Three items of interest to my readers!
Item One: I’ve been working with Overloud TH1 1.1 lately, gearing up for the review of the software I’ll be doing for Frugal in the next issue. It’s very, very interesting. Some of the coolest and most intuitive routing I’ve ever used. I had the chance to do a quickie “collaboration” with Harmony Central forum user Zygoat, who got an AxeFX unit not too long ago and has been posting clips. I asked him if I could jam over one and he said sure, so I fired up TH1 and recorded some lead to the great sounding clip he had up. He did the bass and all rhythm guitar, and the drums too. I just recorded the lead track. A synthesis of AxeFX and software, haha. Don’t tell Cliff, he’s remarked on occasion that everything that isn’t AxeFX is just a toy (I think you can imagine my response to that gem!).
The fact that I had to make the guitar fit in an already mixed track posed some interesting challenges. I broke out a few plugins to make everything fit together. I wanted to place the guitar in a certain way in the mix, both in terms of its “sound” and also in the stereo field. I’ll write a run-through of the process here, explaining what I did and why.
To get the amp tone, I used Overloud TH1’s “SLR” amp mod slider function which lets you adjust continuously between two amplifiers’ properties, not just a fader but it actually alters the internals to make a hybrid of the two amps. This is a hybrid of the “Overloud Custom” on PlexiBright channel, and their Soldano SLO amp model, about 55/45 in favor of the Overloud Custom PlexiBright. I’m not using a whole lot of gain, because I wanted my playing to come through… There’s a lot of quick stops and I didn’t want a bunch of noise around them, or hash when I was doing quick legato runs. More distortion makes things easier but it also obscures and makes the guitar sound smaller (more distortion and compression = smaller sound, not bigger sound, remember that always if you don’t already know it). So I settled on making that hybrid which gave me a great fundemental tonality to work with, a cross between the articulate and raunchy PlexiBright channel of the Overloud Custom and the higher gain, saturated tone of the Soldano model’s lead channel. The SLR feature is extremely handy and FAR from a gimmick, it lets you take the existing amp models much farther than would otherwise be possible. Every amp has every channel modeled, and if there are switches to change the behavior of the channels they’re modeled too. The SLR slider blends seamlessly between the two circuits you have loaded, so you can get huge changes (blending a Recto Modern channel with a Fender Twin bright channel) or more subtle variations (blending a Recto Modern channel with a Recto Vintage channel). But even with that flexibility, an amp alone doesn’t guarantee a fit in the mix, so I had some decisions to make from there.
The first thing I did was figure out what frequencies I wanted to focus on to give it room to be heard without clashing with the rhythm track. I actually split up the amp modeler’s output (using Overloud TH1 1.1’s new Splitter module, which allows crossover and bandpass splitting!) with the crossover at 2250hz or so. I sent the high portion to a 1×12 open-back cab and the low portion to a 4×12 closed-back oversized cabinet, both dual-mic’d to capture a fuller frequency response, and then blended the two cabinets’ output to get the upper midrange and treble sound of the guitar that I was looking for. This is important later when adjusting the reverb, as the way I prefer reverb to sound is basically for it to be an extension of the guitar’s tone, with some subtle modulation, especially for distorted guitar. Otherwise it can be heavy-handed and overpower the guitar’s own sound. I used reverb to help seat the lead track in the stereo field, so it was important to get the tone of the guitar right early on so that I wouldn’t have to do a lot of tweaking later.
With that as my starting point I then used a stereo ducking delay which starts strong left-of-center and fades off to the far right as it decays. After that I used an instance of T-Racks 3 Deluxe for its Fairchild, compressing the left side more strongly than the right side to break up the stereo unity without becoming discordant. This is what lets the Ducking Delay I used sound the way that it does, because its early taps are more prominent on the left side thanks to being compressed more strongly, but I set it to have a longer feedback on the right side so it gets that panning echos effect as it starts louder on the left but fades out quickly, while still going on the right. Finally I used Bootsy’s Epicverb to create some space around the whole thing, setting it up so that the track decays into a more diffuse area than that in which it begins… and then set the track right of center by about 15% in the mix. The result is, in my opinion, subtle but interesting placement in the stereo field. The whole time I was keeping an eye on the phase correlation in T-Racks 3 Deluxe to help me visualise where I was at, and it was very handy in letting my ears work. I like meters, some people think they just get in the way but in my opinion they’re very useful studio tools and they help your ears not be fooled sometimes.
