Recording/Mixing Distorted Guitars

Whizzinby

Rock Star
TGF Recording Artist
Messages
3,781
Like heavy riffy stuff. How do you guys mix them and get really thick punchy mixes?

I feel like I’m ok at getting decent clean tones on my mixes, but distorted guitars just alway underwhelm me a little. Like they sound more garage demo’y than the clean stuff.

I’m generally always double or triple tracking them. After a couple mixes I realized it might be because I’m leaving them straight down the center and not panning them at all. Ive been trying now to have a unique take pushed wide on each side, then generally one up the gut. I’m doing all the basic stuff like low cuts around 100-120, and high cuts around 12000. Neutron is applying compression etc.

Anyways, just curious how you guys track or mix heavy guitars without it sounding like a garage demo.
 
Are you using different amps or the same model, Whizz? I seem to have better results when using
different amps when stacking distorted guitars.

Also, the more we stack the guitars maybe the more we need to bring the gain down, since there
is a cumulative effect and the gain can really add up and make everything kind of indistinct and
mushy.

Variations in BMT can also help so that each track is not EQ'd precisely the same.

Also, using a different guitar but the same amp model when stacking can be a useful tool.

There are plenty of other people here who know more than I so I am going to STFU for now. :LOL:
 
For the record, I didn't have much issue with your distorted tones. I would personally experiment with
high-cutting a bit lower as 12k can be in cymbal territory. :idk
 
I’m following this to hopefully pick up some tips on this subject 👍
High cuts , low cuts, mixing.
I haven’t got the ear for dialing in pretty much anything 🤷🏻
 
The only rule of thumb I follow is hard pan left and right and of course that means double tracking main rhythms.

Everything else in my workflow for guitars is “let’s try this”. EQ stuff different. A few MS of delay on one can get you a lot of mileage too.

I used to cut the balls off at 100hZ but not anymore.

CLA says guitars need a gazillion dB of high end. Seems to work for me a lot of the time. Maag EQ plugin has an air band thats just delicious. On everything.

Lastly, I got like 7000 awful guitar sounds before I got any decent ones. I had to go thru that to get my skill set down. Not sure if there is any way around that other than ask a lot of questions. Also, the sounds might be fine, its just the presentation that is off. Thats a different conversation.
 
I started writing out a bunch of BS that's pointless to read without hearing because every situation is different and I never pay attention to what frequencies I'm boosting or cutting, I just put the mouse on the treble knob and turn it up or turn the bass down. At most, I know to target oomphy bass around 80hz. I opened one of the last challenge songs I did because I had to work a little bit to get the syncopated guitars above the kick drum and bass.

Without touching any levels, I bounced down each instrument with and without EQ, as well as the mastered and un-mastered versions. You can load these into your DAW and you'll be hearing what I am, just on your own speakers.


It includes-

Guitars w/ no EQ and no master (Guitars Raw)
Guitars w/ EQ and no master
Guitars w/ EQ and master

Bass w/ no master
Bass w/master

Drums w/no parallel comp/reverb and no master (Drums Raw)
Drums w/p-comp/reverb and no master
Drums w all that sh*t

This way you can hear what each process does and how they all add up in the end. And you'll get to hear how f*ckin' sloppy my tracks actually are. :rofl

This is what the mixer in Logic looks like for this one-
Screen Shot 2023-03-16 at 9.07.37 PM.png


You can get an idea of the levels I get everything at by looking at the waveforms and referencing with the mixer.
Screen Shot 2023-03-16 at 9.26.10 PM.png


Not a whole lot of EQ going on the guitars-
Screen Shot 2023-03-16 at 9.08.17 PM.png


I boosted a little 1K and some smoothing out of the top end with the lo pass.

The mastering plug-in is doing a lot of heavy lifting on this. I think this is the lowest gain staging I've ever used in a song and the most amount of work I let a plug-in do, but it's a really killer plug-in.

Screen Shot 2023-03-16 at 9.08.36 PM.png


It's not a perfect/magical mix, more just an example of how I go about it and how sh*tty your tracks can sound but still sound ok when everything's playing together. :LOL:
 
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I started writing out a bunch of BS that's pointless to read without hearing because every situation is different and I never pay attention to what frequencies I'm boosting or cutting, I just put the mouse on the treble knob and turn it up or turn the bass down. At most, I know to target oomphy bass around 80hz. I opened one of the last challenge songs I did because I had to work a little bit to get the syncopated guitars above the kick drum and bass.

