The Tone Testing Thread V2
Welcome to the new and improved tone thread!
The first couple of posts will be guides written by yours truly, with guest columns by Bostonrocks and Jaekae which will attempt to explain the most common issues we ran into in the old thread.
The purpose of this thread is to give information regarding tone, and to help you get better guitar tone. Feel free to post here with recordings of your tone for others to comment on. Everyone is welcome to post clips, and everyone is welcome to offer their (constructive) opinion on the clips.
You can also post if you have questions or suggestions regarding the guides. I wrote and proofread them all, but if a mistake slipped in please let me know. None of these guides should be considered final, if you have useful information or a guide of your own let me know, and I'll add it in.
original tone thread:
What do you mean by low-end? I know what low end means but not in terms of tone.
The lower frequencies of the guitar sound, they give the sound "oomph". For the specific frequencies in question check the guide on EQing.
How do you quad track?
You record a certain riff or song four times, as best you can. I personally tend to use both a drumline and a clicktrack to make sure I stay in time. After making sure all four are very tightly played and in time you pan them to the left and right. A common panning option is 100/80 80/100. Keep in mind though that gain is cumulative, so when you overlay several tracks like in quad tracking you will want to record with less gain. For a more in depth guide check the panning section.
All of those were double tracked. Meaning I record once, add a new track, copy first, paste into second and add (x) number of milliseconds to 2nd track. Then I pan one Left and pan one Right.
This is wrong. Simply copying and pasting with a + # of ms. will not give you the desired effect. In fact, overdo it and it'll sound like a chorus or even an audible delay. Double tracking is recording something twice, then panning the two tracks. For a more in depth guide check the panning section.
I placed my mic right in the middle of the room, why do I sound muffled and distant?
Because you placed the mic right in the middle of the room. The mic should be very close to the grill aimed at a specific point on the speaker.
Don't wanna rain on anyone's parade, but how does this thread support the idea of "tone is subjective"?
Tone is subjective, and different people will like different setups. All advice offered in this thread is opinion, which you can accept or ignore. People come in here asking for opinions, not facts. That said, I do like to think there is a general ballpark of EQing that works, Micing that works, etc. We'll get you in the right ballpark, and you can take it from there.
I'm a total noob when it comes to making clips. I got Shure mics. What do I need to make clips?
Ignoring the obvious such as a guitar, amp etc. You will need an interface to connect the mics to the computer. You'll also need a recording program such as audacity or a DAW such as Reaper to record the clips.
How does analyzing my EQ help? How would I figure out what I'm doing wrong? Do I compare it to the original song?
There are several ways to compare EQing. Pretty much everyone will start out by using their ears to spot any differences between what you have, and what you want. However, spectrum analysers will give you a visual representation of your EQing, and the comparison material EQing. You can use this to see differences, instead of hearing them. Sometimes you can hear your sound is more "fuzzy" than what you want. Visually comparing the EQ curves will help you spot the specific frequencies to blame. Other programs such as CurveEQ can even function as an equalizer, and correct the differences.
What software are you guys using for post-EQ'ing?
I use reaEQ which came with my DAW for my EQing. This is a multiband parametric equalizer with graph representation. Any graphic equalizer should do though. ReaEQ is a VST plugin.
Are pickups that noticeable to tone? I'm wondering if swapping out the stock pickups in my guitar would really make that much of a difference, or if I should save my money for some pedals instead.
Yes, pickups are very important for tone. Crappy pickups will sound muddy, thin and undefined. Good pickups will give you clarity growl and cut. However, if you already have good pickups and a crappy amplifier, it would make sense to replace the amplifier first. Amplifiers have a bigger effect on tone that pickups.
I get this weird static in my recording/when I play loud, whats going on?
Your problem is most likely clipping. This is when the volume exceeds whatever the interface/mic/computer/speakers can handle. When you record make sure your input volume into the interface isn't too loud. Most DAW's will have an input volume meter, keep an eye on that. Second make sure the output volume of the individual tracks isn't clipping either. Most DAWs will have a volume meter for the track outputs as well, keep an eye on that. Lastly, the DAW should have a master output meter, same deal there. If you did all this and there is still clipping, make sure your microphone can handle the input volume.
