7 Cool Ways To Use An EQ Pedal (On Guitars)

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What Can I Use an EQ Pedal For?

1. Solo Boost

Two sage British men once said, A good solo tone is one that can be heard”.

It has happened way too often that a guitarist gets to grab center stage to rip a solo, only for the audience to tell the poor shredder they couldn’t hear any of it.

Enter the EQ pedal.

To use EQ effectively for a solo boost, it’s good to establish the following:

Where Does Your Instrument Belong?

Lots of low-end sounds great. It gives you the pants flapping feeling of a 4×12 cabinet, so why not put loads of that in for a huge sound?

It comes down to one straightforward reason:

It’s not all about you.

Sure, when solo’d in isolation, massive low-end sounds awesome on almost everything.

But at the gig, there’s a bass guitar, a bass drum, and, sometimes a keyboard all competing in the lower register.

I often see guitarists make mistakes at the higher end of the frequency spectrum.

Sure, having some presence in the treble range will help to add definition, but too much can make your tone sounds like an icepick is being driven into the listener’s ear.

And once again, the context of the band plays a role in this matter. The high end is where the cymbals of a drumkit live, as well as the clarity of the voice.

You wouldn’t want to get in the way of the singer. So, have enough high-end in the tone to get definition, but not too much.

Now we enter the realm in which the guitar feels most at home: the midrange.

Midrange will be your best friend in a live situation. It will give body to the guitar tone that may sound honky and unpleasant in isolation, but it all makes sense in the context of a full mix.

No instrument is overpowering one another, making everything sound balanced and huge.

Here’s how I like to accomplish that with an EQ pedal.

How To Use an EQ Pedal For Solo Boosts

For a solo boost, I typically like to lower anything up to 200Hz by a dB or 3.

This might sound drastic, but in a live situation, you are most likely dealing with inconsistencies such as sound guys that might not be fully in tune with what’s happening, sub-par PA systems, and lots of sonic ground to move around in.

So, regarding the low-end, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

For the mid-range, I like to do a little boost in the higher mids.

This will add definition to your guitar sound to make it more audible without sounding harsh. On a Boss GE-7, I would use the 1.6kHz band for that.

Depending on the guitar, I might also use a band in the lower mid-range around 800Hz.

I typically do that on single coil guitars which might benefit from having some more low mids for added beef.

I might also slightly trim the higher frequencies. I do this because of the way we interpret sounds.

If I were to boost the overall volume of a signal the high end might become a little too loud in comparison to the rest of the signal, meaning that the high end might become harsh and unpleasant.

I usually reserve the highest frequency band. On the Boss GE-7 that would be 6.4 kHz. Be careful, though.

Taking away too much will cause the tone to become muddy, which you do not want. I rarely cut more than 1.5 to 2 dB in the top end of the frequency spectrum.

Gain Staging

To make the solo boost an actual boost in volume, you need to place it in the right place of the signal chain.

Luckily this is very simple, so let me explain.

Your guitar signal reacts differently to a volume jump. It can either increase the amount of overdrive/distortion you are getting or increase the actual volume.

The simple rule of thumb is that it will distort when you place a boost in front of the distortion’s source.

When you place a boost after distortion’s source, it will boost the volume.

Signal chain makes a world of difference. Read up on our other articles like:

So, this means that when you’re getting your overdrive from a drive pedal and you want a volume boost for a solo, you place the EQ pedal after the overdrive pedal.

If you are using your amp’s overdrive channel, you must place the EQ pedal in the effects loop of the amp.

So, when dialing in an EQ pedal for a lead boost, be mindful of the low end, add a boost in the midrange, and perhaps get rid of some treble frequency content.

As icing on the cake, use the volume fader on the EQ pedal to add a 2 to 3 dB boost in overall volume to ensure you get heard.

2. Make The Left and Right Sound Different

Here’s a creative use of EQ used by Karnivool, one of my favorite bands.

  1. They would double-track the same riff and pan each to the left and right.
  2. To add stereo width they would cut different frequency bands entirely on those tracks. Let’s assume you use the GE-7 for that. That would mean that on one track they would completely cut 100Hz, 400Hz, 1.6kHz, and 6.4kHz.
  3. On the other track, they would cut the bands that hadn’t been cut on the previous track.

In isolation, these tracks sound bizarre and almost unusable. But again, context is key.

In a massive production with loads of tracks, this technique allows the guitars to cut like a hot knife through butter.

