You are here

Balancing clean and distorted guitars

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby kralik » Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:22 pm

Hello, I have a mix in which there is a clean verse and a distorted chorus. There is no problem with the distorted guitars. Distorted guitars, bass and drums play well together. But there is a problem with balancing the cleans. When I make them quieter than the distorted ones, the drums and bass are too loud. And when I make the clean guitars loud to match bass and drums, they are too loud when compared to the distortion, however. What do you think I should do? Lower bass and drums volume under the clean guitars and level it up with the distorted? Or is there some other way? Thank you.
kralik
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2020 8:41 pm

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby RichardT » Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:57 pm

You could try some compression on the clean guitars. If you use a fast attack and fast release you’ll reduce the transients and then you can bring up the body of the guitar sound. It might work, it might not!
RichardT
Regular
Posts: 263
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am
Location: London UK

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jul 26, 2020 2:15 pm

And don't be afraid to turn the bass and drums down a dB or so in the verse; it'll give your chorus more kick when it comes in.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11204
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby MOF » Sun Jul 26, 2020 2:40 pm

I would have said compression too. You might also want to add some eq.
Set up a fairly wide cut on one band of parametric eq and move its centre frequency to taste, start out with quite a lot of attenuation to hear the effect and then reduce it to the amount that doesn’t sound overly dull, experiment with the Q (width of the eq band) too.
I’m guessing it will be the upper mid frequencies 2 to 6k that are cutting through too much.
You might need a separate bass cut off to avoid conflicting with the bass guitar.
MOF
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1197
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:26 pm

kralik wrote:What do you think I should do? Lower bass and drums volume under the clean guitars and level it up with the distorted? Or is there some other way?

If you think about it, a distorted guitar has little dynamic range and a great deal of harmonic content, both of which make it subjectively loud and powerful in comparison to a clean guitar which naturally has a much greater peak-average ratio and far fewer harmonics.

Clearly, it's the different harmo if content that differentiates the two sounds, so you probably don't want to mess around with the EQ too much. And you can't easily make the distorted guitar less dense... But you can increase the perceived loudness of the clean guitar with some compression.

You can also do as Drew suggested, and ease the bass and drums back a bit to make balancing with the guitar easier, while also increasing the impact and drive of the chorus.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 28311
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby The Elf » Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:44 pm

Depending on context I will often lean heavily on EQ. An acoustic guitar in a busy mix can often be reduced to little more than upper mids and top to make its contribution, especially when electric guitars are present, and a distorted guitar, at the least, will need to be bracketed with HPF/LPF to stop it slobbering over everything else in the mix - and then you may also need to get busy with the mids to remove the nasty resonances.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14857
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby CS70 » Sun Jul 26, 2020 6:13 pm

kralik wrote:Hello, I have a mix in which there is a clean verse and a distorted chorus. There is no problem with the distorted guitars. Distorted guitars, bass and drums play well together. But there is a problem with balancing the cleans. When I make them quieter than the distorted ones, the drums and bass are too loud. And when I make the clean guitars loud to match bass and drums, they are too loud when compared to the distortion, however. What do you think I should do? Lower bass and drums volume under the clean guitars and level it up with the distorted? Or is there some other way? Thank you.

Ride the faders. You can do it with a compressor but so long the sections are big and you just need to alter the balance for a while, automation is the easiest thing.

I guess you're overdubbing? In a (good) band setting, the (good) drummer and bass player will instinctively play louder where the song's got energy, and much quieter when low singing or delicate acoustic guitars exist. When overdubbing, these details often escape the players and you have to reintroduce dynamic by automating the faders.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6035
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby kralik » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:30 pm

Thank you for the answers!

I am a one man band, so I am a bad bass player for my guitarist and vice versa, because all of it is me :lol: Drums are made via VST (I am trying to do my best, I often edit even by a single note).

That being said, here is one thing and I think it is a good thing: I do not have to control my drums by lowering the levels. Since my drums are VST drums, I can change their dynamics. When my loudest drum hit is 110 velocity in the chorus, I can make it 95 or so in the verse. I think it would sound more reallistic instead of just lowering the level by automation. I am not a drummer, but I believe that real drummers do not play the same velocity for the whole song. Maybe...

Here is the second thing: I used to brickwall my bass a lot. To "lock the bass into place". But maybe sometimes it is not the best approach. Especially when the song is not all about the distortion and power but about quiet and loud places. All the dynamics would disappear then and the bass in the verse would sound as loud as in the chorus. So now I compress but not brickwall that hard.

The third thing is the EQ. I've found out that there was too much low end in the clean guitars. It was even louder than the bass! So I made a low cut. And I made a sweep check for unpleasant frequencies. Now, when the transition between the verse and the chorus occurs, the chorus has audibly a lot more energy.

The last thing is the bus compressor. Setting the right threshold results in better placing all of the instruments together.

