Old 11-10-2010, 11:28 AM   #1
Chris_P_Critter
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Default The Metal & Hard Rock Production Thread

Welcome to the Mixing Metal & Hard Rock thread.

I thought it might be useful to some to get a "metal / hard rock specific" thread started since there seems to be an increased number of metal and rock mixes posted here lately. I love sharing techniques as it relates to metal / hard rock production and love insight into others' production styles. And, since Reaper tends to be attractive to those just starting (non-crippled demo period, it's intuitive to beginners, welcoming userbase on the forum, Llama's, etc.) - hopefully this will be helpful to some of you, and this thread can become the epicenter of all that is awesome. In fact, you are cooler than you were just a few seconds ago just by merely opening the thread.

That said, here are a few disclaimers: I can and will show you how I do things, but please note that I am in no way, shape or form a professional mix engineer. And honestly, the only band I've mixed in the past few years has been my own. I am still very much a student when it comes to the art of mixing but; I have been plugging away at this for a few years, and have accumulated a bit of knowledge that I'd like to share for those new to mixing these genre's. You'll also note that the title of this thread is not specific to recording. There are two reasons for that.

1.) I recorded my old band once in a real live studio. A real live one. Once. A decade ago. When I listen to that recording now, I want to stab an ice pick into my ears, while simultaneously stubbing my toe on a refrigerator.

2.) I don't have a fraction of the experience you would need to create a solid "analog" recording (i.e. non-sampled instruments / mic choices / placement, preamps, etc., etc.), since all of my productions are done with software. As for my posts in this thread, I am speaking only my opinions and work-flow regarding mixing - not the actual recording process. If you're interested in that sort of thing, there are many, many resources for the actual recording process strewn out across the Internet (my suggestion for these genre's would be to stop by the Andy Sneap forum and read all that you can [especially the sticky's]. That forum is an absolute treasure trove of information on modern metal / rock production).

With that out of the way, let's kick-off this discussion by talking a little bit about genre. The past several years have spawned many, many different styles of hard rock and metal. Everything from Brutal Death Metal, not to be confused with Technical Death Metal, to Old School Thrash, to Pop Rock, to Stoner Rock, to Power Metal, to Hardcore, to Diarrhea Core (just kidding – I made that last one up), there are literally dozens upon dozens of styles out there at this point. Now, I fully realize that there are many out there that will say, "Heavy music is heavy music - it all sounds the same to me!". But the reality is; it's not all the same and the style of the band you're mixing actually does make a difference in terms of the approach you take with your production.

For example, listen to a track by Whitechapel then decide if the same production techniques and "sound" could be applied to the newest Accept CD.

Whitechapel vs. Accept

Or, take Nickelback, and decide if the same approach or "sound" could be applied to Green Day.

Nickelback vs. Green Day

I think my answer to these questions is, "there's not a donuts chance in a police station". And, while you may tend to disagree with me based on the "commercial" references I cite above, what I am trying to illustrate here is - let the music decide what approach you need to take, not the genre. Also, you should never listen to Green Day, because they're stupid.

To close out the opening post, I do not want anyone to feel afraid to ask questions or post their ideas here. If there's one thing that keeps me coming back here, it's the helpfulness of the community, and we definitely want to keep encouraging that. I am definitely looking forward to seeing others' posts on this topic, so - don't be shy and post anything related.

Topic 1 from me will be called "It is what it is" (coming soon}.
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:25 PM   #2
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Thanks for starting this thread. I'm about to embark on tracking and mixing my first record, so expect I'll be learning a lot in the process. If I discover anything I think the community could benefit from, I'll share it here!

Also, I appreciate the distinction you are making between different styles under the "Heavy" umbrella. There are definitely differences.
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:36 PM   #3
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Neat. We are about to embark on a mixing journey for ourselves. We have a lot of literature on mixing with Reaper, but right now we're still stabbing in the dark somewhat. I'd definitely be interested in following this thread.

Also, say what you want about Nickelback (they are the worst band), but their sound is extremely well-polished and still fairly heavy. I believe Devin Townsend even took some pointers from the last Nickelback record for Addicted
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Old 11-10-2010, 01:21 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Totoro75 View Post
Thanks for starting this thread. I'm about to embark on tracking and mixing my first record, so expect I'll be learning a lot in the process. If I discover anything I think the community could benefit from, I'll share it here!

Also, I appreciate the distinction you are making between different styles under the "Heavy" umbrella. There are definitely differences.
Excellent man! Please, feel free to share anything you can - that's whayt this thread is all about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWineDarkSea View Post
Neat. We are about to embark on a mixing journey for ourselves. We have a lot of literature on mixing with Reaper, but right now we're still stabbing in the dark somewhat. I'd definitely be interested in following this thread.