3. Tune The Room

Sometimes you end up at a venue that will make your guitar unbearably bright, but turning down the treble on your amp muddies up the guitar too much.

Enter the EQ pedal.

If we are to view the amplifier’s tone controls are machete knives, the EQ pedal is a scalpel.

It will allow you to fine-tune the tone of the room.

Is it a little too harsh? Lower some of those treble frequencies.

Is there a nasty low resonance in the room? Cut some low frequencies.

Additionally, your signal will be perceived as more controlled, which means a front-of-house engineer might be less tempted to turn you down on the console, or worse — tell you to turn your amp down.

4. Change Your Character

The placement of your EQ pedal determines the way your whole tone behaves. And that can be used to great advantage.

Let’s say you have a drive sound, but a particular spot in the frequency range doesn’t distort the way you’d like.

Simply place an eq pedal before the drive pedal or overdrive channel and boost or cut the frequency range you want to address.

Boosting into an overdriven signal will cause the boosted frequencies to distort more, and cutting does the opposite.

If you’re finding the low-end to be uncontrolled, cut some of it in front of your drive, so you give the overdrive pedal or channel some breathing room.

This can result in a huge, open sound.

5. Drive It

Many people have a clean boost to add extra overdrive to their signal.

And that may work very well, but you might have a problem. When using a clean boost to add overdrive, you are boosting the entire frequency spectrum into an already overdriven signal.

What happens is that the overdrive pedal will not be able to handle all of the frequencies that are put into it.

This will cause the overdrive pedal to sound muddy and uncontrolled.

Since most EQ pedals also have an overall level control that typically can provide you with 15 dB of volume boost, you can boost your overdrive pedal without the risk of it sounding muddy.

Simply cut some low-end out and give it a whirl.

The fun doesn’t stop there.

Since you can combine the added drive of a clean boost with the control of an EQ pedal, you can add drive to your signal exactly to taste.

If you want a beefier mid-range, add some 800Hz. If you want a bit more presence, you could add some 1.6kHz and perhaps even some 3.2kHz.

Conversely, if the highs are overbearing — cut around 6.4kHz to achieve a more rounded tone

6. Get Weird with Sound

As I discussed in the second point of this article, an EQ pedal has the ability to make your guitar sound really weird, and that’s great.

Using a filter on a guitar in a mix is nothing new at all. You see it all the time, but when the live gig is lurking around the corner how will you recreate the Fabfilter EQ preset you’ve spent days on?

You can use an EQ pedal.

I once had to do a gig with an artist who wanted to make the live gig sound like existing recordings.

One of the tracks started with a guitar drenched in chorus and had practically no high end.

I could run back and forth to adjust the treble control of my amp for just a few bars, so I grabbed an EQ pedal to do the job.

This can add extra depth to the parts of a track. Experiment with the EQ pedal until you find something cool and unique.

7. Balance Your Guitars

One thing I started doing lately is balancing my guitars by placing an EQ pedal in the very front of my signal chain.

I’m not talking about turning your Les Paul into a Strat, but I am talking about getting more tonal consistency in your rig.

My main guitar is a Sire Larry Carlton S7 with Lollar pickups. It has a very crisp and defined sound, which is fantastic for playing live.

However, it’s got a floating bridge, so if you break a string, you’re done.

You need a backup guitar. My backup guitar is my Mexican Strat which I have talked about on this platform on some occasions, such as in this article. It sounds great.

It’s punchy, fat, and great. But when you compare it to my main axe, it’s considerably less bright.

This contrast is quite large and is noticeable to the untrained ear. Let’s turn on the EQ pedal!

To compensate for the guitar’s characteristics, I decided to engage an EQ pedal when playing the Sire.

The reasoning behind this is that I like the cutting quality of my Sire, but the top end is one of the first frequency ranges that can get overbearing.

Therefore, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

I am cutting 3dB at 10kHz, the main frequency bump that caused the Sire’s bright characteristic.

But I wasn’t done yet.

Because I knew that cutting high frequencies results in losing a little bit of clarity, so to compensate for that I added some mid-region midrange at 600Hz-1000Hz.

This also adds some muscle to the guitar’s tone, which is always welcome!

Wrapping Up

Now that you have a couple of ways to use an EQ pedal, it’s up to you to find your ultimate tone.

It’s a pedal I think every guitarist worth their salt should own because it’s helpful in a lot of situations. There are no rights or wrongs, so get creative!