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Mixing Lead Guitars

Lesson 36 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

Mixing Lead Guitars

Lesson 36 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

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Lesson Info

36. Mixing Lead Guitars

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

This lesson discusses the mixing techniques used for lead guitars in the song. The instructor emphasizes the use of analog delay pedals and plugin delays to add depth and sustain to the lead guitar sound. They also discuss the importance of finding a balance between adding ambience and maintaining clarity in the mix. The lesson also touches on using octaver effects and lo-fi plugins to create unique guitar textures. The instructor mentions the use of impulse response reverbs and saturation plugins to enhance the guitar sound. They also mention the use of stereo widening and panning techniques to create a wide guitar sound. The lesson concludes with a discussion on tracking guitars and the editing process.


  1. What effects are commonly used on lead guitars?

    Analog delay pedals and plugin delays are commonly used to add depth and sustain to lead guitar sounds.

  2. How can you achieve a balance between ambience and clarity in lead guitar mixes?

    It is important to use delays and reverbs conservatively and experiment with pre-delay times to achieve an up-front lead guitar sound without overwhelming the mix with excessive ambience.

  3. What is the benefit of placing delays before the gain stage in a guitar signal chain?

    Placing delays before the gain stage creates a distorted, gainy sound as the delays combine with the guitar playing. As the guitar playing stops, the delays become cleaner and trail out, creating a unique and interesting sound.

  4. What are some plugins and techniques for creating lo-fi guitar textures?

    The King's Microphones plugin by Waves can be used to create lo-fi effects. Saturation plugins and impulse response reverbs can also be used to add distortion and create unique sounds.

  5. How should rhythm and octave guitars be panned in a mix?

    Rhythm and octave guitars should be panned hard left and right to create a wide guitar sound.

  6. How should guitars be edited in the recording process?

    The amount of editing depends on the skill and consistency of the guitarist. It is important to find a balance between natural variation and tightness in the editing process. Careful cross-fading and zooming out during editing can help create a natural and tight guitar sound.

Lesson Info

Mixing Lead Guitars

From rhythm guitars into lead guitars, that's, again, like I mentioned earlier, we use a lot of analog delay pedals rather than relying on play and delays. There are some plugin delays active in the session, so if I was to take this lead that comes in at this point, I can see that I've used Logic's own tape delay plugin, which I really like set to a quarter note with quite a lot of feedback and a fair amount of wet signal in the mix. I used to always reach for delay and reverbs when I was mixing lead guitars. These days I try to challenge myself as to exactly why. Something might need a reverb or delay. Really, the idea is to try and set it into the mix, especially if it's a solo, you can give an exaggerated sense of sustain to have the delay trails coming back at you. If possible, I try to keep it to a minimum. It can be a really fine line sometimes and obviously you don't want things to be completely dry, but if you really drench your leads in delay as you often hear people do, you a...