Also, say what you want about Nickelback (they are the worst band), but their sound is extremely well-polished and still fairly heavy. I believe Devin Townsend even took some pointers from the last Nickelback record for Addicted
Cool!! Devin is one of my alltime favorite musicians and producers. And, while I definitely think Nickelback is terrible, you have to admit that the production is top notch - then again, why wouldn't it be when you have that kind of budget for an album!

Going to get my next post ready over the next few days - in the meantime, feel free to post questions, comments, etc. !!
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:09 PM   #5
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Tip #1: The bass guitar will make or break your song.
Tip #2: The kick drum will make or break your bass guitar.
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Old 11-10-2010, 06:47 PM   #6
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Tip #1: The bass guitar will make or break your song.
Tip #2: The kick drum will make or break your bass guitar.
Very true and thanks for commenting dude!

To expand on your tips: There should never be any guitar coming through your mix below 60-80hz (maybe even higher depending on the material). 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.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:35 PM   #7
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Good work Chris - can I contribute with a few questions to get the mixing minds churning?

- does dynamic range exist in metal?

- can your kick drum sound like something other than the lid of a 44gallon drum?

- does metal come in any colour other than black?

- are you allowed to use a splash cymbal in metal?

- are you allowed play metal on concert pitch instruments?

- are you allowed to sing anywhere between soprano and sub-baritone in metal?

- how fast is it possible to play?

;-)

ps I do like metal
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:29 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
Good work Chris - can I contribute with a few questions to get the mixing minds churning?
LOL! Excellent questions, which I will answer in the order they were asked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- does dynamic range exist in metal?
- Dynamic range does exist in metal, but I kill all dynamics so your ears will literally bleed while listening to my mixes. I don't need no pesky dynamics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- can your kick drum sound like something other than the lid of a 44gallon drum?
- I guess it could, but why would you want it to?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- does metal come in any colour other than black?
- Yes. Listen to the band "Attack, Attack" - they are rainbow colored metal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- are you allowed to use a splash cymbal in metal?
- They added a splash cymbal to the Drumkit from Hell EZDrummer expansion for a reason - so you could use it to pummel unsuspecting listeners with your drum tracks of doom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- are you allowed play metal on concert pitch instruments?
- You can. See the "Black Metal" genre - specifically Dimmu Borgir.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- are you allowed to sing anywhere between soprano and sub-baritone in metal?
- You can, but only in between the screaming.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- how fast is it possible to play?
- Reaper goes up to 960 BPM, therefore I can play that fast, but no faster.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
ps I do like metal
All in good fun man! I enjoyed responding - I got to be a smart ass, and bump the thread at the same time. That's what I call a "two-for".

I checked your sig, and I could swear I've seen pictures your studio before - Are you a member of the Sneap forum by chance? Either way, it's a cool set up you have!

Cheers! I should have my second post done tomorrow.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:36 PM   #9
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Default Metal Production Techniques

All,

Sound On Sound Magazine November and December 2009 had two good issues on extreme metal production. Also video interviews with producers of note in the field. Worth looking at.

Two of the main points in those articles is high pass filtering everything for clarity, and fixing timing and mic phase.

This little two minute ditty uses all the high pass filtering, and way too much limiting, for that "Death Magnetic" sound 8^)

http://www.artandtechnology.com.au/m...eeringVer5.mp3

Guitar (strat with humbucker bridge pickup) and JBass DI'ed (and standard tuning, not metal Drop D), cab simulators, line 6 pedal, bass floor pod, Drum Kit from Hell and Reaper with KJAERHUS AUDIO limiter and short delay...

Anyone know how to get the "lamb of god" redneck more distant sound?

http://soundcloud.com/megacurve
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Old 11-11-2010, 01:10 AM   #10
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This is looking to be an interesting thread. I rarely write metal anymore, for the simple reason that it's so damn hard getting a good sound using sampled drums etc. It seems no matter what I try it turns out cheesy and fake-sounding.

Personally I'm especially interested in how you guys deal with fitting keys into guitar-heavy mixes. Or maybe that doesn't count as real metal?
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Old 11-11-2010, 03:36 AM   #11
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This thread is awesome. I'm laughing out loud at work. It does not really matter. They all suspect/guess/know I'm on probation from the funny house anyway. But I like to remind them once in a while.

I'm really looking forward to hear what people say here even if I don't produce metal. All the knowledge in these forums are gold.
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Old 11-11-2010, 05:14 AM   #12
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Sticky please...
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Old 11-11-2010, 06:58 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by megacurve View Post
All,

Sound On Sound Magazine November and December 2009 had two good issues on extreme metal production. Also video interviews with producers of note in the field. Worth looking at.

Two of the main points in those articles is high pass filtering everything for clarity, and fixing timing and mic phase.

