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Mixing British indie rock guitars
Old 13th August 2009
  #1
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Mixing British indie rock guitars

I am having real trouble mixing a certain type of electric guitar sound.

I am currently mixing a band that is a typical Northern England indie type sound (Arctic Monkeys, Pigeon Detectives style) and can't get the guitars to sit nicely. It's that kind of clangy, not distorted but not clean guitar tone (think Sun Goes Down by Arctic Monkeys).

Now I know that great amps, cabs etc. are 95% of the sound and while we didn't use the best backline it wasn't too shoddy. It hasn't been badly recorded as such and have been double tracked so isn't completely polishing a turd. I am ok at mixing heavily distorted guitars or clean guitars but am really struggling with this inbetween sound.

I also know that getting something to sit nicely involves good use of eq, compression etc. and a lot of practice. I have got drum, bass, vocals sounding great but have to keep adjusting the guitars level and I know that if I'm doing this then I haven't got it right.

I mainly listen to folk and country and mix acoustic music so this is a bit of a challenge to me. I'm not looking for anything amazing, just something that will sit ok in the mix. I want to be able to bring the levels up without them sounding intrusive.

Any ideas/techniques would be much appreciated (sorry can't post samples, band haven't given permission.)

Thank you all.
Old 13th August 2009
  #2
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Colonel Blues's Avatar
I think EQ is the main way to go… I mean, try to decrease DOWN lows and highs, then sweep a bit to find the best mid to raise up, to fit nicely in the mix ! Could sound weird when solo'ed, but be brilliant in your mix ! Have a try !

Keep us informed, that could be interesting !
Old 13th August 2009
  #3
Try grouping the guitars to an Aux buss with an EQ across it.

Also put an eq across the whole mix

Then A/B with a CD that has the sound you like and tweak the track eq for the drums and vocals etc and then the guitar bus eq for the guitars until you get close.

then take a break and see what it sounds like with the eq's out..

at that stage you can either

a) go mad
b) run yourself into a wall
c) go mad + run yourself into a wall
d) perhaps see where problematic frequencies are..

Sometimes people strap eq's across groups of instruments or the whole mix to cure fundamental problems across everything.. Its not ideal, obviously... But if all the gtrs are pissing you off... give it a try?
Old 13th August 2009
  #4
Gear Addict
 

Thanks for the quick responses.

I have bussed guitars out to stereo groups and have been trying different eq's and have kind of settled on th API 550 (we are currently moving the studio so no using the onboard Ameks eq's or outboard stuff).

I think that my main problem is that it is the kind of guitar tone that I hate. I don't like the sound of bands like Arctic Monkeys guitars so this is where my problem lies but at least their's work in the mix (to an extent). Might not be a bad idea to reference against that.

Maybe A/B'ing with Merle Haggard isn't the best option.

Please keep the ideas coming all.
Old 13th August 2009
  #5
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Sorry, should mention I'm mixing ITB because the studio is currently in storage.
Old 14th August 2009
  #6
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Ok, am now using 'When the Sun Goes Down' as reference which is probably a bad idea because I think it sounds absolutely terrible! Oh well, makes my mix sound better.

Does anyone know of any other songs that have similar guitar tones that have been recorded/mixed to a higher standard than the Arctic Monkeys one?
Old 14th August 2009
  #7
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equallyscrewed's Avatar
 

Have you asked the band what they think of the arctic's sound and tone? Maybe thats what they are looking for.

One of the things that can kinda kill this new brit pop slash indie sound is over compression and EQ. A lot of the appeal is sounding like your at a gig in their local. Just keep it clear and big.

Hope that helps.
Old 14th August 2009
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by equallyscrewed View Post
Have you asked the band what they think of the arctic's sound and tone? Maybe thats what they are looking for.

One of the things that can kinda kill this new brit pop slash indie sound is over compression and EQ. A lot of the appeal is sounding like your at a gig in their local. Just keep it clear and big.

Hope that helps.
That's a very good point. I recorded/mixed some other tracks for them a few months back and they were very pleased with the results. I generally try and achieve a more vintage Pink Floyd style sound with newer rock styles when working with this type of music and luckily the band like the fact that I don't overcompress/limit elements.

Although their music is in a similar vein to these Brit rock bands, they all like Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Tom Waits etc. and so are keen on getting that vintage sound. They also make a lot of use of dynamics (which like) so I am trying to get a happy balance between live sounding but not too trashy/raw.

I have asked them to send over some reference tracks so hopefully will get a better idea.

I think this is really more for my benefit because they said that if I get these tracks to sound like the other ones I mixed then they will be very happy.
Old 14th August 2009
  #9
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ArnauTS's Avatar
 

try comparing with editors or the cinematics i think it will help you
Old 14th August 2009
  #10
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BradM's Avatar
What's wrong with just adjusting the guitar levels from section to section? If you are struggling with dynamics just ride the faders as necessary or use automation. I find this necessary with the lightly overdriven indie rock stuff I do.

Do you have a sound clip of what you are dealing with?

Brad
Old 14th August 2009
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan View Post
What's wrong with just adjusting the guitar levels from section to section? If you are struggling with dynamics just ride the faders as necessary or use automation. I find this necessary with the lightly overdriven indie rock stuff I do.

Do you have a sound clip of what you are dealing with?

Brad
It's more of a problem that they are either too loud or too quiet rather than an automation issue. This says to me that there is a problem somewhere and so I need to address it.

