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Getting HX Stomp to sit better in a mix


bossen83
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Hi there

 

A year ago, I was in the studio with my band. I mainly used a Music Man JPXI -> HX Stomp using slightly modded Fremen patches. I think the result turned out great, but we're preparing to go back using the same producer and sound engineer, and they say they had trouble getting the Stomp tracks to sit in the mix last time, compared to the other guitarist (who used a Les Paul into a JVM410H).

 

Is there something I can do to my presets to help the Stomp sit better in the mix? Or are they imagining it? They are fairly old school guys. 

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I think shopping around for a different producer and sound engineer might be the best thing you can do.  There are literally thousands of well produced recordings out there using the same technology you're using.  If they can't do it, it's more likely their incompetence than your equipment.  However, to be sure you should probably ask them for more in-depth details about what was problematic for them in getting the tracks to sit well in the mix.  What did they try?  What failed?  Have them show you examples and see if your ears agree.  There's always the possibility you could correct the issue on the Stomp.  But I would be very hesitant to accept their broad statement because it could just as likely be a "confirmation bias" on their part due to them having expectations set based of your equipment.

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2 hours ago, bossen83 said:

they say they had trouble getting the Stomp tracks to sit in the mix last time


Hi,

 

I have to agree with the other 2 comments above - maybe time to move on from these guys.

 

They must have pretty poor recording techniques if they cannot get the Stomp and a Fremen preset sounding good. In fact, if it is an issue with that particular preset patch, they should have taken a DI of your clean signal and simply re-amped that until they were happy.

 

Poor workmen blame the tools - I would be tempted to give them a big squirt of bullsh!t repellent.

 

Oh, yeah - you already stated that you were happy with the results of the previous session, and I guess you are paying them to get the result you want.

 

Edited by datacommando
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I wouldn't be quite as hasty ...

What they're probably saying is that you're messing with their workflow.  What you need to decide is if the overall results they get in the final mix are worth some accommodation from you.

 

Old school engineers don't decide what an instrument will sound like solely in the final mix - there will be attention to detail in several places before they push all the faders up and try to make sense of what they have - the selection of microphone, the placement of that microphone, the selection of the cab, and any eq they might apply through the preamp before the signal is recorded.  They will have been instinctively adjusting all of these things to get a 'good sound' to 'tape', with the measure of a 'good sound' is one that requires very little eq in the final mix.  The impulse response - or cab sim - thats likely at the end of your preset will bundle all those decisions and preferences based on the ears of the person who programmed the preset and it looks likely they don't like the mic and positioning that you've been using for your sound!

Think about sitting down with them and going through a selection of IRs until you find one closer to the sound they have in their heads.  Ask them what kind of mics do they like to use, and where they normally place the microphone and see if you have matching IRs.

But previous comments apply - modellers aren't exactly new, and they ought to be able to prompt you with questions like 'do you have a SM57 1" cap-edge off-axis IR you could use with that'?

 

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5 hours ago, bossen83 said:

Hi there

 

A year ago, I was in the studio with my band. I mainly used a Music Man JPXI -> HX Stomp using slightly modded Fremen patches. I think the result turned out great, but we're preparing to go back using the same producer and sound engineer, and they say they had trouble getting the Stomp tracks to sit in the mix last time, compared to the other guitarist (who used a Les Paul into a JVM410H).

 

Is there something I can do to my presets to help the Stomp sit better in the mix? Or are they imagining it? They are fairly old school guys. 

 

Is there any chance they might just be amp snobs and are turning their noses up at the idea of using a modeller?

Seems an odd thing to say having already recorded with it previously

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"sit better in the mix" is a sort-of a broad statement.  What are some of characteristics of a good sound mix, when it comes to your guitar sound? 

 

1. Guitar does not interfere with other instruments, and vocals

2. solos are nice and loud

3. rhythm sound complements the rest of the band, without sticking out, and all notes are heard as needed.

4. no crazy out of control delays that overpower the rest of the band, and there's enough 3d effects so it sounds like a CD.

 

1. You don't want to have too much bass in your guitar, so I always resort to cutting the extreme lows on the amp block.  I like the Jimmy Page sound approach -- the sound is pretty mid-range-ey.  In other words, I don't ever want to have the "and justice for all" guitar sound.  The 1990 "metal zone" sound only works in the bedroom when you jam by yourself, and live is too boomy.  There are certain frequency spectrum ranges that are known to be occupied by instruments.  For example, the "2k" range is typically reserved for the vocals.  So IMO, a nice mid-range is what guitars should go for.  When you have multiple guitars, they need to be eq'ed differently, one more honky, the other one more bright and together they work nicely.  Also stereo panning helps separate several instruments.

 

2. For my solos, I add an EQ block before the amp block where I radically boost 2k 10db.  This is the vocal range that is occupied by the vocals normally, but when you play a solo, this frequency range makes your solos pop out. 

