“Scoop those Mid Frequencies!”
When you’re playing guitar on your own, rolling off the Mid button on your amp and sometimes boosting the Bass and Treble can give you a very satisfying tone that is very easy to play.
You become able to play your favorite riffs with heavy basses and singing highs, none of your mistakes stands out, and you’re looking forward to your next gig so that you can rock the hell out of everyone!
So you meet with your buddies for rehearsal, the drummer goes “1.. 2.. 3.. 4..”, you start playing, and all of a sudden, you can’t hear yourself, (no one can apparently). All the riffs you were so proud of are now turned into mud… What’s happening?
What’s happening is that none of your guitar tone is coming through the frequency range that is dedicated to the guitar in the context of a band. All you’re doing here is creating muddiness in the overall mix by fighting with the bass guitar in its frequency range and delivering “fizzy” highs that mostly get covered by the rest of the band.
The Solution? Turn up those Mids! Try to get used to them because this is where the guitar is meant to be in the spectrum. Also, try to use pedals that boost those frequencies when you’re soloing. In no time you’ll be able to sit properly in the mix and your fantastic riffs and solos will be heard and acclaimed by everyone!
As guitar players, we sometimes have the tendency to think that “gain” means “heavy”. So when it’s time to rock, we turn up that gain knob, we stack 2 or 3 overdrive pedals and we dig in! The truth is that it quite often gives us poor results.
Why? Because, when you’re adding gain, you’re also adding compression and adding too much compression will shrink some of the best frequencies in your guitar tone and leave you with a sound that has no character and is not dynamic. You will not sound heavy at all, and digging in as hard as you can won’t help because all of your efforts will be compressed eventually.
So next time you have to play some heavy riffs, try using less gain. All of your playing will be translated nicely, and if you got it right, it will sound amazing!
“Use Delay When You’re Soloing!”
I’m always amazed by the number of guitar players who automatically use delay when they are doing solos. When I ask them why, I often get the same answer : “Well, it gives me more sustain and presence I guess…”
So, more sustain? Maybe. More presence? Hell no! When not used properly, delay can be a disaster for the clarity and presence of what you’re playing. A badly timed delay can turn a beautiful solo into an inaudible mess. Also, delay sometimes gives the impression that the guitar tone is coming from far away and is not “In your face!”. You want to cut through the mix, and delay often does the opposite. Try it yourself and compare.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a good delay on a good lead tone is the most beautiful thing. But there is always a reason that justifies its use. So next time you’re about to step on that delay pedal, just ask yourself, do I really need it here?