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"Rules of Thumb" and Tips for Creating New Presets

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Hey folks,

I'm a "modeling newbie" and looking for some rules of thumb and tips for creating presets from scratch.  I think it could be helpful to other newbies, as well as not-so-newbies, to hear how other people tweak their settings to get good tones.

 

For example, I'm thinking of things like:

- change the input guitar pad to "on" to minimize fizz

- enable global EQ and set the low cut to XXX and the high cut to YYY as a starting place for most FRFR.   Set them to AAA and BBB for guitar cabs.

- when using any of the marshal amps, do such and such

- etc.

 

So basically, if you were either creating a template, or starting a preset from scratch, what are the things you would always do to get set your foundation.  (Not to exclude global settings, of course).

 

I'm just still a bit overwhelmed when starting from scratch, but really want to learn how to do this well.

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So I guess I'm still a newbie having had my Helix just a couple months, but I've learned a ton through my mistakes and this forum to fix them.  The cuts to highs and lows are well documented here, but I think most of us would recommend doing that for each preset rather than global EQ settings.  I started out like that and found I was always changing the global EQ so I turned that off and typically use an EQ before my helix amp and another at the end of the signal chain.  Once set - it's set.  You'll hear that the glbal EQ is good for adapting to the "room" you play in (live gigging, for example).

 

The other thing I learned was to be excessive in backing up my presets.  I export the bundle, setlist AND and export every new preset I create that I like to a folder so I have each one if needed.  I had a major malfunction early on and lost a bunch of presets I made and I think it was something goofy I did, and never did again.

 

I only use headphones so others have an impressive knowledge of FRFRs you'll hear.  

 

Along with clean, I use crunch to heavy distortion and found that using two Dist pedals at once can give some dist tones you may not get otherwise.  

 

On a recommendation here, I bought a cheap (50 buck) tube preamp and have that set up with send/rtn and that gives some really nice crunch and overdrive with Dist pedals.  I found it easy to run out of DSP until I started using both paths.  I'm looking at one of my presets now - I have send/rtn, Dyn, 3 Dist pedals, EQ an amp, 2 IRs, and this feeds into path 2 where I have 2 delays, Verb, 3 volume/gain pedals, and another EQ.  Snapshots work well if you're turning things on and off (you can't have diff settings for a single device in diff snapshots) and that's why I use 3 gain pedals, to have consistent volume for the 7 snapshots I have in this preset.  

 

I think you'll hear "there are no rules - try everything."  I found a few amps that give me a great clean sound and few that give me crunch and dist and I haven't varied much outside these amps, although I have a lot of IRs I use.  There are, frankly, too may amp/cab/IR/ pedal/etc. options and it's easy to never actually play!

 

Welcome to the Forum and have fun with all the replies you'll get on this!  I look forward to seeing what every says.

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I usually keep the input pad on for 4 out of 5 of my guitars. Unless im using the 5th, then I turn it off, and just run a vol block on front set to a middle ground between having pad on, and off. The 5th guitar uses pickups that are lower output than the rest.

 

This is why I would prefer moving the input pad parameter out of the global settings, and into a per-preset basis.

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- Get familiar with the different amps to gain an understanding of how they are best used.  For example, what models are primarily oriented toward clean sounds, toward crunchy, or overdriven sounds.  What artists were known to use them?  You will likely end up with a set of 7 or 8 amps that are your "goto" amps for certain types of sounds.  Do some investigation on the internet about why the amp was popular and for what reasons.  This can help guide you in how best to use them.

 

- Establish a way of normalizing the volume between patches.  The easiest method is to use the meters in a DAW or invest in a small mixer with meter lights to help you set the volumes evenly between patches.  Get your patch sounding the way you want it, and as the last step use this process to set it's volume equal to your other patches typically by adjusting the output level on the output block or adjusting the output on the cabinet as these shouldn't affect the overall sound of your patch.

 

- DO NOT adjust high and low cuts via the global EQ.  Global EQ is meant for adjusting to room acoustics.  More importantly every amp, cabinet, mic, and mic placement will have an effect of what is the best high or low cut value to use for that patch.  Learn to use your ears to guide you in setting these types of cuts.