n end up then trying to add, but basically, the (mumbles) just ends up being a well of ambience, and behind every note, you're just gonna hear a whole swell of reverb and delay. Then you're gonna really fight for clarity. That's often something which I hear in amateur mixes is lack of clarity through overuse of delay and reverb. Sometimes they really trying to hue all of that out and you end up with a really thin mix. I would urge you to try and keep things pretty up-front, if you can, maybe experiment with pre-delay times on your reverbs and on your delays to achieve that kind of up-front lead guitar sound, and not to drench it too much in ambience. If we listen to this lead now without the delay and then with the delay, it's also worth mentioning, I'm just shelving off a little bit of low end so that it doesn't contrast too much with the rhythm guitars. I'm not using a high-pass filter. I'm just kind of taking out a little bit of that mute. (rock guitar playing) So in this case, there is actually a fair amount of delay on there, but it's kind of a rhythmic part, and there's an interesting interplay between the delays and the notes played within the lead. That would have been the decision made there. That's kind of a rarity in this session. What you've actually got a lot more of is very dirty sounding delays placed in front of the amplifier. This is something that's really fun to mess with. If you use, it doesn't have to be an analog pedal, but if you have a delay before your gain stage, you get a very different sound where the delay repeats get really distorted as they combine with your playing, so you get a very gainy sound as the delays are coinciding with your playing, and then as you let off, the delays get a lot cleaner as they trail out because they're not hitting the front end of the amplifier stage so hard. We use that sound a lot when we're creating layered guitars within Periphery. You can hear that on, for example, this lead here. (rock guitar playing) you can kinda here that on the trail there. You can also hear the slight timing imbalance. We're using an analog pedal and trying to match the BPM, but those are the subtle differences there that give a little bit of life to me. I'm a huge fan of that sound where you can hear the delays naturally thinning out. It also kind of draws attention to them and you can get something very interesting harmonic results coming out to them. For example, at the very end of the song, there was a very happy accident with the way that the guitar kind of died out as the delays trail was occurring. I really blended into the 8-bit sample that ends the song. I can show you what that sounds like now. (guitar tones) You can hear it kind of turn into a whole load of extra harmonics above. I've exaggerated that with a bit of automation that you can see on there where I'm actually sending it to a reverb as it fades out to extend that 'cause I guess we liked it so much that we wanted to extend it. That kind of sound really can be achieved by placing delays after the guitars. You'll tend to get a cleaner reproduction of what went in. If you do have any delay pedals lying around, I'd definitely urge you to have a little play around with chucking those into the front end of the amp if you're doing layer guitars. You can get a very washed out, kind of post-rock sound from that that sits really nicely into the mix. There are some kind of more lo-fi sounding guitars in this mix. We have this track here, it kind of foreshadows the riff that comes after the break. It's the break ending this song. (rock music) So it's the break in the song before the riff in seven, the kinda stompy rock riff. There's some fun plugins that you can mess around with creating lo-fi effects. One of my favorite ones to use is, it's called The King's Microphones. It's made by Waves. I think it was to coincide with, what was the name of the film? Oh, The King's Speech? The King's Speech, that's it. They kind of dug up some old microphones that were used by various kings and queens and created this thing, which has attempted to model the sound of these vintage microphones. I guess it's supposed to be used to create a vintage style broadcast sound on a spoken word voice, but they really sound very messed up if you chuck your guitar through them. I can show you what the guitar sounded like underneath it. (grungy guitar playing) it's worth noting it sounds like we used a fuzz pedal on that. We did occasionally mess around with varying types of distortion in front of the guitars. You can hear it, it's a very grungy kind of sound. But that, plus this plug in here is just gonna give something that sounds so kind of lo-fi and ambient. (grungy guitar music) So there's a whole load of sounds you can get, nine sounds you can get from this that can be extremely cool for creating really lo-fi textures, the way things are not supposed to sound good. I've seemed to have combined that with some EQ here, I guess to give it a bit more low end, but also to take out the worst offending of the scrapey frequencies, so with that, you hear. (rock guitar music) Finally, I used one of my favorite reverb presets that comes with Logic Space Designer, which is like an impulse response reverb. It's called Realistic Room. I believe you can find it in Small Spaces and Rooms. It just sounds like a room. I don't know how to describe it, but not a studio. It just sounds like something so immediately recognizable. I really love using it, especially on lo-fi parts to make it sound like you're kind of almost in the room with the cabinet so I'll show you what that sounds like. (rock guitar playing) That's the room reverb. (rock guitar playing) And that's a really grungy sound effect that kind of works nicely in that break. I do really like to use short reverb sometimes with lo-fi effects or prominent parts to give a sense of ambiance that's perhaps, different than what you would normally hear in this kind of music, where you get like very upfront guitar tunes, very dry sounding textures and either dry or extremely lush. I think sometimes it's nice to bring in some kind of lo-fi ambiance onto various things. I think there were some similar kind of reverb effects applied to some other leads in this song. I'd urge you just to open up some kind of impulse response reverb like Space Designer. They generally have all sorts of presets of weird things like car interiors or locker rooms and they can be really, really good fun to go through. I'm just gonna see what we've got going on here. I think this ... (rock guitar playing) So here's another lo-fi effect, courtesy of another Fab