This little two minute ditty uses all the high pass filtering, and way too much limiting, for that "Death Magnetic" sound 8^)

http://www.artandtechnology.com.au/m...eeringVer5.mp3

Guitar (strat with humbucker bridge pickup) and JBass DI'ed (and standard tuning, not metal Drop D), cab simulators, line 6 pedal, bass floor pod, Drum Kit from Hell and Reaper with KJAERHUS AUDIO limiter and short delay...

Anyone know how to get the "lamb of god" redneck more distant sound?

http://soundcloud.com/megacurve
That's the interview series with Russ Russel and Andy Sneap if I am not mistaken - Really good video's, and they help put things into perspective.

There are a few more out there that were posted just recently. Andy is putting together producer presets for Superior Drummer's Metal Foundry expansion - the video is over at Toontrack's site - pretty cool - that guy is my idol when it comes to metal mixes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cerendir View Post
This is looking to be an interesting thread. I rarely write metal anymore, for the simple reason that it's so damn hard getting a good sound using sampled drums etc. It seems no matter what I try it turns out cheesy and fake-sounding.

Personally I'm especially interested in how you guys deal with fitting keys into guitar-heavy mixes. Or maybe that doesn't count as real metal?
It is hard to get a good sound. That's the subject of my next full post!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sibben View Post
This thread is awesome. I'm laughing out loud at work. It does not really matter. They all suspect/guess/know I'm on probation from the funny house anyway. But I like to remind them once in a while.

I'm really looking forward to hear what people say here even if I don't produce metal. All the knowledge in these forums are gold.
I wanted to put some posts up that were entertaining but at the same time informative - glad you're enjoying so far man! You gotta laugh in life!

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Originally Posted by pattonfreak1 View Post
Sticky please...
That would be cool!
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Old 11-11-2010, 08:47 AM   #14
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- Yes. Listen to the band "Attack, Attack" - they are rainbow colored metal.
LOL!

Thanks everyone for the tips and links. I'm starting in on a very muddy bricked mix right now. The High Pass on the guitars is a great start.

Also -- to the point that metal or hard rock has many styles.
Some styles are quite dynamic, and one of my favorites has used keyboards pretty prominently (or a guitar made to sound like a keyboard)

Isis: Hall of the Dead https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUHk6...eature=related
Isis: Ghost Key https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv5t1...eature=related


I will be quiet excited to hear how you can get a good powerful drum sound that also leaves room for other instruments in the mix! I'm using EZDrummer and Battery. Looking forward to hearing what folks have to say!

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Old 11-11-2010, 09:09 AM   #15
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question about recording so maybe it doesn't fit here but it's mix related too.

When recording (with a mic), there sometimes is a low cut switch on the mic. I can see it's handyness but I never use it because if the low is cut at the mic, it never makes it to the track (as intended). So if you wanted the lows later in mixing, it's not there. So, I don't use the low cut, I high pass on the track as needed.
When I worked on analog, it was important to not let the mud through so we cut it at the mic, but I'm not sure if this is true in a digital environment.

Please school my ignorant ass.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:06 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Totoro75 View Post
LOL!

Thanks everyone for the tips and links. I'm starting in on a very muddy bricked mix right now. The High Pass on the guitars is a great start.

Also -- to the point that metal or hard rock has many styles.
Some styles are quite dynamic, and one of my favorites has used keyboards pretty prominently (or a guitar made to sound like a keyboard)

Isis: Hall of the Dead https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv5t1...eature=related
Isis: Ghost Key https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv5t1...eature=related


I will be quiet excited to hear how you can get a good powerful drum sound that also leaves room for other instruments in the mix! I'm using EZDrummer and Battery. Looking forward to hearing what folks have to say!
LOVE Isis! Great band, and very unique sounding! We will definitely get to drums in depth. EZDrummer is a great tool, but there are a few things that can be done to enhance the built in sounds!

Quote:
Originally Posted by shemp View Post
question about recording so maybe it doesn't fit here but it's mix related too.

When recording (with a mic), there sometimes is a low cut switch on the mic. I can see it's handyness but I never use it because if the low is cut at the mic, it never makes it to the track (as intended). So if you wanted the lows later in mixing, it's not there. So, I don't use the low cut, I high pass on the track as needed.
When I worked on analog, it was important to not let the mud through so we cut it at the mic, but I'm not sure if this is true in a digital environment.

Please school my ignorant ass.
My opinion would be to keep the filters off on the mic, and do any filtering you need to in the DAW. You can't replace what wasn't there to begin with, but you can always cut out what you don't need.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:15 AM   #17
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As I mentioned in the opening post, all of my music is created with digital instruments, so a good portion of this post has to do with modeled guitars, keeping in mind that's what many of us are using at this point. Why not start with Drum's you say? Well, the reason is: many of us are musicians who are recording / producing our own music. Usually that process starts with a guitar riff of some sort and progresses from there. Hence, we're talking about guitars first, so deal with it homey.

