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Category Archives for "Guitar & Bass"

Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

Daily Blog - June 14th 2021

In our podcast and other places I've said a couple of times that you have to be careful with certain processed and widely used drum sample packs if you want a unique sound. After thinking about it for a bit during the last couple of days, I need to clarify and apologize. It's not that there's anything wrong with certain sample libraries or companies and I didn't want it to come across that way.

Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

It's not about what you use, it's how you use it.

Many of today's virtual drums or guitar amps truly sound amazing. We all have to agree on that and I've been a fan of these tools for a long time. Most of them can give you impressive results pretty quickly. That's cool and makes writing so much fun! But that's also why I say "be careful".

I've made hundreds of records and I've witnessed dozens of sessions and mixes done by others. This includes everything from local bands to major label artists. One thing I never do and never see others do (there's always the rare exception, of course) is just load up a preset in some virtual instrument or amp sim and use that on the record, as it is.

Why? Because a "fully mixed" preset or sample pack can never be "fully mixed" without context. In fact, you don't mix a guitar or a drum kit. You mix a song. 

What might sound amazing on its own or in the context that it's been made in will probably not work with the tempo, key, tuning, vibe, energy and arrangement of your song.

And it doesn't start with the mix. You have to make production decisions and define your sound from the beginning.

That's why most producers use those tools, but they

  • tweak them to fit the song
  • blend them with other samples or "real" instruments/amps/cabinets
  • create their own samples/IRs and load them into those tools
  • create their own presets and templates for certain situations or genres (as starting points!)
  • do whatever serves the song to create a unique sonic landscape that carries the emotion and energy in the best way possible

Can you choose a couple of tools that you really like, use them for quick demos and to accelerate the writing process, but then only view them as starting points and take it from there?

You don't want to sound like everyone else. You want to define your sound. You want the sonics of your record to fit the musical content and lyrics. You want your record to have a unique, recognizable vibe, not recognizable samples.

Keep using the tools. We all use them. Just try putting more effort into it and make them yours. 

-Benedikt

PS: I love to use raw, unprocessed drum samples for all those reasons above. I still use presets for writing and demos, but in my mixes and productions I usually go raw. My favorite sample packs that can do both, and that give me tons of unique features and options that I can blend (if I want to) are made by Room Sound Drums. I use many of the others, as well, but Room Sound samples tend to work most of the time without giving away which library I used.

PPS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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1 Your Guitars Are Out Of Tune

Daily Blog - May 24th 2021

Yes, they probably are. Out of tune guitars are one of the most common problems in DIY recordings. 9/10 DIY recordings I get to mix have some sort of guitar or bass tuning issue. It's the truth. Here's why and what you can do about it.

“The Only Thing That Matters Is What Comes Out Of The Speakers”

Follow these steps to avoid guitar and bass tuning issues:

This is a short, actionable checklist that will get you very far and hopefully solve your problems. For more in-depth advice and explanation please listen to podcast episode #22 and episode #47 
  • Use fresh strings and change them often during the recording session. They die quickly and you'll need a couple of packs for a record. That's completely normal. As soon as the sound changes and the tuning stability decreases, change them!
  • Pick the right string gauge, using an online string tension calculator to figure out the proper gauge for your tuning. With the wrong gauge it's gonna be an uphill battle.
  • Set up your guitar properly and regularly (or take it to a professional to get it done). Definitely do it before every recording session and check it again whenever you switch to a new tuning or string gauge/brand. This includes action, intonation and neck relief among other things.
  • Use the same tuner for every bass, guitar and player in the band. 
  • Use a strobe tuner (Peterson tuners are highly recommended and considered the most accurate out there). Plugins, like bx_tuner can be great, too. Typical stomp boxes (except for the Peterson Strobo Stomp) are usually not accurate enough.
  • Tune the attack (pick quickly and repeatedly when tuning) or tune the sustain (let the string ring out when tuning), depending on the part. Just think about how you're going to pick in the part and do exactly that when tuning.
  • Tune exactly like you play (hard/soft, sitting/standing). Sometimes you even have to tune individual chords and punch them in, if necessary.
  • Mute unused strings and use fret wraps, if necessary.
  • Practice your technique. Much of the tuning is in your hands! Examples are fretting too hard, bending with your left hand or the position and intensity of your right hand. If you pick hard, then also do that when tuning.
  • Tune before every take but don't tune between doubles (if you're using the same guitar for that), so that main and double will be as tight and in tune as possible. This requires you to do the double immediately after the main take.
  • Use the same guitarist for both the main take and double, even if you use different rigs/guitars.
  • Use a tuning reference track (MIDI bass is great for that)
  • Consider getting an Evertune bridge if you're in the market for a new guitar
  • And finally, train your ears and learn to hear and notice tuning issues immediately. This is probably the most important part. Most people just don't realize they're having tuning issues. The best way to learn is to get feedback frequently from people with trained ears and then practice as much as possible. Using tools like Melodyne to check and analyze your tuning can also help. Don't use it for correction, just use it as a learning tool that shows you whether or not your recording is actually in tune. This plus MIDI reference tracks will quickly help you understand the whole issue better. That said, it's hard to analyze/visualize chords properly and how it sounds is always more important than how it looks in a tool like that. Most of the time the two go together, though.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Distort Everything

