Advice from a Guitarist: Cutting through in a heavy/rock band.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Obsius29A, Nov 14, 2001.

  1. Obsius29A


    Dec 20, 1999
    Huntington, NY
    There's been a lot of talk about this topic, and I figured I'd start a thread about ways to really tighten up the sound of a heavy band, whether you play rock or metal or what have you.

    I've been playing guitar for nearly a decade, so I'm mainly a guitar player, but I've started to gig with another band as a bass player and I'm getting into bass playing in a major way. One thing I noticed about this band was that we have a really seperated sound, but an extremely full one that doesn't leave any spectrum uncovered. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I've played guitar in a band since I started playing, as well as the fact that I play with musicians who are willing to compromise so we all can be heard (we don't exactly compromise musically though, much to my dismay).

    First of all, my rig is NOT a high powered rig at all. 80W SWR Working Man's 10 and a Schecter Rob DeLeo bass. I don't think this could be concidered to be a loud rig by any standard- but this amp definitely suits my needs (for now- which is small gigs and loud practices) and covers all of the frequencies a good bass should.

    The first thing you need to concider is frequencies. This is way more important than volume, in my humble opinion. Even if you're playing in a HEAVY band, there are a few things that you need to know that the pro's who you all like know, the most important being: guitars are a midrange instrument.

    Your rhythm guitarist will sound awesome in the mix if he puts this mids on his amp slightly more than half way- the treble around that if not slightly higher, and the bass about a quarter of the way up. His gain should stay at 6 or 7- JUST where it starts to saturate (and he should turn his guitar's volume down a tad to stay crisp). On a Mesa Boogie, the master volume shouldn't be anywhere higher than 2-2.5.
    The guy from Creed, Godsmack, etc. do NOT turn higher than 4 or 5 even live- though they always say "Dual and Tripple Rectos CRANKED!" when asked how they get their tone. If they agree to turn up the mids and turn the gain and master to the saturation point, you'll want to increase your bass and high frequencies, and slightly scoop the bass.

    That said- most guitarists are dumbasses when compared to bass players- and I can say that because I *am* a guitar player who was an idiot for the first 3-4 years of playing. If you're playing in a band and you're teenagers, and your guitarist has a big marshall or mesa, he may INSIST that to get "his" tone, he needs to dime everything except the mids. He may not compromise. I think he'll turn exceptionally loud too in order to compromise for the lack of his fundamental frequencies. If that is the case, it's up to the BASS PLAYER to compensate. Now you guys are going to hate this but you're going to need to really ease off on the BASS frequencies. While we all want to "feel" the low end of a bass guitar, and in my opinion, that is the most 'pleasing' low end, there is just going to be TOO MUCH. In other words, you are going to have to eq your instrument the same way I recommended the guitarist do in the first section.
    rockinb likes this.
  2. Obsius29A


    Dec 20, 1999
    Huntington, NY
    The next thing that needs to be adressed is the drums. One band that I feel is very good (or at least used to be very good) at balancing frequencies in heavy material is Dream Theater.

    Mike Portnoy has had some great drum sounds over the years. When he recorded Awake (my favorite sounding album of theirs), he took the front heads off of the bass drum, used a large size with mapex maple shells, and a very low tuned remo head. This is similar to how Danny Carey from tool records (no front head). The sound is EXTREMELY punchy with not a lot of extreme low end, but the APPEARANCE of extreme low end.

    This is the basic concept that one must keep in mind when mixing a band- it is best if each instrument has the APPEARANCE of hugeness, but really only covers what they were designed to cover (ie. guitars using more mids than bass, but the listener will 'hear' a huge thick guitar sound if the band is mixed well). Similarly, a bass drum should more or less provide the 'attack' on the bass players notes. There should be sort of a punchy 'slap' sound- I often find that using the felt head of a batter is better than plastic, or the Lars Ulrich "duct tape a quarter on the bass drum" method. A hard felt beater will provide more warmth to the slap, which is what is needed to give the bass drum sound life.

    The snare should be tuned relatively high. In the 80s, everyone went nuts over those HUGE marching snare sounds that were just rediculous. While someone may like a tubby, low tuned snare, it's just going to mess things up unless your band is eq'd around the drums (ELP, etc.) I find that it enters a weird midrange area that seems to muck things up with the other band members- it was a real problem on our early recording.

    Can't do much with cymbals besides put some duct tape on the underside to tame a very washy ride.

    Anyway, though I'm sure it's all been said before, I hope this helps, all.
  3. leper


    Jun 21, 2001
    agreed on not scoopin out everything too much, but dude, its gotta have some chunk to it or its just not gonna sound heavy...just like creed, godsmack dont sound heavy(but thats besides the point)
  4. I totally agree. as with bass, playing alone, and playing in the mix are two totally different things. When playing alone, you gotta fill in the stuff thats not there with your eq. when playing with a guitar, the guitar will cover some of the freq. for you, but same with guitar, leave the bass for the bass to cover. I eq my guitar amp with the Highs at around 11, Mid's at around 9, and bass at 6 (my knobs go up to 12). This sounds CRAZY good wiht a bass filling in the low mids. I dont need to make my amp fart out low notes, when the bass can do all the lows for me. Alone, the guitar sounds a tiny bit thin, simply because there is no one filling in the bass part. Add bass guitar, wham, its beauty. Nice FULL heavy sound.
  5. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    This is the formula I've been using for years, and it echoes pretty much what you've said:
    VOLUME is the key to the bass more than the lower freqs. Suppress anything lower than 80hz, boost at 250hz, suppress at 500hz, boost at 1250hz, and cut the really high stuff. Volume will give you presence, while the frequency band will give you definition. In a large room, you really need to CUT the low end, and let the room ambience work for you. It helps to have a folded 18" cab to rumble the back walls, too.
    I took a recording course prior to playing, and the rules are pretty vague - the total sound is the blend of all the instruments, and in order to get "that sound", you may have to alter individual tones to get the final result. What the musician hears onstage may not reflect what the audience hears. The musicians who need the sound right in their ear are probably not coming across the way they want to. You want to play to your audience, not your ego.
  6. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin

    If I can get my guitarist to buy what you said in your first post, I'll be in your debt forever!
  7. Obsius29A


    Dec 20, 1999
    Huntington, NY
    When I was younger, 16 or so or whenever I was playing with my high school band, I was a real jerk off about turning down, etc. but at least I never tried to really scoop my mids (besides that first year playing a squier into a metalzone into a PA into a 2x10 floor monitor lol).

    I was surprised recently as I heard a pretty technically good guitarist (read: yngwie wanna be who fell way short but made a good try) playing an SG gothic into a tripple recto with EVERYTHING dimed. I suggested a few things to him, and he sounded way better. His friend commented that he sounded better, his girlfriend commented that he sounded better, I commented that he sounded better, but sure enough, as soon as I left, he dimed it again. What an awful awful sound.

    Probably the best tip any guitarist could ever get is to use the damn volume knob on the guitar. One of the surprisingly best tones I ever got was guitar -> Line6 original flextone on the british high gain w/ delay on, and I just fiddled with the volume knob. Anywhere from David Gilmore cleans and leads to metallica rhythm.