Topic 1: It is what it is.

I used to sit and listen to my favorite bands and say to myself “I wish my mixes sound like that!” or, “Damn, that guitar tone is sofa king awesome – I NEED to sound like that!”. Usually this was followed up by hours upon hours of sitting in front of the computer tweaking amp simulation settings and trying different IR's, A/B'ing my tone against theirs and crying, etc., only to realize in the end that my attempt to mimic the sound I'm after is feeble, and I suck at life because I don't have a guitar loaded with EMG 81/85's, a Mesa Oversized cabinet with V30's, a Dual Rectifier, a TS9 and an SM57. When this happens, it's really discouraging. To be honest, it still happens to me to some extent, but that's the nature of creating music in a digital setting. It is what it is, so to speak. If you're recording DI guitar tracks, and reamping them through an amp modeler without a real speaker breaking up and actually moving air while you're rocking out, it's always going to sound static and digital to some degree. And even when others who aren't knowledgeable in music production hear your music and say “Damn bro, that's awesome.”, you know deep down inside that it's not as awesome as it could be, and you spend the next half an hour trying to choke back the urge to slap them. Sound familiar? As much as I hate cliché terms, it really is what it is. You're getting yourself upset because something fake doesn't sound real. That's crazy! That's like going to Burger King and getting pissed that your Whopper doesn't taste like a Big Mac. So please, do yourself a favor and stop beating yourself up over it.

For example, my favorite guitar tone 'o the day (it changes fairly often – just ask Scott and Steve from FTA) is Devin Townsend's tone from the “Addicted!” album, which TheWineDarkSea mentioned above (get the album – it's seriously killer). I can get really close using amp modelers, but the reality is: I'm not Devin, I don't have Devin's guitar, or his fingers, or his style of playing, or any of the equipment he used to record the album. And as much as I would love to record a real amp, it's not practical for my situation, because my wife would never lay me if a million decibels of apocalyptic doom were constantly pummeling the household from my mix room. The whole point I am trying to make here is; if you're new to this, that's just one thing you need to come to terms with. As much as you try to get that magic tone, you may fall short – but keep trying because the world needs you to rock, and in time you will find something you are pleased with.

Before moving into the actual guitar workflow, it's important to say that this same rule can be applied to any “software based” instrument, including drums. I know a lot of people agonize over drums (including me, quite regularly), so I would prefer to save that for another post altogether, so we can get really in depth there.

Getting your guitar tone on

There are many methods of getting your guitar tone on. There's the traditional way with a real amp, a real cabinet, and a real mic, but since I've already divulged the fact that I know nothing about that, all I can tell you is; the right mic in the right spot on the speaker will get you the results your after. Be patient! Even a 1/2 cm difference in mic angle could change your tone, so this is really all trial and error. Make sure the tone is good before you record it, and in theory it should mix itself. But the reality is, many of us are limited to using an amp modeling plugin, an impulse loader with cabinet IR.

Let me stop for a second and say this to those who do use modeled guitar amps: I don't care how people record their guitar tracks. Sound is sound. It's all relative. All that matters is the end result and whether or not that is pleasing to your ears. Just because you don't record a real amp doesn't make your mixes any less valid. I've been involved with other forums where many of the members scoff at people who use a modeled guitar amp and sampled drums. That is absolutely fine if that isn't their thing, but more often than not my response to that mentality is: it doesn't matter. You're still creating music. All that matters is the music and the end result that is achieved. It does not matter how you get the sound you get. If it sounds good, it is good, plain and simple. And besides, just like the guy that told you “Damn bro, that's awesome” that you almost killed, the majority of the folks who will listen don't care how you did it anyway. OK? Now I will get off the soapbox.

As I said above, I am going to focus on guitar amp modelers in this post. This may be obvious to most, but that's OK – the aim here is to help everyone, even those who have never done this before. That said, in order to record your guitar tracks digitally (i.e. direct recording with no amp) you need a handful of things. Obviously you need a guitar, along with an interface to capture the direct signal of the guitar, some Pepsi (optional), a VST amp modeling plugin, a VST Impulse Loader, an Impulse Response (IR) file, and an attitude to rock out with.