Are there any good sources of information to get started on guitar tone and recording?
The internet is a wonderfull place when it comes to information. Please check out these two links.
Here's a good watch:
And a good read:
Ofcourse, forums are also a great source of information.
EQing both pre and post
What is pre and post EQing?
Simply put, pre EQing is any equalizing you do before actually recording anything. Post eqing is any EQing you do after the track has already been recorded. Pre EQing is generally just the amp controls, and possibly an external EQ or OD. Just get these to sound as best as you can before even considering recording. Don't worry about getting it perfect, because it'll need adjusting to fit the mix with the drums, bass, vocals etc. anyway. That's where post EQing comes in. Do make sure you have the gain structure and amount of gain the way you want it...unlike the EQing you cannot change this later. Same goes with effects. Once they're recorded there's no way to get rid of them so get them they way you want them, or add them post recording if you can.
These are the ranges I keep in mind...there is no set rule about this, this is just how I seperate them.
Hi highs: 8khz +
This range is important to give the guitars presence, but too much will make it sound fizzy and add hiss.
Highs: 5khz to 8khz
This range will give the guitars the cut it needs, but too much will make it sound harsh and grainy.
Midrange: 800 hz to 5khz
This range will give the guitars most of the body. Too much will give a honky or wah sound, not enough and you get teh infamous scoop.
Low midsrange/high bass: 200hz to 800hz
This range gives the guitar sound the oomph, too much going on here will make the sound muddy and unclear.
Bass: up to 200hz.
The lowest of the frequency ranges, here is the low end rumble and boom. Too much will drown out the bass guitar and sound too warm.
Good read suggested by Bostonrocks:
Pre EQing steps.
For the sake of completion, I'll consider this stage to include: Guitar strings, Amplifier EQing, OD EQing.
Guitar strings you say? Wut? Yes...they are very important. A little anecdote to help explain: When I have brand new strings and EQ my amp to sound nice, the Mids will be around 4/10. After a few months, I suddenly find me EQing the mids around 6-7, and dialing in more bass and treble. My gain will also sound more flabby causing me to boost my amp a bit harder. NEW STRING TIME. When you want to record your best tones, make sure your strings are fairly new, and stretched enough to stay in tune. Must I also say to TUNE THE GUITAR?
Amplifier EQing is the main deal of pre EQing. In fact, a lot of people think it is the only step. Dialing the Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence to sound their best would be the first part here. Just try to get them to sound as good as you can for a live full band setting. Don't worry too much about small changes though, you can always change this in the post EQing. More important is the amount of gain. You can't decrease or increase the amount of gain in the post EQing steps so you have to get it right now! The amount of gain will obviously change depending on your genre, and it is also a matter of taste. I personally increase the gain to the point my palm mutes have a nice chug to them without smoothing it out. This is for metal mind you.
You may use an OD, you may not. I play metal, and I usually do. If you don't use an OD, just skip this paragraph and move along. I'm keeping a tube amp in mind with this, OD's don't work well at all with SS amps. The idea of an OD in front of a tube amp is to juice up the preamp tubes a bit more. This increases gain, but will also tighten up the sound. I generally try to NOT increase the overall gain. For example, if my gain is 6/10 without an OD I might have it around 4/10 with the OD to keep the gain the same. The only thing that will change is that the OD tightened up the sound. More body, same amount of gain. This could well make the difference between a grainy sound and a raw sound. I tend to max the level, keep the lows and highs about the same, and keep the gain/drive at a minimum. For other genres such as rock and blues, you'll probably keep the level lower and use more drive/gain. Use your ears, and figure out what works for you.
Post EQing steps.