 

- Use the same or very similar output device to the type of output device that will be used live to ensure you won't be surprised when you go live with your patch.  Keep the volume up high enough (80 to 90 db) when building the patch so that it will reflect the sound of the patch when played at normal live volume.  At lower volumes the human ear can deceive you as we become much more sensitive to certain frequencies the louder they get.

 

-  Build the base sound first (amp, amp EQ, cab, mic, mic placement, hi/lo cuts and general volume) to get the tone right before adding effects.

 

- Compressors are your friend.  They will add the professional polish to many of your patches just as they do in the studio.  Each of the compressors respond in a slightly different manner and are best used for certain types of sounds.  For example, the LA Studio can be a very subtle and non-intrusive compressor to bring out even articulation on a clean sound, whereas the Red Squeeze is a bit easier to setup and provides a nice Rolling Stones, The Who, or Doobie Bros. "strained crunch" on a crunchy style tone.  Compressors can be placed at the beginning of your signal chain or toward the end with slightly different effects.  Try them both to see which best fits your patch.

 

- Harmonizer and pitch effects (dual guitar) tend to be a bit cleaner when placed after the amp and cab toward the end of the signal chain.

 

-  To keep your options open to doing dual cabs in parallel signal chains you may want to create separate cab blocks rather than amp+cab blocks.  Very often combining cabs this way can overcome the harshness or brittleness you my hear negating the need for high and low cuts.  Use an A/B split to determine how much signal goes through each cabinet.

 

- Combining a Reverb and a Delay in parallel paths can provide a very lush reverb/delay sound found in many recordings.  Don't overlook the value of dry patches however.  There are quite a number of artists that use this to great effect to get a very stark "in your face" crunchy sound when combined with aggressive palm muting.

 

- The Helix is very accurate in reflecting picking techniques just like a real amp.  Very often you can get a more aggressive dynamic or a smoother dynamic by simply altering where you are strumming (between neck and bridge) or the pressure you're picking with, or even the angle of your pick.

 

- The general rule of thumb for amps is that adjusting the master volume will add dirt to the sound whereas the channel volume tends to be a more pure volume adjustment.  In some cases you can lower the master volume and increase the channel volume to get a very full clean sound.

 

- Sometimes a particularly rough bass or high problem can be fixed using the parametric equalizer easier than high or low cuts.  Often with lows you can clean up boominess with a 2 or 3 db cut in a fairly narrow Q in the frequency range around 180 to 220 hz.  You can also take a bit of the edge off of highs without killing the whole range with a narrow cut of 2 or 3 db up around 4000 to 5000hz.  Place this toward the end of your signal chain.

 

That's about all I can think of right now.....I might come up with some other things if I think about it a while...

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Wow - thanks for the detailed replies already guys! Love it and already learned a few things I didn't know or didn't think about. Certainly good to know about EQ per preset, versus Global. Makes a lot of sense.

 

I do know generally about Amps/Cabs, and which ones my "heros" played. And I also know which FX you tend to put before the amp, and which after, etc. So I'm getting there.

 

But advanced "EQing", I'm still learning about. And don't know if I need to be messing with the advanced settings of the amps, like Sag and Bias.

 

So keep the advice coming!!

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Hi Fireproof, great idea for a thread. +1 thanks for all the advice, especially DunedinDragon.

 

My personal revelation in my relatively short time with helix is to play with cab + mic combinations - just chainging the mic can transform what I hear as an OK sound to a good one. Add a second cab in parallel and it can get even better!

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Instead of using the global eq to adjust for general fizziness, I hi cut at 7 hz for almost everything, using the cab/IR block.

 

To my ears, harmonizers sound best between amp and cab blocks.

 

To keep your tone consistent when using the volume pedal, place volume pedal blocks after cab blocks. It will keep the gain basically the same throughout the volume range.

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My big one is always always always separate the amp from the cab so that you can put stuff like spring reverb and tremolo there where it sounds best.

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Snapshots work well if you're turning things on and off (you can't have diff settings for a single device in diff snapshots) and that's why I use 3 gain pedals, to have consistent volume for the 7 snapshots I have in this preset. 