As far as the tone itself is concerned, there are a multitude of amp modeling plugins out there as well as a trillion and a half cabinet IR's. On FTA's last project I used a Maxon OD808 emulation made by Onqel at TSE, along with a Dual Rectifier modeler made by LePoulin called Lecto, along with a cabinet impulse I picked up a while ago from Catharsis Studios. While that worked well for us, I'm not going to get into what amp model is best – that's for you to decide. Remember in the first post we talked about genre, and the “style” of the recording? That comes into play here. If you want to record Green Day riffs (which is highly inadvisable for reasons you should already know), you probably shouldn't use an amp that is suited for modern high gain metal like a Dual Rectifier modeler. Obviously it's your call, and your musical style will dictate your sound. My point here is that there are plenty of options, and you may even find that you need multiple different amp modelers in your project to achieve your musical goals. The good news is, there are a million of them freely available (sorry Mac guys – not so many for you). And, since we're also talking about “production” here, at this point you should probably know what sound you're after. If you don't, then just stop. Seriously. Experiment until you find what you're after because, going into a recording project without any concept of what you want the final product to sound like is a waste. Of course, if you're just putting together preproduction or demo tracks, anything will do, just so long as it conveys your ideas, but; for the final product, stop and think about it for a second because you will save yourself a ton of time in the long run. Once you get knee deep into your mix, changing the guitar tone after the fact can drastically alter the entire mix, so; just a word to the wise there. And, if you have any questions on how to attain a certain tone – please, by all means post your questions and I'd me more than happy to help you.

Continued below: Wow... I never exceeded the maximum number of characters on a single post before. Wo0t!
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:16 AM   #18
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How to not suck at recording your guitars

Now that we've selected the tools, we need to discuss the technique. Here's a fact: most all, if not all modern rock and metal productions are tracked with a minimum of two rhythm guitars that are hard panned (meaning 100% of the signal) to the left and right. This is called dual tracking and it's a good technique to help you achieve width and thickness. Although, there are no limits here and I've heard metal albums where there are two individual rhythm tracks of guitars per side (for a total of four rhythm tracks – this is called quad tracking, go figure). The guitars are thicker, but in my opinion lack as much clarity you would normally achieve with just one track per side. Again, it's all up to you and what your project needs. And, because we use Reaper; we have an unlimited track count so it's not that much of a problem to add additional tracks later if you need to.

Here's an obvious hint: how you actually record the guitars (and all of the instruments for that matter) is pretty important (duh!). You need to be really mindful of timing and tempo before you even think about hitting the record button. Do yourself a favor and practice your parts vigorously until you can play them with no mistakes. If you can't do this and think you can “fix it in the mix” later, you may be in for a let down. A good performance that is on time will significantly influence the impact of your mix later. Would a power chord sound like it smacked you in the face if it was played after the beat of the kick drum – of course not, so practice. As an aside, I am not going to get into the topic of “grid wars”, or the extreme editing and tracking methods that can be done to achieve takes that are 100% deadlocked to the beat. My quick opinion on this is; it works for some songs, and doesn't for others. I don't edit my guitars after the fact – I record the takes as tightly as possible, because my amp modeled tones are digital enough. Having takes that sound like an android played them isn't appealing to me, although; the thought of owning an actual android is very appealing to me. But, there's no saying you shouldn't edit your guitars – again, it's up to you. Honestly, most of the modern productions you hear today are 100% locked to grid, and if that's your thing, then cool. By the way, if you are interested in these methods, there are good tutorials throughout the forum regarding Slip editing (Adam Wathan did an awesome job on these and explains things way better than I could), and to do “punch-in” recording, all of the options are available in the metronome menu in Reaper. Just set your cursor to where you want the recording to start, and select the appropriate number of measures you want Reaper to play before it records to your punch-in spot on the time-line.

Getting back to technique, I usually dual track my guitars. One track panned 100% to the right, and another performance panned 100% to the left. At this point I've got track templates saved that save me some time, so I don't have to recreate the folder structure, add all the effects, etc. I recommend doing this because, let's face it; who wants to waste time while you could be rocking out? My track template is really simple. One master folder that contains the two guitar track folders. That's it. The tracks are already setup the way I like them so I can simply right click, load the template and be ready to go. Once you have your track structure setup, you can start recording. I'm going to fast forward past the part where you actually record your tracks, because I'm not certain what interface you're using, and before you start you should know how to use it to get a direct signal recorded while simultaneously monitoring that signal. If you don't know how to do this, check the manual that came with your hardware while consuming the Pepsi that I told you to get in part 1.

I'm going to stop here and resume with the actual mixing portion in it's own post since that will more than likely be pretty in depth as well, and I have carpel tunnel syndrome and can't type anymore.

Cheers. Keep the posts coming.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:48 AM   #19
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question about recording so maybe it doesn't fit here but it's mix related too.

When recording (with a mic), there sometimes is a low cut switch on the mic. I can see it's handyness but I never use it because if the low is cut at the mic, it never makes it to the track (as intended). So if you wanted the lows later in mixing, it's not there. So, I don't use the low cut, I high pass on the track as needed.
When I worked on analog, it was important to not let the mud through so we cut it at the mic, but I'm not sure if this is true in a digital environment.

