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Old 11-12-2010, 07:57 AM   #35
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: In a van, down by the river
Posts: 3,574

Mixing your awesome guitar tracks

I reread some of the material I posted above, and it may be a bit too detailed for most. I am going to assume at this point that most people reading this know how to load an amp modeler, an IR loader, and create a folder track. So, let's skip all that detail and just get into mixing guitars.

This is really subjective, obviously. I'm not going to tell you how you should mix your guitar tracks, because again; the recurring theme here is to do what your project calls for. I can't tell you to cut 3db from 4k as a rule as it is all contingent on the material and the source. However, in my opinion there are some general rules when it comes to mixing guitar. Guitar is a mid-range instrument, so to quote myself from my addition to Lokasenna's post above:

There should never be any guitar coming through your mix below 60-80hz (maybe even higher depending on the material – I've filtered as high as 150hz on some guitar parts). That's why you put a bass in your mix - it's supposed to be within that range. That's it's home. If you don't let it live there, it gets mad, and takes a dump all over your mix. It can also get touchy with a bass drum, since that's where the Bass drum lives too. They have to get along, so careful / mindful EQ sculpting is your friend when dealing with these two instruments - you can't have clarity if you have muddiness in the low end of your mix.

And I will add that the same rule applies to frequencies above 10-12khz. Yes, you want that top end sizzle that's going to help your guitar tracks cut in a mix, but it's give and take really. You can choose to not filter these frequencies, and risk completely destroying the ambiance of your cymbals and maybe your vocals. Or, you can filter these frequencies out and allow more room for other elements of your mix to pop. To me, mixing guitars on their own is not that difficult. I already know what I want to hear, and I know what frequencies I want to cut. My track templates have an instance of ReaEQ built in that already has the filters in place (I cut out everything above about 10.5k and everything below 80hz - but often times this changes with the material - this is just a starting point for me). If you find after you've loaded everything you have to do 9,000 surgical cuts with EQ, then you should probably go back to the source and make changes there.

Another general rule is that the same tone you practice with is probably not the same tone you want to record. Too much gain equals no definition. So, lower the gain and slowly increase it until the palm-muted notes start to break up slightly. To me, that's enough gain to still have impact and retain clarity. Then again, you might like that highly distorted tone. If so, forget you read that last part. Walk it off. Go drink a Pepsi while you let the anger you're experiencing as a result me me telling you to turn the gain down subside. And, as far as the underlying “tone” - that's it. Simplicity is key here. If you have 87 plugins on your guitar track, start over because you failed. Although, that having been said, there are a few tricks that you might want to incorporate to get things a bit more solid in your mix.

Some will say to compress the guitars. I personally don't do this often, because the amount of gain I'm typically using serves as natural compression anyway. And, since I use modeled guitars, I usually don't need it because I don't have a real speaker “woofing” at me in my mix. But, keep in mind, the less gain you use, the more dynamic the tone may become and you may want to apply a layer of light compression to even things out. Do what you need to, but be careful not to overdo the compression if you are using it. Compression is one of those things where you can go from "awesome" to "suck" in no time so use your ears. And remember: just because you have a compressor, doesn't mean you need to use it.

Another trick is to use a saturation plugin on your guitar tracks. I actually use Ferric all the time on my guitar tracks. Now, I realize that it sounds kind of stupid to say “add something inorganic to your already inorganic track to make is sound more organic”. That's like saying "2+2 = Chicken", but to me it really does work well. Saturation really helps to smooth out the top end of your guitars and add a fullness that you can't otherwise get from a modeling plugin. Now, you may be saying to yourself “hey, he said he doesn't use compression, that lying a-hole!”. Yes, saturation compresses the signal further, but to me, it's a tone thing, not a dynamics thing. Make sense? Definitely not for everyone, but something to experiment with if you're using an amp modeler.

As far as “tricks” are concerned, for me this is it.

That's it for this post. If you have a trick to get your guitars sounding fuller and more lush in a full mix scenario (aside from saying "Hey Chris, buy a real amp and record that"), please; by all means share them! Or, if you want to tell me that everything I've written is wrong, you can do that too, but keep in mind – the intent of the thread is to learn, not to bash someone else or their techniques. So, please keep things informative so everyone can learn. Otherwise, you'll be sleepin' wit the fishes... see?
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Last edited by Chris_P_Critter; 11-12-2010 at 08:06 AM.
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