Probably just a typo, but that's incorrect, you most definitely CAN have different settings for the same block in each snapshot, up to 64 different parameters per patch.

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I read through all these hints, and wonder what tones you are searching for and what guitars you guys are using?

 

I see one person say he adds pad to 4 out of his 5 guitars... And I wonder why?  Are they active pickups, passive pickups, are you doing some chunka chunka metal sound or are you a jazz clean player.

 

Hints without context can be misleading and cause all kinds of problems for people who are trying to apply a hint meant for one context to something completely different.

 

If we're going to post hints, I highly recommend posting what hardware / guitar(s) you are using and its pickups and config, and an audio clip showing how the hint is applicable.

 

I realize how much work that is.  But as easy as Helix is to use, the complexity of it and the dependencies are mind boggling enough without having us chase our tails down dark tunnels only to find out we were digging for days for nothing.

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I would suggest starting here...

 

https://helixhelp.com/

 

...and start by going through each amp one at a time. The amp descriptions often have settings guidelines. Each amp also has a youtube video or two (or three) so you can hear examples of the amps and they often have settings suggestions. The amp's manual is also often available here and they also very often have amp setup suggestions. Take it slow. I mean if you had all of these amps in a room, how much time would you expect to spend with each amp in order to get it's capabilities? I'm guessing at least a couple of hours. And let's not forget the additional time you'd spend trying different effects with each amp. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the choices but just take it one at a time. I mean if you had a room with all the Helix amps in it, you would probably start by playing only one amp at a time at first. Just think about how long that process alone would take. This will help you get a feel for the Helix's amps and what they're capabilities are. And it's not like you HAVE to experience EVERY amp right away. Grab a Marshall and spend a day with it alone, then play with some EQ's, and then with your favorite effects. Utilize all the suggestions here that apply in your exploration of each amp. This is one way to get a good foundation to start with.

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...............................................

That's about all I can think of right now.....I might come up with some other things if I think about it a while...

^ All of what DD said^ 

 

The one that sticks out to me as maybe the most important is get your core tone (amp and cab/IR) sounding "good" to you BEFORE adding any effects. I do that first, then add OD/Dist pedals after and make sure each of those sound good (while normalizing volume levels along the way), then sprinkle on effects to taste after that. 

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I read through all these hints, and wonder what tones you are searching for and what guitars you guys are using?

 

I see one person say he adds pad to 4 out of his 5 guitars... And I wonder why? Are they active pickups, passive pickups, are you doing some chunka chunka metal sound or are you a jazz clean player.

 

Hints without context can be misleading and cause all kinds of problems for people who are trying to apply a hint meant for one context to something completely different.

I stated that the pickups in the 5th guitar are lower output. The other 4 are relatively high output, even the single coil guitar, only one guitar has acrtive pickups.

 

I am on mobile now if you want a list of guitars, and components, that will have to wait until I am in front of my pc. I will edit my first post.

 

I play many kinds of styles... no country though. I do Metal chug, jazz cleans, and much in between...

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I read through all these hints, and wonder what tones you are searching for and what guitars you guys are using?

<snip>

Hints without context can be misleading and cause all kinds of problems for people who are trying to apply a hint meant for one context to something completely different.

Oh that's a good point. Since I started this thread (and am looking for all the help I can get) I'll post what I'm using and looking for.

 

Guitars:

- 90% of the time it's one of my Gibson Les Paul Standards. One's a 2012 and one's a 2016. Both stock pickups.

- The rest of the time it's an ESP LTD with EMG pickups for when I want to play metal / 80s hairband stuff, or want to play around with the Floyd.

 

But assume a basic Les Paul for anything - and my initial patches I'm creating are designed for that guitar until I get the hang of things.

 

Music:

- Classic rock (Zeppelin, Who, AC/DC, Cream, ZZ Top, etc - the usual suspects).

- Blues

- 90s rock (Toadies, Silverchair, Candlebox, etc)

- plus anything guitar/riff-driven (White Stripes, Black Keys, etc)

 

So nothing complicated. Later on I may play with some song-specific patches, but right now just keeping it simple and looking to set up some good Blues to Blues-Rock to Hard Rock presets as a foundation to grow from.

