How to EQ Heavy Guitars – A Complete Guide

The guitars of metal are famously chunky, low and mid heavy, but also very tightly EQ’d to keep them clean. The guitar and bass combination work together especially well in metal in a complimentary relationship, so let’s talk how to EQ heavy guitars now.

How to EQ Heavy Guitars

eq heavy guitars

Let’s go frequency by frequency to best explain the best moves to make in each frequency range.

High Pass at 80Hz

As with virtually every track in your mix, EQing heavy guitars begins with a high pass filter. As I covered in my overview on the guitar frequency range, the low E string on a standard 6 string guitar in standard tuning is roughly 82Hz:

guitar frequency range

As such, we can generally use a high pass filter set to 80Hz to remove unflattering low end thickness and rumble below 80Hz which isn’t adding anything to the tone. This will help clean up your tone as well as your entire mix which is why I always preach high passing everything in your mix.

I like an EQ slope of 24dB/oct as this is a healthy compromise of not being too harsh while still maintaining everything at 80Hz and above.

Typically when I’m EQing distorted guitar, I’ll go a bit higher in rolling off more of the low end. We’re obviously cutting into the fundamental region of the guitar at this point, but it’s just to make more room for the bass and kick with the bass representing more of the low end that I take from the guitar.

With heavy guitars, I like to hear the full fundamental range even down to the low E.

I should mention, because 7 and even 8 string guitars are common in metal, I don’t make an exception in their cases, even as their frequencies commonly go down to 62 and 23Hz, respectively.

I typically stick with the 80Hz point for the high pass regardless, though you should experiment sweeping within the full context of the mix to decide if you like more or less low end.

Boost at 250Hz

We’re right in the middle of the fundamental range at 250Hz, and I find a small, wide boost of 2dB on average adds some warm body which benefits the tone.

Use a relatively average to low Q setting of around 1 or less to create a nice natural boost of fatness in this low end to get some really tasty warm body added into the tone.

Cut at 500Hz

I like a small cut of 1-2dB with a Q which reaches about 100Hz on either side to add some clarity via subtractive EQ at 500Hz which is notoriously boxy sounding.

I don’t want to cut too much here because a lot of the first overtones are coming out here. This is why I recommend the small cut of just 1-2dB.

Cut at 800Hz

When I EQ heavy guitars, the majority of the time I find that there’s a bit of unflattering wonkiness which occurs around 800Hz to maybe 1000Hz.

If you want to aim a little above 800Hz you may have better results, but try sweeping a 1-2dB cut in the 800-1000Hz region to see if it benefits your tone.

The reminder here is that cutting TOO much in the 800-1000Hz region will make your guitar sound hollow, but that’s comes from being too aggressive. 1-2dB is usually perfect for me.

Boost or Cut at 3-5k (Optional)

Depending on your recorded tone, it could benefit from a cut or boost in the 3-5k region.

If the tone could use some more presence, try a small 1-2dB boost.

If the tone is a bit too bright as is, try a small 1-2dB cut here to mitigate harshness.

This is a case by case basis and oftentimes I’ll end up leaving it alone.

Low Pass at 6000Hz

With heavy guitar EQ especially there’s nothing going on above roughly 6k that we need for our tone.

Applying a low pass filter at 6000Hz (12dB/oct) removes everything I don’t need on the top end and preserves everything I do.

This keeps the top end available and is one less conflict for our cymbals, vocals, and anything else in your particular mix which is top end heavy, giving them more clarity in the mix.

What about that clarity range of 2-4k or so? When I EQ heavy guitars, I don’t want the same kind of top end clarity that I’m chasing with other types of guitar.

Again, heavy guitars are all about the lows and mids, fatness, warmth, and body. I generally get all the clarity I need through the small subtractive EQ cuts I made at 500Hz and to a lesser extent at 800Hz.

EQ Heavy Guitars Reviewed

  • High pass filter at 80Hz with a 24db/oct slope to remove low end rumble and clean up your tone.
  • Boost at 250Hz with 1-2dB to add some warmth and body to your tone.
  • Cut at 500Hz with 1-2dB for clarity via subtractive EQ.
  • Cut at 800Hz with 1-2dB to improve tone.
  • Adjust 3-5k if necessary to add presence (boost) or mitigate harshness (cut).
  • Low pass filter at 6000Hz with a 24db/oct slope to remove unnecessary frequencies and create space for cymbals.

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