Without touching any levels, I bounced down each instrument with and without EQ, as well as the mastered and un-mastered versions. You can load these into your DAW and you'll be hearing what I am, just on your own speakers.


It includes-

Guitars w/ no EQ and no master (Guitars Raw)
Guitars w/ EQ and no master
Guitars w/ EQ and master

Bass w/ no master
Bass w/master

Drums w/no parallel comp/reverb and no master (Drums Raw)
Drums w/p-comp/reverb and no master
Drums w all that sh*t

This way you can hear what each process does and how they all add up in the end. And you'll get to hear how f*ckin' sloppy my tracks actually are. :rofl

This is what the mixer in Logic looks like for this one-
View attachment 5337

You can get an idea of the levels I get everything at by looking at the waveforms and referencing with the mixer.
View attachment 5338

Not a whole lot of EQ going on the guitars-
View attachment 5339

I boosted a little 1K, cut out some lower mids and smoothing out the top end with the lo pass.

The mastering plug-in is doing a lot of heavy lifting on this. I think this is the lowest gain staging I've ever used in a song and the most amount of work I let a plug-in do, but it's a really killer plug-in.

View attachment 5340

It's not a perfect/magical mix, more just an example of how I go about it and how sh*tty your tracks can sound but still sound ok when everything's playing together. :LOL:
Thanks Drew!

That’s an awesome breakdown and comparison. Very helpful.
 
I started writing out a bunch of BS that's pointless to read without hearing because every situation is different and I never pay attention to what frequencies I'm boosting or cutting, I just put the mouse on the treble knob and turn it up or turn the bass down. At most, I know to target oomphy bass around 80hz. I opened one of the last challenge songs I did because I had to work a little bit to get the syncopated guitars above the kick drum and bass.

Without touching any levels, I bounced down each instrument with and without EQ, as well as the mastered and un-mastered versions. You can load these into your DAW and you'll be hearing what I am, just on your own speakers.


It includes-

Guitars w/ no EQ and no master (Guitars Raw)
Guitars w/ EQ and no master
Guitars w/ EQ and master

Bass w/ no master
Bass w/master

Drums w/no parallel comp/reverb and no master (Drums Raw)
Drums w/p-comp/reverb and no master
Drums w all that sh*t

This way you can hear what each process does and how they all add up in the end. And you'll get to hear how f*ckin' sloppy my tracks actually are. :rofl

This is what the mixer in Logic looks like for this one-
View attachment 5337

You can get an idea of the levels I get everything at by looking at the waveforms and referencing with the mixer.
View attachment 5338

Not a whole lot of EQ going on the guitars-
View attachment 5339

I boosted a little 1K, cut out some lower mids and smoothing out the top end with the lo pass.

The mastering plug-in is doing a lot of heavy lifting on this. I think this is the lowest gain staging I've ever used in a song and the most amount of work I let a plug-in do, but it's a really killer plug-in.

View attachment 5340

It's not a perfect/magical mix, more just an example of how I go about it and how sh*tty your tracks can sound but still sound ok when everything's playing together. :LOL:

Great breakdown. I’m going to look at those files tomorrow and digest what you have going on. Thanks.



I think I might have figured out a part of this Hardy Boy mystery. I was wondering why my panning never seemed to produce notable effect. I nosed around and noticed….

I have the Logic input set to stereo and my plug-in set to mono. :facepalm So when I started soloing tracks and panning, I’d only get audio on the left. Apparently setting the input in the Logic track to mono and then the plug-in to stereo, I can then get tracks to pan hard right, not just left. I think every track I’ve done so far with panning has been creating a dead space to the right of the stereo field :bag (Which was being hidden somewhat by the fact I haven’t done extreme hard panning and had been leaving one track straight up the gut) The only stereo imaging I was getting was with the Width control in Neutron.
 
I really need to revisit that Masterdesk plugin. I could never get what I was going for out of it but haven’t invested much time.
 
best advice I can give is:

- try to get the tone recorded as close to how you envisage it in the mix. don’t rely on eq or heavy processing, spend the time dialling it in and finding the best mic position.