 

I'm good starting off with a basic Marshall amp and picking a cab. But when I start looking at Sag and Bias, and then see people talking about different Mics and DISTANCE between Mic and Cab, and I haven't even thought about overdrive, compression, reverb and all those settings - my head starts to explode. LOL. That's why I thought "surely there's some basic starting places."

 

The tips have been valuable so far, so keep them coming.

Thanks.

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I turn hum and ripple all the way off, maybe add a little hum back after the rest of my sound is complete. Sag can be useful, I usually keep it off or low for chucky rock/metal, up a bit for bluesy or clean, and fairly high on leads.. adds some body and sustain. And its all about cab cuts, I do my bass cuts at 120, and highs anywhere from 5 to 13 depending on the sound I am after. I find these settings to work on all my guitars and for any style I play..

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My big one is always always always separate the amp from the cab so that you can put stuff like spring reverb and tremolo there where it sounds best.

 

- I also always use separate amp and cabs 

- I don't like turning the guitar pad on

- Rarely use global EQ. 

- I also love the Helix compressors 3 Band comp and the Red Squeeze/Mxr.

- If I ever do any cuts it's usually in the cab block

- Also Leave the Guitar in-Z on Auto or 1 m ohm

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I read through all these hints, and wonder what tones you are searching for and what guitars you guys are using?

 

 

 

Other than things like adjusting pads, I'm not sure what value it would have to specify types of guitars on most of these hints.

 

I use 4 distinctly different guitars (Tele, Strat, Les Paul, and Gretsch Hollow body) on various different presets, but other than differences in how I EQ them, the hints I recorded and most of the  ones I've seen on here would be the same regardless of the guitar.  I could see it if it's something specific such as specific hi or low cuts, but then you'd also need to specify what amp model, cab, mic, and mic placement as well as output device you were using as well in order for a specific cut to be relevant.

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Instead of using the global eq to adjust for general fizziness, I hi cut at 7 hz for almost everything, using the cab/IR block.

 

 

Since the 10" Celestion Greenback freq range is 95-5500 Hz and the 12" Vintage 30's at 70-5000Hz, I'm thinking 7k hi cut is about right. 

 

http://celestion.com/product/31/g10_greenback/

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I find the 3 band compressor to be the most effective tool for taming high end harshness. Much more effective than just EQ.

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@aleclee, what sorts of settings do you use for the 3-band? I was experimenting with it for the same purpose yesterday, didn't come to any firm conclusion as to whether I liked it more than the LA Studio.

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@aleclee, what sorts of settings do you use for the 3-band? I was experimenting with it for the same purpose yesterday, didn't come to any firm conclusion as to whether I liked it more than the LA Studio.

 

Still figuring it out as I've only had my HX for about 10 days.  I find that the default settings are a pretty good start for removing harshness (to my ear).  

 

Overall, I tend to leave the mids alone, at least in terms of compression (i.e., keep threshold pretty high) and monkey with the lows to keep things beefy without booming and a lot with the highs to get them to sit right.  Dunno if it's right but I tend to mess with the crossover freq and high level more than the high threshold. Still getting used to the common ratio across bands after years with the AxeFx.

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Love all the replies guys.  Some common themes, some different approaches.  But all helpful to me as I continue to find my way with the Helix.

 

Much appreciated - keep 'em coming!

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It's interesting to see all the comments about setting high and low cut to keep things under control.   I also like to balance the low cut with my mic selection and distance.  Pulling a darker sounding mic a few inches out will naturally take care of high and low frequencies while allowing me to increase the early reflections to get a little bit of extra room/cab character in there if I'm feeling like I need a little more "naturalness" [is that a new word, no biggie]

 

when I'm trying to tame the drive of an amp that's sounding flabby or muffled I'll focus on reducing the incoming signal (maybe turn on the pad or decrease input impedance [z]) and also dial back the bass by the amp EQ or tube screamer (tightens low end)(or whatever drive gives you that control). 

 

Crank up the gain/signal and add a boat load of bass if you want a Fuzz type sound (and don't feel like using a fuzz pedal). :)

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