There is a lot of work before me, but this helps! Thank you, It is friday tomorrow, so I will try hard and find the best I can do!
kralik
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2020 8:41 pm

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:37 pm

Sounds like you're making good progress. :thumbup:
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11204
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby awjoe » Fri Jul 31, 2020 4:00 am

I'm still learning the basics, but when I have a track that I want more prominent and I don't want to distort it, sometimes I sidechain it to a gnarly compressor and mix that in to taste. That, and turn down the drums and bass a bit against the clean guitar.

The gain, the EQ, the compressor - it's all about levels, right? If one of those three doesn't work, reach for another.
User avatar
awjoe
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2508
Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:00 am
Music production is like finding a good hair dresser

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby CS70 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:46 am

kralik wrote:Thank you for the answers!
I often edit even by a single note).

Ah! That's how's done! :thumbup:

That being said, here is one thing and I think it is a good thing: I do not have to control my drums by lowering the levels. Since my drums are VST drums, I can change their dynamics. When my loudest drum hit is 110 velocity in the chorus, I can make it 95 or so in the verse. I think it would sound more reallistic instead of just lowering the level by automation. I am not a drummer, but I believe that real drummers do not play the same velocity for the whole song. Maybe...

They most certainly not! It's good if they keep somewhat the same tempo :D As of realism, it's not so different, but it depends on the sample pack. Lower velocity may actually use slightly different samples and impact the sound. 99% of the people won't notice however. Just go for what's faster and easier.

Talking of what, often a band will get a little bit faster for exciting bits and slow down again for quiet ones. If you load any classic song (i.e. pre-DAWs) into your DAW and look at the relationship between the average beat and the actual one, you can get an idea of the differences.

Now we're often talking little BPM changes, nothing massive, but it can contribute a lot to the realism. And sometimes drifitng is pretty big. A few weeks ago I made a background base for Bryan Adam's "Run to You" for a singer friend, and the timing was quite something! This is often something that contributes (or not) to the feeling of classic or modern sound - much more than the actual instrumentation and tones.

Here is the second thing: I used to brickwall my bass a lot. To "lock the bass into place". But maybe sometimes it is not the best approach. Especially when the song is not all about the distortion and power but about quiet and loud places. All the dynamics would disappear then and the bass in the verse would sound as loud as in the chorus. So now I compress but not brickwall that hard.

Sometimes yes, sometimes not.. if you limit or compress heavily, you may get a chunky sound or change the attack in a way that fits the piece... in that case you're compressing for color besides control, and removing the limiting will remove that. In that case, once again it's just fine to keep squashing the bass and automate the levels to make it go with the rest.

Again, it's something that a good bass player would do instinctively - keep the tone "consistent" between parts while changing the overall volume. Sometimes at mixdown time you want to accentuate that for effect. Of course the better (i.e. more fitting) the recorded part is, the less work there is to do.

There are no hard rules other than make it sound as you want it, and make it sound good.

The third thing is the EQ. I've found out that there was too much low end in the clean guitars. It was even louder than the bass! So I made a low cut. And I made a sweep check for unpleasant frequencies. Now, when the transition between the verse and the chorus occurs, the chorus has audibly a lot more energy.

Lovely! Often the EQ treatment is very different for acoustic guitar when they are exposed alone (intro, bridge) than when they play together with other instruments. No need to have the same EQ during the entire track.

It is friday tomorrow, so I will try hard and find the best I can do!

Sounds like you have your work cut! The results are really worth it usual, it's what makes it fun. Best of luck!
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6035
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby kralik » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:22 pm

Hello, thank you again for a lot of the answers!

In the past I spent a lot of time by creating a good mixing template by mixing one song again and again. When it was good enough, I tried to record all the other songs "into" it. Mainly because of some consistency of an album. So that there were not any significant changes of sound and levels throughout the album.

But then I realized that some songs may really need something that is not applied to the other ones. Is that right? Is it good to record songs into a template but then tweak each song a little bit differently, as it needs? I should not make them sound that different, so one could think they are from two different albums and places, though.

I've found out that the automation can also help. Is it applied frequently? Is it common to not to have the level envelope straight all the way through the song?

I guess I've been relying rather on numbers than ears, maybe I should use ears more and make changes that sound better rather than tend to have the same settings in all the songs etc...
kralik
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2020 8:41 pm

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:18 pm

In the end it's all about 'ears' yours and the end consumer's. Most albums include different styles and feels so I'm not sure a template can work for all of them.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13312
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:29 pm

The only time a 'template' approach has helped me is when I've recorded several songs in one session. But by the time the mixes are finished each mix has looked completely different, even if the overall feel is maintained.

I think you're on a hiding to nothing, but give it a go by all means.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14857
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Balancing clean and distorted guitars

Postby Alan Twelve » Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:18 pm

I find templates are very useful when using VST drums - as I do whenever I'm recording at home. Starting a song with Superior Drummer, or SSD already loaded up and routed to the mixer saves a bit of tedious work. Beyond that I find they're not much use though, unless you always use the same instruments and plugins on the same number of tracks, I suppose.
Alan Twelve
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:14 pm

Next