How to Mix Acoustic Guitars

The session files are currently unavailable for this tutorial, sorry for any inconvenience.

What We are Working With

The guitars in the Session were playing through out the entire record; basically a 4 bar loop.  Something that plays that much throughout a song can become pretty boring.

You need to have a strong vocal and interesting melody to make sure that the listener wants to continue listening.  But beyond that a little spice in the mix doesn’t hurt either, so that’s what I tried to do.

The sound of the guitar is complete with 3 different parts – 2 are playing the same thing.  The 2 identical guitars are carrying the chord progression for the song while the high pitched guitar is just there to add an interesting sound and vibe to the guitar group.

Let’s take a listen to what they sound like RAW:

This is track “GTR Hi”

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-Hi-Raw.mp3|titles=GTR Hi Raw]

This is tracks “GTR 1” & “GTR 2” together

Okay so now lets put them together and see what they sounds like:

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-Nothing.mp3|titles=All guitars Raw]

Processing of Each Insert

With all 3 guitars together it sounds much better than when they play by themselves but the sound is still lacking something.  They still seem to be a bit dull, there’s no real life to them.  This track is meant to have a Pop vibe to it so these guitars need to speak a little bit more to the listener.

GTR Hi

Panned 11% to the Left

Sonimus Satson

GTR Hi - SatsonThe first Plugin on this High guitar is the Sonimus Satson which is being used mainly for its slight amount of colour that it’s adding.

The only setting that I’m using on this plugin is the Low Pass Filter.  I turned it counter-clockwise until I could hear some of the prickly top end being removed.

Before Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-Hi-Raw.mp3|titles=GTR Hi Before Satson]

After Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-Hi-Satson.mp3|titles=GTR Hi After Satson]

 

Waves C1 Compresssor Side Chain

GTR Hi - Waves C1This dynamic EQ is being used to remove some of the 4k whenever it gets a bit irratating.  I could have reached for an EQ but I just liked the sound of this.

Another reason for using this plugin is so that I could get the tone to match a little bit closer to the other 2 guitars.  This makes my life a whole lot easier so that when I send it to a bus I can get the exact tone I am looking for.

Before Waves C1

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-Hi-Satson.mp3|titles=GTR Hi Before Waves C1]

After Waves C1

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-Hi-Satson-C1.mp3|titles=GTR Hi After Waves C1]

GTR 1

Panned 42% to the left and is slightly lower in volume than GTR 2

Sonimus Satson

GTR 1 - SatsonThis is the one and only plugin that’s on this guitar.  I’m using the Satson again, for the tone but also a bit of gain staging.  Sometimes when I use the clip gain for gain staging it doesn’t quite get the job done and the Satson has to be used to finish it off.

Before Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-1-RAW.mp3|titles=GTR 1 Before Sonimus Satson]

After Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-1-Satson.mp3|titles=GTR 2 After Sonimus Satson]

GTR 2

Panned 38% to the right

Sonimus Satson

GTR 2 - SatsonSimilar to GTR 1, I am using the Satson here for it;s colour but I am also taking advantage of the other tools built in.

The gain I am using to boost the input as it wasn’t quite loud enough.

The High Pass is being used to cut out some of the low end.  Since both GTR 1 and GTR 2 are essentially playing the exact same thing this helped me separate the guitars a bit.  Since these guitars were fairly prominate in the low end, I chose to let the left channel take all of the lows so that I could have a much better stereo image.

Before Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-1-RAW.mp3|titles=GTR 1 Before Sonimus Satson]

After Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GTR-1-Satson.mp3|titles=GTR 2 After Sonimus Satson]

Main Guitar Bus

All the guitars were routed to a Bus where more processing was done.  Now that I have all the raw tones in the ball park of how I want it to sound, I can now manipulate them further as a group.

Sonimus Satson Buss

Guitar Bus - SatsonWhen I’m using the Satson in my mixing session, the buss is usually the first plugin that goes in my chain on a Group Bus.  It helps complete that “analogue” chain that this plugin is meant to represent.

 

Before Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-RAW.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss Before Sonimus Satson]

After Sonimus Satson

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-Satson-Bus.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss After Sonimus Satson]

 

Waves CLA Guitars

Guitar Bus - CLA Guitarswhen it comes to acoustic guitar, I really love this plugin.  It has everything I need to make appropriate decisions when mixing.  Plus it makes me work really fast.

Treble (Bite) – I have this engaged because I wanted some mid range boost.  It’s just half way up which is stock for this plugin.

Compress (Push) – this is a form of parallel compression but it also sounds like its adding some mid-high end EQ to the sound.  Since this fader is very sensitive I have it only about a 1/4 the way up.

Reverb (Club) – this fader represent the reverb that’s built into the plugin.  this one has the shortest decay of the 3 and since this song is more pop, I went with that option.  To be honest, you could probably leave this one off and it would sound just fine.

Delay (Edge) – This guitar sounded too stationary so the edge delay helped to give the guitar a little bounce which helped breath some life into it.

Before Waves CLA Gutiars

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-Satson-Bus.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss Before Waves CLA Gutiars]

AfterWaves CLA Gutiars

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-CLA.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss After Waves CLA Gutiars]

 

Bomb Factory 76

Guitar Bus - BF76There was something about the dynamics on these guitars that I didn’t like and this every compressor I tried just wasn’t cutting it.  Then I pulled this plugin out and it helped to not only control some of the dynamics but it also gave it a rhythm that didn’t exist before.

It worked really well when the vocals came in so I decided to keept it.

Before Bomb Factory 76 

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-CLA.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss Before Bomb Factory 76]

After Bomb Factory 76

[audio:http://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/All-guitars-CLA-BF76.mp3|titles=Main Guitar Buss After Bomb Factory 76]

Summing it All Up

So with a few steps were adding in some colour and giving the guitars more life.  Even though every situation is different, maybe next time you are mixing a pop record you can take some ideas from me and use them in your session.

Good Luck!

YouTube Video Source: How to Mix Acoustic Guitars

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"Justin, this was a really good strip down of the EQ. I've been writing and singing for about 5-7 years now and started with producing and mixing just some months ago. And your simple, strategic way to explain helped me a lot. Big thanks from Sweden."

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