Filter plugin which is a saturation device. Fab Filter also bundles in some really, really good presets with their software and sometimes I just like to go through and find something which I'd never have thought of. Like our pageator style sequence things or sometimes they're just extreme distortion types. I mean there's some really weird stuff in here if I were to give you like a ... Check this out. I'm sure it's gonna be weird. (distorted guitar playing) That's just going through a few presets. I actually don't have that much use for the ones that are kind of sequence style, at least not with guitars. But on something like, I forget which one it was, it was one of these tape smash ones. On something like the lo-fi part we were just listening to, they can be just the ticket sometimes. If you're lacking the creativity. Let me find the original, there we go. I think I must've modified a little bit. What's very cool about this, is it's multi-band distortion device. So you can choose to distort various parts of the audio spectrum separately. So clearly I kind of used it as a bit of EQ and distorted things a little bit differently through the range. Highly recommend that plugin for all sorts of fun. What else have we got? We've got a couple of tracks here which I think actually date back to the original demo of the song. And something worth mentioning is that I really have no problem with using tracks that were from a demo. Sometimes you just get the take or the sound that just perfectly encapsulates what you're going for. And it can be really difficult to recreate those in a studio setting. As long as it's tracked in tune and especially if it's a background part like I think this is. It can be fine to just drop these straight into the session and not waste time trying to recreate something that was really, really good. So I believe these are just kind of more textural ambient guitars that we've got here that were created with various patches on the ax affects. Again the ax affects is the primary unit we use for tracking guitars on this album and it has a huge amount of really cool and some really crazy effects that can kind of turn guitars into more of a pad sound. And we certainly used a lot of those through the record. Hopefully you can hear that here. I think that's one. (distorted guitar playing) So I am actually supplementing that with some delay as well, which we'll look at in a second. But the raw turn would be this. (distorted guitar playing) So it's obviously some extreme delay, reverb, and octaver effect going on there. And I think Jake produced that sound, I think it was his part, this part of the song. And I think it was from his original demo. I don't even know if he necessarily knows what he did, but he was probably messing around with some effects chain and that was the result. But that kind of sound can blend really nicely, almost like a string pad or something underneath what you're doing. I EQd some of the top end out of it using Track Space I hear again, which is side chained from ... That's right I've used it side chained from the main rhythm guitar bus, so that it doesn't get too much in the way once everything kicks in. It must be quite a subtle difference though. What part of the frequency range? It must be a pretty wide band thing I think. I'll just unsolo the whole mix, just so we can see. (rock music playing) So that I think is acting on the whole frequency range but it's only gonna dip the frequencies where they kind of overlap the most. That can be a really useful plugin just for sitting textural parts into a mix and not have them become overbearing. Especially where there's a huge amount of reverb involved or like really long trail, sometimes that can really clutter up a mix. Having something like that can be really good for making sure it stays out of the way when it has to. This is another Fab Filter plugin. I probably went through and found a cool delay. It's a delay with all sorts of additional functionalities, LFOs and again, it can create some really crazy sounds. I think it was responsible, yeah, there's like a modulation effect in there as well, which we can hear when I press play. (distorted guitar playing) It's kind of like a coral feel. Exactly, yeah. So I think the other guitar doesn't even have that effect on it. But there's two guitars doing that and I think that must've been to kind of, it's creating like a low octave that's wobbling around. It's really just kind of fun and games at that point. It's something that definitely breaks up the monotony of tracking rhythm guitars. But finding some really cool plugins with interesting presets can be a very cool way of improving the sound of various layers and creating unique sounds that I certainly wouldn't remember how to create that just from listening to it. And that's the case with a lot of the layers on this album. I'm kind of looking at it again now with you guys and remembering as we go, exactly how we created these by seeing the various steps. I'm conscious that there might well be some questions about guitars that I'm not getting into. I think guitars can be a very big subject for people and I think they're interested to know what's going on. And this has probably been quite simplistic in terms of what's going on because of the lack of EQ. I don't know if there are any questions. Do you wanna take some? I would like to, yeah. Yeah, totally. Demetrio wants to know, do you pan all your rhythm and octave guitars hard left and right or do you pan the octave double slightly more inward? I always pan things really hard out to the sides when it comes to guitars. Sometimes the textural layers, like I believe here we have two lead guitars that are playing the same part an octave apart. And those are just slightly panned out to each side and to give a little bit of differentiation, but essentially, I'm treating that like it's one guitar part. Anything that is double guitar part, like a rhythm guitar is always gonna be panned to the extreme outsides for me. I don't like that encroaching on the center section of the mix. And in fact I do use a little bit of stereo widening, or I did on this mix at least, to increase the wide effect of the guitars. Cool. Why would you opt to use an octaver, rather than just record the part an octave higher? The octaver, yeah, it would be an octave lower, but there's a certain effect, we're using the octave effect before the guitar amp. So kind of similarly to the delays, it reacts very differently, like the amp is struggling to deal with the extra low-end information that's coming through. But it's also dealing with, there's