Guitar Tracking and Signal Chain
Alright, so we're ready to get a guitar tone. We went ahead and set some things up, so we'll walk you through what we've got going, so obviously, we've got the hands out of his guitar. They're going into this Little Labs DI right here. This Little Labs DI is going into, what are we using for pre? We're using an API. Yeah, so this is going out of an API. I mean into an API right here. API's just going straight into ProTools. Now, this API, which is the DI, I put the send on it, okay a pre-fader send. And that send is going out to this re-amp box, which is then going into the tuner. And the reason for that is that he can tune whenever he wants. I can have him mute it, I can have the amp sounds muted, I can do whatever I want and he can just keep on tuning, and I don't want to be listening to his DI at all times when he's tuning, everyone knows that listening to guitars being tuned all the time can be one of the most annoying things ever, so this gives him the ability to tune without bein...
g heard through the speakers and me the ability to not lose my mind. So, first thing that we're doing is we're gonna just check what the DI sounds like. Now, I know it says Tube Tech here, but it's actually going through an API, that's just something in the setup of this room and the IO that had to happen. Let's see what we got here. Now, with a DI, a lot of people often ask, what should a good DI look like or sound like, so let's talk about that. First, let's capture you recording some. First of all, play as hard as you're gonna play.
Okay. (melodic electric guitar)
Cool. So, I like to never go past the middle of the yellow, but as long as you're not hitting the red, you're fine. You want a nice, full signal with yeah, you can even go a little quieter, but if that's the loudest you're gonna go, then we're not clipping. (melodic electric guitar)
It should be alright.
Cool. The only clipping you ever want on a DI is the kind that you would get from say active pickups, if that's what they do, if that's the actual tone coming out of the guitar is a slightly clipped tone, that's okay, but you don't want to actually be clipping the DI box or the pre-amp or the convertors. I just think it's important to make that distinction because people sometimes will see DI's that come out of an EMG, for instance, that are a little bit squared off, and get worried. And that's okay, that's how that pickup is supposed to sound. What you don't want is to get that nasty digital distortion that happens when you're overloading a pre-amp or well, convertor.
Any part of the signal change, basically, into your door, yeah.
Yeah, exactly. The distortion should be intentional.
Okay, so. I'm gonna just record you for a second, and just play whatever.
Yeah, okay. (melodic electric guitar)
Cool. Alright, so we know or maybe you don't know that when a guitar signal goes into a amp with distortion it gets compressed and more compressed and harmonics are added and it just becomes a big wall of hyper-compressed awesomeness, if you dial it right. But, the DI signal is super dynamic, and that's how it should look. It should not be squared off at all, and you should have lots of peaks and valleys like this. If it looks like a bunch of footballs or something like that then you're probably not doing a good job or you're coming out of a bad unit. And then when you play it back, you should keep in mind that DI's always sound kind of funny. They always sound like DI's, which is never like, it's never a good sound, but you should know what you're listening for, which is that at least you get the top end, decent mids and decent lows, you know, just a nice, full signal. It'll always sound a little silly. But you don't want it to sound like maybe there's an extreme high pass filter on it.
Yeah. And you don't want, or for instance, like if you're using active pickups and the battery's dead, it'll literally sound like it's coming through an AM radio. Or something. Let's listen to this. (melodic electric guitar) I hear everything I need to hear. Any thoughts on DI's?
Um, no you've said pretty much everything. I would have suggested as well as long as it's got the sparkly top end and you can hear the solid bottom then you're pretty much good to go.
Yeah. I'm sure that you've got in bad DI's to re-amp.
It's really really tough to work with those. I see a lot of people asking about what you can do to fix a DI, like to you add a transient designer to it, and or EQ the DI's and yeah, you can do all that stuff to it but there comes a point where you're not gonna make it that much better. You're not gonna take a terrible DI and make it great. You might be able to add maybe a little more attack or something, EQ it maybe a little bit, but you want to make sure that your DI signal is a nice full signal with plenty of dynamics and don't worry, it's gonna get compressed, there's no way around it.
Okay, so the next part of the signal is that this DI box has a split out, and it's going to the amp and the pedals and maybe you can explain what that's all about.
So, as I explained earlier, I've got an EQ pedal at the start, with a slight dip, 100 and 200, just to cut out the fire of the seventh string. Next in line is an OCD-style overdrive pedal, which is being used more as a volume boost, rather than an actual distortion boost.
Let me ask you something.
Because maybe we should just talk about this for a second. A lot of people don't understand that when you use an overdrive pedal with a heavy gain amp, it's not for distortion reasons.
Not all the time, no.
No, not usually, no. Basically, you're sort of driving the front end just a little bit more, so, if you have the gain lower on the amp and you drive the front end a little bit more, you're still having that clarity that you don't get if your sound is just washed in loads of distortion.
So basically you want something that still sounds heavy, so that's probly the best way to do it, 'cause you still keep the clarity, but then you have just a little bit more. I guess it just makes it slightly easier to play if you're on a low gain setting. I guess that's probly the easiest way to explain it. What would you say about that?
