Why You Should Commit Your Guitar Sound On The Way In

2013 May 03, 2013

If you happen to record guitars through a virtual amp plugin or box, then you’d be wise to done thing: commit to your sound on the way in. That’s right. None of this, recording the affected sound plus the direct sound, “just in case.”

Just in case of what? Just in case you completely change your mind on how guitars should sound while in the mixing phase? Bad idea.

You Have To Make A Decision

I’ve been pretty blown away by how realistic the Eleven Rack sounds as a virtual amp box. And it has the ability to record wet and dry signals into your DAW. But I would never do that. Why? At some point in the studio you must make a decision. At some point before your song hits a CD or MP3 for download you must decide what the guitars are going to sound like.
It sounds obvious when you think about it, but it’s true. At some point you’ll commit to your guitar sound, whether in the recording phase, mixing phase, or Heaven forbid the mastering phase! Why delay that decision? The only reason one would delay is if they can’t commit. In the name of “keeping your options open” you’ve basically delayed what you are called to do as an engineer or producer: make musical decisions!

Your Electric Guitar Sounds Affect How You Mix

One major drawback to delaying your amp sound decision to the mixing phase is that it makes mixing harder than it has to be. When you mix, you are making tone decisions (EQ) and dynamic decisions (compression) in order to get all your tracks and instruments to blend perfectly. How can you confidently EQ a vocal and bass guitar relative to your electric guitars when the tone of the guitars haven’t been set in stone yet?

You can’t! That’s what is so challenging. My EQ or compression decisions are dependent on the other tracks in the mix. If suddenly a guitar changes to a different amp tone mid way through the mix, that piano or vocal might clash all over again and my previous mixing work comes undone. What a mess. Mixing is hard enough already!

Think Like A Good Producer

Recording is really where the magic happens. Unfortunately our recording to mix ratio is all out of balance. We tend to spend more time (and give more credit to) the mix as where a song comes together. But a good producer knows that a great recording is made in the…you guessed it…recording phase!

So as a producer (and that is what you are at the end of the day) you must craft the sounds you want on tracking day. That is when you should decide what your drums should sound like, your acoustic guitars, your pianos, your synths, your vocals, and of course your guitar amp tones. If you can’t make a decision, then you aren’t done with the recording phase. Come back another day. But don’t simply delay it for the mixing phase. You’re not helping anything by doing that.

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