Opinions on virtual instruments/amp sims etc vs real instruments/real amps in your recording

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by vejichan, Nov 19, 2019.

  1. vejichan

    vejichan SS.org Regular

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    Technology is catching up now you have the option of
    * Amp sims
    * Virtual midi instruments for guitar, bass and drums

    The sound is getting better every year. Right now all you need is your computer if you just want to create music. However what about

    * Tube amps sound better and get better tone?
    * What about the joy of playing the instrument? Having the sound of a human playing the actual instrument in the recording cannot be captured in a recording?
    Real instruments vs virtual instruments

    etc. etc. thoughts on all this? Here is my take
    * Everyone recommends using tubes amps because they sound better than any amp sims. Well, it's about what's practical to the user. For someone like me, I don't have a band, making an album or playing in front of 10000 people in a stadium. I have a very demanding job working 8am-9pm and have a family. We live in a small apartment with old neighbors. So Amp sims is awesome for my situation.
    * If your primarily instruments is guitar and you love playing guitar and don't know anything about playing bass or drums. Virtual instrument will work well. I think it has it's place and of course a real person playing the instrument will sound/feel better but for the bedroom guitar player or barely home.. there is alot of advantages to using virtual instrument

    Sorry for the rant. I have a few people advising me all the time get a tube amp and play with real people. Get real drums, Get real bass. They will make your recording and songs sound better but for people with families in similar situation.. what are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks for listening and for your advice.
     
  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Whatever floats your boat.

    People will listen to whatever sounds good to their ears, so if you do the whole "I am a bedroom guitar player recording real guitar with virtual instruments," that's great, you do you, but if you want to gain people's attention doing that, you'll need a lot of luck or gimmicks to cut through the noise of a billion others in the same situation wanting attention on them.
     
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  3. Nicki

    Nicki SS.org Regular

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    I agree that a real tube amp will blow away any amp sim. You would benefit from using one. You don't need to mic up a cab to use a real amp. You just need a loadbox and a DI (the TwoNotes Torpedo Captor is both).

    As for using real drums and real bass... Sure, having a human perform those instruments is great and all, but those decrying that a MIDI instrument sounds like flub are usually not well versed enough in programming MIDI to be able to make the performances sound real.

    At the end of the day, whatever tools you have available to you that you can use to make music are the right tools for the job. Period.
     
  4. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    Better is always subjective. I like having MIDI instruments around for demo purposes (and drum replacement on "live" recordings), but I'd probably never release anything with MIDI guitar on it. As far s TooBZ vs amp sims, again, better is subjective. Does a tube amp feel better to play? Yeah, if you have a room where you can get it some volume. IME, modern modeling is just as nice and sounds just as good as an analog amp-load box-DI-IR setup because for me, once you take the cab and room out of the equation, there's literally no difference and 99% of people without golden ears couldn't tell you which was which.
    When it comes right down to it, making music is supposed to be fun, and you should use whatever tools make the experience a good one for you.
    Just don't make an album full of unplayable MIDI guitar then make guitar playthrough videos along to it.
     
  5. decoy205

    decoy205 SS.org Regular

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    I am also in your situation, family demanding job. I used to have my own studio and my band and was able to play at full volume all the time and record real amps cabs and drums but those days have been gone for a while.


    I agree if you have the proper set up rooms and mics real instruments are better however most home recording situations are not ideal and amp sims and midi will get you way better results and be much less invasive on family and neighbors.

    I did not want to get rid of my real rig so I bought a Torpedo Live and use my 5150 into that to record or I use amp sims and IRs.

    To be honest I think dialing in a real tube amp with cab IRs can be almost as hard as micing a cab in a room just because there’s so many options but when you dial it in will be 95% there. That being said I think you can get 95% there with Sims and have an easier time dialing in tone so its a preference

    the reason why I wanted the torpedo live and real amp is that if I wish to play without a computer I still can. Computer craps out upgrades happen you lose software as long as the amp and live works I’ll have a rig.

    The great news is that now there are options for bedroom players to get big amp tones where as before it was a joke and you needed a studio.
     
  6. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    100% this.

    For me though, most amp sims don't float my boat, so to speak. Not in an "I don't want to hear them" kind of way, but in an "I don't want to play through them" kind of way. And listening to MIDI posing as guitar just doesn't interest me at all.

    On some level, all the 5150-esque sims through the same ownhammer IRs get really same-y. Give me something with character.
     
