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Getting a thick guitar tone.
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Saturday00
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14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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Getting a thick guitar tone.

As a somewhat young engineer, my biggest problem right now is really getting the best guitar tone. This usually only happens when I'm recording metal-ish bands, though. I normally quad-track guitars and pan them 100% and 45% to get a fuller sound but I can meet really get a good tone to start with. I've tried artificial amp sims (pod farm 2.5, guitar rig 4, amplitube) and miking live amps (line 6 combo with a shure sm57), but I still cannot get the tone I'm wanting. Any suggestions?
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14th December 2011
Old 14th December 2011
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Skip the sims, record an amp, turn down the treble pot, many push it too far up. On many tube amp tone stacks, the mids and low end drop out some if the treble control is pushed up too far past 8 or so. I set my amps with the mids on 10, bass on 3, treble on 4 or 5.
Fat city.
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14th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Skip the sims, record an amp, turn down the treble pot, many push it too far up. On many tube amp tone stacks, the mids and low end drop out some if the treble control is pushed up too far past 8 or so. I set my amps with the mids on 10, bass on 3, treble on 4 or 5.
Fat city.
LOL.. you probably would not do that with my Marshall...

also I have noticed that there is less distortion if the mids are up (in general) and that an amp sounds cleaner thru a mic than it does in the room..

get as good a sound out of the amp without it getting 'flabby' or compressed and then put a little unboosted overdrive in front of it to give it a little more 'hair' but still stay tight

also do not get the amp sounding overly compressed... recording shows this off more than 'live in room' lots of players think 'more is more' and it is not always the case
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14th December 2011
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- Get the sound right at the amp first. At ear level, not down by the player's knees, 'cos that's what the mic will be hearing, too.
- A lot of the FAT on metal records comes from the bass, not the guitars.
- read this!
- real amp sounds are easier to mold than amp sims once they've been recorded. Zombies may look a lot like real people, but are actually pretty single-minded.
- also read this.
- Work with what ya got, don't worry about the "right" equipment. Once you've got the chops, it's amazing how little gear matters. But: once you know what to listen for, it's amazing how much influence gear can have.
- keep learning.
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Saturday00
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14th December 2011
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Thanks guys! The help is really appreciated, I've heard all of these suggestions before (and even tried a few) but there's some new info here I'll try. Let's keep the input coming!
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14th December 2011
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Had a line 6 before and didn't like it at all. Would not cut through whatever I did with it. Great beefy tone will come from tube amps with balls, not digital emulation...

The sm57 is more than enough for this task. It's proven itself many times. However, when it's paired with a royer 121, it really sounds thicker. That might be an option, but I'd invest in a better amp before buying a 1200$ microphone. Just my opinion...

Once you get a better amp, moving the sm57 around will probably satisfy you.
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14th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
- Get the sound right at the amp first. At ear level, not down by the player's knees, 'cos that's what the mic will be hearing, too.
- A lot of the FAT on metal records comes from the bass, not the guitars.
- read this!
- real amp sounds are easier to mold than amp sims once they've been recorded. Zombies may look a lot like real people, but are actually pretty single-minded.
- also read this.
- Work with what ya got, don't worry about the "right" equipment. Once you've got the chops, it's amazing how little gear matters. But: once you know what to listen for, it's amazing how much influence gear can have.
- keep learning.
Thanks man.
I know in the mix the bass is what gives that real "fat" sound. My main problem is getting a good tone that doesn't sound washed out or weak.
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14th December 2011
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get a good high quality amp with low wattage (25-50 watts) and overdrive the hell out of it

also what i found worked really well for my own tones is a contact mic on the back of a cabinet mixed with a close front mic and a room mic

then you can also layer parts etc
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14th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
- Get the sound right at the amp first. At ear level, not down by the player's knees, 'cos that's what the mic will be hearing, too.
- A lot of the FAT on metal records comes from the bass, not the guitars.
- read this!
- real amp sounds are easier to mold than amp sims once they've been recorded. Zombies may look a lot like real people, but are actually pretty single-minded.
- also read this.
- Work with what ya got, don't worry about the "right" equipment. Once you've got the chops, it's amazing how little gear matters. But: once you know what to listen for, it's amazing how much influence gear can have.
- keep learning.