something about both octaves hitting the amplifier stage at the same time that generates a cool sound. More like the amp is breaking up and really struggling to deal with it and that's kind of the sound we wanted when we were doing this. You could definitely experiment with that. I don't know if he means just literally an octave down or if he means two octaves at the same time. But you could try doing it in separation if you wanted a cleaner sound, but to me that's kind of what the basic guitar is there for. Sorry, I'm starting to lose my voice. Do you need some tea or something? Water would be amazing. Okay, we'll get you some. Thank you. Nolly, at what frequency do you high pass the guitars? In this mix, I think it was about 69 but I really don't get hung up on details like that. If a guitar is well tracked, then generally there's not gonna be a huge amount of sub information there. I find that often, it can be easy to high pass too high because of a problem that could be dealt with by maybe making a smaller cut higher up in the spectrum. Instead of just eliminating all information beyond that. I actually like my guitars to have a fair amount of low mid and low end information. I don't really like when guitars are super thin. And to me, it kind of blends better with the base when you have a little bit of extra extension on the guitars. Especially when you're tuning as low as we are in some of these songs. This song is not that low, this is tuned to an A but some of the eight string songs that we tracked on the album really benefit from having that extra octave underneath the guitars there. What about the low pass? The low pass is set quite high up I think. It's at 13.5k, which given that I think the slope of the high and low pass filter on the SSL channel are really quite shallow. That's really not doing much, apart from taking the extreme air out of the guitars. If I were to show you what that sounds like with the high pass filter taken out, well both filters taken out. (rock guitar playing) It barely makes any difference what I set the low pass to. The tone that we tracked was naturally very smooth and that was kind of achieved through cabinet choice, microphone choice, and getting the mics to really play with one another. With three mics involved in creating the tone and the combination yielded a very smooth sound. I think also in the ax affects, we might have also engaged a low pass filter just to get rid of the very extreme high end. With such a shallow slope, like you really have to cut down to almost getting close to 5k before you really heard it. That's one of the reasons I actually like the filters on this you can, it gives you quite a wide birth. And the low end didn't really seem to change too much either, it's just kind of there for safety, but certainly not hearing it drop out or anything like that. Brandon Morris wants to know, did you track any guitar's DI or did all the guitars go through a cab on this. The guitars were not actually tracked through a cab. We used a cab in the live room to create an impulse response. With the three microphones we put on that cab, we created like a combined impulse response. The cabinet was the Phatboy 2 by 12 which my friend Paul makes very close to me in England and we happen to have a couple of them in the States. They record really well and I particularly wanted to get a unique sound for our record rather than just using the sound within an ax effects like one of the cabinets that was in there. And we did toy with the idea of tracking through a cab, but if we were to take a DI plus the three mics for every guitar layer, this is actually not a very layer-intensive song at all as far as Periphery songs go. You could imagine that the track count would just really be racking up. So we opted to track through the ax effects with this kind of combined impulse response so that we would just have a single amp track. We did take DIs, just in case we changed our minds. But we also would use that maybe to help line up some parts during editing. It can be very helpful to see exactly where the transient of the guitar is, but we ditched those once we got to mixing. There was just no point in keeping them in the session if we weren't going to use them. Awesome. AK wants to know are the guitars and bass tracks generally edited to make them extra tight or are they kept the way they're tracked? And I think that question kind of applies across the spectrum of people like just starting out recording are gonna be recording people who are sloppier than people who are recording at your level. What's your experience and sort of advice. I think the thing is that the better the guitarist or the better the musician, generally, the more easily you can edit their playing. It's kind of a funny thing that happens. Like if you're gonna be doing a lot of punch-ins or a lot of editing, you need a really consistent player to be able to make that work. If you have a really sloppy player that's giving you inconsistent takes, it can be really difficult to edit stuff together. Just because every take is going to have sometimes very major differences, maybe even in just the finger tone, the way they're picking. It might drastically change between two different takes and trying to cut those together can be really difficult. I would urge people to try not to edit too much. But at the same time, I have no issue, I'm not gonna stand on a pedestal and say don't edit your guitars. There are certain aesthetics you can achieve. You can go and hard edit every single note and still not have it sound like super gritted guitar pro. If you allow a certain amount of human variation within your own editing, maybe doing it from a more zoomed-out perspective so that you're not really lining everything up on the grid. And being very careful with the way you cross-fade your tracks. Or you know, you could go the other way and create something is both not tight and sounds like really obviously edited. So I think there has to be skill in both people's cases, the guitarist and the person that's doing the editing. But if both are in place, you can get really, really good natural sounding editing and I have nothing against that at all. For me, a record is supposed to sound good. I don't wanna hear really obvious sloppy playing. Or if there's a way that I can improve the sound of a riff by getting a guitarist to play it one cord at a time or doing a lot of punch-ins and that's gonna achieve the end result that I want, then I'll happily do that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Halpern Drum Samples
Micing Guitar Cab
Nolly's Mic List

