The Predicament: Reviving Lackluster Guitars
Ever found yourself dealing with tracks that weren’t part of your original recording process? Trust me, it’s a common situation, especially in the world of mixing. Sometimes, you pull up the faders and everything falls perfectly into place. Other times, though, it’s as if every conceivable issue has found its way into the mix. Guitars, in particular, can be notorious offenders in this regard.
Whether it’s due to a subpar amp, a questionable preamp, or even an entry-level interface, certain genres of music can leave us with an abundance of lackluster guitar tracks. These tracks lack the punch, character, and overall oomph needed to make a mix truly shine. But fear not – there’s a trick I want to share that just might be your saving grace.
The Analog Magic: Broad-Stroke EQs
Imagine this: you’ve got a mix that’s got potential, but the guitars are simply not up to par. Enter my secret weapon – the broad-stroke EQ technique. This method involves taking an EQ plugin that you adore, something that imparts genuine analog-like tone, and then cranking up the knobs in a rather unconventional way.
Here’s the gist of it: instead of surgically boosting or cutting specific frequencies, we’re going to take the entire frequency spectrum and give it a hearty push. Yes, it might sound counterintuitive, but stay with me. The magic happens when you channel this boosted signal through the EQ’s circuitry. We’re talking about imparting the unmistakable flavor and character of that circuit onto your guitars.
The Art of Abusing Gear (Sparingly)
Now, I’m not suggesting we go on an EQ-boosting frenzy with every mix. This technique is more of a “when needed” trick – a tool in your audio toolkit for those times when guitars (or any instruments, really) are just not cutting it.
Imagine taking four bands on an EQ and generously boosting them, then trimming the output to maintain a reasonable level. What comes out on the other end isn’t drastically different in terms of frequency response. Instead, it’s transformed by the unique sound of the EQ’s circuitry.
The Experiment: From Sterile to Sensational
To put this technique into perspective, let’s consider a mix I’ve been working on. It’s a grand production with a multitude of tracks, all expertly processed – except for the guitars. While I wouldn’t label these guitars as “bad,” they’re just not living up to their full potential within the mix.
I decided to apply my broad-stroke EQ approach to these guitars. I chose to use a few different EQ plugins known for their distinctive analog characteristics: the Fuse Audio Labs 154, the SSL 4000E, the Curve Bender, and an API Channel strip.
A Symphony of Transformation
As I engaged each plugin and cranked up the boost, something remarkable happened. The guitars, once somewhat lackluster, came alive with character, warmth, and depth. It wasn’t just about EQ curves; it was the essence of each circuit that contributed to this magical transformation.
Fuse Audio Labs 154: By boosting each band generously, then carefully trimming the output, the guitars gained a new lease on life. The result was a more lively and rich sound.
SSL 4000E: The SSL plugin, with its own unique sonic signature, worked its charm. The broad boosts brought out the best in the guitars, rendering them more vibrant and captivating.
Curve Bender: With its wide curves and character, the Curve Bender EQ introduced a new dimension to the guitars. The resulting sound was distinctive, accentuating the mix in an exceptional way.
API Channel Strip: The API plugin, known for its proportional boosts, provided a different approach. Despite applying a slightly smaller boost, the transformation was evident, breathing life into the guitars.
The Visual Sonics
To give you a better visual of this process, I monitored the changes using a meter. The growth of the sound was evident, illustrating how the broad-stroke EQ technique impacted the mix. The result wasn’t just about frequency adjustments; it was about channeling the analog magic of these circuits to create a more exciting sonic landscape.
Embrace the Trick When Needed
Remember, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all trick. The broad-stroke EQ technique is a tool to be used strategically – when you encounter guitars (or any instruments) that need a boost in character and depth. It’s about harnessing the power of analog gear to breathe life into digital recordings.
So, fellow audio adventurers, the next time you find yourself facing lackluster guitars or stale tracks, consider reaching for the broad-stroke EQ technique. Embrace the analog magic, abuse your gear (in the best possible way), and elevate your mixes to new heights. Until next time, keep experimenting, keep creating, and keep making music that resonates.
Take care and happy mixing!