Please school my ignorant ass.
Excessive bass that shouldn't be there in the first place (mic handling noise, room noise etc.) can eat up your headroom, which you can solve by using less gain in the microphone preamp, which in turn leads to more noise. So if you are sure you won't need the low end (for example when recording soprano vocals you sure as hell won't need anything below 120 Hz), use that highpass. If you aren't sure, modern gear is fairly clean, so it shouldn't be a problem, except... if using any tube gear (or other gear with high THD), highpassing before is very different from highpassing afterwards, due to the distortion (and tube gear is generally a little noisier).

BTW some general rules:
To minimize noise, achieve gain as early as possibly (earliest stage, e.g. preamp), to minimize distortion, do the opposite. Since any halfway decent gear has low distortion (or you actually want the distortion), the first rule is usually more important.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:54 AM   #20
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To minimize noise, achieve gain as early as possibly (earliest stage, e.g. preamp), to minimize distortion, do the opposite. Since any halfway decent gear has low distortion (or you actually want the distortion), the first rule is usually more important.

I think I understand the difference between noise and distortion in this context, but I'd appreciate it if you could elaborate a little on what you wrote above, and why I'd want to do one vs another.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:03 PM   #21
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I think I understand the difference between noise and distortion in this context, but I'd appreciate it if you could elaborate a little on what you wrote above, and why I'd want to do one vs another.
Definitely +1
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:07 PM   #22
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Chris:
This question is on the creative side rather then mixing so ignore it if you think its irrelevant. Are there any harmonic scales specific to metal? What I mean is, are there scales that are better for coming up with a riff? say an octatonic scale is good for action music in film and sound design, or do you guys just sit and play whatever comes to mind.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:14 PM   #23
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Chris:
This question is on the creative side rather then mixing so ignore it if you think its irrelevant. Are there any harmonic scales specific to metal? What I mean is, are there scales that are better for coming up with a riff? say an octatonic scale is good for action music in film and sound design, or do you guys just sit and play whatever comes to mind.
Not just scales but modes as well. And different genres of metal revolve around different scales and modes. So technically anyone of them could be used. Shemp has proven this tenfold in his solo's for the FTA. Switching between majors and minors, lydian and dorian, pentatonic and octatonic and so on... But my personal preference is lydian. That's what I get for being a fan of Vai and Mike Patton though
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:16 PM   #24
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Chris:
This question is on the creative side rather then mixing so ignore it if you think its irrelevant. Are there any harmonic scales specific to metal? What I mean is, are there scales that are better for coming up with a riff? say an octatonic scale is good for action music in film and sound design, or do you guys just sit and play whatever comes to mind.
When I write, I usually load up a drum loop (just to keep me in time, because I can't stand playing to a metronome), and play. I honestly don't know the first thing about theory - I can't even read music! So for me, it all comes down to feel. But if you know of any helpful resources for a beginner to music theory, please share! I always imagined that a basic understanding of theory would help my compositions, but honestly, I've never had the attenion span to learn!
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:17 PM   #25
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I think I understand the difference between noise and distortion in this context, but I'd appreciate it if you could elaborate a little on what you wrote above, and why I'd want to do one vs another.
noise, as pickup hum, is unwanted and is less prevalent with a higher guitar signal (in this example, guitar). But a higher signal may overdrive the preamp, causing distortion. Sometimes, like in a tube preamp, you want distortion from the tubes. Tube distortion adds color and character to the tone (usually).
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:20 PM   #26
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I think I understand the difference between noise and distortion in this context, but I'd appreciate it if you could elaborate a little on what you wrote above, and why I'd want to do one vs another.
Ok, I'll try.

Why does high gain in an early stage decrease total noise?
Every gain stage adds noise. That is a fact you won't get around. Even digital gain will add noise due to requantization, but this is admittedly very, very, small when using floating point values. Then why not add the gain digitally? Well, every stage adds noise, and every stage after that will amplify the noise of the stages before it! Therefore the best SNR is always present at the very first input, so this is the signal you want to amplify.

Why does high gain in the late stages decrease distortion?
Every gain stage adds distortion. Sound familiar? Then why does this behave in just the opposite way from noise? Well, what happens if you amplify a distorted signal? You get a louder distorted signal, not more distortion! In general, any amplifier will produce lowest distortion at low amplitudes (Except if it is badly biased and is causing crossover distortion, but that should be the exception in any decent gear*). Notice that I said amplitudes, and not gain. Any gain before a stage will therefore increase it's distortion, so to minimize distortion you want to create your gain in the final stage of your amplification path.

