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Mixing heavy distortion guitar
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FatBassPlayer
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#1
24th February 2007
Old 24th February 2007
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Mixing heavy distortion guitar

Hello again everyone.
Yesterday, I was trying to mix a heavy distortion guitar, the distortion is weak, sounds like a fart out of a tin can. Anyway, I push the fader up, but it starts to clip, so I bring it down a tad and I can't hear it anymore. And if I boost in the mid the distortion sounds even worse. And not only is it muddying things up but its taking it alot of room in the mix, and I just want it to come out of a small spot in the mix.
I was sweating left and right trying to figure out how to get the guitar to sit in the mix. And big guys like me sweat alot, even when we aren't doing much, needless to say I was drenched.
Anyway, does this happen to anyone(not the sweating but the guitar mixing)? I assume this is what mixing is about? I need a mix engineer don't I?
#2
24th February 2007
Old 24th February 2007
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You may have answered your own question with regards to a mix engineer!

Good mix engineers can perform what can only be described as sonic miracles on less than exellent recordings - it's what they're paid for!

The problem with mixing heavy guitars starts with recording them either badly or timbrally wrong for the song concerned.

Rough ideas:

The above advice is a very good starting point. Carve off the bottom end so that they don't create mud around the bass and kick. Also low pass them as much as you dare. Really arse kicking guitars seldom have much of anything over around 12k in a good rock mix. Also try putting some high mids into them to allow projection and power instead of volume. Powerful is almost always better than loud when it comes to a dense mix.

HTH.

GM
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24th February 2007
Old 24th February 2007
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if your guitar track was poorly recorded, it will never sound good. the end. no one can change that without re-recording it.
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24th February 2007
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you could also re-amp it and geek with it there...
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24th February 2007
Old 24th February 2007
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post a clip so we can hear it...............
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24th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seaneldon View Post
if your guitar track was poorly recorded, it will never sound good. the end. no one can change that without re-recording it.

Completely correct. No amount of processing is going to bring a bad guitar sound back to life. You can't reamp if it's not a clean straight signal, running a bad distortion sound through a great amp won't really be the answer (it may help a bit though, but it's a bandaid for a large wound). Heavy guitar needs great rich organic tones, with lots of depth and layered tracks.
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25th February 2007
Old 25th February 2007
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Sounds like you've got a problem with the gainstaing of your entire mix. Pull everytihng 6-10dB, then you can boost the guitars.

You'll probably hear the whole mix open up too and you won't have to pull the master fader down likke I'm guessing you are now.
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25th February 2007
Old 25th February 2007
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mix with the monitors turned up a bit, keep the faders low..as mike pointed out.

sweep the eq on the guitars until you find the sweetest frequencies...

then do a little subtractive EQ on everything but the distorted guitar, starting with a wide Q....then slowly narrow the Q until you get it just right.
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25th February 2007
Old 25th February 2007
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It was a glorious day when I serendipitously inserted the Phoenix Luster plug-in on a guitar track.

Try it and you'll what I'm talking about.
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#10
25th February 2007
Old 25th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatBassPlayer View Post
Hello again everyone.
Yesterday, I was trying to mix a heavy distortion guitar, the distortion is weak, sounds like a fart out of a tin can. Anyway, I push the fader up, but it starts to clip, so I bring it down a tad and I can't hear it anymore. And if I boost in the mid the distortion sounds even worse. And not only is it muddying things up but its taking it alot of room in the mix, and I just want it to come out of a small spot in the mix.
I was sweating left and right trying to figure out how to get the guitar to sit in the mix. And big guys like me sweat alot, even when we aren't doing much, needless to say I was drenched.
Anyway, does this happen to anyone(not the sweating but the guitar mixing)? I assume this is what mixing is about? I need a mix engineer don't I?
We could all give you a billion "tricks" but it truly sounds like the guitar were poorly tracked... you can't "fix" too much distortion.

By chance was this a Mesa head?
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26th February 2007
Old 26th February 2007
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Once again, thank you for all your help.
I used a crate amp, not the best in the world. But now I have purchased the sansamp di box that allencolins recommended in a different post, and I am using amplitube 2 which sounds just great. I don't think I'll be micing up my amp anymore, or using my pod, as I don't have to proper mic, I'm used an sm 57.
I'm sorry I can't post the distortion, as I don't have a hosting site. And yes, I tried pulling all the faders down and did the finding of a sweet sounding frequency, and it worked well.
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26th February 2007
Old 26th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gibsonlp75 View Post
you could also re-amp it and geek with it there...
Is that a shep rack in your avatar?
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26th February 2007
Old 26th February 2007
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Heavy electric guitars are a strange beast! You can boost and cut with EQ and compress the beejeezus out of them and all you will get is another guitar sound! Its because E guitar is a synthetic non acoustic sound.

