EQ Tips For a ‘Magic’ Acoustic Guitar Sound

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm

acoustic guitar

Producing an authentic, natural acoustic guitar sound is surely one of the most difficult tasks set out for the home recording artist.

Recording this delicate instrument well is a life-long quest in itself, and cannot be substituted for with effects and processing; however, a basic knowledge EQ can help turn a good-sounding track into a great-sounding track.

Below are a few useful guidelines for EQ’ing the acoustic guitar. (Note: it’s a good rule of thumb to be be gentle with your boosts when you’re starting out—certainly nothing above 6dB.)

1. When the acoustic is clashing with the bass guitar …

use a low cut shelving EQ at 80 to 100 Hz. This can help to give the acoustic a more defined place in the mix, as it won’t be crowding other low-mid range instruments, especially the bass guitar.

2. When the bottom strings are sounding boomy …

apply a parametric cut to the 100 – 250 Hz range. Be careful though, as this is also where the fullness and warmth of the acoustic guitar lives — if you strip too much out here, it will end up sounding thin and cold.

3. When it’s sounding ‘twangy’ …

apply a cut around 1.5 kHz.

4. When it’s lacking clarity …

apply a gentle boost in the 2.5 – 5 kHz region. But do be gentle — boost too much in this region and it will soon sound very irritating.

5. When it needs some ‘air’ and ‘sparkle’ …

apply a gentle boost to the 10 kHz to 20 kHz region. Try this: a 2 or 3dB parametric boost at 20 kHz with a Q factor of 0.7. Careful though! You don’t want to over-boost this region, or it will end up sounding thin and tinny.

If you are just starting out, it’s worth being gentle with your boosts and cuts for while–that is, nothing above 6 dB, as it may result in a rather unnatural sound (the death knell for acoustic guitar). It may take some time to attune your ears to what is natural sounding, and what is unnatural sounding. Of course, there is no better way to do this than to have a reference playlist at hand to compare your track with—a list of acoustic guitar recordings that have always made your ears prick up. This painful discipline of comparing your sound to that of your old favourites’ will always reap rewards (no matter how much it hurts!)


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