The end result isn’t perfect (my playing, well, I like how most of it turned out but it was a one-take recording so there’s an odd blue note or two. or three. haha.) but I quite like how it sounds! Maybe you do too, let me know what you think. Regardless I hope this has been helpful in some way, even if it’s just letting you know what kind of neat stuff you can do in the digital realm that a physical setup would have to be very, very expensive and bulky to match (and good luck doing it live, while this was all very easily real-time thanks to my beefy computer).
Item Two: LePou’s SoloC Soldano modeling plugin is getting very close to completion, and he has included a number of community requests, including my biggest one, implementing good oversampling to protect against aliasing. Others include the addition of an amplifier-correct contour knob which is very useful in tuning your midrange and treble sound without ever sounding bad. It is differential – at “5” it’s basically not doing anything, while if you turn it left towards 1 it gets progressively more and more contoured in one way, and if you turn it right towards 10 it gets more and more contoured in another way. Very useful.
Someone on the Harmony Central amps forum posted a backing track that he jokingly asked people to freestyle (rap) over. I decided to process the track a little with a bitcrusher/waveform mangler and then freestyle jam over it with the latest version of SoloC!
Nothing nearly as fancy going on in this track, obviously, but I still think it fits really well. I used KarmaFX’s Plate Reverb preset for this track, adjusted to be a little less wet… Bootsy’s EpicVerb is a great plugin but there’s a lot going on with it and you need to spend some time tuning it for the track, KarmaFX’s Reverb is easier to just throw on something, fire up a preset, turn a knob or two and be done.
LePou’s SoloC is kicking butt, for sure. He’s planning on implementing an IR loader into the plugin itself, and I think one of the GuitarAmpModeling users with a Soldano cab is going to supply an authentic Soldano 4×12 IR to go with it by default. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, being a part of the amp modeling community is a blast, just really good people.
Item Three: The testing of Ken’s AcmeBarGig effects continues. DuelGain is really coming along, I think it’s going to be a serious contender in the realm of amp modeling plugins when he gets it finished. He’s isolating some samplerate stuff right now, pretty tough issue but once he gets it figured out it will rocket his plugin development forward big time. I should have some updates about DuelGain and some other stuff he’s working on soon. For now, here’s a pair of clips of the in-progress plugin, using its built-in flexible cabinet shaper sim, first a darker “recto”ish one, and a brighter one with the same basic tonality but more presence. Pay attention to the definition in the leads, and also notice the built-in adjustable noise gate and stereo/mono delay. For now, tracked at 44.1khz ’til he gets the samplerate issue lined out, but that’s his biggest project right now so I don’t expect it will take too long. In his own version he’s also apparently added full “DI mode” functionality that totally defeats the cabinet sim, enabling it to be used with external cab sim and IRs, which will be handy for many I’m sure (but give the Cabinet Shaper a try, first, it’s already quite effective and I believe he’s improved it since these clips were recorded yesterday with a version a couple days old).
Also interesting, related to Ken’s development, is the new direction for his AcmeBarGig commercial plugins (DuelGain is an introduction to Ken and his programming, made to the specifications of the GuitarAmpModeling community and implementing pretty much every request he got during the development process, and it will always be freeware). On the commercial side of things he’s come up with a great idea, proof of concept, and even a working beta for a VST that allows users to model amps and other distortion-making things (including pedals) on their own, including adjusting the circuit at various points and even making a cab to go with it – all done intuitively and easily with EQ-like options rather than complex programming or schematics. For more info, head over to his announcement thread at GuitarAmpModeling. I think it’s going to be really cool, this guy just seems to have a head full of cool ideas and he knows how to make them happen.