Learning to use my toys…

More new tricks for the ol’ dawg…

Recently, I’ve been working with a Presonus digital mixing board.  This has allowed me to capture tracks right at the source, right after the initial preamp.  By doing that, I’ve been getting tracks that are absolutely bare, no compression, no EQ, no Limiting, nothing.  These tracks give me a great base line to allow me to play with the sounds.  Because of these bare tracks, I’ve been able to do a LOT of learning 🙂  Oh, and these tracks can be pulled into a program called ‘Studio One’ also from Presonus.  I’m REALLY enjoying Studio One.

Ok, on to the new tricks..

Well, the first trick is an extension of an older trick that I wrote about here.  Adding Hi-pass / low-pass filters to the tracks can REALLY clean a mix up.

Speaking of Limiters, another trick that I learned is that volume limiters are your friend.  I had a very quiet track recorded from the digital board.  Adding a gain boost, compression, and some EQ brought the volume up to a nice acceptable level.  The only problem was that there were a couple of places where the signal jumped by 48 db!  OUCH!!!  I threw on a Limiter plug-in to the track, set it to Unity Gain output (0db), and presto, the track didn’t jump above 0db (that’s a good thing, as 0db is full volume, not NO volume.  No volume is -infinity on most mixing boards).

More tricks coming!

Teaching an old dog new tricks

Sometimes, it is good to get your rear end kicked a bit…

I am working with this AWESOME band, but I haven’t been very happy with my sound or live playing.  It’s one of those cases when I feel like I practice a ton at home, have a great sound, but when I go out and play, my live sound has been ‘meh’…  I’ve always gotten good compliments on my live sound, but I usually take this with a grain of salt… I’ve seen some truly horrifying bands lately, and people comment positively on them as well 🙂  So, the ‘endless gear quest’ is pushing forward 🙂

I’ve always liked modeling amps and having a versatile stage setup, even though I only play one or two styles and sounds (yep, a bit irony, don’tya think?)  I like the concept, but the implementation has always been a bit cold, even when the modeling amps use tubes.  For the last 2 years, my main stage amp has been a Line 6 Spider Value, both the original and the Mk II.  It has worked very well, it is nice and easy to setup and tear down, and it had a workable sound.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the sound that I really wanted, that nice Marshall ‘crunchy’ sound.  So, just before Christmas, I changed that.

I picked up a Marshall JVM 410C…  the closest thing to a tube amp modeler I’ve ever seen.  LOTS of options with lots of different sounds, but still a tube amp.  It sounds GREAT!  The only problem is that, being a Marshall, one needs to learn how to control ‘the beast’.  I’ve had to learn a lot of ‘tricks’ to get a really great sound.  Fortunately, the other guitar player in the band, hence referred to as ‘Johnny’,  has been a great help in getting me on the right path.  🙂

First thing I’ve learned… hi-gain channels sound great BY THEMSELVES, but in the context of a band, just don’t cut through very well.  I LOVE the sounds of the OD1 & OD2 channels, but when playing live, they are VERY touchy.  Johnny uses pedals to push the amps to higher gain, and made the suggestion that I try that.  After trying a couple of different pedals, I ran across a Version 2 Fulltone OCD pedal… woo-hoo!  Wow…  Now, I use a lower gain / cleaner channel, and use the pedal to push the amp.  The sound is much more open and controllable, without tearing the audiences’ head off.

Second thing I’ve learned… compression is your friend.  I’ve really learned that because of a new mixing board my church is using.  Every channel has compression, and boy, does it make a difference.  For a guitarist, putting a good compression pedal in the early stage of the signal chain really helps tighten up the sound.  Johnny pushed me into trying a compressor.  So, I tried a DynaComp, but that was not even remotely in the ball park.  I decided to try a Visual Sound Route 66 pedal… NICE!!!! Much cleaner, more open compression, and the guitar was nice and even.  It added just the right amount of compression to settle the guitar into the mix.

Finally, I moved my delay into the effects loop, and dialed up a longer delay.  I had been trying shorter, almost slap-back delay settings, but that wasn’t working very well.  I’ve switched my delay to almost 400 milliseconds (very long delay!), and it seems to have fattened the sound up considerably, and the delay didn’t seem to get in the way or muddy up the sound.  I did make one mistake, though.  I put the delay in front of the noise suppressor, which didn’t help too much, as the delay was set to be more felt rather than heard.  So, the noise suppressor would cut the delay out.  Not good.  Next time, the noise suppressor will go before the delay.

All in all, lots of great changes.  I feel like my rig is much more under control and fits into the mix better.  Plus, the sound is great.  It sounds like a perfectly dialed in Marshall!