Well, some of them also help to control, I guess some of the flubbiness.
Yeah, definitely, yeah.
As well. Two screamers at least, do.
Definitely, yeah, and obviously, that's kinda what I'm doing with the EQ beforehand as well, I'm just going one or 200, and that's mostly for a seven string guitar, on a six string guitar, you wouldn't necessarily need the EQ but for the seventh it just makes this a little bit tidier, I guess in the bottom end.
And what tune are you in?
This is actually in G sharp.
So that's already pretty low.
Pretty low, yep. Yeah, that's pretty much why we use the EQ, and then obviously, straight after those two pedals, we have the NS-2 Noise Gate, which just is mainly used to cut the noise that the pedals create beforehand, but also as well just to get a little bit of extra, I guess tightness just in the sound.
I guess it bears mentioning also that every piece that you add to the chain in an analog setting
Yeah. (laughing) So, you want short cable lengths and as few pieces as possible to achieve the goal with.
Also, as well, I'm using the T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon, which is all isolated out so it basically helps less interference from the power supply to the pedals as well.
Which is a worthwhile thing, so if you've got a bad power supply, that can make a huge difference to how the pedals sound as well. So yeah, good to use a good power supply, basically.
I used to use the, what's it called, the VooDoo Labs one.
Yeah that's pretty good too, yeah. Yeah.
Also, if you're touring, you don't want to be using batteries.
All the time, no. Or just a bad power supply from Radio Shack or something.
Yeah. (chuckling) Alright so then, into the amp.
Into the channel three of a Mesa/Boogie Multi-Watt Jewel Rectifier Head on the 100 watt mode.
Let's talk about some of the settings that you tweak because originally, when we were in the other room, just getting started, we just had it set to neutral, but what have you done since then?
I actually put everything to roughly about 666, which is about one o'clock. Just to boost a little bit of everything, really. Just to make it a little bit meaner, and that's kind of, I wasn't really looking at what I was doing, I was just playing around with it 'til it sounded good, and I think that's probly the best way to go about it, like don't actually focus on what part you're looking at and just get it 'til it sounds good to your ears.
Yeah, I completely agree.
From there on, we're just going to the cabinet, and into the 57's like I previously showed you guys. Right here I have a session in ProTools, and as you can see, I've got the DI track right here. I'm gonna just turn down the volume on that, 'cause we know it's fine. I've got a bunch of other things here as well. Basically, every single one of those SM-57s is coming in on its own track, on its own channel. And we're gonna record them simultaneously, we're gonna record to the song that we're recording, so that we can hear what they sound like in context. I feel like there's nothing worse than getting tones that have nothing to do with what you're actually recording.
And yeah, again, we're not gonna be listening to these all at the same time. We're just gonna be looking for what we think sounds best. And I've made a group, this one is gonna be for the left. The groups are off right now, but these four mics are gonna be the left, these four are gonna be the right. One thing that I need to add to the group, actually, is that the DI will record at the same time, that could help. Modify the group, I'm gonna add a track to it, I'm gonna just find it. This is the Add the DI, and then under Attributes, just make sure that Record Enable is one of them. And great. You can see when I hit Record, boom, it'll all record. Another thing is I am going to remove mute from the groove, that way I can un-mute and mute some of these channels individually. But, the thing that's important is that the Record Enable is the same on the DI and all these that are going to be on the left, make sure that the Pan Enable is in the Group Settings. Cool. And then we'll do the same thing on the other side. So, I'm gonna just go ahead and duplicate this DI track, just to make life easy, and if you notice, I have an interesting naming scheme going, but this is so that when we go down to the audio files menu, if I ever need to export this, I know exactly what this is, so I'll explain it. G is for Guitar, so every single guitar I will ever record, has a G before it in the file name, that way when you, like I said when you go to audio file menu, all the guitars will just be together. Then to DI, this is DI number two, so I know what that is. It's John Browne, JB, 'cause there is another guitar player in the band, and it's his signature guitar. And that's the pertinent information. So now, I am going to make sure to remove this since I duplicated this track, I'm gonna remove this DI from the original guitar group, 'cause I don't want it recording the wrong thing. Remove and then I'm going to add it to the second guitar group that we're gonna record on the right side. So, if you want to modify a group that you already have you just hold down the mouse button on the group, go to Modify, and here you see under Tracks which tracks are in there. I just found that new DI track I made, I add it into the group, go into Attributes. I ever wanted to remove the mute, remember, but keep the pan. And there we go. So, now these will all record together, and those will all record together. Why don't we do some recording?
Cool. Now, do you like to hear guitars down the center while you're recording? Or do you want to hear them panned? Doesn't matter to you.
It doesn't matter to me, no, at all.
Which side would you like to do first, left or right?
Okay, so we're gonna get volumes real quick. Let's start with this one. (melodic electric guitar) Okay, so that is the top left SM- and I just want to get the signal up into the yellow bottom middle of the yellow in ProTools. So just play some hard stuff. (melodic electric guitar) Cool. And since I can see all of these, I'm gonna just go ahead and gain them all up at the same time. You ready?
