When it comes to EQ, one of the main instruments that mixing engineers seem to have a hard time with is the acoustic guitar. The tonal characteristics of this instrument are quite complex. From the warmth and boom of the body to the sparkle and presence of the strings, you must determine what you want the focus to be.
If it wasn’t recorded properly, to begin with, it will likely make your job a lot harder.
If you’re struggling with acoustic guitar EQ, come dive in with us as we explore how to get your guitar sounding as good as the pros.
Note: some of the links below may be affiliate links, meaning that I receive a commission if you purchase through them.
Acoustic Guitar Frequency Range
The acoustic guitar is very similar to the human voice in that it has a very wide and dynamic range. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect in terms of acoustic guitar frequency range:
- 150-300Hz - This is where the bottom-end for an acoustic guitar lies. If your acoustic is sounding thin, this is one of the best places to boost. However, this is also where the mud lies, so you must be careful when boosting here.
- 300-600Hz - The warmth of the instrument is found in this range. It is within this low mid-range where you can hear the wood of the guitar.
- 600-800Hz - Getting into the true mid-range, you can boost this area to help your acoustic guitar cut through the mix or distinguish it from the other tracks in your mix.
- 1-3.5kHz - This range is the “presence” range, which helps push your acoustic guitar to the front of the mix. When it comes to finger picked acoustic, this range is very important for creating presence in a mix.
- 3.5kHz-12kHz+ - This is the high-end of the acoustic guitar and is great for adding sparkle or shimmer to help your guitar jump out and sit on top of the mix. From about 3.5kHz to 5kHz, you’ll get more presence and cut, though from 6kHz and up, you’ll get far more brightness and brilliance.
Most Important Acoustic Guitar EQ Tips
The first thing you’ll want to do with an acoustic guitar recording in a multi-instrumental mix is get rid of unnecessary low frequencies. Below 60Hz, for example, you’ll only find low-frequency hum, sub-bass, floor noises, and room rumble.
If you have a solo acoustic guitar, on the other hand, you may choose to leave this rumble in there, as it can add to the space and vibe of the mix. Taking it away in a solo acoustic guitar mix can leave you with a thin-sounding mix.
Next thing I usually like to do is check out the low-mids for any mud. Generally, you will find mud in the 100Hz-300Hz range, especially if the microphone was placed too close to the soundhole during the recording process.
On the other hand, if your acoustic guitar recording sounds thin, you may choose to boost this range instead. If you choose to boost, we recommend going with a wide Q and boosting no more than 5dB if you want to keep the sound natural.
Lastly, I typically like to add a bit of sparkle or shimmer to my acoustic guitar. You can do this by using a high shelf starting anywhere from 8kHz-12kHz. When adding top-end, it’s usually a good idea to use an analog EQ. Digital EQs are great for surgical moves and cutting, though when it comes to high-end boosts, they tend to create a harsh, digital sound. Here is my review of the best EQ plugins.
I recommend using a high-shelf on something like a Pultec style EQ, where you can boost pretty hard without it ever sounding harsh.
PRO TIP: Most people say NEVER EQ in solo. While I find that to best practice most of the time, as no one will hear your acoustic guitar in solo, there are some moments where I feel like it’s okay to EQ in solo. Those moments include high-passing and searching for resonances using the sweep and destroy technique.
Best Acoustic Guitar EQ Plugin - FabFilter Pro-Q3
FabFilter is one of the best EQ plugins period, though is especially handy for acoustic guitar. The beauty of FabFilter Pro-Q3 is that it has a beautiful interface with intuitive color-coding, making it easy to navigate. You have a virtually endless number of frequency bands and a frequency analyzer to help you see where your problem areas are at right off the bat.
It’s super easy to find resonances or clean up low-end mud, both of which you’ll often have to deal with in an acoustic guitar recording.
We love the fact that FabFilter Pro-Q3 is transparent. Unlike some analog EQ plugins or cheap digital EQ plugins, you won’t get any unwanted noise, color, or phase issues. You can make HUGE EQ changes without anything sounding wonky. You can see our full FabFilter Pro-Q3 review here.
Using EQ to Solve Specific Sonic Problems with Acoustic Guitar
As I noted earlier, a good recording is the most important thing to getting an acoustic guitar to sound good. But after that, EQ might be the top tool to reach for to solve typical acoustic guitar problems, like finger noise on strings. Especially dynamic EQs like the FabFilter.
Reduce Acoustic Guitar Ringing With EQ
If you notice that your acoustic guitar recording has a ring in it, you can use the sweep and destroy technique to get rid of it. Take a band digital parametric EQ and lower the Q value so you have a super-thin bell. Boost it by around 10-15dB and slowly sweep it through the frequency spectrum until you hear the ringing sound accentuated.
Once you hear it, stop on that particular frequency and reduce the volume of that band until it’s gone or less noticeable.
Reduce Acoustic Guitar String Noise with EQ
You’ll often find string noise in your recordings from sliding up and down the strings. Unfortunately, this string noise has a pretty wide frequency range and can be anywhere from 700Hz and up. We recommend using a de-esser or dynamic EQ to get rid of string noise.
Set either of these tools in such a way that they only reduce the level of that particular frequency range when a squeak pops out. With this method, you can leave the frequency range intact for the majority of the song.
How To EQ An Acoustic Guitar and Vocals
One of the first things you’ll want to do when EQing an acoustic guitar and vocals is get rid of excessive low end, especially if there are other low-end instruments in the mix, such as bass. More often than not, you won’t find any useful information below 60Hz on either of these.
Next, you’ll want to get rid of any offensive frequencies. For example, you might find that your acoustic guitar sounds boomy anywhere from 200Hz-350Hz. If the acoustic guitar you’re using is cheap, sometimes cutting between 500-700Hz can help get rid of that plastic-like sound. For vocals, you can usually find boominess around 200-400Hz.
Lastly, you’ll want to see if and where these two signals are fighting each other for space. The concept of two instruments fighting each other for frequency space is known as “masking.”
If your vocal is present in the 1-2kHz range, for example, and you notice a lot of frequency content in your acoustic guitar that is also in that range, you may consider cutting it.
PRO TIP: We recommend using dynamic EQ like the FabFilter) or multiband compression to get rid of masking. Simply sidechain your vocals to your acoustic guitar so that the particular frequency range (in this example 1-2kHz) only drops in level when the vocals show up.
Further Guides on How to use EQ
To help you get the most out of your EQ plugins, we've put together these detailed guides to teach you how to use EQ on some of the most popular instruments.
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