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Top Tips for Mixing Electric Guitars

Getting a polished, professional guitar sound is much more than sliding a few faders and making some quick EQ moves. Sure, it can be that simple - but rarely is. Understanding how the guitar tracks you're mixing fit into the overall vibe of the song is the first step toward knowing how to start processing them.

Picture this. Your tracks are cleaned up and edited. Everything is labeled, and groups are set. Crossfades made, noise removed, you're ready to go. What's next? These are some of our top tips for mixing electric guitars to give your tracks a polished, professional sound.

Let's get to it!


Before you even start to mix, listen to the track. Specifically the role the electric guitars are playing in it. You're not going to approach mixing thick rock rhythm guitars or searing solos the way you would a delicate, jazz piece or a rock ballad.

There are a limitless number of ways you can go with how to mix guitars. That's what makes it beautiful…and sometimes frustrating. By deciding what direction you want to go in before you begin the mixing process for electric guitars you'll save yourself time and headaches down the line.


Panning is one of the most basic - and powerful - mixing techniques. It's essential in crafting a mix with separation that takes full advantage of the stereo field without needing to use additional processing.

When it comes to rhythm guitars, you'll usually find yourself panning them to the left and right to some degree, depending on the genre and desired result. Lead guitars are a little different. Solos almost always step in when the vocals are tacet, so they're usually centre-panned.

More subtle lead guitar parts like arpeggios are often used as support elements in the arrangement. Deciding where to pan them is a creative decision, but it's usually in an area of the stereo field where there is some open space so they don't step on other tracks but can still play their part in the overall soundscape.

When you're setting up the mix, panning should be one of the first moves you make. It lets you start to paint a picture of how the tracks will fit together so you can start building your mix without having to apply any processing.

What's great about panning is there is so much space on the sonic stage to work with. Sure, the convention is to have guitars on either side so that other elements like vocals, bass, and snare and kick drum can go up the middle and other instruments can occupy the space between.

But mixing is all about creativity, and innovative panning moves are essential in that.

Use the Faders

Ah, the fader. In the distracting world of digital audio it's easy to forget the most powerful tool you have at your disposal for mixing electric guitars. Simply put, the fader is the overall volume control.

It might seem simple, but this tool gives you a massive amount of manipulation over how electric guitars sit in the mix. After you adjust the panning, start setting fader levels before you add any processing. This gives you a solid starting point of how the guitars fit in the track and what they need to take the song to the next level.

As you mix you'll adjust them further, but that first fader balance is crucial to starting to paint the overall picture. You can always add more complex moves like automation later. By going off of instinct, you're serving the song. And as you start to mix more, you'll realize listening to your initial instincts saves a lot of overthinking - and overmixing - down the line.

High-Pass Filtering

While electric guitars can extend well below the bass range of the frequency spectrum that usually just causes frequency masking (downtuned and baritone guitars aside), that doesn't mean it's necessary - or even usable. This excess low end creates rumble, "mud," and interferes with other instruments in this range like the bass guitar, kick drum, keyboards, and pianos. If the track has bleed from other instruments, it helps with that too, since bass frequencies are so omnidirectional.

A simple high-pass filter should be the first EQ move you make. For rhythm guitars you'll generally find yourself placing the EQ point between 100Hz and 75Hz. Solo the track and do a quick sweep to find the spot where you don't lose any low end. Be careful not to cut too much off. This makes guitars sound thin and anemic.

High-pass filtering lead guitars works under the same principle; you'll just find the sweet spot for the EQ point is higher in the frequency range. Especially if you're working with leads played farther up on the neck.

When you consider how to EQ guitars in a mix, using high-pass filtering is a simple but powerful mix move.

Get on the Bus

Engineer lingo has a lot of interchangeable words. Busses, groups, submixes, aux tracks, folders. Different terms are used by different DAWs and hardware, but they all mean the same thing. It's a track that's receiving sends from other tracks.

In the context of guitar, this would be a "master" channel (but not the master channel…) that is a parent channel to all the guitar tracks sent to it. Bussing guitars gives you global control over the group. You can apply processing, set automation, and quickly control levels with the fader while mixing.

Since you'll be applying different mix moves based on the role of the guitar in the song, it's advisable to buss guitars according to type. For example, set up different busses for rhythm guitars, lead guitars, etc.

You can then apply different processing to the busses and individual tracks separately. Most of the "mixing heavy lifting" will be done on the individual tracks, and you can treat the busses with gentler, more global mix decisions like subtle volume automation, tape emulation, and light compression to glue them all together.

Working this way also saves on processing power by utilizing less plugin instances. Bussing tracks is a very useful mixing technique that professionals swear by. Once you try it for yourself you'll see why.

Make Room for the Vocal

Vocals and guitar work together. Since they both live in the midrange, getting them to play nicely with each other can be frustrating. But with some clever mix moves, you can retain the clarity of both while letting them step up as the arrangement dictates.

Sure, you can use EQ, panning, and automation. But there's a better method to make the guitars and vocals complementary without getting in each other's way, even if it is a little more complex.

There is only so much sonic space. So making sure you have the equalization and levels right between the guitars and vocals is critical to making both of them sound great. So how do you do this?

Multi-band compression.

Since the guitars will likely be panned to some degree out of the vocals' way, the easiest method to make room for the vocals in the electric guitars is with EQ. I like to use a broad but gentle bell-cut in the 800Hz-3kHz range in the electric guitars. I find this gives the vocals dominance in this range.

But easiest usually doesn't mean best.

This part of the frequency range is where the guitar "lives". By doing something as static as EQ, you're taking that away from the guitar for the entire song. Try sidechaining the guitars to the vocals with a multi-band compressor around 800Hz-5kHz. This means you're only taking this part of the frequency range away from the guitar when the vocal is active. When it's not, the guitar will have the full frequency range in the mix.

Subtlety is the name of the game here. Making sure that there is space in the mix for the vocals is crucial, as they are arguably the most important element of every mix. If you don't work to make them fit together, you can experience things like frequency masking and a lack of definition in guitar and vocal tracks, which translates to the mix overall.

Sure, you can do a combination of EQ and automation. But by using multi-band compression you combine all of this into one easy workflow that works throughout the entire song.

Don't Mix in Solo

Ok, this might be confusing, considering the high-pass filtering section. Mixing in solo certainly has its place. So to say "don't mix in solo" is a bit misguided. It's one thing to throw a track in solo so you can make sure you're not cutting off the lowest part of the usable frequency range.

It's another thing to spend time making an electric guitar track sound great in solo, put it back in the mix, and be disappointed by how quickly it falls apart in the context of the overall arrangement.

When mixing electric guitars, it's tempting to use the solo button more than you should, and that's understandable, especially if you're new to the process. But remember, you're mixing a song. After the quality of the song structure and the fidelity of the recorded tracks, how they play off of each other is what makes for a great production.

The solo button is just there to assist in making fast decisions, or isolating problems quickly and efficiently. Don't abuse it.

Summing it Up

Mixing guitars is one of the most fun parts of the recording process. Every song has distinct parts and requires a new way of thinking to make it the best it can be. As long as the tracks are recorded well, mixing guitars can be one of the most creative and fun parts of the production workflow.

Keep the fundamentals in mind and don't overthink it! With some simple mindset concepts and use of common processing tools you can get your tracks sounding great quickly with these top tips for mixing electric guitars.

Remember, every mix is different. That's what makes mixing fun!

Further reading:

How to record electric guitars

Best virtual amps for your DAW