How to get a smooth, warm lead guitar sound in a mix?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by KailM, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Hey guys, I'm running into a little snag with a song I'm currently recording. The song is composed of very lush, ambient clean arpeggios. Toward the end, it has a little bit of high gain lead work, in which I'm using my 6505's green channel w/ crunch and moderate gain and boosted with my OD. It is normally my go-to lead tone and sounds amazing in the room and also cutting through a heavy extreme metal mix -- but the grainy-ness that disappears in that kind of mix is quite audible in this one, since the background is so clean and lush as opposed to "sonic annihilation" like I typically write for my rhythm guitar parts.

    Essentially, I'm just looking for some tips and tricks for making my leads sound really smooth, warm, and "liquid " in this type of a mix. Thanks!
     
  2. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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    My very first thought is that the 6505 isn't the best choice for this application. Based on what you typed, and the sound that I'm thinking you have going, I feel like you would have better results from something like a Soldano or a JCM900. That 6505 is "grainy", and it's going to be a pain to EQ that to be "smooth sounding" and fit in sonically with the clean arpeggios.

    What other amps do you have at your disposal?

    ::Remembering back:: I believe I saw a video interview with Will Putney and he was talking about how he almost never uses the same amp for rhythms that he does leads, because its harder to get them to sit right in a mix.

    Anyways, I hope you're able to get it sorted.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2017
  3. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    The only other amp I have is a Classic 30, which is what I used for the cleans. TBH I've never been that thrilled about its lead tones but I'll give it a try. I might try reducing the gain a bit more with my 6505 as well. If that fails I may just rewrite the part with a clean tone and just go for more of a jazz type clean lead. The song is quite mellow anyway so I didn't ever want the leads to sound too searing to begin with.
     
  4. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    First, use your neck pickup, maybe rolling off the tone knob a bit. Then, re-EQ the amp to remove any harsh highs and presence. Finally, if you're mic'ing your amp, move the mic towards the cone and away from the dust cap; if using impulses, find a warmer impulse (maybe something recorded with a ribbon mic like a Royer 121).

    You may need to back off on the gain bit, too.

    Then, in the mix, use a low pass filter and any notch filters needed to remove any harshness (if any) left in the track.
     
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  5. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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    ^^^ Definitely like those suggestions.

    Being that the clean parts are arpeggios, I wonder if you should focus more on mids for this lead guitar tone; essentially cutting out or reducing a chunk of the highs. If the apreggio is up on the neck and has higher notes (in general) that might be occupying the upper mids and high end more than it does say the 500hz range.

    You should post a clip when you have it sorted! \m/
     
  6. AdenM

    AdenM Illuminaughty

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    Definitely starts at the source - I would try either running some sort of boost in front of the 6505 to color the tone a bit (read: Tube Screamer or similar) or sitting down with it again and re-EQing based on how you want it to sound in the mix. Then, I would do some subtractive EQ-ing and run a Stereo Widener type plugin on it, that generally adds some warmth as well.
     
  7. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for all the suggestions guys. For the record, I am using my neck pickup and boosting it with an OD. But I'm using my standard EQ settings and mic placement which have always worked well in the past -- but not this time. The tone I get in the room definitely sounds the way I want it, but getting it to translate in the mix is the challenge, I guess. I think I'll start with a mic placement further away from the dust cap and go from there.

    And for what it's worth, I played the clean section into my looper pedal and then played the leads through my Classic 30 crunch channel and it sounded pretty good in the room too -- so I may try recording that as well just to compare. It's a pretty easy lead run to play so it's not that hard to keep experimenting until I get the right tone.
     
  8. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Set up an amp for really high clean headroom, like max out the master and low preamp gain. (If I was doing this on my JCM 800 I would do low input, master to max, preamp to about 9 o clock, bass max, presence all the way off, mids and treble to taste, with the Mark V I would do fat clean, 90 watt, master at about noon, preamp at about 11, bass noonish, treble extremely low, mids about 2 oclock, presence.... can't remember) Anyway the aim is extremely...lets say "thick" clean tone with no hair or breakup whatsover.

    At this point just a bit of chorus and delay can actually get you a fairly good lead sound even though you've got no saturation or hair.

    In front of this I would run a clean boost, and then two overdrives, one with symmetrical and one with asymmetrical clipping. I use TC Spark, Boss SD-1 and Green Rhino. Set each one individually for unity gain and then turn up the drive on the overdrives just enough that you get the sense of one gain stage kicking in with each one (on the SD-1 this is really obvious, the TS is a bit of a smoother graduation).

    Stack them all together for a dead smooth lead tone, tweaking the tone to taste.
     
  9. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    Great suggestions. Also a warmer mic and potentially point the mic off-axis a little bit to take the bite off.

    A little warmth at every stage will add up.
     
  10. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire 8 string hoarder

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    try running your tubescreamer as an od through your clean channel? That might give you a more mellow lead sound, though I don't have experience with the 6505.
     
  11. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Thanks again for the suggestions guys! This evening I played the solo through my Classic 30's drive channel, boosted, and cranked to power tube distortion levels.:mf666:

    Suffice it to say, the lead tone was awesome. I also moved the mic quite a ways out from the dust cap to try to get it away from the harsher frequencies. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to listen to how it came out. But I can say with 100% certainty that the tone in the room was as smooth as silk.
     
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  12. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Update: Yup, it's sounding great now in the DAW. I don't know what made the difference specifically; the amp, the mic placement, or the fact that I changed guitars. One factor that I didn't mention earlier is that the guitar I was using isn't that great for leads. For some reason, it has a high action yet higher up on the neck, the notes don't sustain and are choked-out by the frets too early. The tone out of the guitar is great, but I'm starting to question whether I want to keep it-- as my other guitar, a Schecter V1, has an amazing neck and fretboard that sustains for days and vibrato is as smooth as glass. But I digress....

    The only thing now is to decide if I want to keep the take I got.:frantic:
    I have to monitor with headphones when I'm tracking since I have no other means of hearing the rest of the mix -- but...I can't hear myself playing well enough for more subtle stuff like vibrato on lead work; so this time I just removed the headphones and started playing the solo when I saw it was the right time on the screen. I got a little off-time in a few places...:facepalm

    I'll post a sound clip when I get it right.
     
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  13. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    You interface should have a software mixer that allows you to monitor the track you're recording along with the mix with only minimal latency.

    Another thing you could try is to remove the headphones from only one ear so you can hear the guitar with one ear and the rest of the track in the other.
     
  14. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Yeah, I can hear my current recording through the headphones as I track, but it's not the same as just playing without anything over my ears -- I can't hear the subtleties that cause me to normally adjust my playing on the fly. I've noticed this when playing fast gallops as well -- I can't always hear every nuance of the "chug" and my playing goes to crap. I think if I had actual monitors it would help my tracking a lot. Plus, I find it distracting to play with headphones on, especially because I never sit down to play.
     

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