Equalizer Pedals Explained: Shape Your Guitar Tone

Playing an electric guitar is playing with sound and musical notes. One way to experience a difference in the sound from your guitar it to change the pick-up you are using while you are playing: Switch the pick-up selectorswitch to another setting and hey presto, you will hear another sound coming from your guitar.
Most guitars will have two or three pick-ups. Depending on the type of guitar you are using [Les Paul-or Stratocaster type] you will have three or five sounds available from your pick-ups. Most of these sounds are usuable, all depending on the musical situation: Play chords on a Strat with the pick-up selector being engaged in the middle position for a bright and open sound, switch to the bridge pick-up for a solo to get a more distorted and trebly sound. Start using your volume-and tone controls, start playing with the tone-controls of your amp and hey, the sound possibilities you have are infinite. But some of us want more, a lot more. For those of us there is the Equalizer pedal.
For today’s blog I will explain how an Equalizer pedal works, which types are available, how you can use an EQ to change the sound of your guitar, amp and the sound of your pedals. If you have never felt the need to use and EQ pedal, keep on reading as you may be surprised to what you will discover.
Equalizers are part of the frequency-response altering effects. The basic operation of these effects is based on filters which change the timbre [tone quality] of an instrument. A well-known example of a frequency-resonse altering effect is the Wah Wah pedal. A less dramatic example of a frequency-response altering effect is the Equalizer. There are two type of equalizers used today: The Graphic equalizer and the Parametric equalizer. Let us now have a look at a Graphic EQ

                  —Graphic EQ—

A Graphic EQ can be seen as a “super” tonecontrol compared to the simple treble and bass tonecontrols which can be found on most guitaramps. Graphic EQ’s started their life in recording studios, as most guitar effects did in the early days of recorded music. They were used initially as problem solvers: For example to “tune” a room, by cutting the high frequencies to create a flatter response to the sound being played back in the control room. Another example could be to add a bit of low end to a speaker with a poor low-frequency response. A typical Graphic EQ will come with a number of bands [filters] which devide the frequency spectrum up into sections. Most guitar EQ pedals do come with six, seven or ten bands. Each of these bands are designed to fine tune the bass, midrange and treble response of the pick-ups from your guitar. The different bands will allow you to cut or boost a particular frequency, which will create a change in the sound of your guitartone. Some pedals will also come with a master volume which controls the overal volume of your sound.
Adding a bit of boost to a particular frequency can often add unwanted distortion. Adding a little bit of boost is often enough to create the desired sound you want.
I myself am fond of playing electric guitar at low volumes, whether I play on my own or with others I do not want to sound to be too loud. Of course, playing an electric guitar at low volumes cuts down the bass and treble of your amp. Add a bit of boost with an EQ pedal and the amp will sound a lot fuller, similar as when you would be playing at higher volumes.

                 —Parametric EQ—

They are less common and more subtle in their effect to your sound. A typical parametric EQ for guitar usage will include one- or two different filter stages, as opposed to the six, seven or ten filters available on a Graphic EQ. The frequency response of a Parametric EQ is often handled by just one controlknob, as opposed to the various controlsliders found on a Graphic EQ. This frequency controlknob can be used to emphasize or de-emphasize the low end, mid-or treble range of your guitar. The overal feel, of the changes you make to your tone with a Parametric EQ,  is very smooth and subtle: They help to stand out a particular frequency of your guitar as opposed to  the cutting-or boosting  of a particular frequency with a Graphic EQ.
A typical use for a Parametric could be to fine-tune an older guitaramp which lacks any additinal tone controls. Find the frequency you like, and play, it could not be any simpler. Parametrics are easy, effective and quick to use since there is only one control to change the frequency as opposed the numerous sliders on a Graphic EQ.
The Boss SP-1 is an example of a simple one-stage Parametric EQ. Unfortunately the pedal is no longer produced today and can only be found on the second-hand market for vintage prices. I myself am very fond of the Yamaha NE-1 which is a two-stage Parametric EQ. Very flexible and works great for bass and guitar. The pedal was orginally designed by Nathan East, as studio musician who plays mainly bass guitar. However the pedal works well for guitar as well since it handles all the typical bass and guitar frequecies: Stage one: 200Hz- 10kHz and Stage two: 150Hz – 6kHz.

                  —EQ pedals for Tuning Your Distortion/Overdrive and Pre-amp Pedals—

Yes it is fine to control the overal tone of your guitar and amp with an EQ pedal, however you can also use them to change the tone of your distortion or overdrive.
I orginally started using EQ pedals because I was unhappy with the distortion coming from my amp. I was looing for a distortion sound with more treble but the distortion channel on my amp lacked any controls to add more bass or treble. The EQ gave me more control over the treble frequencies, and it did give me the distortion sound I was looking for at the time. Once I started using the EQ I noticed I could not only alter the sound of my distortion, now I was able to change the whole sound of my guitar as well. I started using the EQ to thin out the dark sound of a Les Paul, to create a more treble Strat-like  kind of sound.
There have even been times when I tuned a Boss HM-2 pedal to a Boss MT-2 distortion pedal with the help of a Graphic EQ. With a lot of tweaking of the EQ both pedals can sound very similar. I will not go any deeper into the subject of distortion and particular type of dist./overdrive pedals as I will create more specific blogs which will deal with this subject alone in great detail.


Most bass players will have some kind of Parametric EQ build in into their amp, as Parametrics are quite common on bass amps. Maybe some of you may not use the effect that much. Start playing around with it to notice what it does to your sound. 
When you will go out shopping for an EQ pedal you will come across a lot of Graphics as they are very common. Once you start using a Graphic and become more familiar with their sound you may also want to invest in a Parametric. They are particularly useful for musicians and guitar players who are interested in homerecording. It is just one of those electronic tools which is useful to have around you.

For next blog: Delay effects and the latest Foofighter song: “Rope”

Smile and enjoy your time while playing the guitar,