Loud guitars vs. Big guitars

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Shellacattack
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Loud guitars vs. Big guitars

Post by Shellacattack » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:22 am

I searched around for a bit on here and couldn't find much, so I thought I'd post something.

I've read a number of posts (both here and elsewhere) where people are asking for advice on how to achieve "big guitar" sounds. The reads were interesting, but didn't seem to touch on something that I've been struggling with: translating that really loud (whether clean or dirty) amp in the next room to my speakers/earbuds/car stereo.

Here's the best example I could come up with at the moment:

Nirvana - On a Plain (Nevermind) = big guitars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDzZECKoGuY

Blur - Chinese Bombs (Blur) = loud guitars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_G2Ufe9d7I


Big guitars are all well and good, and definitely have their place, but I want to get that "loud guitar" sound. I want to capture that "amp about to blow up" sound.

How have you folks achieved success in that arena?

I've tried smaller 10 watt combos, 7.5/15 watt heads, through 1x12, 4x12's. I've thrown up 1-3 mics, dynamic, LDC, SDC, near, distant.. I've definitely gotten closer to the sound.. but can't quite nail it.

I'm wondering if low wattage amps may not be the best choice. While the power tubes distort sooner, the amp circuits in general seem to have a much quieter voicing. 50 watts and above just sound louder.. even when not driving the power tubes too hard. I dunno, maybe I'm crazy.

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Gregg Juke
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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:27 am

Are you talking lead, or rhythm?

Different animals.

GJ

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:33 am

This issue lies in how the guitars are mixed.

CONTEXT.

If you want something to be big in a mix, you have to have something else which can be small, so you have contrast.

If all you have is big everything, then big means nothing at all.

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Shellacattack
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Re: Loud guitars vs. Big guitars

Post by Shellacattack » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:44 am

Are you talking lead, or rhythm?

Different animals.


Hi Gregg,

Either one, really. How do you achieve loud guitars?


This issue lies in how the guitars are mixed.

CONTEXT.

If you want something to be big in a mix, you have to have something else which can be small, so you have contrast.

If all you have is big everything, then big means nothing at all.

Hi Nick,

I do understand the give and take within a mix, but I'm thinking not only in a full mix setting, but also when isolated. For instance, when the guitar opens "Chinese Bombs", it's by itself, but still sounds loud. Even during the chorus it gets louder and more distorted sounding, without being very loud in the mix. That's the issue I'm running into. I've got my 15 watt amp dimed, running through a 4x12 Marshall cab, but even with a 57 on the grill, and a LDC further back, the amp doesn't sound loud when I listen back. By itself or within a mix. Like I said, with experimentation, I've been getting closer, but can't quite get there.


Thank you both for your replies!

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:48 am

Hi,

All the big guys I have seen recording "big" guitars used at least 4 microphones, and spent a lot of time getting the sound just right.
Think not only big, but also fat, or wide.
This means combining many mics to get one big fat sound.
It is simple yet complicated...
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:35 pm

Nick Sevilla wrote:Hi,

All the big guys I have seen recording "big" guitars used at least 4 microphones, and spent a lot of time getting the sound just right.
Think not only big, but also fat, or wide.
This means combining many mics to get one big fat sound.
It is simple yet complicated...
He wants loud not big.
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Post by dfuruta » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:41 pm

If you want the recording to sound like a high-wattage amp running full out, why not run a high-wattage amp full out? Besides the different sound coming from the amp itself, I don't imagine the room will react the same to very loud and not so loud sounds.

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:42 pm

To the OP.

I never seem to want to compress my guitar tracks, but I almost think I hear compression (beyond what distortion and a driven amp will do for you) on that blur track. Compression is the first thing I reach for when I want something "louder" without being louder. Also, that Blur amp sounds like it's driven harder than I usually do for recording. I've always found that a little cleaner than I want it in the room translates into just the right amount of distortion in the mix.

I'm also wondering if this has something to do with sag. Like, a smaller amp, (I guess almost any amp) driven to extremes (dimed) is going to sag, but a higher wattage amp, turned down a bit is going to keep it's punch throughout the envelope.

