How To EQ Guitars – Acoustic vs. Electric

This article about how to eq guitars first appeared in FlyPaper by Soundfly. I reprint it here with permission and I encourage you to check out their courses. You can get a 15% discount code on a subscription using the promo code AJTRUMM15. Finally, you may come across affiliate links, and I may make a commission if you buy.

Guitar players are in a unique situation – they can play an instrument that comes in two wildly different flavors. When it comes to audio, the treatment of acoustic guitars is at times a night and day difference.

So, it seems like a good idea to go over a little bit about EQ’ing for these very different beasts, even if they may have been played by the same person!

Consider The Context

Before you EQ anything, consider the context. Is the instrument part of a big mix? What kind of music is it? Is it super distorted? Should it sound mean or clean? Is it the main focal point or just a supporting actor?

When it comes to acoustic versus electric guitars, obviously acoustics are more often alone in a sparse mix, or part of a cleaner, more organic sound. This isn’t to say acoustic guitars don’t end up in big loud rock mixes, but it’s more likely that they’ll need to sound natural.

In contrast, electric guitars are often intended to be big, loud and boisterous – if not raw dog distorted.

So, when it comes to EQ, you’ve got more room for harsh moves if the context is dirty – boosting EQ may be more desirable, and you may want to cut a lot more out if the instrument is part of a big mix.

Low End

One thing electric and acoustic guitars have in common is they almost always need a pretty significant high pass cut. If an electric guitar is part of a rock mix, you may end up high pass filtering as high as 250 hz to make room for the bass. Similar for acoustic guitars in a mix.

When all alone, you’ll want an acoustic guitar to fill more of the space, so you might not want such a severe low end cut. Still, you may want to roll off as high as 80-100 hz – depending on the presence of a singer and what their voice is like.

Try this: Listen to the results as you sweep the HPF up from 20 HZ. When you start to hear a noticeable difference, stop and back off a bit.

For both kinds of guitars, if you’re not filtering out frequencies above 80 HZ, you’ll want to look for boom – acoustics are more likely to be too boomy around 100 HZ, and you may want to look for resonances at 200 HZ and 400 HZ – or thereabouts.

Distorted electrics will vary wildly, but some distorted guitar tracks have way too much information around 200-300 HZ. Take a listen and sweep both with extreme boost and extreme cuts to find the place where you want to trim the fat.

Further Cutting

Continuing with your initial subtractive eq, you’ll want to look for mud next. Mud occurs from anywhere around 200 HZ to 800 HZ, but can be especially bad from 300 to 600 HZ. Use your sweeping technique to find the ugly spots and their resonant counterparts.

Acoustics can get too fat around 250 HZ and electrics may have too much honk at 800 HZ or so – in either case, listen for ugliness and sweep until you find the cut points. 400 HZ is a center point for a kind of boxy, disgusting, cardboard disappointment – so as a rule of thumb, check that area to see if you can clean things up.


Many mixers never boost and only cut EQ, and there’s a good argument for that. However you may want to add a little here and there, especially with electrics.

You can emphasize the squeal or the high-mid bite on an electric guitar by trying some boosts around 3000 to 5000 HZ, or even higher. Try 1k for another potential sweet spot. If you can find the range where the distortion is mean, cuts through, and gives you want you want, you can boost that a little and turn the rest of the track up, effectively cleaning out a lot of other un-useful frequencies.

Watch out though – the main active range of an electric guitar is often the same exact range of frequencies needed to hear the lyrics – especially with a male tenor (most rock singers). Pay close attention to the interaction between the vocals and the guitar as you boost – make sure you don’t lose the lyric.

Acoustics usually call for less boosting, especially when they’re alone in the mix. In that case, you want as natural a sound as possible, so boosting to aggressively is likely to hurt your cause. Still, a nice high shelf starting at around 8000 HZ may help add a little shimmer and air to your track.

If an acoustic sits in a bigger mix and you want it jangly, look for boosts in the 5-8K range (loosely) – you may be able to apply the strategy mentioned above to effectively turn down a lot in favor of the specific piece you want to emphasize.

EQ is EQ

We’ve talked briefly here about the difference between acoustic and electric guitars when EQing – but if you want to know a secret, EQ is EQ. The best strategy for any instrument is to first know the context, understand the overall goal, and use strategic listening and sweeping to quickly find the bad spots and clean them up.

Just remember that the more organic an instrument is – as in the lone acoustic guitar – the softer your touch should be, especially with boosting. By contrast, a super aggressive electric guitar could benefit from some extreme measures – just be sure to listen to the results in the context of the whole mix.

These are good rules of them for EQ in general, so use them with the other elements as well.

Finally, you’ll have a much easier time EQing a track that’s been well recorded – especially when it comes to acoustics – so start with a great room and a great performance to make EQ a snap.

Happy mixing!

I’m a producer, vocalist, and writer. I like audio stuff, too 🙂 Let’s talk about it on Facebook or Instagram

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top