I too need to learn this valuable skill. My latest GAS attacks have been pretty deadly. Oof!
As I think I’ve mentioned previously on this board, I’m pretty much in the midst of really figuring all this shit out for myself proper. I ditched amps in favor of sims many many years ago and was fairly happy with them for practicing, jamming, and demo’ing shit out. But now that I’m actually working on my first guitar-heavy releases and starting to be all analytical and picky about this, I’m kind of struggling getting the results I want. In particular, when it comes to clean tones.
I’m sort of in this same post-rock/electronica kind of space. And my cleans sound very thin and ice-picky to me. Like the tracks that Chase just posted is a pretty good example of I’m talking about. I don’t know if it’s because I’m hyper sensitive to it, since it’s my focus and been giving me so much grief. But the cleans in both of those tracks sound very sharp to me. All the other guitar tones sound pretty nice. But the clean cleans are like tiny needles stabbing me in the ears.
I’ve made some progress on that front recently. These things probably only apply to my own stupidity, but the picking up on and rectifying these things has certainly made improvements to the tones I’m getting. From the years of playing thrashy metal, I got used to resting my palm very close to the bridge. It’s great for the chuggs, but not so much when you are trying to get fuller cleans. So just forcing myself to pay attention to where I’m picking and moving my hand closer to the neck improved the tones I’m getting. I also never paid much attention to the volume and tone knobs on my guitars, just diming that shit and never touching it. But experimenting with them now and seeing the difference in rolling down the volume, which doesn’t just change the loudness, but seems to affect the tonal characteristic as well, and then compensating for the loss of volume and frequencies downstream (pedals or virtual amps’ eq), I made another leap in the right direction.
I tend to almost always use actual hardware pedals before going into the DI box and that also helps a lot. I almost always plugging into a compressor pedals (I have a bunch and pick one that seems appropriate for the part). I also use a lot of light Overdrive pedals, mostly with the gain at or near 0. It seems to fatten the sound a bit and helps taming those transients. But I’m starting to realize that the tones that I always thoughts were pretty clean on the records I like are not actually all that clean. They are not obviously overdriven, as you can still clearly hear each individual note. But I’m starting to think they are much dirtier than I initially thought, but the dirt gets lost in the mix and it just smooths out those transients and fattens up the tone.
I recently decided to just get a bunch of amps/cabs/mics and see for myself what I can do with that and how it works for my room, my workflow, and my sound. I just don’t want to wonder any more. Too much reading forums and shit and listening to people’s opinions, when they probably have a different mindset, different expectations, different style and preferences. I’m forcing myself to just tinker more with shit and figure stuff out for myself. I have a nice opportunity coming up where the wife and the kids are going to e out for a bit and I’ll have the house to myself to be as loud as I want. So I’m going to dick around with all this shit and see what I can get. Both micing cabs and using IRs with real amps (via Captor). I sincerely hope I get shit results with micing cabs because it certainly is a pain in the ass and somewhat of a potential workflow killer (for obvious reasons). But on the other hand, I just like the idea of the sound of my room being imprinted into my records. Even if it doesn’t sound so much better sonically, there’s something psychologically satisfying about that. Same reason why I have a ton of field recordings as noise beds for various sections or why I like to layer the sounds of randomly hitting shit with normal drum sounds. Just to have yet another layer of uniqueness. So I’m definitely going to experiment with blending room mics together with close mics. Especially since there are 3 or 4 sort of unique environments where I can put the amp and still reach my interface with cables that are not ridiculously long. So gonna have some fun with the hallways and bathrooms and shit.
But you guys, @Gridsunitsplanes and @chasedobson, seem to be on top of this stuff, since a lot of stuff I’ve heard from both of you sounds pretty good to me. Would love to hear something from both @Artificer and @jbvdb493, as they both seem to know what they are talking about. I’ll be posting some shootouts and demos in due time too. Tips of course are always welcome and it’s fun to geek out on all this shit. But I think like @Artificer said, it’s all about just continuing to experiment with shit. There are plenty of opportunities to tweak shit at so many different points in the recording chain that are pretty obvious targets, that it’s more just about not being lazy and actually trying shit, instead of getting more outside ideas to try shit. Too many ideas and not enough time or willingness seems to be more of the problem, rather than lack of ideas (speaking for myself, but I’m sure it applies to a lot of people).