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I'm trying to blend acoustic guitar and piano as background tracks behind vocals. Individually, both tracks sound excellent, but when I combine them they step on each other and sound really bad.
Any tips (EQ, panning, or otherwise) on getting these two instruments to play nice together?

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What exactly do you mean by "very bad"? Elaborate! –  Pelle ten Cate Dec 8 '10 at 9:09
    
@Pelle: It's kinda hard to describe, but the two sounds are fighting each other. Almost a dissonant sound. –  BenV Dec 8 '10 at 16:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Try to find the sweet spot in each and give it a little EQ boost, while cutting that from the other tracks. Also, cut areas where the tracks have no contribution, e.g. below 100hz for vox/guitar, and above 10khz for the guitar (e.g., you'll have to play with it).

A more advanced trick is to use side-chaining compression between the vocals and one or both instruments. Basically you arrange for a compressor on your instrument(s), but key the compressor not from the instrument(s) level(s), but from the vocals level. When the vocals get loud, the instrument(s) will lower their volume dynamically and, if you get it right, musically.

Generic steps:

  1. Send vox to a bus specifically for keying the side-chained compressor
  2. Add the compressor to the track(s) you want to compress
  3. Set the key input of the compressor to the bus you set up in #1 (note that not all s/w compressors have this, but the stock Pro Tools compressors do, e.g.)
  4. adjust things in the compressor until it sounds right; a good way to start is to set it to SEVERELY compress the instrument tracks so you can actually hear the (exaggerated) effect. Then dial it back until it sounds good.
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Simply mixing the guitar and piano tracks at different volumes might help. Pick one of the two as your primary instrument, and mix it louder. The other can be mixed quieter (perhaps with a softening effect like chorus or reverb) to provide additional atmosphere.

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Are the two just out of time? If so, then you're either going to have to do some serious audio quantizing work or just re-record.

Otherwise, there are two basic options. Either EQ them so they're not occupying the same frequency bands, or pan them away from each other. Don't take either of these too far or it'll just sound weird, but a little bit will help separate them.

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The guitar player was listening to the piano track in headphones when he recorded so it's not a timing problem. –  BenV Dec 7 '10 at 21:31

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