De-harshing distorted guitars

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De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by permanent hearing damage » Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:40 pm

remixing some old recordings I did 15+ years ago. guitars were done with some pretty harsh sounding solid state amps - very fizzy and ear-searing. i likely used 421s or M69s on them, so i sure didn't help tame any of that at the time. EQ is tricky as I do want some amount of harshness, so any serious cut is going to make them sound dull - dynamic eq also hasn't worked for me.

often the brainworx refinement plug does wonders, but it is not enough this time around. have had moderate success utilizing brainworx rockrack v3 with cleaner settings and ribbon mic settings on the cabs. have tried ocean way reverbs, also - 100% re-mic with distance of 6". i have yet to try just a straight up reamp of them, but i'm guessing if my guitar emulations are telling me anything, this might be as far as i get with that.

just curious what TOMB go-to methods are for this kind of thing. i'm running out of ideas.

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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by kslight » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:07 pm

TwoNotes wall of sound is interesting for shaping/layering guitars...though not really intended for already miked sources, worth a shot. You can wet/dry on the cabinet emulation also.

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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:10 pm

it's a tough one for sure.

i normally don't like narrow eq for almost anything, but sometimes with distorted guitars, a tight notch at the problem area can help. or two, you might have the ear splitting harshies around 2.5-3.2 and the fizzy shit around 5-6 that both need to be dealt with. notch the painful stuff out and then if it's too dull overall, try a nice wide high mid boost to bring up that whole area.

otherwise i think you're on the right track with the amp sim and/or reamping...if you had some luck with the amp sim, it's definitely worth a shot to try reamping...keep the mic towards the outer part of the speaker where it's darker (i know you know this, just sayin). i agree that a cleanish amp is probably the way to go, as distortion on distortion is just going to add more harmonics and you have too many of those already.

on the other hand you could just go nuts and reamp them with a big muff or something similar inline and just make some crazy blown out thing.

or just mute the guitars entirely and make it a dub remix.

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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by Recycled_Brains » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:15 pm

I usually sweep a very narrow boost (as narrow as I can go) until I find the frequency in the upper mids that makes me want to die, then I cut that with the same narrow bandwidth a few db or more. Then I sweep higher up, usually using the octave above the first frequency as a starting point and do the same deal.

Maybe I use a LPF as well, typically with a 12db slope.

If you have the soundtoys decapitator, you could probably do some damage too. The tone control and filters on that are very effective.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by vvv » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:01 am

Sometimes I parallel process by duping the track, smashing the dupe with mebbe EQ or reverb, and then bringing it back up with the original, sometimes putting them both thru a buss compressor.

Here's a weird one that works EZ and well: I simply solo the track thru the monitor and record that with an appropriate chain (say, a ribbon mebbe, or a tube pre, even a 'pressor) from the monitor playback to a new track. I often but not always then align that monitor re-amp and might use it in parallel with the original, or not. Sometimes I do this in M/S.

I stumbled on this method mixing down a album for a guy who had recorded all of his hard-rock guitars thru a POD. I have also done it with a mono drum mix that I wanted spread on, hence the M/S approach.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by wren » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:48 pm

Surgical subtractive EQ is good, as previously mentioned. Be mindful of octaves/harmonics, as Recycled_Brains said - I've found that cutting just the one nasty frequency enough to make it not nasty can ruin the tone in other ways, whereas cutting the octave(s) above and below the nasty frequency along with the nasty frequency can take care of the problem without completely butchering the midrange. Sometimes you can kind of use the harshness to your advantage (very sometimes) - like MoreSpaceEcho (kind of) said, use a Big Muff or something to reamp/process a blown out dark fuzzy wooly woofy mess, then use that in parallel with the original track; try and blend them so that the body comes from the processed/reamped track and the articulation comes from the original - the original's spikiness is quieter and masked a bit and may actually even work to your advantage at that point. Only works on occasion on certain types of guitar sounds, but works really well when it does work.