Let's keep going. (melodic electric guitar) Cool. Roughly all the same level, which is important because we don't want to be tricked by volume. If one of them is coming in louder than the others, we might be tricked into thinking it sounds better, 'cause that's how the human ear works. Louder sounds better. Alright, would you like (drowned out by guitar). We're gonna go to one of our earlier sessions. And, well, we're only gonna record.
The first riff, isn't it?
Yeah. Okay, so also we've got the stereo balance of the edited drums here, so (mumbling) gonna be playing to that and we also have a click. Do you want loud click or do you want to play more to the drums?
Play more to the drums, definitely.
Do you want a click at all?
Yeah, turn the click on just very quietly.
Okay, tell me how this is for you. (heavy rock music)
Drums up, definitely.
Yeah, definitely, yep.
Meaning louder than they are now?
Okay. Alright. How's this? (heavy rock music) Okay.
Alright, cool. Alright, so, yeah just do it to it. And you know, this doesn't need to be the tightest thing on Earth, we're just checking mics.
That's fine. Yeah, it's okay. (melodic electric guitar) (heavy rock music)
Cool. Alright, let's hit the other side now.
Do you want to hear what you did on the left while you were recording on the right?
I just need to give this a little tune quickly.
Well, the reason I'm asking actually, if he wants to hear it that way is because different guitar players care about these things. Yeah, some guys only want to hear the track that they're recording, some guys want to hear it against what they already played, some guys only want to hear a guitar down the middle. Everybody's different. You just gotta go with what they want, what makes them feel best.
I usually tend to do it with all the guitars together, so that I can hear if they're tight together or not.
Yeah, me too. That makes the most sense to be but not everybody likes that, for some reason. Okay, ready?
Yep, ready. (melodic electric guitar) (heavy rock music)
Cool. Okay, so let's listen to some amps, microphones. Your favorite one was the top right.
Why don't we listen to that one first.
You want to hear it with drums or by itself?
It's up to you. I'd say by itself to begin with, maybe with drums after.
I apologize if this is loose.
Oh, it's okay we're not going for (mumbling) right now, we just want to hear what we've got. (heavy rock music) You know what I'd also like to hear? Do you have any chuggy parts?
Why don't we also get one of those?
Is there any chuggy parts, one minute.
I think there is later, right?
Uhm. Yeah, there's. (melodic electric guitar) Is that right? This one's a lot of single note stuff rather than chords.
Yeah, well let's find that one spot where you are doing that.
That's right at the end.
Okay, then let's go there 'cause I feel like that helps figure things out.
And the reason I'm taking the time to do this is because I want to hear what the low end sounds like when he's chugging. It's a big part of a heavy sounding record, so, I want to hear what's going on there. Does it come in after the cleans?
Yeah, it comes in after the cleans, but maybe we can go back just a little bit so I've got a little bit of a run-up.
How's this? Okay. (heavy rock music)
That'll be fine, right?
Okay. Now let's get the other side real quick.
Mhm. (heavy rock music) Alright. Let's listen, top right speaker. (melodic electric guitar) Let's hear this riff. (melodic electric guitar) Not crazy about it, let's hear what else we got. Here's the top, the top left. (melodic electric guitar) Harsh.
Alright? Let's listen to the.
Bottom left, yeah. (melodic electric guitar)
No, there's no bottom end.
That was bad, bad news, bad news bears. (melodic electric guitar) No real top on that one.
No. So, (chuckling) I think you were right, but at the same time I'm not.
Totally convinced on the guitar sound.
No, not at all.
No, no nor am I.
Even though it sounded good in the room, we haven't managed to capture it with the mics yet.
At all, so we probably should do some re-miking, but I do agree that that top right speaker has the best balance of everything. It's a little round, but that's okay. That's tweak-able. (melodic electric guitar) (heavy rock music) Yeah. I feel like the other ones are either too muffly or.
Too harsh. Just papery and garbagey, so then let's start focusing on that speaker.
There's obviously the 300 hertz in the room that I can hear a lot of.
Yeah, how 'bout we remove that and see what happens. I was gonna say though, one thing that I'm not hearing enough of though, is I want to, I feel like the attitude's not quite there in the tone.
I don't think that removing 300 hertz is gonna restore that, but we still should remove 300 hertz.
Yeah. (melodic electric guitar)
That's a little better. (melodic electric guitar) Zero in on it a little more though. (melodic electric guitar) That is definitely it.
Yeah, where's that?
It's 257. (melodic electric guitar) I hear one that's up top that's just painful. (melodic electric guitar) That's a little more pleasant to listen to.
It still hasn't got the aggression that you can hear in the room.
No, not at all. Just those frequencies were bothering me a lot. (melodic electric guitar) Yeah, it definitely doesn't have the aggression though, so we should fix that. Basically, just turn the gain all the way up. I'm just kidding. (laughing) Okay, so.
Turn all knobs to 10.
I mean that's, more aggression on your guitars, that's how you do it.
Okay, shall we go back out there?
Yeah, let's go back out there and pull out some more mics.