I have to work quite hard to get heavy guitars to work in a mix but I have saved myself lots of time by tracking great amps and cabs and by having reference songs that really show heavy guitar sounds working in a mix. If you have a few good ones going then you will find something with the instrumentation going similar to the mix you are working on and the guitar sound of the style the band plays.

I much prefere to mic a decent amp than use an emulator.

Peace,
cortisol
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26th February 2007
Old 26th February 2007
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In my experience from watching great engineers get great guitar sounds...the sound is there before hitting PTools. after that, a little multiband compression and HP and LP filtering is really all that is needed.

Also, reamping is always used just to be safe. Reamping is key because then you can switch out amps and EQ them to fit the mix..once again getting a great sound at the source. Every time I have gotten a bad guitar sound it is because I did not properly dial the right settings up on my amp. So, I guess the moral is..learn your amp and then you will get great guitar sounds.
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3rd March 2007
Old 3rd March 2007
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FatBassPlayer. I have some questions for you

1. Can you start over with the guitar tracks somehow or are you stuck with what you've got?
2. If not, have you considered different panning techniques?
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3rd March 2007
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Here's what I do...it may work for you. First off, I track heavy guitars with 50% less distortion then you would normally use. I also track them alot lower than normal...like -10 to -15 in protools.

As far as pre-recorded tracks..here's some helpful stuff.

First off...find a good roll off point. I go as high as I can without the them getting thin...generally between 60-100 hz. Then I apply (SOMETIMES) this waves c4 patch that I got from andy sneaps forum. It doesn't work for everything...but I do find it quite useful alot. It's just compressing that pesky low mid area where you usually get the most build up of mud.

After I apply that compression (if it works) I find the next best thing is get the panning right. Don't just pan everything all the way out. Sometimes you will find that your guitars sound better about half way or +/- 50 in protools, and it'll translate better in mono.

After all this..if it doesn't sit well, I switch to a mono speaker (1 speaker!!! not 2 switched into mono) and start working on eq curves, with all the other instruments in. Generally a little boost at 80-90 hz...and a pretty good boost at 3.5k-4.8k....this is usually all I need.

Hope this helps.
Attached Thumbnails
Mixing heavy distortion guitar-c4.gif  
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3rd March 2007
Old 3rd March 2007
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about the only tricks i've ever come up with for reviving GTR tracks with any degree of regularity come from banging it thru either a chandler germanium pre (thru the DI and back) and/or off quantegy 456 and back... conversion thru a cranesong HEDD

just about anything else is throwing darts. plug-ins wont do much.. u might gain 5%
#18
3rd March 2007
Old 3rd March 2007
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Massey Tape Head anyone? I find that this plug helps beef up a guitar sound a bit. Kind of brings it out in the mix. Also I find some subtractive eq in the low frequencies can do some good. I like the vt3 for this. Maybe not for your problem though.
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3rd March 2007
Old 3rd March 2007
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+1 on the C4 trick from Andy Sneap

I work mostly with metal bands and I always use it.
Cheers
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FatBassPlayer
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#20
3rd March 2007
Old 3rd March 2007
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CFH13, thank you so much for taking the time to cut and paste that image. I don't have any wave products, though I'm looking into getting the musicians bundle. But I think i can apply something like that using a different plugin.
And to everyone else thanks also. Here is what I have so far, I'm just attaching a snippet of the tone I have so far, layered with drums. I will be putting non-cookie monster vocals in later this week.
Attached Files
File Type: mp3 HeavyMix-02.mp3 (551.0 KB, 1195 views)
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3rd March 2007
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Recording electric guitar is something that's really hard to screw up...
As someone said earlier, your entire mix is probably flawed.
You can't always "fix it in the mix".
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24th September 2012
Old 24th September 2012
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If you know what a good distorted guitar tone is supposed to sound like (coming out of an amp) here's a trick you can do. Take your crappy guitar tone recording, solo it, and play it back through one speaker of a home stereo system. (Don't use a studio monitor for this, use a home stereo... something that really colors the tone). Tweak anything and everything that you possibly can until what you hear coming from that speaker sounds as close to a guitar cab as possible. Use any plugs you can, or even the built-in EQ on the stereo itself. Spend a lot of time with it, don't be afraid to push the speaker and crank it loud. Once that's sounding decent, just record that speaker and use your new recording of it in the mix. Think of it as a way to re-amp when access to the original DI track is not possible.
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24th September 2012
Old 24th September 2012
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If you are boosting the eq somewhere on the guitar.

