TMP Guide to Guitars – Day 5 – In the Mix

If you’ve been following along in this series, you’ve hopefully picked up on some ways to improve your tuning, hone your mic technique, capture better tones, and record tighter tracks.  You’re almost finished, but there’s still one step remaining: mixing.

Balance & Panning

This part is fairly simple.  Listen to the song and move some faders until you find a balance that feels good and brings energy to the track, but doesn’t dwarf the drums.  For rhythm guitars, I recommend panning full left and right.  Keep lead guitars straight up the middle or pan them hard if the vocal needs more space.  I generally avoid panning guitars anywhere but L-C-R (left-center-right), but it can sometimes work in a guitar-heavy arrangement.  Be sure to automate your guitar levels throughout the song to bring the right energy and feel to each section.

EQ

If you worked hard during the tone-finding stage, you shouldn’t need to do much EQing now.  Start with a Hi-Pass Filter between 90-120hz to clean up your low-end and leave room for the bass.  On lead guitars and overdubs, you can often go up as high as 200hz.  A Low-Pass Filter can also be useful on distorted guitars to reduce the fizzy “sshhhh” sound of the top end, anywhere from 12khz down to 8khz.  If your guitars need to come forward in the mix, try a small, wide boost between 1khz – 2.5khz.  If necessary, you can add some brightness & edge with a slight high shelf boost at 5khz.  Again, if you find yourself needing more than a few dB of EQ during mixing, use it as a lesson on how you should improve your raw tracks for next time.

Compression

It’s hard to give broad advice when it comes to compressing guitars, because it’s extremely dependent on the track itself.  For heavy distorted guitars, you’ll be just fine with no compression.  Clean tones that are more dynamic may need some compression to help tame the level.  Attack and release times vary depending on the track, but trying out some built-in plugin presets should get you in the ballpark to start.  In general, go easy when it comes to compressing your main guitars until you have a solid handle on your compressors.  I find that when it comes to main guitars, I’m usually using a compressor for its character more than for dynamic control.

More to Come!

Thanks for following along with this week’s series.  We’ve barely scratched the surface on all of the elements that go into a killer professional guitar track, so keep checking back for more in-depth tips & video tutorials in the future.  If you have any requests or questions that you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment!

Also in This Series:

Day 1: Tuning
Day 2: Mic Technique
Day 3: Tone & Layering
Day 4: Recording Tight Tracks