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Thread: To the Mastering Engineer: A question about mastering distortion guitars

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    To the Mastering Engineer: A question about mastering distortion guitars

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    So I'm listening to a few reference finals of commercial rock music and I'm curious as to what's going on with the guitars. Pick any major song done within the last 10 years.

    They seem to come out in front without interfering with the mix at all.

    I would think that conventionally, any kind of heavy compression on a mix closes (or gives the illusion of closing) the stereo field, losing some of that clear width in a mix. Yet I listen to these mixes and the guitars are blaring right there, almost separate from the mix.

    To me it feels like some kind of M/S technique is being used to process the guitars separately in the mix...

    Is there such a thing as specifically processing guitars in a separate stem during mastering? If not, does the mix buss quality at the mixdown level attribute to this?

    Could it be simply just the right amounts of compression and EQ?

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    With alot of bias, I'd say it's just good guitar playing.
    Busy recording...
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    Along with core sounds that suit the mix. Certainly nothing to do with the mastering phase...

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    Getting the guitar's to sit right is a combination great playing, production, recording, mixing and a little massaging in the mastering stage but nothing special..

    Distorted guitars rarely need much compression, because that's already inherent in their sound, but
    in my experience, when used in mastering, good compression tends to open up or widen a mix rather than close the stereo field.

    On a guitar driven songs, when mastering, it's worth paying attention to the overall e.q. in the guitar region and how that interacts with the other important elements of the mix. Making sure the mids are filled out can add to the bigness of the sound. To many high's and it starts to sound like a mosquito.

    I rarely use any kind of M/s technique. On occasion if the mix is not very good, I will resort to that.... but not much.

    The main thing to watch out for when if layering guitar's is tuning and rhythm tightness. For stereo recording it's good to pay attention to the phase.

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    I personally think Mid/Side processing could be useful.. I'm a total amature in mastering, but I use mid / side in ozone 4 a lot.. maybe I shouldn't be as much, but the results I'm getting sound pleasing to my ear.. I think it can certainly give you that up front sound on guitar when it's lacking in the mix.. I suppose that's really more fixing something that should have been addresed at the source or in the mix.. but to me.. if all else fails.. M/S it.

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    are you saying that you like the sound of the guitars being upfront separate from the mix? i understand what you mean, i hear the same thing when i hear the music produced on major labels and on commercial radio stations, but i don't like that sound. to me bass is lost on alot of commercial rock records. it's the guitar hero culture. For the average Shmoe they listen for guitar and vocals, but as a musician i've always listened to records as a whole (as i think most people on this site do). I wouldn't worry about what commercially is going on in music. It's all crap, with a few exceptions, just mix the way you think works best. I've heard your stuff lee, it sounds exceptional. I wouldn't worry about the commercial crap.

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    I generally listen for drums and bass, and general chord progressions.

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    I've found myself lately remove a lot of the low end eq on my guitar tracks.
    basicly a highpass filter till 115hz

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    With alot of bias, I'd say it's just good guitar playing.
    Cheers to that, Bob


    John and Tom, I think what you guys mentioned are some of the answers I was ready to hear.

    It's like one of these 50/50 things I hear in mixes. Sometimes it's just like a "pow, right in the kisser" kind of feeling with the guitars. I guess coming more from guys who are known for their guitar tricks.

    Terry Date seems to do this alot in some of the Deftones stuff I've heard. Hugh Padgham seemed to get more extreme guitar separation on 311's Soundsystem album, but I still favor Ron Saint's work with their other albums.

    greyharmonix: thanks man for that comment. I guess it's like the saying, "If it ain't broken...."

    I really do agree, it is like this guitar hero culture, the bass gets thrown to the back of the bus and it just seems to end there. I personally don't like it when the guitars are EXTREMELY seperated from the mix. Creed's Human Clay felt like that and I hated every minute of it.

    But I think I like just enough to clear out some space for the bass, drums and vocals...all that center channel stuff. A perfect blend of outside/inside the mix.

    Perhaps it happens if any stereo widening happens during mastering, which I've heard of, but don't really agree with.

    But then again, it's just a curiosity I don't see myself dedicating too much time to.

    Good insight here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRosario View Post
    Perhaps it happens if any stereo widening happens during mastering, which I've heard of, but don't really agree with.
    I'm with you that phase widening is not something I like or use very often or very strongly, but it can give "room" to the "inside stuff".

    But then again, just hard-panning alone can have such an effect, especially if you're not washing it out with stereo reverb or room modeling on the gits. I've helped out with a couple of raw mixes here where the OP had kind of the reverse problem; they were having a hard time pulling the center vocals forward in the mix. It turned out the problem wasn't with the vocals, but that the hard-pan gits were so prominent that they created a "frame" that just distracted too much from the picture in the middle. By just pulling back a bit on the git gain (and maybe just a little HF scooping , I don't remember for sure) the center lead vocals suddenly seemed to leap forward in the mix to proper balance, but without losing the impact or "meat" in the gits.

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