Guitar Parametric EQ – Why It’s Best and How to Use It

As I covered in my overview of parametric EQ, this is the most detailed form of EQ processing which gives you the most control of your audio. While some guitarists like graphic EQ by comparison, I prefer the fine control you get with guitar parametric EQ. Let’s talk how to use guitar parametric EQ in carving out the perfect tone in your guitar.

Guitar Parametric EQ

guitar parametric eq

Let’s first identify why parametric EQ is preferable over a graphic EQ.

Parametric vs Graphic EQ for Guitar

Parametric EQ refers to an EQ which has more parameters or features than other types of EQ, certainly a graphic EQ. A graphic EQ by comparison just has a set number of sliders which each correspond to a different frequency band:

graphic eq

The above pictured graphic EQ is Waves’ GEQ which admittedly features more parameters than most graphic EQs. It certainly features more bands as compared to most graphic EQs which typically only feature 8-12 bands.

Each slider can be pushed up or pulled down to add or reduce gain in that specific frequency. The problem with using this on guitar and my problem with graphic EQs in general is that they’re not great for anything besides favoring a more bottom or top heavy tone. At that point I’d just assume use a semi-parametric EQ.

If you want to target a specific frequency to sculpt your guitar tone, the specific frequency you want may not be represented by a slider/band and if it is you generally can’t control the width of that band. Supporters of graphic EQ will say that’s by design (duh).

I much prefer to be able to set my own frequency band location which you can do with a parametric EQ.

How to Use Graphic EQ on Guitar

Speaking of specific frequencies, here’s my guitar frequency range chart which should help you better understand where each characteristic of your tone exists in Hz. This will also give you some idea of where you may want to cut or boost or at the very least let you know WHAT you’re cutting or boosting:

guitar frequency range

Whether you’ve got a parametric pedal controlling your guitar’s frequencies live or you’re mixing at home in the box, these are the macro electric guitar EQ moves I like to make to sculpt and enhance the tone:

electric guitar eq cheat sheet

High Pass at 150Hz

There’s a heavy, chonky sound below 150Hz and certainly 100Hz which is unflattering and adds nothing to your tone.

A high pass filter with a 24dB/oct slope works well to clean up your tone, so apply one at 100Hz and sweep up while paying attention to the low end.

Listening in context with the bass can help better guide you when sweeping as the guitar and bass should compliment one another without stepping into one another’s fundamental. Admittedly the low E is indeed at 82Hz, but I find you can get away with losing a little bit of the bottom end of the fundamental on guitar to bring a lot more clarity to the rest of the mix whether live or in studio.

Boost or Cut at 250-500Hz for Warmth or Clarity

We can impart more warmth or clarity depending on how we treat the frequencies just above where we just high passed.

Boosting above there in this 250-500Hz region adds warmth to a thin tone. Conversely, cutting there adds clarity by removing the thickness and warmth from this area, placing more of an emphasis on the higher frequencies.

Even if you don’t have a problem with a lack of warmth or clarity, you may favor one sound over the other, so a small adjustment can get the tone more to your taste here.

Boost at 2k for Presence

The true character of the guitar comes through in the 1-2k region. I generally like a boost at 2k, albeit a small one to bring out a bit more presence from those overtones and consequently the entire tone.

Dynamic Cut at 4k to Attenuate Distortion Hiss

For distorted guitar in particular your tone may benefit from a dynamic EQ cut at 4k to gently attenuate the hiss which is commonly associated with distortion, making the tone a lot smoother without gutting its clarity.

This isn’t a feature you can use live via a pedal, but in the box EQs like my favorite FabFilter Pro-Q 3 features the ability to turn any band into a dynamic band to where you set a threshold and it pulls the tone down gently.

Incidentally, if you are dealing with distorted guitars, check out my distorted guitar EQ guide

Low Pass at 5-8k to Remove Unnecessary Overtones/Hiss and Create Space

You can generally get away with aggressively low passing your guitar for the sake of the rest of the mix. While there’s still a lot of top end on the guitar above 8k and certainly above 5k, that space is better suited for vocals, cymbals, and other elements of your mix.

While they can exist together, the less competing frequencies anywhere in your mix, even on the high end, the more open and clean the mix will sound.

Another 24dB/oct filter here removes unnecessary overtones and more of that distorted hiss (in the case of distorted guitars, obviously).

Now that we’ve got a basis for the sound after sculpting the frequencies, check out my complete tutorial on how to mix guitar which walks you through the entire process of guitar compression, panning, gain adjustments, imaging tweaks, and reverb enhancements which will all improve your tone and getting it sitting and sounding perfectly in the mix.

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