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Friday 19 May 2017

Basic Mixing Frequencies for Guitars

Recently I have received a lot of questions regarding mixing and how I mix my records, especially when using EQ on instruments and vocals. It’s hard to explain how you can manipulate sound for different instruments when there are so many genres you are creating music for, so I’ve decided to break down a few basic tips that you can experiment with when you’re mixing your own music.

A lot have asked me about EQ’ing acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bass guitars. I have focused this blog post towards the three so you’re not overloaded with too much. This way you can really get to know a small segment of your track and experiment with EQ’ing when laying up your track.

I hope you find these tips helpful and can implement them in your own mixes. Don’t forget to listen to the changes when EQ’ing through the different frequencies, it will help understand key sound areas.

I’m using Logic Pro X to demonstrate, if you do not have access to Logic Pro just open up your Channel EQ in whatever software you’re using.

Many of you who have updated from Logic Pro 9 to Logic Pro X will see the change in appearance. Both the Channel EQ and the Liner Phase EQ plug-in have been updated with a new graphical user interface with new functionality. Both EQ plug-ins have Mid/Side processing capabilities enabling you to apply equalization independently to the mid and side signals of your audio. This is hard to get used to especially if you are new to mixing and understanding EQ, but don’t worry you’ll learn as you go along.

I won’t focus on the use of Logic Pro X and the differences with that and 9, but if you do get stuck when trying to use my tips on EQ for your guitars, you’ll find various tutorials from Apple helping you out with how to use the plug-in. Here is small helpful aid for now though;

To highlight your Channel EQ, just hover your mouse over the band and it will highlight straight away. 

 If you click and drag the small dot up and down/left and right you will see that you’re adjusting the bands gain and centre frequency.  The gain is adjusted by dragging the dot up and down; by dragging left and right it adjusts the frequency. Pretty simple! 

 Most of you know how to do this already, so just ignore my EQ for dummies moment!

Now, back to EQ’ing!

I’ll start of with Bass Guitar,

You’re not going add everything to your bass that I’m mentioning here but you might need one or two to help your overall mix.

Loop a segment of your track to have continuous play then mute all your channels apart from your bass. It’s best to do this with all of your guitars while reading along with these tips.

On your Channel EQ aim towards 50-100Hz on your band, this is where you’ll be able to change the low end of your bass to give it more body. Just like you would when adjusting EQ on an amp, the EQ channel does the same thing. Between 100-250Hz is where you can add roundness to your bass. Try to stay in that part of the channel because anything above that from 250-800Hz is where you can change your sound and make it muddy. A lot of people tend to over compensate their bass guitar sound without realising that adding extra to that part of the mix takes away a lot of room for other layers of the track.

If you’re going to be mixing using speakers that are small or not great for sound control try not to add to much between 800-10kHz because this adds beef to a small speakers. Your track will always sound different through other means of playback so be careful when enhancing.

Just like the low-end you change on amps you also do this for your high-end. When using frequency your high-end is between 6-8kHz, this adds your treble. Like your muddiness between 250-800Hz you want to avoid adding any hiss to your bass. You’ll find that between 8-12kHz is where you’ll reach that point.

What you want to do with your bass is boost it around 60Hz to add more body and roll off any muddiness around 300Hz. If you need to add a little more presence, give it a little boost around 6Khz. Have a play around with your EQ and listen to the different responds in frequency. This way you can get a feel of what frequencies are capable of.

I’ll focus on both electric and acoustic guitars together then point out the different mixes for the overall sound once I have explained what each frequency range does for them.

Depending on the mix and the recording, to add body to your guitar the range is from 100-250Hz. This can either be cut or boost, depending on your sound and the song. Muddiness areas are from 250-800Hz, once again you want to roll it off as best as you can so you do not dampen your sound. Between 1-6kHz is where you can enhance your sound to add a bit of edge to your guitar sound. If you wanted to cut or add clarity to your sound your range would be around 6-8kHz but try not to add past 8kHz because between there and 12kHz is where you can add hiss or cut to add brightness. I find a lot of people mixing have a challenge finding the balance between the both. 

Like I said, depending on the sound and song, mix and recording you can either apply a cut or boost around 300Hz to give it some body, whatever you think sounds right just experiment with those frequencies. Try boosting around 3kHz to add some edge to the sound or cut the frequency a little to add some transparency. For more presence add a little boost around 6kHz and add a boost around 10kHz to add brightness.

With acoustic guitars the same principle applies. Just be a bit careful to not muddy the track because it is a much lighter sound to record then an electric guitar. Muddiness should be rolled off around 100-300Hz so experiment around your Channel EQ band. I have always felt that acoustic guitars need a little push so try applying a small cut around 1-3kHz to get a little height to your sound. Like every instrument if it needs a little presence, apply a small boost around 5kHz.

These are just basic tips and tricks to get more from your EQ. There is no right or wrong to mixing it’s your perception. However, if you learn what frequencies manipulate certain sounds and instruments then you’ll need to know what areas need to be cut or boosted in a mix. You won’t need to EQ these instruments all the time.

Do not overdo your mix. You can take away a lot more from a mix than you can add so make sure you have an equal balance across your whole track by taking away unwanted sound so it can have more room elsewhere.

Do NOT use EQ to make all your channels louder. That is not the way to enhance your audio.

Don’t treat mixing like a chore. You’ll learn more when you’re experimenting and having fun. You don’t always have to play by the book so create new sounds and change them into something new and exciting!

I hope these tips and tricks help you understand a little bit more about frequencies and how they can be used to enhance your guitar sound.

Happy creating my sound engineer fairies!


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