whoa nice links
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14th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturday00 View Post
As a somewhat young engineer, my biggest problem right now is really getting the best guitar tone. This usually only happens when I'm recording metal-ish bands, though. I normally quad-track guitars and pan them 100% and 45% to get a fuller sound but I can meet really get a good tone to start with. I've tried artificial amp sims (pod farm 2.5, guitar rig 4, amplitube) and miking live amps (line 6 combo with a shure sm57), but I still cannot get the tone I'm wanting. Any suggestions?
What are your hardware/amp/pluggin' options? It's ideal to have a variety of pedals and amps ect but costly I realize that may not always be realistic. Look into getting a nice pluggin pack something from waves or native instruments can't loose. Also have you considered your mic? a u87 which retails around 3500-3000 is amazing and dark perfect for guitars you can rent one and try it out. Hope this helps. xoxox
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14th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturday00 View Post
As a somewhat young engineer, my biggest problem right now is really getting the best guitar tone. This usually only happens when I'm recording metal-ish bands, though. I normally quad-track guitars and pan them 100% and 45% to get a fuller sound but I can meet really get a good tone to start with. I've tried artificial amp sims (pod farm 2.5, guitar rig 4, amplitube) and miking live amps (line 6 combo with a shure sm57), but I still cannot get the tone I'm wanting. Any suggestions?
Maybe quad tracking isn't the way to go. Phase issues can make you sound thin. I'll also second the advice that amp moddelers and digital amps are part of the problem here. Maybe dual mic the cab -- one 57 straight at the center of the cone and another 57 as close to the first as possible (to avoid phase issues) and at a 45 degree angle. That should let you mix a bright and a dark tone together to taste.
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14th December 2011
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As far as hardware/amps, I typically use the players amp (usually peavey, Marshall, line 6, vox). Mic choice is between a sennheiser, sm57, sterling audio st51 condenser. I use a Yamaha AW1600 audio station in conjunction with Cubase.
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15th December 2011
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there are three main things that really dictate the sound you get when recording guitars. Unfortunately these things are usually out of your control as the sound engineer.

They are (in order of importance):
  1. technique of the player
  2. Guitar used
  3. Amp and Speaker Cabinet used

Pretty much everything else is minimal. For example, what mic/preamp combo can make a fender strat through a fender twin 2x12 combo amp sound like a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier through a rectifier 4x12? Answer... none.

If you are looking for heavier tones, you have to find amps that give you those tones. A line 6 amp (i've recorded them before) is not going to cut it.

Also, you can have an amazing amp and guitar, but if the guitarist isn't that good, the sloppiness of the playing will ruin the tone. It's hard to realize this until you start recording some phenomenal players and you suddenly realize "wait what am I doing different, this sounds amazing." And the only thing different is the player. Even when recording direct with something like bass the player makes a huge difference in the tone.

Anyway... once you get those things in check... then a lot of these other suggestions people are making will help. One big one, turn the gain down a little more than you would think. When double/quad tracking guitars, if you set the distortion where you like it for ONE guitar pass, by the time you stack it and combine them all, it will be mush. Dialing back the gain/distortion a little from where you like it, then do your passes, yields the best results most of the time...

multiple mics are also usually a good choice. You have to make sure they are all phase aligned. Do do this, make sure they are all the EXACT same distance from the cabinet. When you combine them and blend them, you get a thicker, beefier sound. Using different mics to highlight different characteristics can be a good choice. Use a kick drum mic or ribbon mic to capture the low mids and bass, and a 57 or MD421 to capture the mids and high mids. Something like a U87 or any vocal condensor mic will get a lot of the top end that the other mics dont. blend to taste.

Also realize that treble comes from the center of a speaker cone, bass comes from the edge. Moving a mic closer to the center of the cone makes it brighter, moving it closer to the edge makes it darker. using a kick drum mic for bottom end works better when placed on the outer edge of the speaker cone than dead center, for example...

speaker cones are not uniform in freq response until you get out PAST the distance equal to the diameter (a 12" speaker would be 12" out... and so on). That means, as you move the mic around in front of the speaker within that distance three dimensionally (in, out, up, down, left, right), you'll find pockets of accentuated mids, pockets of highs, pockets of lows, etc. all sorts of phase shifting and phase interference is going on in front of the speaker causing all kinds of comb filtering. some of that comb filtering can be pleasing tones, others can be unpleasant. Moving the mic 1" in any direction (including in and out) can dramatically change the sound you are getting. so experiment...
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15th December 2011
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Use thicker strings. Use PURE NICKEL strings, not nickel wound steel or stainless steel, it gives a more accurate tighter sound once the amp's all distorting. Turn guitar's treble knob all the way up. Let shimmering distortion come from the amp, not from overly bright strings full of excessive harmonic overtones.

With thick pure nickel strings, tune down to E flat and instead of F G Am play E G flat A flat minor


9 gauge strings, with the most expensive amazing equipment on earth, will not give thick tone.

