Checklist for well-sounding electric guitars

By | April 6, 2021


The choice of guitar, amplifier, microphones and microphone placement play a crucial role in the end result. This is more or less obvious. The reason why I repeat the importance of the recording itself over and over again is simply because I am tired of the worn-out expression “it gets fixed in the mix”. Well, today’s tips will focus on the actual mixing and not the recording itself. Here is the checklist for more well-sounding electric guitars that are in the mix:

1. Cut off the bottom with a high-pass filter. Anything below 100 Hz is usually superfluous on electric guitars, especially if you have a mix with both bass and drums. Many times you can cut as high as 200 Hz-300 Hz, but then it is important to adjust so that the guitars do not sound too thin. A good tip is to play drums and bass together with the electric guitars and then sweep gently with the high-pass filter and listen for when the guitars start to sound thin, then back up a bit. However, you rarely need anything over 9kHz-10kHz so here you can think the same, but vice versa. Then play the guitars together with other high-frequency instruments and back gently until they start to fade. Then back up until the brilliance reappears.

2. If the electric guitars sound cardboard or canned, it often helps to cut somewhere between 500-600 Hz. However, beware of the Metallica effect where all low midrange disappears, if that is not the sound you want.

3. My golden frequencies when it comes to electric guitars are between 1000-1500 Hz. Here is the fine hardness and character. A reasonably wide boost in this area makes any planks show their forefoot, without sounding intrusive and sharp.

4. Regarding panning, it is often a good idea to send the electric guitars in each direction so that you get a wider sound image, especially in the choruses. If your guitars have a similar sound, it is also good to tune them differently, so that they get their own place in the mix. If you raise one electric guitar around 1500 Hz, you can lower the other in the same frequency range and vice versa. By the way, this is how you can generally think when you mix.

5. A common trick to get a fatter sound is to duplicate the guitars. This can definitely work, but there is also a risk that it then sounds messy and unfocused. Here it is important to plan and think. Personally, I think it’s much easier to get an aggressive mix that breathes with the help of fewer guitars. Preferably no more than three or four players playing at the same time.

6. The more distortion, the less compression. Hard-distorted electric guitars have significantly less dynamics than a lathed or steel-stringed guitar and therefore rarely need to be compressed very much. If it is still the case that you feel like compressing, you can start from a ratio of between 4: 1 and 8: 1 with slow attack and quick release and aim to compress a maximum of 2-3 dB. The sound then becomes more vivid and not so compressed. Of course, these are just guidelines.

7. If the guitars lack heat, the area around 200 Hz should be boosted. If you go further down, you immediately compete with bass and bass keg. If, on the other hand, you boost too much around 200hz, you also compete with song and vortex, so here it is important to think about where the heat should come from. Think of the whole.

8. A common problem is that the electric guitars sound sharp and stand in the way of the song. At the same time, they need just this clarity to stand out. What can you do? Well, I usually think that the electric guitars can take place around 1000-1500 Hz and from 4000 Hz-8000 Hz. It therefore usually works well to cut off some around 2000-3000 Hz to make room for the song, without the sound becoming too much suffering. Feel free to try working with a dynamic equalizer for this very purpose!

9. Reverb? Absolutely, but preferably sheet metal reverb and then not very long, at least not on the accompaniment guitars which easily become smeared and indistinct by too long rooms. Feather reverb also excels on electric guitars, especially if you are looking for a vintage character.

Soundtoys MicroShift (or its little sister for that matter) helps you fathom any guitar sound without a lot of duplication. Bx_refinement from Plugin Alliance or the new Soothe from oeksound easily cures screaming and working frequencies.

Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!

Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.