WARNING: Guitar talk for a while, then recording talk later.
Mmmm...do you smell that? I think it's the smell of tone. Daniel just got his Tiny Terror Combo made by ORANGE. Awesome amp. We're both just so impressed by how loud that little amp can go. It's truly a work of art. Kudos, Orange, for making one heck of an amp.
The other day I went down to my favorite guitar store (Full Scale Guitar in Broken Arrow) and tried out some pedals. A lot of people have been raving about the Keeley Mod Blues Driver ever since its release, and so I grabbed that in addition to a few other boutique pedals they had there. Others included the Xotic BB Preamp, the Keeley TS9, and the Fulltone OCD. How do I put it simply...the Xotic BB Preamp beat them all by a long shot. .
The BB is a SUPER versatile pedal with only four knobs: volume, gain, bass, treble. While you might think the bass and treble controls are kind of strange, you have to consider, they are active, so if you turn down the bass and treble, it sounds like you're accentuating the mids, not simply rolling off low and high. Likewise, if you turn up the bass and treble, it sounds like the mids are a bit scooped-sounding. This bass control is INTENSE and should be used with honor!
I can't tell you how many pedals I've tried that are just TOO boomy. One of the better sounding distortion units around is the ZVEX Box of Rock. The pedal is SO sick for lead work, especially during recording, but playing chords is a nightmare. The pedal is just SO incredibly thick the chords are just mud at high gain. Now, a pedal opposite this is the Lovepedal Kanji Eternity. AMAZING sounding pedal with not much low end. However, paired with a compressor, this is one of the best sounding pedals I've ever heard and owned. Warm, creamy, great for lead and rhythm.
Anyway, so I've decided that the BB is my next choice for my pedalboard. I'm very picky about what pedals go on my board, and I've gone through a lot. Fulltone FullDrive 2, Hand build Keeley TS9 clone, Box of Rock, etc. I think the BB is just a great idea. If I'm using single coils, I can beef up the low end a bit, but if I'm using humbuckers, I can bring it back down. What a great concept, Xotic! What just have a tone knob when you can have true active EQ!
(Guitar talk is now over)
As for recording, I've had some interesting discoveries recently. Compression is something I use very carefully (as you might see in a former post about bus compression), as is EQ. I'll get to that in a second.
One thing I advise people to do is not listen too loud. I've seen some engineers listing to their songs fairly loud, and judging the mix that way. There are a few problems with that. First, it makes EVERYTHING sound good. When you turn music up, you feel it in your bones, your heart, and you're just enjoying the loudness. However, when you're listening quietly, you're really focusing to hear elements of the mix. THIS IS NOT TO SAY that you need to listen super quietly all the time. There are many benefits to listening quietly, however:
1. If your room is not treated well for mixing, listening quietly can help eliminate the room from the equation.
2. If you listen quietly, your ears are hardly being stressed, so you can mix for much longer.
3. If things still sound punchy at low volumes, they will certainly sound punchy at higher volumes. This is partly because compression is easier to spot and adjust when you're listening quietly, or at least quieter than what one might consider "loud."
There are a few drawbacks to listening quietly, but the main problem (and a big one) is the low end. When you listen quietly, the low end is somewhat masked, and so sometimes you can add WAY too much low end when listening quietly, and when you turn it up, you are blasted away by the kick and bass guitar. This is yet another reason to check your mix on different speakers at different volumes.
I like to set my EQs on these tiny computer speakers because they really are midrangey and they help me get all the low mids, mids, and high mids balanced out. There aren't many high or low frequencies pumping out of these things, so it helps me focus on JUST midrange. This is great for things like acoustic, electric, vocals, and drums. Most of the lows are comprised of kick and bass guitar, maybe some low end of electric. Highs are usually sibilance, cymbals, some snare, some acoustic "zing" sound, and maybe some electric. Other than that, about 90% of the music is contained in the mids (LM, M, HM), so make sure instruments aren't fighting each other!
Get a pair of computer speakers. It can do wonders for your mixing ears.