When should you follow which rule? Generally, you'll always want to follow the first, because most audio amplifiers we have today are very, very linear. Any exceptions? Sure, ever tried to turn up your preamp to the max and got clipping from your AD-converter? That's this rule at work. You were adding too much gain at an early stage. But aside from extreme cases like this it shouldn't really be a problem (unless maybe you are trying to amplify two instruments through a guitar amp. It'll sound really, really bad due to the intermodulation distortion, which you could minimize by amplifying with the guitar amps poweramp and not so much the preamp. But honestly who would do such a thing?!)

*: Well, except guitar amps, where you want the distortion anyway. For example the Peavey 5150/6505 is biased very "cold" which causes high crossover distortion. Although if you are forced to play it at low volumes, this means you might want to do a bias mod
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:25 PM   #27
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Thank you Shemp and l0calh05t!
I appreciate the clarification.

Cheers.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:38 PM   #28
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Not just scales but modes as well. And different genres of metal revolve around different scales and modes. So technically anyone of them could be used. Shemp has proven this tenfold in his solo's for the FTA. Switching between majors and minors, lydian and dorian, pentatonic and octatonic and so on... But my personal preference is lydian. That's what I get for being a fan of Vai and Mike Patton though
That seems to be the predominant answer wherever I ask but none the less a good one i just wanted your take on it guys so thanks for chiming in Mr Patton



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When I write, I usually load up a drum loop (just to keep me in time, because I can't stand playing to a metronome), and play. I honestly don't know the first thing about theory - I can't even read music! So for me, it all comes down to feel. But if you know of any helpful resources for a beginner to music theory, please share! I always imagined that a basic understanding of theory would help my compositions, but honestly, I've never had the attenion span to learn!
I did have 5 years in piano lessons but everytime I walked by a classroom where a teacher was playing a peice on any guitar i just couldnt help but stand and listen in awe, something about a guitar tone thats special no matter if its acoustic or electric. I was never good at theory anyway and basically played everything by ear like you Chris but I am not a guitar player so knowing what scales and modes are usually used with metal kinda gives me the relationship between keys and strings I pretty much do what you do and just sit and play until i get a lick that i like, thanks for your input.
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Old 11-11-2010, 08:27 PM   #29
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Great thread again CC

So I was thinking that you need a sign to put on the door of the metal production studio and maybe some of the rules would be:
* Enter through the metal detector
* Park your strat outside
* Minumum level is 11
* Bart, stop pestering Satan
* Detune now
* Megawhats?
* No headroom allowed
* Pentagramic scales only


And one serious question - with most metal being highly distorted (overdrive / fuzz) - is there a place for a clear instrument in metal?
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Old 11-11-2010, 09:42 PM   #30
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As I mentioned in the opening post, all of my music is created with digital instruments, so a good portion of this post has to do with modeled guitars, keeping in mind that's what many of us are using at this point. Why not start with Drum's you say? Well, the reason is: many of us are musicians who are recording / producing our own music. Usually that process starts with a guitar riff of some sort and progresses from there. Hence, we're talking about guitars first, so deal with it homey.
That's fucking right. Great thread, CPC. Overdue.

Looking forward to your discourse on digital and modeled guitar production.

FTA sound sweet and nicely sour.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:00 AM   #31
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And one serious question - with most metal being highly distorted (overdrive / fuzz) - is there a place for a clear instrument in metal?
I would say definitely, though of course it depends on what kind of metal we're talking about. Clean guitars are quite common in a lot of progressive metal, Queensr˙che and Fates Warning being two classic examples. And getting a good clean sound is a whole topic in itself.
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Old 11-12-2010, 06:41 AM   #32
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Great thread again CC

So I was thinking that you need a sign to put on the door of the metal production studio and maybe some of the rules would be:
* Enter through the metal detector
* Park your strat outside
* Minumum level is 11
* Bart, stop pestering Satan
* Detune now
* Megawhats?
* No headroom allowed
* Pentagramic scales only


And one serious question - with most metal being highly distorted (overdrive / fuzz) - is there a place for a clear instrument in metal?
I might need to photoshop that sign for my mixing room!

And, of course there is room for clear instuments - most of my favorite material is on the slower, melodic side of the spectrum.

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Originally Posted by Marah Mag View Post
That's fucking right. Great thread, CPC. Overdue.

Looking forward to your discourse on digital and modeled guitar production.

FTA sound sweet and nicely sour.
Thank you man! I think people put a lot of emphasis on one particular part of their mix, and forget that it's a MIX, and the elements need to MIX together well. Guitars are very easy instrument to mix in my opinion, so... we should get into that for sure.

