One of the great things about digital audio consoles is the ease with which you can double-patch things. I’ve written about my vocal smash process before (short version, I double-patch the lead, compress one heavily and layer it with the normal channel), so this time we’ll talk guitars.
A few weeks ago, we did a song that had two very distinct guitar parts. During the verses, the electric was darker and more open. But come the chorus, a second guitar shows up and is much brighter and driving. At least that’s the recorded version. Our challenge was that we only had one electric guitar. To help beef up the chorus, I used my Monster Guitar channel.
The Monster Guitar channel is simply a second copy of the lead electric guitar. But, I process it quite differently. In DiGiCo land, we have several options to effect the channels. Sometimes I’ll use a DigiTube on the monster, but not usually. Normally, I employ four things to help the guitar stand out; delay, EQ, compression and the Audio Enhancer.
A little delay sounds like another guitar. I’ve played with this a bit and have found that adding about 50 milliseconds of delay sounds about right. Less than that starts sounding a bit odd to me, and more sounds like a tap tempo delay. I want it to sound like a second guitar playing the same line. I normally time it to the tempo of the song, and usually it’s a 1/16th o 1/32nd note, depending on tempo. But I try to keep it in the 50-65 msec range.
I normally EQ it brighter. Usually. Sometimes if the main channel is a bit bright, I’ll EQ the Monster darker, but typically I’m trying to add some more sparkle to the high end. I like to use a wide bump centered somewhere between 2-3 KHz that can be anywhere between 2-5 dB.
Compress it like a smash channel. The Monster is normally compressed pretty hard; 6-8-10 dB of gain reduction is not uncommon. I want to be sure this channel is filling in the holes in the dynamics, which makes the guitar stand out for a section. Like a smashed vocal, it makes it more present, not necessarily louder. Also, I flip my EQ to come after the compressor so I’m still getting the brightness I want.
Audio Enhancer? What’s that do? A while back, I was showing someone around the SD8 and we saw that FX plugin. I hadn’t use it, so I didn’t know. So I tried it on a few things. Turns out, it’s sort of a 3-band tube drive kind of thing. Which, it turns out, works great on electric guitars. I insert this after the EQ and Comp to give me some, well, enhancement. I play with the settings until it sounds right for the song.
When all those things add together and I bring up the Monster Guitar channel, the electric sounds bigger and more full. In the song I mentioned above, it sort of sounded like we had a rhythm guitar plus another playing lead, even though there was but one guitar player on stage. That was the effect I wanted.
I also use this for various guitar solos, intros and outros when I want the guitar to pop more. I rarely use it for a whole song, however, as it can be too much. But your mileage may vary. Even if you don’t get to mix on a DiGiCo, you can still do most—if not all—of this on your console. You’ll just need to find an effect that gives you the results you want. Give it a shot this weekend, and let me know how it worked out.