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How To EQ Acoustic Guitar: Tips For A Full And Rich Sound

February 17, 2024 
BY DAN SPENCER
how to eq acoustic guitar
Last Updated on February 17, 2024

Have you ever recorded an acoustic guitar and feel like something's missing? Maybe it sounds a little thin or, worse, kind of muddy. Don't worry, you're not alone! Getting that perfect, full, and rich sound from your guitar can be tricky. But guess what? There's a secret weapon called EQ that can help you out. In this post, we'll break down some simple tips to use EQ like a pro and make your acoustic guitar sound amazing. Let's rock!

Acoustic Guitar Frequency Range

Audio frequency spectrum.

Imagine your guitar is like a singer. It has its own unique voice with different parts that make up its overall sound. Just like singers have high notes, low notes, and everything in between, your guitar also has different "frequency ranges" that contribute to its tone.

Think of frequency like the speed of sound waves. Low frequencies are slow and rumble, while high frequencies are fast and bright. An acoustic guitar typically covers a wide range of frequencies, starting from around 80 Hz, which is a deep, almost buzzing sound, all the way up to 20,000 Hz, which is super high-pitched and sparkly.

Here's a quick breakdown of how different frequency ranges affect your guitar's sound:

  • Low-end (80-250 Hz): This is where the body of your guitar really comes alive, giving it that warm, full sound. Think of it like the foundation of the house.
  • Mid-range (250-2 kHz): This is where the "body character" of your guitar lives. It's what makes your strumming sound clear and punchy, or your fingerpicking sound smooth and articulate.
  • High-end (2 kHz and above): This is where the sparkle and detail come in. It's what makes your notes sound bright and crisp.

How To EQ Acoustic Guitar

EQ frequency bands.

Now that you know your guitar's frequency range, let's talk about EQ, which is like having a bunch of knobs that control each of those frequencies. By adjusting these knobs, you can sculpt the sound of your guitar and make it sound fuller, richer, and just simply better! Here's what you need to know about EQing to achieve this.

Taming The Rumble

  • Imagine your guitar is trying to sing a low bass note, but it's also kind of mumbling at the same time. This mumbling is caused by low-end rumble around 100-250 Hz. It can make your guitar sound muddy and unclear.
  • To fix this, we can use the EQ to gently cut a small amount of those low frequencies. Think of it like turning down the volume on the mumbling voice, so the clear singing voice can shine through.
  • High-pass filter: At around 100 Hz, to clean up the low-end. Use a 12dB slope and adjust higher if need be.

Boosting The Body

  • The lower mid-range, around 400-800 Hz, is like the sweet spot for your guitar's body character. It's what makes it sound full and warm, like a hug for your ears.
  • To enhance this, we can give the mid-range a slight boost with EQ. This should be done using a wide Q. Just be careful not to overdo it, or it can start to sound boxy.
  • TIP: You can also cut here if the guitar is boxy or sounds too thick.

Upper-Mids Magic

  • The upper-mid to high frequencies (1 kHz to 5 kHz), are what bring the strum, pluck, and nuance to the forefront. Whether you're fingerpicking or strumming, enhancing this range can boost presence and make the guitar pop in the mix.
  • Boost upper-mids: Particularly for fingerstyle, accentuate 1 kHz to 5 kHz.

Adding Sparkle

  • The high-end, above 3.5 kHz, is where the brightness and detail of your guitar live. It's like adding a little bit of shimmer to make your notes sound crisp and clear.
  • We can use the EQ to give the high-end a small boost. But remember, too much sparkle can become harsh, so go easy on this one!
  • TIP: A cool trick is to use a de-esser if you feel like the sparkle is too much. This allows you to tame the parts that are overbearing while applying the shimmer to the whole track.

EQ Recap

Frequency RangeAdjustment TypePurpose
240 HzCutReduce muddiness and add clarity to the low end
300 – 600 HzBoostIncrease body and warmth for thinner guitars
600 – 800 HzCutReduce mid-range competition with other instruments
3.5 kHz – 5 kHzBoostEnhance clarity and add a sparkling high end

Related Article: EQ Cheat Sheet | The Only Guide You'll Ever Need!


Extra EQ Tips And Tricks

Perfect Acoustic Guitar EQ Settings

Now that you've got the basics of EQing an acoustic guitar, here are some bonus tips to help you become an EQ ninja:

1. Solo Act

Before you start tweaking the EQ, isolate your guitar track by soloing it. This helps you focus solely on its sound and make adjustments without being influenced by other instruments.

2. Notch Filter It Up

Acoustic guitars are notorious for producing resonant frequencies. To reduce these frequencies, you can use notch filtering. This technique allows you to precisely target these frequencies to clean up your audio.

3. The Mix Matters

Remember, your guitar is just one piece of the musical puzzle. Once you've EQed your guitar, compare it with the other instruments in the mix. Make sure it sits well within the overall soundscape and doesn't clash or get buried.

4. Room Acoustics

The acoustics of your recording space can also impact your guitar's sound. If you're struggling to achieve clarity, consider treating your room with sound-absorbing materials to minimize unwanted reflections.

5. Gear Up

While EQ can work wonders, the quality of your microphone and preamp can also play a role in capturing the true character of your guitar. Investing in good recording equipment can further enhance your sound.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is EQ and why is it important for acoustic guitar?

EQ, or equalization, is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an audio signal. For acoustic guitar, proper EQ is crucial as it allows for the enhancement or reduction of certain frequencies to achieve a full and rich sound that complements the mix.

What is a high-pass filter and how should it be used on an acoustic guitar?

A high-pass filter allows frequencies above a certain cutoff point to pass through while attenuating lower frequencies. On an acoustic guitar, it’s often set around 100 Hz to eliminate low-frequency rumble and muddiness, leaving space for bass instruments.

How does room acoustics affect the EQ of an acoustic guitar?

Room acoustics significantly impact the sound of the acoustic guitar, with factors such as room size, shape, and materials affecting reverberation, reflections, and overall tone. Proper microphone placement is necessary to mitigate any undesirable acoustic characteristics of the room during recording.

What if my guitar still sounds thin or muddy after EQing?

Factors like the quality of your guitar, microphone, and recording environment play a large role in how good your acoustic guitar recording will sound. EQ can usually just improve decencies, but not completely remove them. In situations where the recorded guitar doesn't sound great, just aim for making it sound better than when you started eqing it.

Should I use presets or learn manual EQ?

Presets can be a helpful starting point, especially for beginners. However, understanding the principles of manual EQ allows for greater control and fine-tuning the sound to your specific needs. Learning manual EQ empowers you to adapt to different situations and achieve personalized results.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, music makers! You've unlocked the secrets of EQ and are ready to unleash the full potential of your acoustic guitar. Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep experimenting and have fun shaping your sound! And hey, if you discover any cool EQ tricks along the way, be sure to share them in the comments below. Let's rock this musical journey together!

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