Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Refine Guitar Mids with an EQ Pedal

Refine Guitar Mids with an EQ Pedal

Photo 1

Midrange is the guitar’s magic zone. An EQ pedal will help you sculpt a mix-ready tone before you hit record.

Hello, and welcome to another Dojo. This time I want to shine some light on a secret to great tone: midrange! I’ll be approaching this from the front end of the recording process, using an EQ pedal, but these ideas can be easily applied further downstream in your DAW by using outboard EQs, or EQ plugins. I encourage you to record your experiments so you can hear them and evaluate the differences. The Dojo is now open.

Let’s define midrange, loosely. Midrange frequencies are wide-ranging and are often divided into three sub-categories: low-mids, mids, and high-mids. Basically, it’s between 200 Hz and 4 kHz. That’s huge! It spans the range the human ear is most sensitive to in frequency (even though we can hear approximately from 20 Hz to 20 kHz). So, where exactly do the low-mids start and the high-mids end? What are the crossover frequency points between each band? Those questions are best debated over beer and pizza and will involve the EQ’s circuit design, like where the center frequencies are for each band and how narrow or wide each band is (aka the Q). For comparison, think of the color spectrum and then go and ask a group of painters when red fully transitions into orange and then to yellow, and you’ll get the idea.

For a standard-tuned guitar, I’ve found frequencies between 400 Hz and 2.6k Hz are adjusted the most often and where most of my tone sculpting takes place.

We should all be deeply familiar with the inherent timbral characteristics of single-coil (super articulate and responsive) and humbucker (full-bodied and powerful) pickups. At some point, you’ve most likely wished that your humbucker-loaded guitars could sound more like your single-coil guitars and vice versa. What if a simple 5- to 7-band EQ pedal could get us closer to dialing in the tone we’re seeking and offer more flexibility in the long run? That’s exactly why there are so many different types of EQ pedals on the market—each created exactly for these kinds of purposes.

For a standard-tuned guitar, I’ve found frequencies between 400 Hz and 2.6k Hz are adjusted the most often, and where most of my tone sculpting takes place.

Why not just use my amp? The mids in classic tube amp circuit designs are blunt instruments and don’t offer the surgical precision of a multiband EQ. In fact, many classic Fender amps (tweed Deluxe, Princeton, and Deluxe) are completely devoid of a mid control. One exception is the hallowed 1959 4x10 Bassman, with its mid frequency centered around 500 Hz. A Marshall plexi’s mid knob is centered around 800 Hz.

Before we start focusing in on midrange frequencies, you may be wondering about the most clearly audible range of the guitar. The low E (open 6th string) is 82.41 Hz and the highest fretted note on a Gibson Les Paul (22nd fret of 1st string) is around 1174.66 Hz. But there’s also an insane amount of frequencies above 1.2 kHz that really define the guitar’s clarity, presence, articulation, and sense of “air.” They are immensely important. Play your guitar and shave off everything above 1.2k Hz and you’ll immediately hear what I’m talking about.

Let’s quickly shape some tone. I’m going to make my Telecaster’s bridge pickup sound as close as possible to my Les Paul’s bridge pickup and vice versa. (Photo 1) shows I adjusted 400 Hz (+11 dB), 800 Hz (+8 dB), 2 kHz (+6 dB), and 4 kHz (+8 dB). This gave me the fatness and articulation of my Les Paul’s bridge pickup and sounded really close. To get my Les Paul’s bridge pickup to sound more like my Tele’s [Photo 2], I adjusted 400 Hz (-7 dB), 800 Hz (-4 dB), 1.6 kHz (-3 dB), 2 kHz (-6 dB), 2.5 kHz (+7 dB), and 4 kHz (+5 dB). This gave me the spank and chime of my Tele’s bridge pickup. Bonus: I like to reduce 400 Hz to 800 Hz when playing rhythm on my Les Paul’s neck pickup anyway. It really cleans out the bottom end clutter that never sits right in the mix.

Here are some additional thoughts for EQ pedal experimentation:

• Humbuckers have more low-mid information than single coils (300 Hz to 900 Hz).

• Single-coils have much more high-mids (2 kHz to 4.5 kHz).
• To increase pick articulation (1 kHz to 2 kHz).

• To reduce muddiness (250 Hz to 350 Hz).

• To reducing harshness (2.3 kHz to 2.7 kHz).

Until next time, Namaste!

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard started out as a “joke” band. As guitarist/songwriter Joey Walker says with a grin, “Now the joke’s on us.”

Photo by Maclay Heriot

With their 26th release, Flight b741, the prog-rockers make it hard but highly rewarding for fans to keep up. Behind that drive lies a wealth of joy, camaraderie, and unwavering commitment to their art.

There’s a dangerous, pernicious myth, seemingly spread in perpetuity among fledgling artists and music fans alike, that when you’re a musician, inspiration—and therefore productivity—comes naturally. Making art is the opposite of work, and, conversely, we know what happens to Jack when there’s all work and no play. But what happens when the dimensions of work and play fuse together like time and space? What happens to Jack then? Well, behind such an instance of metaphysical reaction, undoubtedly, would be King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.

Read MoreShow less

Andy Timmons records rare Lennon/McCartney song "I'm In Love" at Abbey Road's Studio Two.

Read MoreShow less
Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained
Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained by Builder Xact Tone Solutions' Barry O'Neal

The Xact Tone Solutions chief pedal puzzle solver Barry O'Neal goes over the gear in Caleb Followill's rack and explains all the ins and outs of its configuration to pull off the Can We Please Have Fun tour hitting U.S. arenas this summer and fall.

Firebirds came stock with a solid G-logo tailpiece, although Bigsby vibratos were often added.

Photo by George Aslaender

The author’s PX-6131 model is an example of vintage-guitar evolution that offers nostalgic appeal in the modern world—and echoes of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young.

An old catchphrase among vintage dealers used to run: “All Gretsches are transition models.” While their near-constant evolution was considered confusing, today their development history is better understood. This guitar however is a true transition model, built just as the Jet line was undergoing major changes in late 1961.

Read MoreShow less