Ratings and Reviews

Connor Smith

I haven't even finished the course and already my mixes have improved dramatically. Night and day difference. I haven't watched the portions with Matt as I'm using drum samples (GGD specifically), but I have no doubt it's great. Matt is always incredibly helpful and is a brilliant drummer. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Nolly, he's very articulate and his approach to audio engineering is flat out brilliant. I'm so happy I purchased this course. Before my mixes were good (balance and things of that nature) but lacked life and energy. I just wasn't getting the professional level sound I was searching for. Now, I am proud of my mixes and actually think they're getting to the point where they sound professional and don't sound like they were produced by a dude in his bedroom with about half of year of recording and audio engineering experience. The metal genre is difficult to mix as there's a lot going on and the "current metal sound" is very crisp and clear while still being very heavy and punchy. It isn't 80s dad metal where guitars are hissy and flubby. lol I am a huge Periphery fan and it's a privilege to watch Nolly share his knowledge. I really enjoy his approach as its very simple but very effective. He doesn't have insane mixing strategies, he just does what works and it's applicable to any DAW and is helpful for almost any genre of music. Brilliant course!

a Creativelive Student

This was an amazing course! I loved hearing from both Matt and Nolly on their thought process behind drums in general. I love the point they drove home about getting a great source tone. That seems to be forgotten in a lot of recordings and they try to fix it in the mix. Jolly did a fantastic job of making it look "easy" to take already great sounding source tones and making them really shine! Cant wait to put these concepts into practice in my own projects. What a great source of knowledge here. Thanks for this great class!

Adrian Gougov

Best course and overall learning experience I've had in a long long while. Nolly and Matt are superb. Nolly is an astonishing mixing and recording engineer and a great teacher. Not only does he explains his methods carefully and in detail, but also lays down key concepts in an understandable language. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to mix modern heavy music. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to track drums properly. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna see one of modern metal's best drummers track a whole song from start to finish. Props to Creative Live for bringing this material to us.

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