 

3. Don't have too much dirt in your sound.  Once again, the sound that works in your bedroom may not always translate to the live situation. 

 

4. Delays/reverb also needs to be adjusted to taste.  After playing several shows, soon after I got the Helix, I went home and listened to the recordings of the live performances and made several adjustments.  In one case, the stereo delay was pretty much overpowering everything at home, but on stage was not nearly as loud as I wanted it to be, so I turned it up.  In another instance, there's this one tricky intro to one of the songs that is very very recognizable and needs a certain sound--I always struggled with it live until I bumped up the delay some more and then it became easier to play and sat so much better in the mix. 

 

Tweaking your sound takes a long time.  Each piece of equipment has so many different parameters.  If you used to have good results with your analog gear, and then are struggling with the modeler, maybe it's time to take the "modular" approach to your sound -- try to replace one piece of gear at a time.  That's actually what I did in the beginning -- I connected the pedalboard to the Helix and then one-by-one replaced all my pedals doing A/B comparisons. 

 

At first I played through my physical tube amp, and got rid of my pedalboard, when I found all the effects on the Helix.  Finally, I got rid of the amp too, also doing A/B comparisons: with the tube amp / with the Helix emulation.  Finally, I took the Helix to the rehearsal and made tweaks as I saw fit.  Eventually, the Helix is my only piece of equipment that goes to the FOH and to my monitor mix.  The sound guy still needs to make volume adjustments, he says, but the consistency is a lot better than with the old pedalboard I used to use.  Because of the pandemic, I didn't have time to finish setting the loudness of all my presets/snapshots, but when I have time, we will go to a big space and run through our set and make those final tweaks.  That is pretty much impossible to do unless you play on a big club stage.  Those issues can never be addressed at home or even during the band rehearsals. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, bossen83 said:

Is there something I can do to my presets to help the Stomp sit better in the mix? Or are they imagining it? They are fairly old school guys. 

 

Have you asked them? They should be able to tell you what they didn't like about the tone you provided... and help you alter it. It's usually just a change of cabinets/IR's... that's a critical stage in recording. If they can't help you, then I suspect their interest in doing so is quite low. 

 

I use my Helix almost exclusively in the studio these days. Yet... there are times when I am entering the land of the closed minded... and in those situations I just take an amp, or plug into one of the studio amps. I have no issue doing that, and they prefer it. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles. 

 

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Were you recording direct or using your HX Stomp with an amp/cab? If as has already been mentioned this is not just a case of bias against modelers by your studio, then it might just be a case of you needing to take a more collaborative approach with them. In a studio, with a strictly analog setup, depending on your level of experience, they might be assisting you in dialing in your tone on an amp and effects, getting it up to the proper volume to get the cab resonating properly, swapping mics and changing their position, etc.. If you are just providing the output from a preset on your Stomp that interactive process might not be in place.

 

Not sitting in the mix is extremely vague. I would ask them for more detail and exactly what they thought was not working as well as your other guitarist's analog equipment. Because the analog amp was working fine in the mix my first thought would be a problem in the EQ, particularly in the mids or the usual problem many run into with modelers - too much brittle high end due to the lack of a physical guitar speaker with its restricted frequency response and range. A high cut or as others have indicated swapping IRs or mic choices might help here.

 

Hopefully you are sending them a dry DI feed in addition to any Stomp preset affected output when you are recording. That should at least enable you to work with them after the track is laid down to get exactly the tone that works for the engineer and you.

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I think most of the answers here are pretty much on the money. If I had to distill it down to two things, they would be turn down the drive/gain, and pay particular attention to the EQ - both before and after the amb/cab.

 

Generally, "not sitting in the mix" means an instrument didn't occupy its own space, but spilled over into other sounds. Too much distortion will do that, as will too many highs and/or bass and/or not enough midrange. Boosting the lower mids a bit gives a more beefy sound (but keep it above the bass's range), and 1-4 kHz gives more articulation. The best frequency to use in that range depends on multiple factors, though.

 

In my studio musician days, I'd generally pick my slice of the frequency spectrum, own it, and leave the other frequencies alone. One of the tests for my guitar sound was whether it sounded good in isolation. If it did, it probably wouldn't fit well in the mix :)

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10 minutes ago, craiganderton said:

One of the tests for my guitar sound was whether it sounded good in isolation. If it did, it probably wouldn't fit well in the mix :)

 

This is so true.... and it works against all logic for someone just looking to dial in a great tone.

It's one reason why many of those "isolated guitar tracks" of famous recordings can often lead to confusion. Most of use wouldn't dare dial in a tone like that on purpose - LOL! 

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theElevators knows what's going on.

What he said ...

 

 

Question:
What string gauge are you using?  If it's 10s or bigger .... maybe stop and restring with 9s or even 8s.  Contrary to popular and persistent belief, heavy strings don't help bottom end.  They just muddy up the bottom end and the more gain you use, the worse it is.  Lighter strings tighten up low end and sound better and they sit in the mix better too.