1) widen the q on the boost

2) Figure out what instrument it is masking.

3) Open up the eq for the instrument it is masking and for the guitar.

4) Find the eq point where the masked instrument is boosted most.

5) dip that frequency a few db with a moderate q ,within the wider boost of the guitar eq ( like an inverted resonant shelf )

Sometimes this will cure the problem with a minimum of boost cut.
Distorted guitars are infinitely maleable with eq within a mix. They may sound weird on their own but work in context.
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24th September 2012
Old 24th September 2012
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I don't think there's a one thing that fixes all. I will say I've read a lot of comments on this thread that go against what I do and what a lot of guys do. The whole low cut everything to clear up mud is not really always good ime. A lot of guys like Baressi boost at 100 and it sounds and feels good. Low cutting heavies can make the guitars sound anemic. Also the track with low gain thing isn't always good either. The gain has to be set for the feel and playability of the song. Lower gain makes notes glueing together really hard and sometimes impossible. It can also make the track not grind right.
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24th September 2012
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One thing stands out to me that you mentioned several posts up:

CRATE

You're working with a Crate amp. That's the problem, I don't even have to hear the audio, I know from firsthand.

Crates amps have some of the most SCOOPED-MIDS I've ever had the misfortune to bear witness. Super high gain, and nonexistent between 500HZ and 5kHz.

It's not inherently bad, just a very specific sound, and one that you unfortunately can do little to combat, if that's how it was recorded.

SO! My advice: you say you can't hear it in the mix, but when you turn it up it starts clipping. You say you can't boost EQ anywhere with good results.

Try reductive EQ. HPF and LPF like a sonofabitch. see where that gets you!

Good luck.

EDIT: amending my post to incorporate some of what James Lugo said, whom was posting at the same time as me. Of course hpf/lpf cautiously, but I still think its in order. Crate distortion is fizzy, murky, and has little girth or punch. Avoid compressing much, as dynamics are already squashed by the high gain dist. You want to try to maintain what dynamics are there... Lugo's idea of boosting some lows may be helpful, as long as you're using a narrow band and boosting conservatively. It can turn into a bloated mess if you're not careful!
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24th September 2012
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Resurrect 2007 thread of the day
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24th September 2012
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Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
Resurrect 2007 thread of the day
Oh crap, that's a burn. I usually catch that. I'd face palm myself but I'm on my iPhone.
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24th September 2012
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I think these threads are more useful to readers than to the OP so I don't see a problem with that.

So, just to help out people who would be in the same position as the OP here:
1. An SM57 is not only good enough, it's the standard for electric guitar cabinets. Not always the best option but not the problem here.
2. There is only 1 guitar and it's absolutely dry. Double-track that shiiiieeeeet (since it's repetitive chugga chugga you can even use some latter parts for the other side and then just repeat). It's possible to get a good heavy sound with one guitar but infinitely harder, especially on this kind of music. A smidge of delay or reverb often helps smoothing out artifacts of lesser amps or amp sims.
3. The bass is a lot worse than the guitars in that recording, gnawing away at the guitar sound with crappy resonances. On chuggy parts where the guitars and the bass are playing the same notes, you need to look at the sounds as part of the same instrument; they need to blend seamlessly, and very often the bass sound is the one at fault. Reamping, EQ'ing or multiband compressing the bass would help.
4. The recording does have a lot of low-mids/high-bass, so you need to carve those out as well.
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24th September 2012
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Post a short clip. It's the best way for someone to help you in the RIGHT direction.
It's hard to say anything right without listening to it.
It's more or less like "my snare is not sounding good, what should I do to it?"
If you have the DI send it to me and I'll reamp it so you have an idea of its potential.
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24th September 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EduardoApolonia View Post
Post a short clip. It's the best way for someone to help you in the RIGHT direction.
He did post a clip, back in '07 which is till up there.
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