  7. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    It's not BAD advice, strictly because it's a lot of fun, and jamming with other people does teach you a whole bunch of useful skills as a musician - it helsp develop your ear, helps you learn to play off other people to better fit into a groove, helps you build a sense of groove, helps you learn to come up with "parts" on the fly, and is just a lot of fun and a great way to hang out and socialize for other musicians.

    If you're trying to learn how to program bass on midi, per your other thread, and you don't know how to translate notes on the neck of the bass to notes on the piano roll, honestly, the faster learning curve for you very well might be to buy a cheap bass and record with that. You can probably find something usable for $100 used if you keep your eyes open, and you definitely write differently on a bass than you do on a guitar or with a mouse and a grid. If you're already quite comfortable programming basslines in MIDI, it's a slightly different story - MIDI bass still isn't as realistic as live bass, but for a song where the bass isn't the focus, it certainly can get the job done. But, in your situation, I do suspect you'll get better results faster by plugging a bass into your computer.

    Idunno. I'm probably one of those people, since I have told you I think you might find it easier to work with a real bass than to learn how to program on the piano roll, and I've told you to stop focusing so much on creating a mix template to just drop stuff into, so much as figuring out what your musical goals are and tailor your approach tot hat (if it's just to make music, worry about the writing and performance less than the mix since your mixes are already "good enough" for demoing or capturing and sharing a song, and if it's to make the best possible recordings you can, then you're not going to get there by dropping DI tracks into the same template with saved presets over and over again). So, this may not be an easy read, but I promise it's coming from a good place.

    There's no "easy" button for this stuff. There are no "shortcuts." There's no one-size-fits-all solution. And, we ALL have other demands on our time. If you want to be good at something, it takes hard work. If you're interested in recording, figure out what exactly you want to be good at, and then spend your time working on that. Cut out the things you don't care about. Order your priorities, and then dedicate your time to the things at the top of that list. If it's writing your own music and performing it on a recording to share, then spend your time writing and practicing guitar, use your existing template, use drum loops and a VST drum sequencer, and either buy a cheap bass or program MIDI bass, whatever's easiest. If it's making really great, world class quality programs, stop thinking about templates. Download a bunch of raw tracks, don't even waste your time recording your own, and then really get to know the tools you have, so you understand and can hear what small changes in the threshold of a compressor can do, and develop your ear to the point where you can listen to a track in the context of a mix and "hear" where the problem frequencies are that are masking it or making it sound otherwise bad. In either case, I'd stop posting threads here and on the Reaper User Group asking other people to tell you what to do, because both as a songwriter and as an audio engineer, having your ownpersonality to impart on a song is critical.

    For me, I'm kinda stuck because I want to both write and perform music I'm proud of, AND I want to be able to record it and mix it well. So, I have to make a lot of time for this. It helps that I've been doing this since 1999 so I have a LOT of experience, but even then it means that for much of the time I'm only focused on a very small part of what I want to do (these days, keeping my technique up and a bit of songwriting, while I balance the conflicts of a time-consuming job, a time-consuming girlfriend, and some time-consuming cycling goals) and that when I get going on that next album in earnest, I'm going to either have to scale back on my training on my bike, or spending time with the girlfriend (who's not going to be happy about that) or (most likely) both. But, for now, technique practice is the best way for me to stay focused on my musical goals. In your case, sit down, figure out what EXACTLY your goals are, and then figure out what steps you have to take to get from where you are now to those goals.

    Idunno. At the end of the day I can't shake the feeling that if you dedicated the same time to self-assessment that you spent asking other people to tell you what to do, you'd be in a much better place musically.
     
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  8. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I'm in the same boat. Amp sims these days are awfully good, and you certainly CAN work with them. For me, the workflow of micing up a real amp is just much more natural and much more comfortable, so I do that. But whatever floats your boat.
     
  9. duffbeer33

    duffbeer33 metal finance guy Contributor

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    There are many different ways to answer this, but to me it depends on what you enjoy doing/want to do with music. If you are trying to get tight with a band so that you can play live on a regular basis, and/or you enjoy the camaraderie of jamming with friends, I'd say get a good amp. I was this way for a while probably about a decade ago when in a band that played small gigs around Philly. But after that fizzled and the reality of life settled in (work...etc) I realized that my real passion is writing music, even if it isn't something that will ever make me $ or anything, there's just something about recording and trying to perfect my own ideas that I enjoy. When I first heard Bulb's material about a decade ago, and realized he was using a lot of Virtual instruments (whether it be the Line 6 POD or Toontrack, etc) I essentially decided that I didn't need a real amp anymore. I thought his stuff sounded incredible, and if he could do that with home recordings with minimal gear back in 2006 or whenever it was, that's more than enough for me. I should be very clear though that I am talking about guitar effects, not programmed guitar, which I'd imagine might sound odd. I still think playing the actual guitar is important for dynamics, regardless of how you decide to amp it.
     
