Saturday, September 26, 2015

4 Ways to move your guitar sound towards the midrange without equalizing it

Hi everyone and welcome to this week's article!

Today we will speak about alternative ways to push our instruments, especially guitars, into their place inside of a mix without being too drastic with the eq!
The common mistake that a recording newbie does is to start with a bad sounding recorded track, and hoping to fix it in the mix with a drastic eq work, while the truth is that for example boosting strongly a midrange means recontructing digitally certain frequences, and the more we do it, the more it sounds digital and unnatural.

So, how does the pro obtain that sound? 
They surely have great microphones, great preamps, great a/d converters and so on, but most of all they nail the right sound at the source; this is a boring task, but they spend in finding the right amp settings, the right speaker to use and the right mic placement, probably more time than what they spend into shaping the guitar sound while mixing. 

1) They know by the experience how to get into the computer a sound that sounds already as much as possible "ready", and this is the first and most important method I can suggest to move a guitar sound in its place while keeping it natural and not overprocessed: to spend more time in the recording phase, trying ALL the different possibilities we have with the tool that we have, until we find a sound that we feel it can be acceptable even without processing, comparing it constantly with a reference track of our choice. 

2) The second method to emphasize the body of a guitar (but also any other instrument, like a snare or a vocal track, or cymbals) is to saturate it a bit. What do we mean a bit? Less than it becomes noticeable. Usually there is a sweet spot before it becomes too evident, in which you can add some harmonics without changing too evidently the base sound. A great saturation vst is Fabfilter Saturn.

3) A third method, which is sometimes less invasive than saturation, is harmonic excitement. A harmonic exciter add some frequency that makes the sound to pop out more, just watch out because, exactly as it happens with saturation, harmonic excitement must be added with care, avoiding it to become noticeable. A great Harmonic Exciter is the one included in the Izotope Ozone bundle.

4) A fourth and last method is to use a Console Emulation or a Channel Strip. Every piece of hardware in which we let our signal to pass through adds something and takes out something, this is obvious, and some piece of hardware is used specifically for the colour it gives to the tone.
Virtual emulators of these pieces of hardware can help us giving our tone that character that we need, without being too violent: some people just adds them in the vst slot and leaves'em there untouched, just to add their sprinkle of colour. A classic example of Console Emulation vst is Sonimus Satson, while a typical Channel Strip used to colour the sound in a nice way is Waves SSL.

Obviously these four methods will not replace completely an equalization work, but our mindset when approaching a guitar sound should be to record it as it should be perfect without any further processing, then equalizing it just to filter out the unneded-overlapping frequences (so high pass, low pass and some attenuation here and there), and finally just try to use one of these four methods in order to push the sound towards the midrange, if we feel it doesn't have a stable position in the mix yet.

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