I have to hand it to Avid, the Eleven Rack is changing my mind on guitar amp modeling and changing how I work in the studio and on stage. Today I want to give a little show and tell of the Eleven Rack, which is a total guitar amp, speaker, and effects modeling box that also happens to be a USB 2.0 interface and comes bundled with a free copy of Pro Tools. Let’s do this!
Have you ever struggled to get a good guitar recording? I know I have. I love guitar and have put together an in-depth tutorial series on recording and mixing acoustic and electric guitars. But there’s something else to consider before we start talking technique and tips.
I recently received an email from a reader named Nathan. His question was about guitars and it concerned me a little bit. Let me share it with you and maybe you can spot the problem:
A few days ago I did a session with a friend, but I can’t figure out how to get the electric guitar to sound good. My guitar is pretty crappy and so is my amp, so I decided to go straight through my interface into Pro Tools. I then used Amplitube 3 to distort it, but I couldn’t get the muddiness and gross crunch out of them, even with minimal distortion. - Nathan (TRR Reader)
The most important thing about recording is to get it right at the source. Don’t assume you’ll create the sound you want later in the mix. Use the tools at your disposal to capture something that actually sound amazing and compelling in its raw form.
Thinking strategically about the room you record in, the instrument you use, the performance, the mic choice, mic placement, gain staging and the use (or non use) of effects is critical to getting your desired sound. To be added to that list is one super helpful tool I want to make the case for today: the channel strip.
Your Miniature Console
I think every home/project studio could benefit from at least one good channel strip. When I say a channel strip, I’m referring to an outboard microphone preamp that also has an EQ and compressor built in. It’s more than just another preamp to choose from, it’s like having your own miniature recording console.
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There is a lot of hype surrounding the latest vintage console emulation plugin from Waves, the REDD consoles from Abby Road Studios. Does this replaces something like Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection or Waves own NLS (Non Linear Summer)? Or is it something more? Today I do a little show and tell of how I’ve used it in real mixes as of late.
When I was in college, all of my audio professors and books taught me to record as clean as possible, no effects. Just microphone to preamp to converter. Leave the EQ, compression, and other effects for the mixing phase.
The rationale was that you can’t undo effects on the way in so don’t play with fire. Just record things clean and then you can commit to the type of sound you want later. It’s a great idea in theory, until I realized that it was one of the biggest philosophies holding me back from making better music.
Why Wait To Make It Better?
What I’ve come to accept is that by recording “clean” all these years I’ve basically been telling myself that I’ll make it sound better, later. In fact, one band I was producing an album for used to joke on me in the tracking sessions saying “Graham will make it sound better…later!”
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You know what the problem with your mixes is? You don’t spend enough time recording. I know, I know, we just spent a month pouring over simple, practical mixing tips to help you get the most out of your tracks. But the real secret to every great sounding pro mix out there, is plenty of time spent getting a great recording.
Your Recording To Mix Ratio
Recently on the Simply Recording Podcast we discussed the fact that all of us have a recording to mix ratio. That is, the time we spent in the recording phase versus time spent mixing those recordings. For many of us our ratio looks something like 20% Recording to 80% Mixing. Translation: we spend hardly anytime on the recording end, so we are slaves to mixing for ever and ever, trying to turn our subpar recordings into gold.
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I love to see competition in the plugin world. It better serves the customer/user. Today’s review covers the Plug And Mix VIP Bundle from the guys at DontCrack.com. It’s a very affordable bundle of plugins ($399US for 40 plugins) that both sound good and are fun to use. Here’s a little show and tell from a mix that I used a bunch of these plugins on.
The title to this post sounds so egotistical, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s because I just turned 30, but I’m finding a common trend with “younger” bands and artists that is most definitely a product of our generation. The problem is we don’t know how to arrange a song.
We Just Stack And Stack
I talk a lot about arranging when giving recording and mixing tips, because the arrangement is what really makes a song great (or not). But last month I read an interview with Grammy winning producer/mixer Kevin Augunas that summed it up perfectly.
The best thing about a 16 track tape machine is limited tracks. It forces better arrangements. Young bands today don’t know how to arrange because of unlimited tracks. They just stack, and stack, and stack. - Kevin Augunas (The Lumineers, The Black Keys)
So just this week my band released our most recent EP entitled Lower. It’s a simple 5 song album that was tracked, mixed, and mastered in my own project studio. I thought today I would not only share it with you, but highlight a few lessons (good and bad) that I learned from this specific project.
Less Is More
I would say the biggest lesson that was re-enforced on this project was that less is more in the recording phase. I think I did this well when it came to guitars. During the tracking process I kept stripping away guitar parts until we were left with the absolute foundational parts. This made the songs easier to mix and they sounded bigger in the long run. Go figure.
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So we’ve reached the end of a month long mixing video tutorial marathon where I pumped out 31 mixing tips in 31 days straight! From mixing philosophy to tricks and hacks, this round of 5 Minutes To A Better Mix was a good one!
Third Time’s A Charm
And you know where that leaves us don’t you? With 3 rounds of this video series, that brings us to a grand total of 93 video tutorials. That’s about 8 hours of practical mixing training, at your disposal, ready to help you get better results in YOUR studio with YOUR gear. In fact, I’ve made it super easy for you to access all of those videos. I recently updated the 5 Minutes To A Better Mix page so you can see all 93 videos at a glance and dive right in!
Here are a few reactions to this video series:
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