But my go-to is surgical subtractive EQ and lots of stages of light saturation - I find that even 2 different stages of the same plugin, one after the other, both set pretty lightly, can do much more good than one iteration set higher. What I usually do is end up with at least 7 or 8 different saturation and colored compressor plugins in series, all set pretty conservatively and all together sounding as good as I can make them - chosen and set with the mindset that the solution is always to add more processing - then I spend some time bypassing them all and auditioning them one by one, trying different combinations, shuffling their orders around, and at the end of the day I usually end up using like 3 of them.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by joninc » Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:57 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:10 pm

i normally don't like narrow eq for almost anything, but sometimes with distorted guitars, a tight notch at the problem area can help. or two, you might have the ear splitting harshies around 2.5-3.2
Just listened to the Jack Endino interview on the tape op podcast and he recommended this exact thing as part of his guitar sound - making it less harsh means it can be turned up louder in the mix and not hurt.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Nov 16, 2018 8:35 am

joninc wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:57 pm
making it less harsh means it can be turned up louder in the mix and not hurt.
100%. I'd say narrow cuts to 1 or 2 frequencies is a guarantee on every mix I do, for this exact reason. I do the same thing with overheads, though a little more heavy handedly.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:19 am

joninc wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:57 pm
Just listened to the Jack Endino interview on the tape op podcast and he recommended this exact thing as part of his guitar sound - making it less harsh means it can be turned up louder in the mix and not hurt.
Shelly Yakus said a similar thing in his interview in the mag ages ago, although he was coming from a point of 'record it right in the first place'
Shelly Yakus wrote:The evenness of a sound is one of the keys to a really good recording. For example, when you record a guitar, the tendency is for some of those frequencies to stick out. So when you get it into the mix, and there's only a small place in the mix for that guitar to fit into with all the other instruments... Well, you push the fader up and stop when it sounds loud enough. Well, the thing that is tricking your ear into thinking it is loud enough is those frequencies that are sticking out. Yet the body of the guitar is going to fall back into the mix, so you end up with a skinnier guitar sound. But if you get an even guitar sound to start with, when you push that fader up, it will go up higher and that guitar will appear to be bigger, because your ear isn't hearing these things sticking out like knives. You are moving this mass of a sound, so you have this whole guitar sound, top middle and bottom. It works no matter what you're listening on.
whole thing's a good read:

https://tapeop.com/interviews/31/shelly-yakus/

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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:21 am

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 8:35 am
100%. I'd say narrow cuts to 1 or 2 frequencies is a guarantee on every mix I do, for this exact reason. I do the same thing with overheads, though a little more heavy handedly.
Curious what freqs on overheads? Usually when I feel like cymbals/hats are annoying it's always around 11-12k.

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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by vvv » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:31 am

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:21 am
Recycled_Brains wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 8:35 am
100%. I'd say narrow cuts to 1 or 2 frequencies is a guarantee on every mix I do, for this exact reason. I do the same thing with overheads, though a little more heavy handedly.
Curious what freqs on overheads? Usually when I feel like cymbals/hats are annoying it's always around 11-12k.

For me on a reg'lar guitar-rock song on OH's, using LDC's, typically 1.3 Q somewhere between 350-450Hz, and then (less often) 3.5Khz-ish, and I usually only cut 2-4dB. FWIW, I'll usually shelf off OH's also about 4-6 dB, around 150Hz (I like a lotta kick and this allows me more room for the close mic), and often shelf up a cuppla dB at 12Khz for that "air" thing.

SDC's are similar except I seldom boost the top, and sometimes shelf the bottom more. I'm sure that's dependant a lot on my mic's (AT4040's or Studio Project C4's) and all the other usual variables.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:27 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:21 am
Recycled_Brains wrote:
Fri Nov 16, 2018 8:35 am
100%. I'd say narrow cuts to 1 or 2 frequencies is a guarantee on every mix I do, for this exact reason. I do the same thing with overheads, though a little more heavy handedly.
Curious what freqs on overheads? Usually when I feel like cymbals/hats are annoying it's always around 11-12k.
hmmmm, I haven't really made a mental note of any consistent pattern. Of the top of my head, I'd say it's typically in the upper 3-4k range, then again up around 7-10k somewhere, then possibly again even higher up, like what you're talking about. I can say that I consistently cut more in the upper mids typically, than I do in the high end.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by jgimbel » Mon Nov 19, 2018 7:55 am

I had decent luck with a de-esser for this recently. For the same reason it sometimes works to subdue harsh cymbals, it's essentially dynamic EQ right? Find your frequency or frequencies with a parametric, then once you've found them, de-ess those.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by emrr » Tue Nov 20, 2018 4:11 am

Yep, de-esser or dynamic eq can be the ticket.
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Re: De-harshing distorted guitars

Post by Brett Siler » Fri Nov 23, 2018 4:49 am

An other option that I’ve done is use a tape saturation plug in like Massey Tapehead set on the dark setting and it helps tame some thin fizz tones and can add some low mids.
If it’s real bad I agree with the surgical cuts in the 4-7hkz area or a multiband compressor in that area. If it’s too dark afterwards boost a little in the 2-3khz.

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