Distort Everything
Daily Blog - May 19th 2021

I received this amazing sticker from Scott Evans (antisleep.com) and it's right in front of me everyday. My daily reminder to have fun with the audio I'm working on and to constantly try and find ways to destroy sounds in a musical way.

My Love-Hate Relationship With Stem Mastering

Distort Everything. Seriously. It tends to make things better.

A little bit of harmonic distortion, a little drive, a subtle push, some extra density and overtones. It rarely hurts. It usually makes things better. It means you need less compression. And it makes things interesting, exciting and unique.

You gotta be very careful (and tasteful), especially during recording. But you can literally distort everything if you try hard enough and find pleasing ways to do so. 

And of course, you can always completely mess things up and create the most obnoxious, nasty tones ever if that's what you like (I often do!). No rules.

Have fun. Distort everything. I live by it. Thanks Scott.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

1 Faders As EQ

Daily Blog - April 29th 2021

While I believe you should be able to get great tones from using just one mic on any mono source (guitar cabs, snare drums, etc.), there is an approach that I absolutely love which involves two mics. Next time you record a guitar cab, for example, try picking two mics that sound drastically different. Pick one very dark and one very bright mic. A ribbon and a dynamic mic, for example. Then increase the difference even further by putting the bright mic in a very bright spot (close to the center of the speaker cone) and the dark might in a very dark spot (close to the edge/outside of the cone). 

Faders As EQ

Why would you do that and what about the "faders as EQ" thing?

Make sure you align the capsules, so you won't run into phase issues, record the two mics to separate channels and you'll end up with a "dark" and a "bright" fader that you can balance against each other.

Now the beauty of this is that you can completely change the tone of your guitar recording without ever touching an EQ. Just by moving the faders. This means that the harmonic balance and general character of your tone stay the same, which isn't the case when using EQ, because EQ leaves parts of the signal untouched but changes the volume of others. The relationship between fundamentals and overtones changes and certain chords or notes will get louder or quieter. With this "extreme fader" technique you don't get these unwanted side-effects of EQing guitars as much. 

And now, throughout the song, you can easily and quickly create "scene" changes without having to automate an EQ, all while keeping the basic harmonic character the same. 

You can also adjust for different parts that need a different tonal balance. For example you might want to turn up the "high" fader during a palm mute part or low chords that need some extra definition, pick attack and clarity. But then after that you might have a part with high chords or a quick single note lick that needs a rounder, warmer tone to not sound harsh. No problem, just change the balance, turn the "high" fader down and the "dark" fader up and... aaaah, so smooth.

This also works for snare drums, for example. You could have one dynamic mic and one condenser mic very close to each other with the capsules aligned to not mess with the phase. Now you have a fader for the aggressive midrange "crack" and ring (dynamic) and one for a more open top end, the stick attack details and also body and low end of the drum (condenser). Depending on the part you can slightly change the balance and bring out ghost notes and details with the condenser, or turn up the ring/crack and make the snare cut more with the dynamic. 

Have fun experimenting!

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

#32: How To Make Amp Sims And Kemper Profiles Work (They Can Sound Just As Good As “Real” Amps)

"I've tried using amp sims but they just don't sound like the real thing." 

Is this you? Do you feel like amp sims are great for writing, but you'd always choose a "real" amp for your actual record? If only you had access to a couple of great guitar amps, cabs and mics... If only recording these real amps was as quick and convenient as recording a DI into plugin... If only amp sims would sound as good as the real thing...

Good news: They do! Not the same, but just as good.

As always, it's not about the gear you use, it's about the sound in your head, your vision, your creativity. And there are always multiple different ways and different tools to get there. 

When it comes to guitar tone, modern amp sims (virtual guitar amp plugins or Kemper profiles) can definitely get you there. That being said, we can see why you are feeling like they're lacking. There are reasons many people seem to love analog gear (and specifically analog guitar amps) more than their digital counterparts. But luckily, there are ways to make them work just as well as the classic amps we all love. 

In this episode we're discussing what it actually is that makes an amp sound great and "real", then we're talking about if, where and why amp sims might be lacking and finally, we're giving actionable advice on how to make them work on a professional, exciting record.


Don't let your lack of gear hold you back!

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