Here’s a technique for making a huge sound that creates the illusion of playing and recording the guitar through a number of different cabinets like the big studios do by simply using an amp and cabinet modeling plug-in.
Getting On Track
If you are using a plug-in such as UAD-1’s Preflex, though any plug-in that simulates a variety of amps and cabinets will suffice, here’s what you do: On the recorded guitar track, open up the sequencer’s mix window, and using the channel inserts, insert an amp model on the channel strip the way you would a compressor or other processor plug-in. Make sure you disable the cabinet section. If you are using two tracks of guitar, insert an amp head on each channel strip. Since we are going for a large multifaceted sound, it would be best to use two different amp models. Next, create two or three bus sends. Or, you can use aux tracks or group tracks, depending on software and preference. With a program such as Logic Pro or Digital Performer 4, there will be ‘Send’ bars on the track strip that you would click on to activate. In turn, a drop-down menu will open giving you routing options, such as Bus 1, Bus2, and etc. In a one track, one amp, two cabinet scenario, select a bus number for each send. If you’ve double tracked the guitar, make sure that the bus sends have alternating numbers. For example, track 1 guitar would have bus 1, 3, and 5, while track 2 would have 2, 4, and 6, or hard panning the bus channels would be impossible. Finally, mute the output of each track. DO NOT USE THE MUTE BUTTON. At the bottom of the channel strip, there is a small window that allows you to select the track output. E.g. (1 & 2), (3 & 4), (5 & 6), and etc. When you click on that window, there should be an option that says ‘No Output.” This would be the same as if you chose not to route a track on a console to the stereo left/right mains. (Main output)
Once You’re On The Bus
For each separate bus strip, insert a different cabinet model. (Each bus channel should also have it’s own inserts.) Again, don’t forget to disable the amp section. Then pan the bus strip hard left or right. (You can also mix it up a little. Not all of track 1’s cabinets have to be on one side or the other.) The effect will be as if you were playing your amp head through two or three different cabinets (depending on your setup) and miking them all, each adding it’s own particular sonic characteristics to the overall sound. Now, imagine this technique on a doubled guitar with two different amps and six different cabinets. How’s that for a big sound? To take it a step further, if you have a mic modeling plug-in, or, if your cabinet modeling plug-in allows for it, you can insert a different mic type and placement on each cabinet bus. Talk about piling up the sonic possibilities; Use a dynamic mic on one cabinet model to bring out that low chunky sound, and put a condenser mic on another for a more defined high-end. (High level tech tip secret: That’s what many recording engineers do when they mic real cabinets.) Similarly, you could have an off-axis mic, or one placed farther away from the cabinet to simulate room sound.
From there, if you really want to get nuts, (we do Barry, We DO!) you can insert different effects on each track and bus channel as well. Depending on the type of part played, you might want to put a different reverb on each cabinet, such as a plate reverb to accentuate the highs, and a small hall reverb on another to add dramatic space, and perhaps a gated reverb on the third to add body. Try keeping one or two of the cabinets dry (depending on whether you use two or three models), and one wet. (With reverb) The sound will change subtly depending on which cabinet has the effects. Experiment with different combinations. If you want the same reverb on all of the cabinets, then insert the reverb on the channel strip along with the amp. Of course, you could do that along with the reverbs on cabinets in order to create a little sonic glue. It would, however, be preferable to set up another bus on the channel strip(s) for overall reverb on yet another bus. This saves processor power and will give you greater control over the over-all amount of reverb, as well as creating the illusion of a unified space. (Another high-level let’s-get-ahead-of-ourselves tip: To create the illusion that all of the instruments in the band are being played in the same sonic space, even though each instrument has it own reverb or reverbs, bus all of them to a natural room reverb. Plug-in’s like Altiverb do this beautifully, but any reverb plug-in with a room-design feature can work.) Naturally, you don’t have to limit the effects to reverb, and don’t forget, you can use the other inserts on the bus/aux our group strip and add EQ, compression, or anything else you choose after the cabinets. The possibilities are endless. Experiment, go nuts… create a new sound.
One last thing before you go nuts (in a good way), which will keep you from going nuts in a bad way; If you’re overdubbing on a full mix, you may find that the number of plug-ins may cause latency, making it difficult to record. The best thing to do is to bounce a stereo mix of your song, import it back into the session and then overdub the guitar, using the stereo bounce as reference. This way you can mute the other tracks and bypass any host-based plug-ins, greatly reducing the load on your CPU. This should allow you to reduce your ASIO buffer down to a size that will make overdubbing possible.