Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to record and mix clean guitar (with free Vst Plugins)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're back with our mixing tutorials, and we'll see how to record and mix a clean guitar.
There are many ways to record a clean guitar, and many definitions of a "clean" tone, for example we could define "clean" the sound of an acoustic guitar (click here for a tutorial about how to mix an acoustic guitar), but today we will focus on how to how to mix a clean tone from an electric one.

First off let's say that we can track a clean guitar tone both Microphoning an amp (click here for a tutorial about how to mic an amp) or going straight to the audio interface, and we can do this directly from the guitar to the interface, or we can go from the line out of an amplifier, so that we can use the preamp sound, to the send of the audio interface, bypassing the interface preamp.

If we're going straight to the audio interface, the idea is to record on a stereo track if our clean guitar track will not be double tracked and it will be set dead center;
if we are recording two different takes instead, one to be played on the left side and one on the right one, we should use two mono tracks.
Plus, if we're going straight from the guitar to the interface, we should use a Vst Amp simulator, for example the free Ignite NRR-1, which has a beautiful clean channel, and then we can choose wether to use a cabinet simulator or not: unlike what happens with distorted guitars, for clean guitars a cabinet simulator is not mandatory, the same way is not mandatory for D.I. Bass.

Once we have tracked a good tone (the better it is at the source, the less we will have to process it later), we can add some stereo widening (if we have recorded a single track in stereo), to make it sound a bit more large in the soundscape, then is time to use some equalization: the idea is to use a high pass filter, not too invasive, to get rid of the unnecessary lows (for example we can roll off from 60-to 100hz), then we can add some snap around 2500hz and sometimes, if needed, some "air" in the 7,5-12khz area.
Remember, though, that if a correction can be done with the real or virtual amp controls, is better to fix it that way instead of using the vst equalizer: the sound will mantain its realism much more.
Next step: Compression.
The settings of the compressor vary according to the music genre we're mixing: if we're mixing a song with just few notes resonating we won't need a lot of compression, a 2:1 to 4:1 ratio should do the trick, but if we're mixing fast strumming music, such as funky, the levels must be kept even all the time, so we can go up to a 12:1 ratio to keep the performance stable.
Last link of the chain: Reverb.
As for all effects, we should use them with taste, otherwise we would screw up all the work done until now.
The reverb should have a short tail, and we should carefully set the "wet/dry" ratio, in order to give weight and space to the sound without making it drown on it.

If needed, clean guitar accepts processing with modulation effects very well, so we can use a bit of Chorus to add a vibe similar to Metallica or Pink Floyd classic clean sound, a Delay to obtain a U2 sounding guitar, some Tremolo to add a bit of western mood, and so on.


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