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I would say definitely, though of course it depends on what kind of metal we're talking about. Clean guitars are quite common in a lot of progressive metal, Queensr˙che and Fates Warning being two classic examples. And getting a good clean sound is a whole topic in itself.
Operation Mindcrime (the original - not OM2, which was laughable) has to be one of my all-time favorite records - everything on it sounds perfect. Such good songwriting too.
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Old 11-12-2010, 06:56 AM   #33
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As I mentioned in the opening post, all of my music is created with digital instruments, so a good portion of this post has to do with modeled guitars, keeping in mind that's what many of us are using at this point.
Presuming you are talking about "physical modeling" guitar like AAS Strum and alike, my opinion is that modeled instruments no matter if its a guitar or piano all sound like ass. I prefer sampled instruments because it captures the soul and the charecter of the instrument, I use Shreddage from Impact Sound Works, Evolution Electric Guitar from Orange Tree Samples and Direct Guitar from Pettinhouse. What I like to do is write an identical riff with Shreddage and Evolution not just by copying the midi file but actually playing both parts and then blend them together both are double tracked from the interface, that was one of the reasons I asked about scales used in metal .
I like Chimp Spanner's sound and style of playing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPS3O...eature=related
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:39 AM   #34
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Presuming you are talking about "physical modeling" guitar like AAS Strum and alike, my opinion is that modeled instruments no matter if its a guitar or piano all sound like ass. I prefer sampled instruments because it captures the soul and the charecter of the instrument, I use Shreddage from Impact Sound Works, Evolution Electric Guitar from Orange Tree Samples and Direct Guitar from Pettinhouse. What I like to do is write an identical riff with Shreddage and Evolution not just by copying the midi file but actually playing both parts and then blend them together both are double tracked from the interface, that was one of the reasons I asked about scales used in metal .
I like Chimp Spanner's sound and style of playing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPS3O...eature=related
Ahhh - gotcha. Yeah - I've not been a huge fan of sample based guitars, but I have to say, some of the things I've heard from Electri6ity (I think that's what it's called) have been really good. I was speaking more along the lines of modeled guitar amplifiers, used along side a real guitarist. But to me, all of this would apply to sample based guitars as well as a real guitar - sound is sound man - if it sounds good, it is good!

Chimp Spanner is familiar to me - I will have to check that video out!
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:57 AM   #35
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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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Old 11-12-2010, 08:15 AM   #36
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Awesome Chris. FTA mixes are always very clear & punchy, great to see the method behind the madness.

When I use a modeler I plug my gtr into an EP1 (preamp side of an Echoplex) before my interface, I imagine you can use any distortion pedal you want though. Just to help thicken the signal before it gets to the amp sim.

And why is this not a sticky?
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:17 AM   #37
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Yep has started another thread regarding digital guitars that I would recommend reading for anyone that is using modeled amplifiers.

http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=68574
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:25 AM   #38
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Awesome Chris. FTA mixes are always very clear & punchy, great to see the method behind the madness.

When I use a modeler I plug my gtr into an EP1 (preamp side of an Echoplex) before my interface, I imagine you can use any distortion pedal you want though. Just to help thicken the signal before it gets to the amp sim.

And why is this not a sticky?
Cheers man! I appreciate the compliments but I have to admit: I always think my mixes can be better, so always looking for different methods of doing things.

As far as the pre before your pre - I used to use an ART tube preamp before my interface, to get a bit of tube coloration / saturation into the signal before the signal was recorded. I stopped doing this awhile back, but was just thinking about reintroducing this into my chain so, it's funny you mention that!
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Old 11-12-2010, 09:05 AM   #39
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I'd like to add a tip for getting a good guitar tone with modeled amps and cab-IR's if I may

* Before you start EQ-ing, try other cab-IR's to get the sound you want.
I use ReaVerb for IR-loading because it allows for mousewheel-scrolling through different IR files in a folder. I get my full mix up and scroll through them until I find a color that matches the existing palette sorta-speak. Don't rely on 'that IR you used last time'. Picking a brighter sounding cab gives you a much more natural high-boost then shelving at 5K in a parametric EQ.
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Old 11-12-2010, 09:07 AM   #40
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: In a van, down by the river
Posts: 3,574
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lastrite View Post
I'd like to add a tip for getting a good guitar tone with modeled amps and cab-IR's if I may

* Before you start EQ-ing, try other cab-IR's to get the sound you want.
I use ReaVerb for IR-loading because it allows for mousewheel-scrolling through different IR files in a folder. I get my full mix up and scroll through them until I find a color that matches the existing palette sorta-speak. Don't rely on 'that IR you used last time'. Picking a brighter sounding cab gives you a much more natural high-boost then shelving at 5K in a parametric EQ.
Excellent point my friend. At this point, I have well over 100 different IR's with different cabinets / mic positions, etc. Whet works well for one project, might not for others.
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