So you’ve decided to start recording, you’ve gathered up all the equipment you need, you’ve gotten everything mic’ed up and you’ve hit record, but only one thing remains stopping you dead in your tracks: The tone that comes from the playback. Maybe it’s too boomy, too thin, or just not quite what you want to be hearing. If any of this feels familiar don’t worry, because there are many, many ways to get closer to the goal of your tone chasing dreams and we’re going to go over just a few to help get you started.

Let’s look at 3 simple tips for helping guitars stand out in a mix!

1. Listen with Context

First things first, have you tried listening to your tone within the context of a mix? Many times that exact tone you want to be hearing may not necessarily be the perfect tone for your mix, so it’s always good to check your bedroom tone against how it sits in a mix and keep in mind to make sure it doesn’t take up too much sonic space drown out the other instruments (unless that’s what you’re after). When I’m coming up with a guitar tone for reamping, I usually play along with the rest of the in progress mix to find a tone that compliments it, rather than finding a great tone for just solo guitar. 

Finding a guitar tone that works can be a lot easier when using a digital modeler if you want to save time. Check out our article, 5 Reasons You Need a Digital Amp Modeler.

2. Cut the Crap

If you’re trying to get something to stand out in the mix, especially guitars, it can help a lot to get an EQ on the track you want to stand out and pull back some of the extreme ends of the frequency spectrum. As a basic practice, it’s good to start off by getting rid of unnecessary frequencies within a track. In the context of a guitar it’s usually a pretty safe bet to start with a high pass at 60hz and a low pass at 12000hz. From there increase the amount until you hear a difference in tone. Once there’s an audible difference, roll it back just a bit so it’s only cutting unnecessary frequencies, rather than the easily audible ones.

3. Less is More

Once you’ve eliminated any unnecessary frequencies with filters, start cutting some of the low end away instead of boosting the mids or highs. It might be tempting to boost everything since it’s easier and makes it obviously louder (I’m not saying to never boost specific frequencies, just use it sparingly), but if you start cutting out a tiny bit from lower ranges like 80hz, 150hz and the 300hz ranges your guitar will stand out more in the mix and help remove any muddiness of your tone. Remember, more often than not: less is more.

4. Drop it Low

Maybe you’ve already got your perfect tone for the mix and don’t want to change anything about it, that’s also fine. In that case what you can do is to pull back the volume on all the others tracks by just a few db. Many people are always trying to fight the loudness war, but if you really want to let your mix breathe pull back the decibels a bit and turn up your monitors. A lot of songs end up being mixed at surprisingly lower levels (at least on paper anyway) so don’t be shy with turning down some tracks a little bit and see how it affects the mix overall.

5. Check Your Sources

Probably the most obvious, but most important tip. If your source tone sucks, your mix will probably suck. You can sure try to polish a turd, but it won’t be fun and you’ll wish you got it right from the beginning. Make sure your guitar tone doesn’t suck before you try EQing it in your DAW. If you need help with metal tone, check out our article: 5 Ways to Improve Low-Tuned Tone!

Like most things on the internet, these are just suggestions for starting points. I encourage you to save an extra copy of your song somewhere (just in case) and just go crazy in whatever DAW you use and find what works best for you. Part of the fun of mixing is learning about various methods and techniques to find your own style and sound. Interacting with various plug-ins and studio tools is always a good learning experience to find out how various things interact with each other. Mixing should never be a “cookie cutter” process if you want the most out of it. 

I hope this article was helpful, or at least interesting! We upload new articles daily so if you liked this one, make sure to check out some more

This article was written by Keegan Connor, our editor located in Canada.

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