Sorry, I don't have permission from the clients to post a clip, however may be able to in a couple of days.

Thanks for all your comments so far.
Old 14th August 2009
  #12
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KRStudio's Avatar
 

I would use parallel compression instead of track comp.
Old 14th August 2009
  #13
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way out on a simple limb here, given we know nothing about the sound you've recorded and are working with... but this'll only take a few minutes to try... try going very light on the guitar compression -- just enough to add a bit of sustain, especially of the higher harmonics; then cut some lows to taste and boost the guitars a bit around 3300 or a little less... this is often a sweet spot for cleanish guitars that are pushing the amp into jangly saturation without big distortion... is that the sound you're going for?
Old 14th August 2009
  #14
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funny...I was gonna say for clangy guitars, try fitting them into a hole by mellowing them considerably...LOW pass at 5k and notch out 2.5 ish considerably...add 200ish...don't compress..try to saturate a little somehow...maybe add some subtle ambience or a hair of slap that's barely noticeable before saturating...just some shot in the dark ideas
Old 14th August 2009
  #15
Gear Head
 

Occasionally I find that the problem can be be build-up in the upper mids when the guitars get louder. It might be sitting OK in the quieter passages but harsh and irritating when the volume comes up. There's 2 ways of dealing with this - first you could split all the guitars into verse and chorus tracks and EQ them separately; or put a multi-band compressor on the guitar buss and just use one band set to the problematic frequency range and apply compression with a high threshold so that it only kicks in when the higher volume levels happen.

Some thoughts anyway, of things that have worked for me in the past.
Old 23rd August 2009
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
ChrisCummins's Avatar
 

Hi roadsweeper, as someone who really enjoys that 'raw' sound of When the Sun Goes Down, I think the problem might just be that you're mixing music that you clearly dislike? If you're trying to force yourself to work on a guitar sound that you think sounds tacky and naff, then no matter how good you are at making that guitar sound - it's still going to seem tacky and naff? Maybe trial your guitar sound with someone who likes that style of music?
Old 23rd August 2009
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Try pulling the guitars down in the mix. Usually when guitars are not sitting right and/or their tonality is not all that great I find that bringing them back in the mix helps create some dimension and the ears no longer focus on the guitars tone as much as the tone of the mix as a whole.
Old 1st June 2011
  #18
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jackinthebox's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by roadsweeper View Post
I am having real trouble mixing a certain type of electric guitar sound.

I am currently mixing a band that is a typical Northern England indie type sound (Arctic Monkeys, Pigeon Detectives style) and can't get the guitars to sit nicely. It's that kind of clangy, not distorted but not clean guitar tone (think Sun Goes Down by Arctic Monkeys).

Now I know that great amps, cabs etc. are 95% of the sound and while we didn't use the best backline it wasn't too shoddy. It hasn't been badly recorded as such and have been double tracked so isn't completely polishing a turd. I am ok at mixing heavily distorted guitars or clean guitars but am really struggling with this inbetween sound.

I also know that getting something to sit nicely involves good use of eq, compression etc. and a lot of practice. I have got drum, bass, vocals sounding great but have to keep adjusting the guitars level and I know that if I'm doing this then I haven't got it right.

I mainly listen to folk and country and mix acoustic music so this is a bit of a challenge to me. I'm not looking for anything amazing, just something that will sit ok in the mix. I want to be able to bring the levels up without them sounding intrusive.

Any ideas/techniques would be much appreciated (sorry can't post samples, band haven't given permission.)

Thank you all.
Mult the guitars so you have a separate track for each section of the song and treat according to what's needed for the particular sections.
Just imagine you're stepping on a stomp box to get the right level of gain, tone etc to suit the tone of the rest of the track. Like when the hihats open up you'll need more high end sometimes to compete with them.
I'm working on a kind of nineties indie rock sounding mix at the moment and i've had real trouble getting it all to fit together.
Bouncing down to stems and then treating/automating the stems seems to be working but i think the fact i have a big ol console to add saturation and transformer harmonics helps with guitar music.
You may need to treat the drums more than you'd expect for a folk track as well. Everything needs some overdrive usually to match with the distorted harmonics of the guitars i find.
Decapitator is my favourite for the this at the moment. Bit on the vocals, bass kick and snare and even adding for adding more drive to the chorus sections. Run on auxes and automated to suit the heaviness required.
All the extra drive adds to the volume of finished mix as well.
1176s on auxes are good for also adding grit to guitar really push them and bring in parralel.
Hope some of this helps.
Jack
Old 1st June 2011
  #19
I assisted on some of the 2nd Arctic Monkeys album..I think what makes a lot of their early stuff work is the arrangements more than anything. Rarely do you get both guitars chiming away (even in the heavier sections, one guitar is usually doing single notes or power chords, or maybe stabs rather than full on strumming), rarely is there more than 3 guitar parts going at once, the guitars are very separated in the stereo field (which would sound weird for some bands, but again the arrangement makes it work).

Pulling the guitars back in the mix isn't the answer - this sort of thing needs loud guitars. Pulling them back means the power is lost. The drums here aren't huge in a rock style, more spiky so you need the energy from the guitars.

Multing them out isn't a bad idea.

Don't be afraid to use detailed automation either.

And reference to the 1st or 2nd album, not the sun goes down ep which is a lot more raw.
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