Alright, so you've recorded the tracks as best you can hopefully with drums, vocals and a bass guitar in the mix. Now its time to make the final adjustments to make your guitars fit the mix...or if you don't have the other instruments just tweak it to your taste. Read back up to the frequency ranges and listen closely to the individual tracks and the overall mix to figure out what could be better. I personally tend to cut everything below 70hz, and everything above 13khz. From there on it depends entirely on the recording. With my own recordings I tend to boost a bit between 6khz and 12khz for a little more presence, and I tend to cut a bit around 250 and 500hz to reduce some muffledness. This is a very personal process though, all I can say is use your ears, and try comparing your guitar sound to guitar sounds you love and try to approximate those. Keep the above frequency ranges in mind, and experiment with small boosts and cuts. Only if you messed up bigtime in the pre EQing or recording process will you need to make large adjustments.
Here is a quick recording without post EQing
Here is a clip with the EQing I used in the picture
The difference is pretty subtle, but the one with the EQing is less boomy and has more clarity.
What the hell is panning?
To put it simply, its determining where the sound comes from. A standard recorded track will be centered, so it'll sound like its coming straight at you from the center. Both speakers will project the same sounds. However, if you were to pan this track 100% left it would only play in your left speaker. The right speaker would be silent. Likewise, if you pan it 80% left the majority of the sound will come from the left speaker, but you can also hear it from the right a little bit.
Why should I care?
Because proper panning will help you give your recordings a 3d sound. What sounds better, one person playing guitar in front of you or three people playing the same riff all around you? Exactly.
How do I pan?
Every DAW I know will give you panning options for your recorded tracks. Their default will be 0.00, which means the panning is centered as a mono track. This figure can be adjusted between -1.00 (left speaker only) to 1.00 (right speaker only) and everything in between.
Here are some common panning setups:
Rhythm guitar 1, -1.00
Lead guitar, 0.00
Rhythm guitar 2, 1.00
Very basic panning setup taking into account either 3 guitarists, or two guitarists where you double track the rhythm section (more on tracking later). One rhythm guitar will sound only through the left speaker, the other only through the right. Leads will sound through both equally.
Rhythm guitar 1, -1.00
Rhythm guitar 2, -0.80
Lead guitar, 0.00
Rhythm guitar 1, 1.00
Rhythm guitar 2, 0.80
A more complicated setup here. Using this panning setup you'll have more of a wall of sound effect. Another difference is that you will hear everything played through both speakers, instead of separating the different riffs. This is a common quad tracking setup (more about that later).
Of course, you can always experiment and change it around depending on your needs. These are just 2 common suggestions, the sky is the limit! Its totally fine to run the rhythms through the center and pan the lead(s) left and right! There are no rules in music, only suggestions and guidelines. Do keep in mind that gain and volume are additive. If you run 2 guitars through the center, their volume and gain will be higher than when you pan them 100/100. I explained this using guitars as my example, but this is also perfectly viable for other instruments and vocals. Especially drums. It is extremely common to pan every drum component differently.
Here is an example clip with a single centered track:
Here is a clip where it first plays 100% left, then double tracked 100/100
What is tracking?
Tracking is simply recording something. Tracking guitars would be recording guitars. Double tracking guitars would be recording a guitar line twice, quad tracking would be recording a guitar four times. Note I said recording it four times, not recording it once then copying it four times. The idea of double and quad tracking is to get a fuller sound. The simple truth is that it is physically impossible for a human being to play something exactly the same twice. These little inconsistencies when recording something several times add up to produce a richer and fuller sound. Again, you should be careful here. Volume and gain are additive. If you track something more than once and overlap them, the volume will increase and the gain will add up.
I highly, highly recommend you track to a metronome/clicktrack and/or a drumline. It will be much easier to play something twice with the same timing and speed. Mistakes in timing and speed will produce a chorus, or delay sound effect which you don’t want.
Lets say you have a rhythm guitar track and a lead guitar track, and you decide the rhythm guitar doesn’t sound full enough. You can opt to double track the rhythm and pan them 100/100 (remember the panning guide?) and run the leads through the center. This will produce a fuller sound with relative ease, and without too much of a mixing hassle. Just be sure to record them tight enough to fool the ears into thinking its one guitar.
