It is really tough to EQ an acoustic guitar, especially for beginners, as this versatile musical instrument produces a range of frequencies ranging from the deepest lows to the highest highs. It is true that mastering the art of Acoustic guitar EQ is a tricky task, but it is imperative if you want to gain studio-quality sound. This brief guide will help you in how to EQ acoustic guitar like a pro.
How to EQ an acoustic Guitar – The Right and Easy way to EQ acoustic Guitar
Considering the Context
Remember, there is nothing like a one-size-fits-all formula to EQ your acoustic guitar. However, the target is always to make the instrument sound excellent within the rest of the mix. In other words, the EQ decisions depend on what the rest of the tracks in the mix sound like. For instance, if you are mixing the guitar in a sparse ballad, you have to make different decisions as compared to working on an uptempo, modern rock track.
The main thing is to ask yourself, what feature does the acoustic guitar play in your mix? Is the instrument is featured on, or it is intended to provide only rhythmic support? Take some time to consider the context and then move towards the acoustic guitar EQ procedure.
Start at the source
Again, your decisions are essential while recording. In fact, some of them, such as moving a mic, have the same effect as EQ. If you begin with an excellent recording, you need little-to-no EQ in your mix.
Here are few valuable tips for you.
- Don’t use Piezo pickups as they sound brittle and unnatural. Make sure to use a mic if possible.
- Find the perfect spot in your room. Don’t go for the corners, as bass may build in these spots, which lead to boomy and muddy recording. Walk around the room while strumming to find the best spot for recording. When you find a balanced and even spot, select it for recording.
- Microphone placement is always crucial. When you move the mic a few inches away from the guitar, it will dramatically change the sound.
Check for Phase issues.
If the mid-range acoustic guitar was recorded with more than a single microphone, it is essential to check the phase issues before you start. In many cases, it must be handled during the recording, but it’s always wise to check.
Begin by flipping the polarity on a single track. Does the low end of your acoustic guitar sound fuller? If yes, then the job is effortless for you. You can also check with time-aligning tracks to optimize the phase links between them.
When time-aligning, make sure to listen carefully to the low of the guitar. Try to find a spot with full and even sound.
Cleaning Things Up
Solo the guitar and add your EQ plugin to it. Some mixers will recommend adding a high pass filter to the tracks. But it is better to play the track, listen for thumps and boomy blasts and then decide. You can also utilize the spectrum analyzer to point out issues as it is sometimes hard to hear on studio monitors.
If you higher any sound that bugs you, use the high pass filter and gently raise the frequency until the issues vanish. You can also roll off everything below 100 Hz without affecting the sound of your acoustic guitar. Don’t use a high pass filter if things sound fine.
Now, dial in the steep boost with a narrow Q and sweep it up the frequency spectrum. Carefully listen for boomy, muddy resonances. These are issue areas that don’t just jump out on a single note but remain present in the majority performance. Pay attention to the low midrange because this is where most problems appear. Once you find the issue, eliminate it with a cut.
Fit it into the mix
Now, un-solo your acoustic guitar and place it again in the context with the rest of the mix. From this point, you have to avoid the solo button. Pay attention to any competition between your acoustic guitar and other tracks in the mix. Carefully listen to the low end, as sometimes you need to roll it off to create maximum room to get rid of this problem.
Make sure to pay attention to the relationship between the guitar and vocals. Often, a slight cut in the upper midrange helps them to fit together.
Again, the process depends on the context. Don’t forget to pan appropriately. If your guitar is competing with another track, make sure to pan the two tracks to opposite sides. This may create separation without EQ.
Enhance (If Required)
Your acoustic guitar is now doing pretty well in the mix. In most cases, a player may be set. However, sometimes, it needs a bit of extra magic. If your acoustic guitar is lacking the clarity you need, a gentle top-end shelf car brings out of it. The combination of the board-top end shelf and a slight cut in the upper mid-range may lead to a more natural tone.
A boost in its upper midrange can add presence and also enhance the sound of the pick on the guitar strings. It can pull the guitar forward and aid it in cut through a random mix. However, you have to be careful as too aggressive boost can result in harsh and edgy sound.
Listen carefully for the string squeaks and some unwanted noises that can be accentuated when boosting. If these issues are getting in your may, use a de-esser or multiband compression to tame them.