Guitar DIs processing tricks

Greetings to dear readers!
Wanted to tell you a couple of tricks of DIs processing (for hi-gain guitar parts primarily, but not only) before reamping them, which I have to use in my practice time to time during the years. Some of us will find them well known, while another will learn something new. These techniques helps in solving several types of common problems:

  • Make muddy and dark guitars brighter.
  • Add some metal clang to the tone.
  • Treat a weak uneven picking.

First of all, you’d better always record accurately and make quality (use good guitar with fresh strings, experienced musician with a good performance technique etc.), then fixing all the issues afterwards. But this is not always possible, so the following tricks may appear useful.

In the beginning, make sure to download an audio files archive (WAV, stereo, 24/44.1) for analysis and comparison purposes: DOWNLOAD.
It contains all the raw and processed examples.
Source DI is DITricks_Unprocessed.wav, it is quantized already. DITricks_Unprocessed_ReAmped.wav is a reamp of the source DI without a processing.

Leveling uneven picking with a compressor. Since a compressor may serve as a dynamic range tightener, it may help us in several cases: solo part has a weak uneven dynamics; weak picking in a rhythm part with palm-mutes; a note on a particular string is weaker/stronger than the rest of the part, etc. These flaws may become an issue after a hi-gain reamping. I’ve used the following settings of a compressor in the example:
Compressor settings
The short attack emphasizes transients, and the release value gives more sustain to the weak palm-mute notes, slightly increase pinch harmonis and avoid jumping-out of the higher dissonances. BTW, the free compressor GVST GComp is pretty convenient, because of visualisation of its treatment (you may observe how the signal changes on the screenshot). Here are the result of the compressor processing: DITricks_Compressor.wav and DITricks_Compressor_ReAmped.wav

Adding brightness with an EQ. In this case, I’ve cut out the extra lows (to decrease a fuzz-kind of a distortion) and added hi-mids to add some extra brightness and metallic clang to the guitars:
EQ settings
While a screamer stomp serves to bias the tone to a mids range, EQ gives a more flexible ability to handle the tone of a DI signal. You should be carefull with cranking up the highs on the DI, because it may add some extra pick and fret noises, and some high-frequency background noise, besides the desired brightness.
Here are the results of the EQ processing: DITricks_EQ.wav and DITricks_EQ_ReAmped.wav

Adding brightness with an exciter. That was a multiband exciter that I used (iZotope Exciter). The goal is the same as in the previous one, but works differently: it distorts a selected frequency range signal, augmenting it with the additional harmonics, thus making the range sound more saturated and bright.
Exciter settings
Due to the excitement type selection ability (Tape, Tube, Triode etc.) you may choose the most suitable character for a purpose.
Here are the exciter processing results: DITricks_Exciter.wav and DITricks_Exciter_ReAmped.wav

Tighten performance using a transient shaper. This one may be useful for a djent-kind of guitar part, where the accuracy and attack provides the overall groove/rock feeling of the rhythm section; for a shredding solo played on a neck pickup position of a stratocaster with the glassy sound – to make it shred even more expressive, etc. Of course, there are no boundaries for creativity here. For this trick I’ve used a different DI – a riff from Tesseract’s cover song. Unprocessed files: DITricks_Tesseract_Dry.wav and DITricks_Tesseract_Dry_ReAmp.wav. The plugin settings are extremely simple: just crank the attack knob to the maximum, and that’s it.
Transient Shaper settings
This is why you’re free to use any Transient Shaper or Envelope Designer plugin. Although, some of them are better on the guitar transients, while the others are not.
Here are the transitent shaper processing results: DITricks_Tesseract_TS.wav and DITricks_Tesseract_TS_ReAmp.wav
TS' processing results
Pay attention here: how intensive the attack moments became (especially those short muted “chugs”), comparing to the original signal. It is well observable visually.

Posted by Nikolas Quemtri

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