What if you have two separate rhythm riffs and a lead track? Now you have a choice. Lets say you double track both rhythm riffs meaning you record each twice, you then have a total of four rhythm tracks. Do you want to hear one riff through one speaker and the other riff through the other speaker? This would be your panning:
Riff 1 take1: 1.00
Riff 1 take2: 0.80
Riff 2 take1: -1.00
Riff 2 take2: -0.80
However, if you want to hear both riffs through both speakers and maintain the fullness of double tracking you would go like this:
Riff 1 take1: 1.00
Riff 2 take 1: 0.80
Riff 1 take 2: -1.00
Riff 2 take 2: -0.80
Tracking more than twice
Of course you can track more than twice. As long as you can keep in time right, and keep in mind that volume and gain add up if you overlap the tracks you’ll be fine. Do keep in mind that it will be a LOT more work, both recording and mixing wise. Is it worth it? Try it and decide for yourself. Quad tracking will give you a huge wall of sound when done right, but it will lose some of the rawness of just a single or double track. This is a typical quad tracked riff:
Riff 1 take 1: 1.00
Riff 1 take 2: 0.80
Riff 1 take 3: -1.00
Riff 1 take 4: -0.80
Mixing guitar chains in tracking
Up till now I have assumed you use the same gear for every track, but its perfectly normal to use different setups or EQing for different tracks. You might for example double track a riff with a 5150 and double track it again with a Mesa double rectifier, and blend those for a quad tracked recording with two setups. The options are unlimited. Most studio recordings will be using more than one amp, or more than one microphone to add a certain flavor to the recording. All I can say is experiment, and see what works for you.
Here is a single tracked clip
Here is a double tracked clip
Here is that same double tracked clip layered over a part from the song Down With the Sickness by Disturbed. My guitars 100/100 and the song centered 0.00, essentially making it quad tracked + mix.
Double and quad tracking, it friggen works.
DAWS and plugins
What is a DAW?
DAW is short for Digital Audio Workstation, which is a program used for recording, editing and playing audio. Plugins are non-standalone programs that only work when loaded into a DAW. Why are they called plugins? Because you can plug them into your DAW and guitar chain with relative ease.
What does this actually mean? Well, you’ll need to use a DAW if you want to use most of the post production programs such as EQ’s compressors and various other effects, because these are in plugin format. Some very common DAWs:
Most DAW’s will also come with various plugins you can use. For example, I got reaEQ when I got Reaper. There are also a lot of free plugins available on the internet. A quick google search for free VST plugins should net you plenty of results for EQs and the like. If you are serious about recording, you will use a DAW. If you don’t you’re locking yourself out from all the plugins you could use in post production, as well as various editing and recording features. DAWs generally have a folder where you can install any plugins you want.
The plugin will have a .dll format, and any .dll in the specified folder will be loaded into the DAW. For example, VoxengoBoogex.dll, which I will use in the next section.
Some important plugins to have:
- A graphic or parametric EQ
- A multiband compressor
- Reverb and Delays
- A noise gate
- An octave shifter
- Various guitar and bass amplifier simulators
- Cabinet simulators
- Impulse loader
VST cab sims guide from the recording section by Dream Pin:
Impulse guide by dcdanman over at http://www.ultimatemetal.com/forum/...mpulse-faq.html
Guest guide by Bostonrocks on Amp voicings.
Differences between the 3 main amp voicings.
In the guitar world today, you mainly hear three primary guitar amp voicings. British, American, and German.
British and American voices are the most recognizable (IMO). There are many brands but here are a few of the most recognizable:
These two voicing’s have almost opposite frequency responses. With the American voicing be more scooped in the mid range (500Hz-2 kHz) and the British voicing having a more pronounced mid range as shown in the two pictures below.
The German voicing is the new kid on the block as far as voicings go. Mainly metal amps (Although some company’s like Bogner make great Classic Rock amps also) they are somewhat of a cross between British and American voicings.
Some of the most recognized brands of German voiced amps are:
The German voicing is very unique as it’s kind of a mash of parts from both the American and British voices. For the most part they have a lower mid range (500Hz-2 kHz) (much like American Voiced amps) while still retaining the clarity in the mids by bumping the lower mids (250-500Hz) this is part of the reason they have that low end growl. As shown in the picture below.
