Guitars are used in many different genres of music.
Chances are the guitar in these tracks will be the main protagonist. If not, then they will at least be a main instrument in the song.
In order for your music to translate well to your audience, you need to mix your guitars in a way that gives them depth, power, and delivers the emotional intent of your song.
In this article, I am going to go over how you can mix in your guitars for a more professional-sounding mix. To mix in our guitars, we are going to use simple panning and audio processing. In our example, we are going to assume that there is no audio processing done to the guitars already.
We will be starting the mixing of the guitars from scratch.
Our first step to mixing our guitars is going to be with panning. We are going to take our guitar audio or midi track and duplicate it out two times. There will now be three different copies of the guitar sound we want to mix.
From there, we are going to pan one hard right, the other hard left, and leave the other one in the center of the stereo field. This panning now gives us the stereo width that we are looking for to create depth and power.
Next, turn down the volume of all three guitar tracks as the sum of these three guitar sounds will create a much louder sound than we want. Two to four decibels will work here.
Now that we have created width in our guitars, we would now like to add a little bit of character.
To accomplish this, we are going to be adding a modulation plugin to one of the hard-panned channels. Any modulation plugins will work here. Phasers, choruses, and flangers all have a unique character and can be used on your guitars. When inserting the modulation plugin on one of your hard-panned guitars, be sure to apply only a moderate amount of the effect.
Drowning out the guitar with the modulation effect will change the overall timbre and clarity of the guitar. Since we only want to add a bit of character to our guitar, keep the dry/wet of the effect plugin to around 10-45%. Not only will the modulation plugin add character to our guitars, it will also add extra width to the overall guitar.
Pro Tip: Guitars sounding too muddy in your mix? Here’s how to fix it.
Next, we are going to add a distortion plugin to the other hard-panned channel. Any distortion plugin will work, so choose your favorite distortion plugin and place it on the hard-panned channel.
Just like when we added the modulation plugin, we want the effect to add character and not drown out the sound, so keep the distortion plugin’s dry/wet between 10-45%.
Finally, we are going to add a bit of group processing to all three of the guitar tracks. Group all three of the tracks together in your DAW and throw on a compressor. This compressor is going to help glue the three tracks together.
Choose a short attack (around 10ms), a longer release (around 250ms), and adjust the threshold until you have around -2 to -4 dB of gain reduction.
Last on the group processing chain is going to be an EQ. With the EQ we are going to cut out the low frequencies and brighten up the guitars. Place a low cut filter at around 95Hz and then place a high shelf filter around 3kHz. Then raise the high shelf filter around -2 to -3 dB. This will add a little brightness to the high frequencies and give it a nice lift in the mix without being too bright.
Listen and Adjust
Now it is time to listen to all the processing and panning that you have done to your guitar in the context of your entire mix. Listen back to your entire song with the guitars playing and see if any adjustments need to be made.
At this point, usually small adjustments to the dry/wet of the different effects, EQing, and volume will do just fine here.
The guitars in your mix play a major role in the success of your overall track as they are a main instrument.
To ensure that this main instrument provides depth, power, and interest to your track, you will need to process the sound accordingly. By following the steps outlined in the article, you will be able to process your guitars in a way that makes the instrument stand out and take your track to the next level.
Daniel is a caffeine-dependent entrepreneur, music producer, sound design junkie, and world traveler crazy about teaching modern electronic music production through his site SoundShock.