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3 Secrets About EQ'ing Heavy Guitars

Guides

Getting killer heavy guitar sounds is something that many engineers (including myself) struggle with. There's a lot that goes into making them bright and powerful without being harsh and muddy. Most of it starts with a great player into a great amp with solid mic position. But say you've got all that and still aren't 100% happy with your tone in the mix. Now what?

EQ is your friend. There are certain frequencies that almost always need to be cut or boosted on guitars and we're going to share those secrets with you today.

Filters

The first thing you'll want to do on your guitars is to cut off the super low rumble that muddies up the notes as well as the fizz up top that sounds like bacon frying. I have found that guitars sound good with a High-Pass Filter up to about 100Hz and a Low-Pass Filter brought down to about 9 or 10kHz. Just this alone really cleans up the guitar and helps is cut through a dense mix.

Slate Digital Custom Series Bundle (Digital Download)

I love how Slate Digital's Customer Series EQ plugins sound because the curves are so smooth.

Hi-Mid Harshness

On electric guitars, there is almost always a peak or two in the hi-mids that sounds like a harsh whistling. It really depends on the mic you are using and your amp settings, but it usually lies around 4kHz and 6kHz.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 (Digital Download)

Using something like Fab-Filter's ProQ spectrum analyzer, you can easily find the peak and notch it out by 2 or 3dB. Once the offending frequencies are dipped, bypass the plugin for a few seconds and you will hear just how nasty it was.

Unlike other EQ's the Pro-Q has 64-bit processing under the hood and is a completely linear phase EQ. So if you end up boosting some frequencies, you won't get a phasey high-end.

Lo-Mid Buildup

In heavy guitar riffs, there is almost always palm muting involved. When guitars are palm muted, you will notice a lo-mid buildup around 120-250Hz or so. With each chug, you are covering up the powerful low end of the bass and drums, essentially making the mix muddier and weaker. This can be solved though.

Instead of dipping the 120-250Hz range on an EQ, you can use multiband compression to dip that EQ region only during the palm mutes. I am convinced that there is no better multiband dynamics plugin than the Fab-Filter Pro MB.

For this trick, you only need to use one band between 100 and 250-280Hz depending on the sound. I like to put the attack and release in the 9o'clock position and set the range to about -8dB. That means when the compressor is being hit, the most it will take out is 8dB. Bring the threshold down to where it starts cleaning up just the palm muted parts and not triggering during anything else.

Using these techniques, you can get a crystal clear guitar tone that has it's own place in the mix. If you have any other questions about recording or mixing, give us a call at 855-269-0474. Our engineers can help you find the right tools for the job!

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