‚Äč
Free Courses & Downloads

How to EQ Acoustic Guitar

eq tips mixing
How to EQ Acoustic Guitar

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.

Just remember the first rule of acoustic guitar: if it wasn’t recorded properly, to begin with, it will likely make your job a lot harder. Check out these 7 techniques for how to mic acoustic guitar.

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.

And at the end of this article, you'll find a free Acoustic Guitar EQ Cheat Sheet that you can right click to download!

Note: some of the links below may be affiliate links, meaning that I receive a commission if you purchase through them.

 

 
If You're Curious (or just in a hurry):  
 

 

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, I 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.

 

 

What type of EQ to Use on Acoustic Guitar?

 

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 an analog style EQ, 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. 

I 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. 

Confused about dynamic EQ? Here is a straightforward guide on How to Use Dynamic EQ.

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. 

 

Questions About Using EQ on an Acoustic Guitar?

 

Still confused? Don't hesitate to leave a question below! I'll respond to you as soon as I can. 

And if you've got any additional tips and tricks, please share them with us!

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.

 

How to use EQ Guides

 

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. 

  

  

From a Frustrated Producer in a Ragtag Bedroom Studio to Major Placements on TV Earning $1,000s!

 

My name is Evan, and I've been making music since around 3rd grade. I'm from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.

After 3 grueling years of grad school, though I had put aside serious attempts at making music. I found myself spending my days doing work that was dreadfully uncreative, with a ton of student student loan debt.
 
Which made me feel like my favorite parts of myself were withering.
 
But I didn't know what to do about it.
 
Being in my early 30s with tons of student loan debt, in a world where there is "no money in music," I felt like my youthful dreams of trying to "make it big" were dead. Like my music would remain unheard in my head and hard drive. 
 
Frustrated by my inability to get my music heard, I started researching solutions.
 
Instead, I wanted to find a way where I could focus on making the music and let someone else deal with promoting it. 
 
I realized the music licensing was the perfect opportunity for a solo artist like me to get my music heard, without having to do any promotion. I just need to focus on improving what I could control - my songwriting and my production skills.

While I still have a full-time day job, I have created systems that have allowed me to produce dozens of songs a year in my spare time.

My¬†songs have been on Netflix, TV shows like the 90 Day Fiance, an award-winning indie film, and NPR‚Äôs ‚ÄúAll Thing Considered.‚ÄĚ They've also been streamed millions of times.

In addition to being a music producer, I am passionate about teaching people how they can make professional-sounding music and earn money licensing it, all in their spare time.

Thousands of musicians, like yourself, have trusted me to guide their musical journey. My YouTube videos have been watched nearly a million times. And my story has been in Forbes, Side Hustle Nation, and the Side Hustle School.

You Can Achieve Your Musical Dreams Too - Attend the Free Music Licensing Workshop!