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I recorded a metal band last year and have just gotten round to doing a rough mix / master. Unfortunately, I left the guitarist unsupervised who then proceeded to crank up his amp... to the point that the guitar track sounds like its clipping / aliasing. The track didn't clip during recording but has a lot of very fuzzy high frequency content due to the amp being overpowered and I can't seem to eq out. Any ideas? Find attached the track on a temp soundcloud I made:

  • Is it bad sounding to you? I feel like that's a good guitar sound for drone or sludge metal. Reminds me of Crowbar or Sunn O))) – user22688 Sep 29 '17 at 19:52
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    Thanks, that is indeed the genre of the band I recorded. I just found it getting a bit hard on the ears after a while of mixing, and lacking the definition of guitar sounds on some similar sounding records, vis a vis Sunn O))). @Thomas – Thomas Shemeld Sep 30 '17 at 16:42
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(I'm not sure what you want to fix - it sounds sick and genrewise it is spot on!)

Needless to say: always record with a DI so you have the option to reamp later on if something turns out too hot etc. But at this point this advice is not worth much ;-)

I can think of a few things you might try out:

  1. De-clipping: Try to "restore" clipped areas. De-clipping works best with uniformly hard-clipped material. Since your material is non uniform clipping this may not be that effective, but try it out. Check out Perfect Declipper or iZotopes De-Clipper plugin (also a part of the RX suite) - EDIT: you may be able to "trigger" the restoration by actually introducing a little hard clipping - this may seem very counter intuitive until you study how the algorithm works:
    So to get the non-uniform clipping (dsitortion) "repairable" we clip a little. This way the algorithm will be able to reconstruct peaks.
  2. Cab-Sim: if you have an amp sim plugin, try disabling the amp part and use the cab sim alone. It will most likely eat too much of the high-end initially, but a few tweaks and wet/dry blend balancing might get you in the right direction. This should effectively target the gritty high end.
  3. Un-compression/Transient Boosting: While this is not the issue you describe, I think you may be able to get some more life into that signal by carefully uncompressing / upward expanding the signal to boost transients. Several plugins let you do that (Trans-X, RComp etc. your DAW host most likely has something similar build in)
  4. Multiband Compression: with something like Waves C4 or another multiband comp, try bypassing band 1-3 so you only have the high shelf band left and tweak the settings using fast attack and release settings. Like the Cab-Sim approach this may be more effective than simple EQ'ing at getting rid of the unwanted gritty high end.
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    always record with a DI so you have the option to reamp later YES! You might want to put that at the top in bold. It's a very important tip. – user22688 Sep 29 '17 at 19:54
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I would also go for a re-recording before any clippy,fuzzy trace of the over-distorted track ruins your overall-mix. And if anything works out with having it re-recorded via DI, you could probably also go for re-amping.

(I don't have much experience with re-amping. A band which shares the studio with us is doing it a lot, because they often switch their guitar-sound late in production)

By the way - the actual Track reminds me a lot of Sunn O))) :)

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So from what I'm hearing, you don't want to FIX it, you want to SCULPT it. That is actually quite easy. Forget about the clipping and aliasing (which I don't hear in the track), and consider where each track should "live." You want to use an Equalizer (and maybe a multi-band compressor) to cut away portions of the guitar to allow other pieces to shine through (and so the guitar doesn't cause ear-fatigue).

I use this chart quite often to help with that. http://www.independentrecording.net/irn/resources/freqchart/main_display.htm

So, say you have some vocals, drums, and a bass. Cut some low-end from the guitar around where you want the bass to 'live.' Maybe just a high-pass filter up to 100Hz to get all the bottom, and a good chunk of the fundamentals.

Then for the vocals, do a moderate cut around 2-4kHz and a light cut around 120Hz (for a guy).

Lastly, for the drums, you'll need to take quite a bit more time cutting for each piece. Just follow the chart above, and cut where it says "attack" (I think that would sound good for the genre, but you could try to get the fullness instead).

Now, all of that is just a starting off point, You want to move those frequencies around and experiment to find what sounds best. All in all, I thought the track sounded good for the genre you're going for. So think more about sculpting a good track instead of fixing a bad track.

As others have said you should try dual tracking with a DI and Amp so you get the variety, and also the safety.

  • Awesome, cheers for the chart that will come in handy. I shall post a link to the final product once I've finished... can't promise it will be amazing but I always wanted it to have minimal processing because the entire session was done live in a concert hall - more of a raw, atmospheric feel as opposed to an overly produced studio record. @Thomas – Thomas Shemeld Sep 30 '17 at 17:56
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Distortion is terminal. Short of resynthesizing (and that works badly on distorted signals and does not lead to very metal sounds), there is not much you can do.

Next time, try recording an additional clean track split off via DI. That's an emergency measure that you can mold into shape when the instrument amp or its user are playing up: it's hard to keep the whole kindergarten in check all the time.

This time, you probably want to invite the guitarist for a studio session where you'll rerecord his part in the mix, assuming that you can dial his recorded parts back enough that putting a new part in makes sense. I assume that should be possible if the microphones were separated well enough that his sabotage went unnoticed at the time of the original recording.

  • Terminal as in terminally ill? It's a really shame because everything else in the mix sounds great. Hopefully I'll be able to convince the guitarist to just rerecord via DI at home and then I'll put some decent plugins on. Thanks @user23065 – Thomas Shemeld Sep 27 '17 at 22:47

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