if the phrase scooped mids has confused you, don’t worry.
This post should clear up what this phrase means in the context of music with a guitar!
Understanding the EQ
Before we get to the whole “scooped mids” thing, we need to understand how the equalizer works. Almost all amps have them today. The only exceptions are either some vintage-oriented or experimental ones.
The most common type of an equalizer, or an EQ, is a 3-band one. You’ll have bass, mids, and treble.
Now, guitar amplifiers are lo-fi in almost all cases. This means that they focus on a more limited portion of the audible spectrum. And they’ll mostly focus on the mids, although there’ll be some bass and high-ends involved as well.
Each of these three knobs controls its respective frequency ranges. The problem is, however, that the values aren’t the same on every amp model. Additionally, there’s no widespread consensus on what the exact values should be.
Bass is usually up to 300 Hz more or less. The mids usually go from 300 up to 2000 Hz. And treble is centered at around 3000 Hz.
Some amplifiers may come with additional EQ controls. Most commonly, you’ll find a presence control. This one gives more elaborate control over the high-ends. In practice, this means that you’ll get more high-ends in the mix. Additionally, presence can affect how the basic EQ controls react.
There are also 2-band EQs on some guitar amps. These come with only bass and treble knobs, although they’re not that common today. The simplest amps could also have a tone knob. This one essentially lets you choose a bassy or a treble-heavy tone and anything in between. I like to refer to it as a “1-band EQ” although that’s not the most correct way to describe it.
Scooping the Mids
The idea of “scooped mids” is pretty simple. This all comes down to cutting the midrange out of your tone. Of course, you won’t ever be able to completely remove it. However, you can remove a huge portion of them.
The simplest way to go about it is to just lower the mids down to zero. Or at least close to zero. Meanwhile, keep the bass and treble knobs above noon. But if you want to wrap your mind around the “scooped” tone, then max out bass and treble and cut all the mids.
Now, as I said, this doesn’t mean that your tone will be completely free of all the mids. After all, we’re talking about guitar amps that mostly push these mid frequencies. But with such a setting, you’ll restrict a huge portion of its generally desired frequency ranges.
As a result, you’ll get a pretty fat yet somewhat distant kind of tone. There’ll also be a lot of high-end fuzzy overtones, although this depends on the amp. Think of it as a looser kind of tone that doesn’t cut through the mix that easily. It’s more of an overwhelming background kind of tone.
At the same time, this kind of tone will lack punch and attack. This, however, won’t make it worse. What’s good or bad depends on what you’re trying to achieve. But we’ll get to that later.
Advanced EQ Settings
Some equalizers, be it on your amp or any of your pedals, can be more advanced. Some may come with a so-called graphic EQ. These are settings with usually 5 or 7 sliders that allow you to control individual frequency ranges. A great example is Boss’ GE-7 pedal with a 7-band control layout.
On these kinds of controls, aim for that “smile” kind of shape. For instance, on the GE-7 pedal, you’d push the two left and two right sliders way up high. Those three in the middle would go below 50%. Or maybe even lower than 30% depending on what you’re aiming for.
Then we have so-called parametric EQ settings. When it comes to guitar amps and pedals, there are some devices with parametric settings for the mids. Not to bore you with all the geeky details, this means that you’ll get an additional control for the peak mid-frequency. This particular control works hand-in-hand with the mid-level knob. The best example here is Boss’ MT-2 Metal Zone.
The advantage of such a control is that it allows you not just to boost but also cut a certain frequency range. So you can set the Metal Zone’s mid-frequency knob at about 1 or 2 o’clock. And then set the mid-level knob at around 8 or 9 o’clock. This way, you’ll cut out the punchiest part of the guitar tone.
What About the Contour Knob?
Some amps or pedals also come with a contour knob. In some cases, a contour knob is similar to the peak frequency one. However, it does more than that as it also allows you to shape the EQ curve. In simplest terms, when you push it high, you’ll scoop the mids, or create that “smile” curve.
As I said, it also shifts the peak mid-frequency. Going higher with the contour knob focuses on lower mids. Going lower focuses on the higher parts of the mids. Although this will depend on an amp or a pedal that you’re using.
In my experience, the contour knob is extremely useful. While it scoops the mids, you can still use the mid knob and balance it a little. So you can still keep some of the punch while having that overwhelming tone.
What Is This Scooped Kind of Setting Good For?
Traditionally, scooped mids have been associated with extreme metal guitar tones. And, for the most part, they’ve been looked down upon. But just like I mentioned above, what’s “good” or “bad” depends on the context.
The bad rep that scooped guitar tone gets is due to its improper use and extreme settings. From my experience, a slightly scooped high-gain tone is great for some rhythm parts. At the same time, such a tone works hand-in-hand with the punch mid-heavy kind. You allow the lead player to have most of the mid territories, cutting through the mids. Meanwhile, the rhythm guitarist keeps things scooped and overwhelming.
Scooped tone can also come in handy for some lead parts. However, I’d only recommend it if there’s just one guitar in the mix.
The best use, in my opinion, is when you layer a lot of rhythm guitars in hard rock or metal music. This means that you’ll record multiple guitar tracks and pan them to left and right channels. Use two scooped high-gain tracks and pan them to about 80% left and right. Then play the same thing on two separate tracks with a mid-heavy high-gain tone. This way, you’ll cover all the frequencies and have an overwhelming in-your-face rhythm tone.
Scooped Mids: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you understand what scooped mids means in the context of guitar!
And if you want to read more about the different the guitar on this blog, then check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!