Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thicken up your mixes

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Hello home recording enthusiasts, it's time for a great new entry! Today's blog is one that may just be the thickening agent that puts the polish on your mixes. These simple tricks are not a secret by any means, however, they are not openly shared. It takes years of tweaking at home to come by these tricks on your own. Very few people like to openly give these away, but I will. Why? Because I feel that the world needs thicker sounding cuts!

One trick, that is great for Mono guitar tracks, I actually saw on a "recording school" gotcha-page. It was a free sound/video byte. I would like to explain it, and then explore it further, with the respect it needs.

The trick is used in order to spice up a semi-lame track. Once you have a guitar track recorded, and it is good, but flat in the mix, one can duplicate the track (or copy and paste separate parts) onto a second track, set up just the same as the parent track. What makes the magic here, is the panning and the "thickening agent" that you choose to use. I will suggest some thickeners, but you must find out one for yourself, or, one that fits in the tune you are working on.

O.K. My guitar track is living in Lame city. It is a mono semi-distorted guitar track. I love the tone very much, but it sits rather flat and lifeless in the overall cut, or mix. What I would do here is to first create a second track (with the same settings) and then duplicate the guitar track into the new track.

With the new guitar track selected, open up a compressor and insert it into the track. Work out a small ratio, but it should be tight, like 3:1 or close. Play with it so that it adds sound and charm, but not volume! We are not taking away from, but adding to the original guitar track.

Next, the panning of the two guitar tracks is going to polish off the work in progress! Take the original guitar track, and pan it to the left, just so that it is noticeably panned, and not too hard. Then, pan the second guitar track to the right, again just enough to notice it, and wallah! The guitar is now sitting very nicely in the mix, and it sounds like a true stereo/mono hybrid thing, with the tone of a monster! By playing with the two track volumes (after you are happy with the compression settings) you can work it into the mix, as far as the tweaking of the stereo-yet-mono effect.

Now a compressor isn't the only effect listed in the "recording guitar rule book". No, not by a long shot. Try using a second, or a different tone, or distortion, all togather in the second track. This is easily done by adding an "Amp" to the second track. In Pro Tools this is all too easy! You simply open up the amp effect that you like the most, like "Amp Farm" . Amp Farm is a digital (computer bassed) guitar effects rig, by Line 6. "Guitar Rig" is a different system, but gives you the same killer sounds!

This is killer on vocals, and I toss this dynamite application onto both lead and rhythm guitar tracks too. Open up the effect in the track two's input track, and dial it in, using the amps' settings to taste.

I love to open up a delay on the second track also. This realy shines on any sort of instument. Also, you can tweak the recorded material in the second track, by taking some away, and use the track with delay to highlight only a few words in a vocal, or a few notes of a solo.

This is much like an effects send return loop, but it is not the same. This method described here will add to a track, using a second tone with panning effects being the glue. Effect send/return loops do not use panning to fatten up a track, but instead they add a degree of an effect to a single tracks output.

Here we "duped" the track, put on a "wet" effect, and panned it back into the mix. There was no bus tracks used at all, but rather the track was "duped". In other words, we added to a track, instead of routing its' output into an effects send track that relies on the original track for information. Right?

Anyhoo, this is one simple and very cool way to spice up a lame (or a flat) track in your next song. This can be the thing that defines your own "sound" or tone. Believe me, folks will notice it and then ask you how you got that thick and spicy sound out of your guitar!

Untill next time, keep jammin mon, and I look forward to writting to y'all soon.

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