So now that you have the frequency response of these three voicing’s you can tweak to your hearts delight. I suggest that you download or buy a frequency analyzer, as this will help you in your endeavor. I personally suggest the Voxengo Spectrum analysis. It works great and it’s free.
The amps used for the spectrum analysis pictures were:
German: Engl Blackmore (Mark G)
British: Vox AC15 (Bostonrocks)
American: Mesa/Boogie Mark IV (Mexican_Shred)
Micing guide by Jaekae
Guest guide by Jaekae
Why have this guide in a guitar tone thread? Because it can help you get a better mix which will improve how your guitar tone is percieved.
Compression is used to reduce the dynamic range, the span between the loudest and softest parts of an audiosignal, which will bring up subtle details
and give a track more consistent levels, making it easier to mix.
Controls how loud the signal has to be before the compressor kicks in, for example if it is set at -10dB, all of the audiosignal that go past it will be compressed, and the signal that is underneath will be unaffected.
This is a setting of how hard the compressor will kick in, usually shown as 2:1,3:1,4;1 etc.
What this means is, after you cross the threshold setting, how many db's you have to go over to effect 1db of volume change.
Thus a 4:1 ratio means that once you go over the threshold for every 4db over you will only get 1 db of amplitude change.
Is what it sounds like, how long in milliseconds it takes for the compressor to kick in after the threshold has been reached.
For example if you are going to compress a snare drum, you would want a slower value on the attack, because the "hit" of the snare is in the beginning of the signal, selecting a slower attack time will allow the initial transient portion of the sound to pass through before the compressor starts clamping, if you put a very short attack time it will dull the sound of the snare. However, if you use too slow attack
time the compressor wont be effective.
Is also what it sounds like, the time it takes for the compressor to stop after the signal has been "attacked"
If you need 'invisible/natural' compression, slower release time
If you need 'audible/percussive' compression, faster release time
If it pumps and breaths, slower release time (unless you want that)
If the compression seems to disappear, faster release time
Make up gain
Is where you can set the relative volume of the track to match the volume it was before compression, use your ears, idea behind this is if something is louder, we automatically think it sounds better, which fool us into thinking that the compression made a good effect even though it maby didnt.
On the gain reduction meter youll see how much the compressor work.
Here's the big secret of compression:
You should *barely* hear it working. If you overcompress your mix will sound dull and lifeless. You have to use your ears to set all the settings, which is pretty hard :devil:
Some examples of guidelines to ratios
2:1 ratio, overheads, distorted guitar, soft vocals, most synths
3:1 ratio, clamping down on overheads, acoustic guitar, most singers
4:1 ratio, bass, snare, kick drums, toms, crap singers
8:1 ratio, bad bassists, screaming vocalists, squishing the life out of stuff
12:1 ratio, out of control peaks or when you want to sound like limiting but still keep some life to it
A video where I use all the above mentioned concepts and guides.
F I R S T
I just waited like 10 min for that :haha :haha
Congratz Mark. this is gonna be awesome!
what happened to the first one?
^I think he wants it to me or orginized?
Looks good, but my headache is keeping me from reading the rest :(
Awesome Mark! Looks great. Brett - thanks again for the original :cheers:
Didn't you say Mark that one has to actually HAVE CLIPS to post in here :haha
Mark, 311 and I and a couple other dudes figured we could put up some really helpful info and eliminate alot of the same posts and things. and really help people get started
Yup, so I figured to hell with my social life and started typing.
ill give mark my 3 guides after a couple of days, need to wait for some bad weather :D
Social life? You are a guitar player and UGer. you have no social life Mark. I sure as heck don't. and if you do by some magical chance tell me how! :haha: :haha:
hai guise :haha
first page :down:
Great job everyone that helped on the new thread!!
Mark - I could maybe do screen shots of Audacity - since a lot of people use that.
Brett - also, you know I was just kidding in your original about you not helping - I was just trying to get your attention as usual :poke:
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