You need 11 gauge pure nickel strings, and turn the tone knob all the way up on the guitar.
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15th December 2011
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Try just using a doubled gtr track for heavy stuff instead of 4- the 45% panning will probably start making things sound squishy, so you can just turn up the doubled guitar instead. then it sounds louder cause it is. try using a low pass filter around 8k also.

i used to use the line 6 spyder II or something when i was like 17 doing stuff. try using the xtreme setting or something- i'm sure your line 6 has higain stuff on it. I don't remember that amp sounding absolutely terrible either.

if you have too much fizzy fatigue coming thru try tilting the 57 a little.
if that doesn't work try the audix i5
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15th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recorder2 View Post
9 gauge strings, with the most expensive amazing equipment on earth, will not give thick tone.

You need 11 gauge pure nickel strings, and turn the tone knob all the way up on the guitar.
I've been disproving that for 40 years now. 9's on Telecasters, Fat City.

It's more about the player than anything else. They know how to extract good tone and set their gear up.
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15th December 2011
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Myth busted
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recorder2 View Post
Use thicker strings. Use PURE NICKEL strings, not nickel wound steel or stainless steel, it gives a more accurate tighter sound once the amp's all distorting. Turn guitar's treble knob all the way up. Let shimmering distortion come from the amp, not from overly bright strings full of excessive harmonic overtones.

With thick pure nickel strings, tune down to E flat and instead of F G Am play E G flat A flat minor


9 gauge strings, with the most expensive amazing equipment on earth, will not give thick tone.

You need 11 gauge pure nickel strings, and turn the tone knob all the way up on the guitar.
Very good advice.

I will add that you can get a very thick tone with 10's. I use to gig with 10's and 11's and sometimes even 12's. The dif between 9's and 10s is much bigger than the dif tween 10's to 11's... as far as tone and staying in tune is concerned.

Yes, 10's can be very thick. It helps that I always play thru the neck pu on a 58 Les Paul Special (Seymour Duncan humbucker) thru a 58 Deluxe with the tone on 3. Still plenty of treble. Super deep creamy tone with distortion to die for.

Also, many of the multi fx units do a lot of neat stuff but sound like shite. Be very discerning with your fx.

- Cheers
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15th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturday00 View Post
As a somewhat young engineer, my biggest problem right now is really getting the best guitar tone. This usually only happens when I'm recording metal-ish bands, though. I normally quad-track guitars and pan them 100% and 45% to get a fuller sound but I can meet really get a good tone to start with. I've tried artificial amp sims (pod farm 2.5, guitar rig 4, amplitube) and miking live amps (line 6 combo with a shure sm57), but I still cannot get the tone I'm wanting. Any suggestions?
I was at the PRS factory recently. The visiting recording engineer says his best tones come from two SM57s at a 45 degree angle, with both aimed at the 'sweet spot' somewhere right of the cone.

And as everyone else has said, the Line 6 just won't do it. You need a real tube amp and a speaker cab with high quality speakers. Most folks use Vintage 30s, including me, but I've used many others as well. A tube mic preamp would help too; you would not need to double track anything if you had a good tube pre.
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15th December 2011
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I would still need to doubletrack if I want a fat wide stereo guitar sound??? Even if I had all the tube mics and preamps in the world....
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i never found string gauge making a big difference in thickness of my sound

it's all in the players hands imho , to me picking technique versus left hand would be the thing to look at not heavier gauge strings
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x2

i would always track a fat double- if you can get a tight double and vary up the setup on both sides just a little it will sound enormous.

use two different guitars if you can- i like to use a prs on one side and a tele or sg on the other side. then both sides have different aspects that pop.

also two heads helps through the same cab/mic chain. then it's still uniform but you can get a different tone with each head and have less variables.

i'd take that over a single gtr for main tracks 10 times out of 10.

if bands give me a session to mix with only one track sometimes i will double track it myself. lol woops.
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1st May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _Ludovico View Post
Had a line 6 before and didn't like it at all. Would not cut through whatever I did with it.
Older post, but WHAT? A Line 6 Spyder Valve is freaking amazing. Our band bought one and brought it to my house for testing. We plugged it up, pulled up a preset, recorded this clip, and was thoroughly pleased with it's grit and balls right out of the chute. Below is the clip I mentioned, we ran this amp into a 60 Marshall Cab. The cab was sitting in my concrete basement with a 57 stuck in front of it, without doing a cone sweep, just stuck on the center on axis. Amazing tone I think. No EQ, no tools, just raw sound sitting in basement.

https://soundcloud.com/melodicwavepr...4-18-13-little
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Quote:
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Older post, but WHAT? A Line 6 Spyder Valve is freaking amazing. Our band bought one and brought it to my house for testing. We plugged it up, pulled up a preset, recorded this clip, and was thoroughly pleased with it's grit and balls right out of the chute. Below is the clip I mentioned, we ran this amp into a 60 Marshall Cab. The cab was sitting in my concrete basement with a 57 stuck in front of it, without doing a cone sweep, just stuck on the center on axis. Amazing tone I think. No EQ, no tools, just raw sound sitting in basement.

https://soundcloud.com/melodicwavepr...4-18-13-little
Disagree. This clip helps justify my distaste for Line 6. How long until the mods move this out of high end? My guess, 15 minutes.
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1st May 2013
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?

