2]

I think that’s definitely better.

So, let’s listen to this one more time before and after, but this time, don’t just focus on the guitar. Obviously the guitar becomes more alive and present, but also focus on the kick and the snare and the presence that those hold in the mix.

Before and after.

[song plays, enabling and disabling Pro-Q 2]

Notice that the kick and the snare also seem to be a little bit more alive as well. Well, this is because we are shifting the energy of the guitar from the space that already has the kick and the snare in it in that mid-range, over to a spot where the guitar has more of a chance to shine.

So, let’s take a look at the EQ curve and break it all down.

Oh, gosh. That’s crazy, right? What the heck is going on there?

Well, we’re going to work it all out. So let’s start bypassing these and take a look at everything that we’re doing.

[electric guitar plays]

Now that we’re in solo mode, we can start to hear that mid-range a little bit more clearly, and you can sort of hear that there is this extra tone that’s existing, this kind of like, [emulates whooshing sound] kind of sound that’s maybe around 500 Hz.

[electric guitar plays]

We want to get rid of that. So, the first thing I’m doing is I’m using a notch frequency band, and I’m killing what looks like just around 500Hz. So, here’s a before and after on that.

[electric guitar, disabling and enabling 500Hz notch]

One more time.

[guitar plays, disabling and enabling 500Hz notch]

So, that’s already a pretty big improvement. There’s a large piece of sound in there that we just don’t need.

Alright, there’s still a little extra build up, but it’s not such an aggressive, forward build up that’s living in that zone. So not only am I doing a notch filter, I’m combining it with a wider soft bell filter as well.

So let’s hear the before and after on that.

[guitar, disabling and enabling soft bell filter]

Opens it up a little bit. Makes it a little bit emphasizing the lower and higher part of the tone, which I think is a good thing. It also makes something else more apparent, which is there is another little bit of resonance that is up a little higher. So let’s check out the before and after there.

[guitar, disabling and enabling soft bell filter]

One more time.

[guitar, disabling and enabling soft bell filter]

Yeah, there. Now it’s nice and smooth.

Now, this one, I’m using a slightly narrower Q, it’s not as broad as the one that’s around 500. It’s a little narrower.

I still think that it’s a little bit lower-mid heavy for what we’re trying to get. This is more of a subjective decision that’s based on the rest of the elements of the mix, but let’s pull that out.

[electric guitar plays, disabling and enabling wide-Q cut]

Now, that’s a little bit subtle, but there’s – focus on that little bit of mud. That sort of darker tone that sort of exists in the guitar and you’ll hear it.

[guitar, disabling and enabling wide-Q cut]

There we go. Overall, feels smoother.

Now, I am using a variation on the bell curve. The smoother bell is the 12 dB/oct and it sounds like this.

[guitar plays, disabling and enabling wide-Q cut]

I bumped it up to 24 dB because it’s a little bit more focused. The edges are a little harder and the area that I’m attenuating is a little bit more decided.

[guitar plays]

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to exaggerate the cut. 12 dB/oct.

[guitar, 12 dB/oct]

24 dB.

[guitar, 24 dB/oct]

One more time.

[electric guitar, 12 dB/oct, then 24 dB/oct]

The 12 dB/oct feels a little bit more natural and a little bit maybe fuller overall. It’s a smoother curve.

The 24 dB/oct has a harder edge to it, so what’s happening is the tones that we don’t want to attenuate are being left alone, and what ends up happening in this particular case is that the attack tones of the guitar are staying more present when I’m using the 24 dB/oct cut. So, listen to the attack of the guitar particularly.

[guitar plays, 12 dB/oct, then 24 dB/oct]

Notice how it feels a little punchier?

So, that’s a very slight distinction, but remember, when we’re mixing, we’re making hundreds and hundreds of these decisions. Over the course of a mix, they can really start to add up.

Alright, and then lastly, in the context of the mix, we want that twang of the guitar. That upper-mid range harmonic to sort of pop through.

So, here’s the before and after on that.

[guitar, before and after upper-mid range boost]

And real quick, I’m just going to show you in the context of the mix how that makes sense.

[song, bypassing and re-enabling FabFilter Pro-Q 2]

Right? That’s the cutting part of the tone. Once again, I’m using a harder slope. I’m using the 48 dB which is very hard. I’m going to switch over to this mode so we can hear it exaggerated.

Here is what it would sound like with a 12 dB/oct boost.

[guitar plays, 12 dB/oct boost]

And here’s 48.

[guitar, 48 dB/oct]

So, that’s a pretty distinct difference I think in terms of the textural sound of it. We’ll do it one more time, and then once again explain what I’m hearing.

[guitar, 12 dB/oct, then 48 dB/oct]

Now, here there are some pros and cons.

In the softer 12 dB/oct boost, I don’t feel like I’m getting quite as much of the twang. It’s not quite as forceful to me, it’s not quite as decided and as solid to me, but it is a much more natural curve. I feel like I’m not hearing as many weird resonances pop up.

When I use the 48 dB/oct, I feel like the part of the guitar I want to hear more of becomes fuller. It’s a more solid sound. But, there is a little bit more in terms of the ring and resonance that’s produced.

So, let’s listen one more time.

[guitar, 12 dB/oct, then 48 dB/oct]

Alright. And then back to how I set it.

[guitar at original gain setting, 12 dB/oct, then 48 dB/oct]

Overall, I felt that in the context of the mix, that bit of extra resonance wasn’t so bothersome, but getting that twang forward was very important, so I favored the 48 dB/oct bump on this one.

Now, one of the downsides of removing something, anytime you’re really attenuating a signal, you’re generally not just losing the bad stuff, you’re also losing some of the good stuff too.

So I do feel like I lose a little bit of life from the guitar. Let me A/B it again real quick and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

[guitar plays, Pro-Q2 bypassed, then enabled]

Even though with the EQ on, I think it generally sounds better, it sounds cleaner, it sounds like the important part of the guitar is coming forward, I do feel like it leaves a little bit to be desired in terms of the life and the dimension of the tone.

It’s become a little bit flatter in the process, and like most things, these are a negotiation, so in cleaning it up, I’ve also lost a little bit of life, so I’m going to try to restore that little bit of life by using the FabFilter Saturn plug-in, which is a distortion plug-in.

[guitar before and after FabFilter Saturn]

What this does, is it’s adding harmonic content to the overall sound. So after removing a bunch of stuff that I don’t like, in order to get the richness and dimension and fullness to it, I need to restore some of the harmonic quality of the sound.

Mixing is all about compromising, it’s all about little decisions and being aware of how the sound changes in the most subjective way possible.
So, if you find yourself removing things and it cleans up, but it needs some life, adding a little bit of some extra harmonic zing from a saturation plug-in can be a really great way to restore that.

Alright, guys. Until next time!

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:

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