- try not to listen to the guitars too loud or in solo. use the fader as much as possible, find the right level and get a feel if any areas aren’t coming through (or are getting in the way).

- for guitars with more distortion, I prefer EQ boosts to be a wide Q. Listen in context and at different volumes. If you listen loud and in isolation, things will bother you that won’t matter in the context of a mix. Often they’ll be tracked too dark, so a small boost at 10k or 12k is a good place to start if that’s the case. Cuts I prefer narrower Q, and as little as you can get away with. Usually never more than 2 notches, and hopefully 3-5dB is plenty to deal with it. Doing this in context rather than isolation will mean you don't go overboard. Linear Phase EQ sounds bad to me - you get preringing artefacts. A good minimum phase EQ is ideal, even better if it is frequency and phase decramped.

- Filtering is common, again just listen in context and decide. In isolation you may filter differently to in the context of a mix. 12 or 18dB/Octave . Occaisonally Ill use 24dB but the steeper you go, the more phase rotation. I don't always use them though - its more important to listen and decide.

- don’t add processing because you think you should. listen to what the song and mix needs. If you find yourself doing drastic moves, either undo your processing and try again or reamp.

- trust your room and monitoring set up. if your monitoring conditions aren’t good, you’ll essentially be EQing your room response so they sound good in that environment but worse everywhere else. Check at different volumes, different speakers, headphones and try and make sure they feel about the same for all of them.

- listen to mix references regularly to refresh your ears. don’t copy tones too close (what’s the point) but keep a vague memory in your head of how bright/dark/bassy familiar tones are so you have a gauge of where yours is. Don’t listen too loud for too long, take breaks and try not to tire your ears.

- Less is more. By far the biggest mistake from less experienced engineers is to over process things that don’t need it. So often when I get sent sessions to mix. i’ll remove plugins and things sound better. most of the time just a little EQ and adjusting volume is all distorted guitars need. Don’t process because you feel like you have to
 
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Great breakdown. I’m going to look at those files tomorrow and digest what you have going on. Thanks.



I think I might have figured out a part of this Hardy Boy mystery. I was wondering why my panning never seemed to produce notable effect. I nosed around and noticed….

I have the Logic input set to stereo and my plug-in set to mono. :facepalm So when I started soloing tracks and panning, I’d only get audio on the left. Apparently setting the input in the Logic track to mono and then the plug-in to stereo, I can then get tracks to pan hard right, not just left. I think every track I’ve done so far with panning has been creating a dead space to the right of the stereo field :bag (Which was being hidden somewhat by the fact I haven’t done extreme hard panning and had been leaving one track straight up the gut) The only stereo imaging I was getting was with the Width control in Neutron.

Hahahah it happens, man!

I still mess myself up when sending a bunch of tracks to a bus by not making the bus stereo. Or with that Ryche-ish tune I did for a challenge, didn't even realize I had 3 guitars panned right and 1 left when I bounced it down and had the clean guitars muted....so easy to not catch one little thing!
 
Great breakdown. I’m going to look at those files tomorrow and digest what you have going on. Thanks.



I think I might have figured out a part of this Hardy Boy mystery. I was wondering why my panning never seemed to produce notable effect. I nosed around and noticed….

I have the Logic input set to stereo and my plug-in set to mono. :facepalm So when I started soloing tracks and panning, I’d only get audio on the left. Apparently setting the input in the Logic track to mono and then the plug-in to stereo, I can then get tracks to pan hard right, not just left. I think every track I’ve done so far with panning has been creating a dead space to the right of the stereo field :bag (Which was being hidden somewhat by the fact I haven’t done extreme hard panning and had been leaving one track straight up the gut) The only stereo imaging I was getting was with the Width control in Neutron.
Hey Whizzinby, when I listened to your Fumble Dick submission (which is great by the way) it did feel to me like the guitars were straight up the middle and it might just be me but I thought your bass was coming from the left? It sounds like you've solved your panning issues so it'll be cool to hear whatever you next post! :rawk

An eq trick I picked up from Nolly was doing a cut around 350Hz is a great way to cut out some of the muffled/muddy tone with distorted guitars as long as it's not overdone.

Good luck with improving your mixes, when little bits start to click in your head you do notice the difference 😁
 
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