Quote:
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Disagree. This clip helps justify my distaste for Line 6. How long until the mods move this out of high end? My guess, 15 minutes.
No problem, what amps do you like? Let me guess..... Bogner..... Two Rock.....
INGL..... Amps no one can afford? Typical.
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No problem, what amps do you like? Let me guess..... Bogner..... Two Rock.....
INGL..... Amps no one can afford? Typical.
High end isn't about affordable. I love a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30 or a Soldano SLO100.

If you want affordable, the Rivera M60/100 is killer.
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1st May 2013
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Disagree. This clip helps justify my distaste for Line 6. How long until the mods move this out of high end? My guess, 15 minutes.
Less than 12 minutes!
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1st May 2013
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Interesting

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcoutu1 View Post
High end isn't about affordable. I love a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30 or a Soldano SLO100.

If you want affordable, the Rivera M60/100 is killer.
Interesting you mentioned Rivera, I had researched an older one, I think it was an M100, can't remember, but it offered many control knobs for sculpturing the sound, always wondered if they gave a quaity sound. They look well built, and very heavy if I remember correctly.
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One of the best things you can do for yourself is to make sure that you aren't over distorting the guitars from the get go. A lot of guitarists like playing with some very heavy distortion. All this will do is make the notes indistinguishable. Get a good volume on the guitars, some crunch but not overdriven to the point where is just a wash, record each part at least 2 times panning to your taste, and add some compression to keep the guitar parts cohesive and not out of control.
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It's always amusing to me how folks wax philosophical and metaphysical when they discuss guitar tone. It CAN be that deep, if that's the way you want to think of it. But it's not NECESSARILY that deep, if one uses one's ears and some basic reasoning.

"Thick" is usually low to low mid frequency information. So, according to the OP's subject as I interpret it, the goal is to skillfully accentuate the low mid frequency content of an electric guitar recording.

In my experience the key to getting a great electric guitar sound boils down to a few strategies.

-FEWER clones, or maybe (depending on context) NONE at all (even if they're not copy and paste clones).
Clones can facilitate phase cancellation. Also, the more clones you have the more you use up your available audible bandwidth real estate. All that stuff has to go somewhere, and it's harder to put it somewhere when you have so much of it.

-Instead of clones, try arranging parts that are layered with different CHORD VOICING.
You can easily arrange a piece that has the lower frequency stuff voiced differently than, and excluding what's played on the higher strings. Work with layering arrangements according to voicing and then try dialing in your guitar and amp settings so that they compliment the voicing and the overall arrangement you're interested in. It goes very far when done well.

-Use a simple guitar to amplifier rig.
The more crap you have to send your signal through, the more work you'll need to get everything to play nicely together. That extended amount of work can create a situation where you get lost in your balancing of parameters and your tone can suffer from that. That situation also makes it difficult for you to track down the culprit of a bad tone, because so many elements are happening at the same time.

-Use the "right" microphones.
OMG this is so important. One of the most significant mistakes I see all kinds of folks making is throwing on microphones that other people have recommended. But a funny thing happens when you just set up your instruments in your location, track while swapping various mics in and out of the same spot, and then playback your work over reliable monitoring. The funny thing is that you start to notice the differences between mics. The other funny thing (that I've found) is that you start to develop your own preferences for what works towards your sonic goals, and it's not always consistent with the popular opinions on the subject.

I've found, for example, that aurally neutral, omni-directional SDCs work REALLY well for getting an excellent recorded sound from an electric guitar cab (provided they're placed well), in many contexts. I've also found that for a certain sound SM57s are about all I need (again depending on context). But between SDCs and 57s I don't want for much else. That's not me being in anyway an iconoclast. But I've just found that a lot of other mic sounds are just not the thing I'm looking for in the end. It's important to use the "right" mic. That can only be decided through thorough auditioning.

Finally,
Move the freakin' mics.
They don't always sound right in the default position, so move them, listen to the playback over great monitoring, and move them again until it's right.
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