So, take a distortion pedal, crank it up too high, into a loud amp that's not taxing itself, recorded with 3-6 mics, comped a bunch. Maybe parallel comped. Or only some of those 3-6 mics comped.
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Post by ashcat_lt » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:57 pm

Fletcher-Munson? A little touch of "scooping" might help.

Also, snare rattle. That's how you know it's loud, cause you can hear it shaking stuff!

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Post by Cyan421 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:59 pm

I'm gonna take a shot in the dark and say that blur recording is one loud ass amp with 1 or 2 mics on it. Something like a 4 12" cab with a dual rectifier or a 5150. I know that is not the right tone, I just mean in terms of volume in the room. I would continue to guess that the nirvana sound is a bunch or amps in a room, or different rooms with many different mics on them.
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:59 pm

fwiw i've had much better luck getting either 'loud' or 'big' guitars with one mic (and maybe a room mic but not all that often) than i ever have with multiple mics.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:39 pm

I think it does have to do with mix, but also guitar, amp, and mike choice, and sometimes, but not always, actually playing loud in the room.

I like tube amps, and solid state that sound like tubes. We have a Carr, a Vox AC4mini, and an old Kimberly/Teisco that rock, and have some stones without blasting at full volume. Also, the actual mini (really mini, like the Honeytone and the Fender and Marshall minis available for cheap at GC) work pretty well; the mini Fender Bassman sounds good.

I would try compression too, if that's the sound you want (both in-line/from the source and post in the mix). BUT, you tend to lose pick attack and get that gooey thing with a lot of compression, so don't also expect lots of "feely" stuff and dynamics; it's hard to have both.

Also, I have had some success with a pretty rockin' amp in a larger room, where you can do a close mike and a pretty distant room mike (like, more than 10 feet). But, you will be getting some fairly significant delay (it's cool, but be aware that that is part of the sound, unless you time align later; if you're going analog, then love the delay).

GJ

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Post by kslight » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:08 pm

I've had the biggest tones with a single well placed good mic in front of a decent amp in a live room. I never compress electric distorted guitars, I usually back off the gain as well. I do not like the sound of most mics right on the grill, usually placed at least 6 inches back if not more. Experiment with on and off axis response. Think about how you said you want to translate the sound of loud amps into your recordings. Is the sound you are hearing in the room that you like right at the grill? Didn't think so... If you are going to do multiple mics... Find a place you like the sound and place an omni mic where your ears are.

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Post by losthighway » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:47 pm

Usually guitars sound extra loud when it sounds like something is breaking. This is really hard to qualify, it's something like hearing more than one thing distorting, and those distortions interact. Like maybe a hot pickup is going through a boost pedal, smacking the input stage on a tube amp which in turn is jostling a speaker a little harder than it wants to be.

I've heard Twins do this flawed kind of loud sound on their own with some volume cranked.

To top it off, I feel like I only get this with really clear micing, as if the amp needs to be jacked to hell and the mic/pre situation has to be perfect and clear. All those weird things going on in the mids, and the overtones need to be really clean... like a clean reproduction of something horribly dirty. I suppose you could try the reverse.

I guess what I'm saying is between a guitar, pedals, a tube amp, a speaker, a mic pre.... there are a lot of gain stages there. They all kind of push against each other.

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your tone + comp

Post by caffiend2049 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:49 pm

I'd say spend a lot of time futzing with compression after capturing the essential sound you want.
When you hear loud guitar in a room, your ear is supplying compression.
It isn't there when you listen back to the mix (unless you are mixing at super high volume) so you have to twiddle until you find just the right comp that sounds like what your ears would provide. Very personal and subjective....but also satisfying when you hit it.

Some comp on the 2 bus is also good, obviously, so the gtr still is loud when playing along by itself.

And, since no one else mentioned it....you can always push the volume in the mix. Pretty sure this isn't what you mean....but why leave a stone unturned?
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