Recording the Guitar Direct - Part 3
This article is on EQ for melodies and solos regarding the guitar direct. Refer to the previous article, Part 25 Recording the Guitar Direct (Part 2) for routing details, etc.
When we were dealing with rhythm guitar EQ, for the most part, we wanted the sound to be transparent not wanting upper lows and lower mids to fog out the sound. When dealing with solos and melody lines, we want the sound to have body. Single notes leave more sonic room than chords, so it is not a problem having body in the sound.
The basic sound categories are Pop, R&B, Country, Smooth Jazz, and Jazz. Lets break down into four basic sonic categories. I will note each for each EQ area.
Sound #1: Bright sounding and good for country lines and lead guitar. The rear pickup is typically used. This sound also needs low-end body to have some weight in the sound; hardly any mid-range in this sound. This sound category could be used for any bright sound and if wanting a small sound, you may want to roll out low-end frequencies.
Sound #2: Kind of bright with mid-range and good for pop and R&B lines and solos. For a three pickup guitar, try using the middle pickup. If you have two pickups, activate both. If youre using a Fender Strat design, try using the setting that activates the middle and rear pickup, or front and middle pickup.
Sound #3: Warm and sweet featuring mid-range. This is good for melodic pop and R&B as well as smooth jazz. Also may be good for jazz if you want a tone that is not too dark. Try using the front pickup for your best tone. If you have a three pickup guitar, try using the middle pickup.
Sound #4: Dark and thick. Best for jazz. The front pickup will be used 99% of the time.
Dig, there are so many possibilities so simply adapt to the sound you are looking for.
If I don't note specific settings for sound #1, sound #2, sound #3, or sound #4 in the following EQ frequency suggestions, the settings are global for all.
Low frequency filter: Typically a very steep filter that eliminates low frequency information. In this case, all of the sounds we are dealing with may not want a steep roll off in the low end since we want sonic weight (unless you want an intentional small sound). OK, if the direct box is causing ground hum (no ground switch), the filter should help get rid of some of the hum. The filter may be frequency adjustable or a fixed frequency. If adjustable, experiment with the frequency settings to find which works best. Most likely it will be in the 100 to 150 cycle area. If the low freq filter is a fixed frequency, the odds are good it is around 100 cycles.
That is the standard rap but since we do not want to hurt the low end for any of the sounds, if the filter can be set to 60 cycles, see if that gets rid of the hum.
30 to 80 cycles: Basically useless for this application BUT if you have a hum problem and no low frequency filter, you might try rolling out here. Try 60 cycles.
80 to 200 cycles: Sounds #1 and#2: It's best to come back here after adding upper frequencies. If you need bottom, try adding around 150 cycles. Sounds #3 and #4: Using the front pickup, the odds are very good no low end will be needed. In fact, you may want to roll off a dB or so around 80 cycles.
200 to 300 cycles: 99% of the time, no need to add or subtract in this range.
300 to 600 cycles: This is the cloudy low mid-range area. All of the sounds will most likely want the sonic weight so the odds are good nothing will need to happen here.
600 to 800 cycles: This area is the boxy sounding mids and is part of the meat of the sound. In this case, you will hear tons of this area. Sound #1: You may want to roll out a dB or so if the mids are too thick but only do so after adding the upper frequency information. Sound #2, #3, and #4: Probably nothing to do here. 800 to 1kHz: The honk is not like with miking an amp so its not as noticeable. Sound #1: you may want to roll out a dB or so if the mids are too thick but only do so after adding the upper frequency information. Sound #2, #3, and #4: If you want more mid thickness, try adding around 800 cycles.
1K to 2 kHz: 1K is the center on the mid-range area. Nothing to do here at this point.
2 kHz to 3.5 kHz: Here we go with adding aggressive EQ for some sounds: Sound #1: Using the frequency sweep technique (read Part 4 of this series), slam the EQ level full up and twist the frequency pot between 2 kHz to 3.5 kHz. The odds are good around 3 kHz is going to add the area that will open up the sound! I typically end up with almost full gain in this frequency! Sound #2: Basically the same as sound #1, but around 6 dB might be enough. Sound #3: Basically the same as sound #1 but only a few dB may be needed. Sound #4: This is a place where a roll out may need to happen. Try rolling out about 1 to 2 dB at 2 kHz.
3.5 kHz to 5 kHz: This area starts bringing up the sparkle. Sound #1: We are going to slam EQ here as well! Using the frequency sweep technique, slam the EQ level full up and twist the frequency pot between 4 kHz to 5 kHz. The odds are good around 5 kHz is going to add the area that will open up the sound even more! I typically end up with almost full gain in this frequency area! Sound #2: Basically the same as sound #1, but around 6 dB might be enough. Sound #3: Basically the same as sound #1 but only a few dB may be needed. Sound #4: The odds are good nothing will need to happen here.
5 kHz TO 8 kHz: More sparkle. Sound #1: Hey, keep slamming the EQ and look for the frequency point of the best sparkle. If you are looking to brighten up the sound further, add to see if this is needed. Sound #2: Basically the same as sound #1, but around 3 dB might be enough. Sound #3 and 4: Basically the same as sound #1 but only a dB may be needed or possibly no add here.
8 kHz TO 12 kHz and higher: Sound #1: You may get some help here but the direct box signal usually is not passing information in this area. Sound #2, #3, and #4: no need to add.
Remember that recording is a give and take situation. Each instrument needs its own frequency sonic pocket and pan settings. EQ the guitar to sound great on its own and get ready to change the EQ shape when listening to the whole band as well as changing the EQ shape of other instruments. Paint the sonic picture with EQ. After mic experimentation selection and placement, the EQUALIZER is your best friend for sonic layering.
After EQing the direct guitar, 99% of the time I find that compressing is absolutely necessary for most any style of playing. The exception here is the jazz guitar sound, meaning its best to not compress as to mess with the dynamics of the performance.
In other cases, the compressor will add much needed punch (impact) to the sound since the direct guitar sounds kind of lifeless. Usually we use the compressor to help even out the notes. In this case the compressor is really important to give life/punch to the sound!!! Review the compressor article for one mic (Part 10) and get ready to slam the compressor with like an average of 5 dB of compression and a ratio of around 4 to 1. Use a fairly fast attack and release time to start.