EQing Acoustic Guitar Tracks
While the goal in most recording sessions is
to capture perfect tracks straight from the
mic into the recorder, it rarely works out
that way, especially in home studios. In most
cases, you’ll still need to apply some EQ
and other processing to make your tracks
So how do you know how to EQ your tracks?
First, I encourage some experimentation.
As they say on every recording forum and
magazine, “Turn the knobs until it sounds
right.” Although this is pretty sound advice,
we could all benefit from someone else’s
experience, at the very least to point us in
the right direction.
To begin with, remember that the final tone
is largely going to be dictated by how the
guitar was recorded initially. Junk in, junk
out, right? Start with a recording that’s clean,
and get as close as you can get to the tone
you want using careful mic placement. The
Sweetwater website has online videos with
an experienced engineer, Chris Liepe, who
explains the basics of mic placement (www.
Let’s assume you’re using a pair of small-diaphragm condenser mics, one to capture
the body of an acoustic guitar at perhaps
six inches off, with a second mic aimed at
the neck, perhaps a few inches farther back.
The first thing you may hear is that the guitar sounds “boomy.” While some mics and
preamps have a high-pass filter to help tame
excessive bass, other tone shaping may be
needed to roll off the bass frequencies a bit
further. Just don’t get carried away and carve
out too much low end or the sound will be
thin! I recommend using a phase-coherent
equalizer plug-in such as Waves’ Linear Phase
EQ, which gives you a lot of tone-shaping
control without adding any unwanted junk
into the sound.
Much of the nuance in acoustic guitar can be
lost if the high-frequency details aren’t heard
clearly. A common way to keep the track
alive is to brighten it by boosting the frequencies between 5kHz to 10kHz by a few
decibels. If you have a very bright microphone and guitar, however, you may have
a recording on your hands that makes your
eyes water and glass splinter. In this case, do
a 180 and apply a low-pass filter to pull back
the highs until the recording’s top-end drops
It’s important to remember that equalization
is just frequency-specific volume control.
Use your ears to ensure what you’re doing
is working. It never hurts to have a couple
of reference CDs of great acoustic guitar
sounds handy that you can try to match
with your tracks. There’s nothing wrong with
comparing your tone to a pro’s work. Just
be sure the volume levels between the two
things you’re comparing are equal – our ears
usually perceive a louder recording as sounding better. Listen to your reference track,
then play your recording. How does the
sound compare? Try dialing in your equalizer
until the tones are similar.
Capturing great tone takes some effort, but
the payoff is pro-sounding recordings that
will be a joy to listen to. Learning to use
an equalizer is a skill like any other – the
more you do it the better you’ll get. Don’t
be afraid, get in there and start twisting
the knobs on your mixer or recording software. Listen carefully, compare to good pro
recordings, and soon you’ll be playing back
sweet tones other players and engineers
would die for!
Forrest Powell is a Sweetwater Sales Engineer and
records indie projects in his home studio for artists from
around the country. Contact him at 800-222-4700 x1235 or
Waves’ Linear Phase EQ plug-in allows for plenty of tonal control while
still producing a squeaky-clean sound that will enhance your recordings.