Guitar "solos"

lomky

New member
So, I need some hints/tricks on how to make a guitar "solo" sound proper in the mix.

I have a rock and roll/punk band, kinda Social Distortion kinda sound. Everything is pretty much tracked. I'm happy w/ the sounds I have. I used an SM57 and a Beyer M160 for some nice rythm guitar sound and used a AT 4033 + SM57 for the leads. We used ALOT less distortion and bass on the amp for the leads. I even got the guitar player to transcribe some solos up an octave for them to cut through a little easier.

I want to place the solos into the mix so they don't sound out of place. We haven't tracked keeper vocals yet. But from what I hear in the genre is solos almost as loud as the lead vox. Am I also hearing the other guitars drop out a little? I want to have fairly seemless transitions as some of the (I guess we will call them lead parts from now on) lead parts come out of nowhere.

I will be posting these songs in the mp3 clinic as mixing continues, hwever, right now I'm just looking for opinions on techniques here.

Thanks!
 

SouthSIDE Glen

independentrecording.net
lomky said:
I want to place the solos into the mix so they don't sound out of place. We haven't tracked keeper vocals yet. But from what I hear in the genre is solos almost as loud as the lead vox. Am I also hearing the other guitars drop out a little? I want to have fairly seemless transitions as some of the (I guess we will call them lead parts from now on) lead parts come out of nowhere.
Yeah, that's a fairly common technique. If you're mixing in the box, automation envelopes are indispensible for this kind of stuff. If you're running analog w/o automation capabilities, then it'll take some fader jockeying, but it's not that hard - especially if you group/buss right for that purpose.

The trick to to fade down the rhythm parts while fading up the lead. You shouldn't need to change either track volume dramatically; depending upon the rest of your mix levels, something like a 3dB drop in the rhythms accompanied by a 3dB rise in the lead can yield a 6dB increase in the relative level of the lead. This can be plenty. I personally wouldn't worry too much about whether it actually numerically matches the lead vox level, just do it where it sounds right; depending on other factors like frequency usage and compression, they may be perceived as being at the same volume even if the numbers on the meters don't match.

There are two methods I'd recommend looking at as far as how/where to do the automation, depending upon the arrangement and the mix. The first is a camoflagued change in the levels. If you can find a place in the mix to do the automation simultaneously where it might be covered by a drum fill or something else, and/or where there is a rest in the guitars, that can help disguise the change as "seamless".

Though disguising is not always necessary; it really depends greatly on the arrangement. This is the other technique. Sometimes it works better to slowly drop the rhythms and slowly bring up the lead during the the lead showcase and not disguise the level change. This is kind of the aural equivalent of when you see a camera slowly zooming in on the head or face of an actor as they deliver a dramatic soliliquy - the zoom-in itself helps build the drama and import of the part. This "zoom" can take place slowly over the first bar or two of the lead, or you can build to a crescendo over the entire length of the lead. Again, whatever seems to fit the style and mood of the mix for best dramatic effect.

HTH,

G.
 

lomky

New member
Cool, I will try this! I also mentioned to the band, who of course want a raw unpolished mix but want everything to be clear and bitey, that if they really LISTEN to Social D stuff the leads are not blasting in your face so you can hear every note like a bell. Sometimes it's the sounds that your brain fills in that makes the music more interesting and more "challenging" to listen to.

Now does this same technique hold true for the lead vox also? Of course I know there are no rules.

I'm mixing in the box so envelopes are pretty simple. I've never really used envelopes to much, but after viewing Bruce's lesson on the subject I feel more confident. I think for the most part subtlety is the key, 3db here and there is subtle.

Your comment about fading the guitars down a little and bringing up the lead kinda brought to mind the old school one mic in the studio where the soloist would simply walk closer to the mic. Whenever I hear stuff like that it gives a little movie in my head of the musicians.

So far I'm really happy w/ my tracking, this was the first project I tracked in the "big" studio. So I must remember to not muck things up :)
 

SouthSIDE Glen

independentrecording.net
lomky said:
Now does this same technique hold true for the lead vox also? Of course I know there are no rules.
Again, that kind of depends upon the arrangement, IMHO, in a few different ways.

First thing is that often the rhythm parts actually change to "make room" for the vocals. In such cases there may be a natural drop in the volume of the rhythm trakcs. Other times it's just the opposite, the rhythm just keeps chugging along like a locomotive and you have to supress it a bit - especially during the verses - to make room for the vocal. Yet other times no subduction is necessary because the rhythm is compressed and laying back in the mix anyway. Go with the feel and flow of the song and the arrangement and build your envelopes accordingly.

As you say, there are no rules. But for a lot of mainstream rock/bluesrock/alt country/etc. one might see something as dynamic as this (or any of a myriad variatons thereof):

Intro: Rhythm up/lead neutral/vox muted
Verse: Rhythm neutral/lead muted/vox up
Chorus: Rhythm neutral/lead up/vox up
Bridge: Rhythm up/lead down/vox up
Showcase/solo: Rhythm down/lead up/vox muted

The above is NOT a recipe. Just one of a thousand arbitrarly selected possible examples of how a MIX can and often shoud follow song structure and it's accompanying arrangement. Of course if the intro is all lead, the intro mix will be different; if there is no vocal in the bridge, than that mix will be different, etc.

But the key is that, again IMHO and by my style of mixing anyway,

- the song should dictate the mix,
- the mix should follow and enhance the arrangement,
- and that mixing the tracks means more than just compressing, EQing and panning; mixing the track levels (manually or via automation) to weave the tracks together is an important and often forgotten part of the mixing process.

G.
 
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