  10. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

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    I get quite ticked off when people constantly say "it must be real", "it must be played by real people", "imperfections are what make it real". That's based on a fundamental bias towards what people think it means to be "authentic".

    Bullshit, I say. I hate that worldview with a passion. It has its charms in many applications, but to apply it to all music is just wrong as it's based on a narrow slice of what music can be. If a VST or amp sim gets you what you want, and if you want it to be rhythmically perfect, more power to you. Likewise, if you want to record one take as a band for that live energy, go for it.

    But it's what you want. Ignore others' preconceptions and do what is best for you to make the music you want.
     
  11. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    I simply think plugins are better in almost every way

    Amps are loud. They take up tons of space. They do take a lot of skill to mic up well. It's hard to be consistent. Re-amping requires even more gear and also takes a long time.

    Plugins are cheaper, can run from any computer. They take far less skill to get a good sound. You can save presets for consistency. You can easily tweak your sound in the mix with a couple of clicks, without spending a day re-amping countless guitar tracks.

    The overall end sound is the same. It's at a point now where you can NOT tell the difference between a good plugin, Kemper patch etc and the real amp. It's been shown time and time and time again that people simply can't tell. All over YouTube there are comparisons, and even the amp designer, the signature artists etc literally can'r tell in sound or feel. Both plugins and real amps are capable of sounding shit, or sounding great. It's up to how you dial them in.

    And arguing about "real" in metal is stupid. Guitars are edited to shit. They're often recorded at half speed. A lot of modern metal albums are recorded with Kemper anyway - e.g. Trivium, Amon Amarth latest albums are all Kemper. Bass is often edited even more, or it's just MIDI. And drums are programmed, or triggered, or at least time-aligned. Vocals are doubled up, pitch corrected, with tons of effects added. NONE of it is "real"

    The only real amp advantage IMO is when you have the opportunity to crank one through a 412. That puts a smile on your face that plugins through studio monitors can't replicate. But then again, you could play through a PA or other powered speaker and get the same effect.
     
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  12. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    There definitely seems to be some disconnect, as the 99% of the time the only people who will expound on "keeping it real" are in fact, doing next to nothing compared to the "real" (read - touring, selling records, establishing/established themselves, well-known) bands that make moves. Nobody is handing out awards, or show guarantees, or guitar endorsements, or record contracts (who even needs one anymore?) for being the most realest band out there. The only person who cares that a band kept it TRVE and recorded it all in one live take through a potato direct to tape is the band doing it. Everyone else just wants catchy riffs and songs that SOUND GOOD when they get played in the car.
     
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  13. Ola Englund

    Ola Englund SS.org Regular

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    Fuck it man, I used plugins for rhythm guitar on my solo album. No one complained until I said I used plugins :D
     
  14. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I mean, people used to sh*t on cabclones, but I've gotten compliments on the tones I've pulled out of them before people realized what I was using. At the end of the day, if it sounds good it sounds good.
     
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  15. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    I'd say once a month I play somewhere that we get done and some gear nerd is like "Dude, sick tones, what amp are you using?!" and when I say "Oh that's a Line 6 Helix direct to the board" they immediately rescind their "sick tones dude" comment because they don't wanna like that gear, lol. People are dumb.
     
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  16. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Oh wait, Line 6? Never mind, I take it back. :lol:

    I kid. Partly. I legit have never really liked anything Line 6 before you get into Helix etc. territory. But again, whatever floats your boat.
     
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  17. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

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    Same thing happened when I playing the HD500X, and the Boss GT-10 before that. If someone knows how to dial in the gear for their sound, all of those options have been viable for at least a decade. It's just hilarious to see people do a 180 when they don't like the gear. "Oh, well, I mean, I guess, that tone was okay then, nevermind."
     
  18. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Yes, but you could plug into a potato and somehow wrangle a decent tone out of it. :lol:
     
  19. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    In b4 every tuber sounds the same.
     
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  20. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    "every tuber."

    Wow.

    I tip my cap to your superior punning, good sir.
     
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