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5 hours ago, MGW-Alberta said:

maybe stop and restring with 9s or even 8s.  Contrary to popular and persistent belief, heavy strings don't help bottom end.  They just muddy up the bottom end and the more gain you use, the worse it is.  Lighter strings tighten up low end and sound better and they sit in the mix better too.

 

SRV is laughing from the sky now. :) (just joking eh)

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11 hours ago, MGW-Alberta said:

If it's 10s or bigger .... maybe stop and restring with 9s or even 8s.  Contrary to popular and persistent belief, heavy strings don't help bottom end.  They just muddy up the bottom end and the more gain you use, the worse it is.  Lighter strings tighten up low end and sound better and they sit in the mix better too.

 

I use 10s because the pickups are quite far from the strings to increase sustain, and so I need the extra output. I also angle the pickups to favor the top strings. That may be enough to give the same kind of results as using thinner strings, but not have to deal with breaking them all the time (which I tend to do a lot, LOL).

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1 hour ago, craiganderton said:

 

I use 10s because the pickups are quite far from the strings to increase sustain, and so I need the extra output. I also angle the pickups to favor the top strings. That may be enough to give the same kind of results as using thinner strings, but not have to deal with breaking them all the time (which I tend to do a lot, LOL).

In my honest opinion, the string gauge does not make enough sonic difference to justify changing it....  Everything makes a difference.  I've seen that Rhett / Beato video where they put 8ths on their guitars where they loved how it sounded. 

 

For myself: I want the strings to be slinky enough, and taught enough.  Let me explain: I want to comfortably be able to do a bend of a tone and a half when I want, and not rip my fingers in the process.  I also want to be able to strum chords without having to be cautions that the strings do not go out of tune ( a la Helter Skelter ). 

 

I play a short-scale guitar which has exactly 24" long and I use 9-42 on it.  I use the same strings on my 'Strat.  On the Les Paul I have 10-46, because that's what it was initially set up with.  I like 9's, but 8ths for me would be too slinky, especially on the 24" neck.  10's for me are more difficult to bend because I'm not used to it, but I could also get used to it. 

 

What makes a world of difference, however is gunky old strings vs. brand-new strings.  You always notice how much brighter your guitar sounds right after you change your strings.

 

So in short: use the gauge that works for your playing and allows you to effortlessly play solos/rhythm as you please. 

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I use 10.5 because I like how they feel.  it is probably ALL IN MY HEAD, but, it's my head and that's what matters :)  

 

For the thin string thing, my thought would be that would be best for metal, etc. and would depend on the type of music played.

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10 hours ago, MGW-Alberta said:

Watch this and then decide for yourself what will sit in the mix better.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGXj_NQONYM

 

Great test of different string gauges but outside of extreme cases there are just so many other factors at play in determining how the guitar will sit in a mix. Also did the video show the impact of the string gauge in a mix? I kind of fast-forwarded through parts. It seemed to be more focused on the sound of the strings in isolation.

 

I always liked the full rich tone of heavier gauge strings, but I prefer lighter gauges for their easier bendability and vibrato. Lighter gauges also seem to have a sharper high end and cut through a mix more to me. I find that preferable for many styles of lead playing but they do lack some of the bottom and punch of a low gauge set, which to me can sound richer, particularly on a rhythm track. I look for strings that present a compromise between playability and tone as well as delivering a good tone for both lead and rhythm. Definitely not looking to spend 7 hours a day in the finger gym just to consistently get a bend up to pitch over a long night of playing.  I generally use 9's or sometimes 10's on electric, but if it did not mean sacrificing the low end growl, not to speak of more frequent breaking on the high strings, I would probably consider going even lighter just for easier playability.

 

Hmm, 7.5 gauge(if you could even find them) as Zappa was purported to have played in the video. They no doubt make overbends and vibrato a breeze and are probably incredibly easy on the hands. I think my tone would take a hit though. Hard to argue though with the sound that some of the famous players referred to in the video got playing lighter gauges(did they use them in the studio?). I think you should play the strings that work for you, EQ your tone as needed, and look for other issues in the mix. With that said, if a certain gauge always seems to work for you better in the studio, have at it. Now if you put bass or banjo strings on your guitar you are definitely gonna get a "different" sound and all bets are off :-).

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17 hours ago, PaulTBaker said:

I use 10.5 because I like how they feel.  it is probably ALL IN MY HEAD, but, it's my head and that's what matters :)  

 

For the thin string thing, my thought would be that would be best for metal, etc. and would depend on the type of music played.

 

I think a lot of the heavier rock guys use the thicker string gauge so they don't actually break strings, where they are more aggressive in their playing etc.

I mainly use 10's but I like the idea of going down to 9's or 8's just for ease of playing, although I'm sure if you go too small you'll probably end up sounding

like a banjo.

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