Proper place to insert guitar effects in DAW

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by JoshBour, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. JoshBour

    JoshBour Active Member

    Hello, sorry if this isn't the right category for my question.

    I have a track with the dry signal out of recorded guitar and I'm using a virtual amp head with an impulse as a cabinet.
    My question is what is the proper place to use any effect plugins (reverb, delay etc), as insert or send effects?

    Let's say I want to use some reverb, should I add the reverb plugin as an insert effect (and if so where, before or after the guitar amp/cabinet?) or should I just add it as a send effect?

    Thanks a lot!
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, you can do either, likely you'll get differing opinions based on individual preferences in work flows...

    I've always held to the method of sending to aux's for effects (chorus, verb, delay, etc), and inserting processors (compressors, limiters, special EQ, exciter, limiter plugs, etc) to channels/tracks.

    But, I'm sure there those that may disagree with me on that... and my method is probably rooted in my days as an engineer working on an actual console... and sometimes, well, old habits die hard. ;)

    You also have to pay attention to the order of your effects and processing - that is, where each falls in a given chain. For example, if you send an aux out (to an aux bus where you insert the effects), putting multiple effects on the same aux bus, will give you different response(s) depending on where you put them - is your reverb first in the chain, and a chorus second? If so, you are chorusing a reverb effect.

    The same goes with processors - there's been debate about which processors to insert in what order - inserting a compressor first, and then to an EQ plug, will have much different results than using the EQ first and then compressing that signal.

    In your situation, (if it were me), I'd be using aux sends for effects, and then using that aux bus as your master effects return. This would allow you to EQ the return, as well as control the amount of effect without messing with your track's gain structure.

    FWIW, I never "print" an effect, if I an absolutely help it, because once that audio has that effect or processor printed, you're stuck with it; and what might sound great now on it's own doesn't work at all, once that track is added into a mix with other tracks. You can't put the toothpaste back into the tube. ;)

    Occasionally, I will print a recording with a bit of gain reduction or pre EQ - things like kick or snare, or perhaps hot vocals, just add a bit of texture, or to rein in any transients that might occur during the performance.
    But these are more of the processor type than they are effects.

    Now... what you can do, if you like, is to record the same performance to several tracks at once. Because most DAW's now give us virtually unlimited numbers of tracks to record to, you could always record your instrument (or voice) through two - or even more - inputs; one with the effects you like, and the other being a clean, dry track - that way you have one raw audio version from which you can add whatever you want, and you also have a track that has effects and processing on it.

    This method can sometimes come in handy in certain situations - for example... if you are performing a part with a "set" timed delay - something similar to Pink Floyd's Run Like Hell off The Wall album... Gilmour played that guitar track with a delay so he could alter his picking and tempo accordingly, because he knew that the effect was going to be used eventually anyway for certain, and, it helped him get a great performance, using the delay as an actual part of the instrument.

    I'd do some researching on your own, as well as listening to the suggestions of the other guys here on RO... we have a seriously talented group of people here. ;)


  3. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If you were playing guitar through real effects pedals and an amp where would those effects be in the chain? Start by emulating that.

    Effects on guitar are different from effects on other instruments because they're often part of the chain before the cabinet and subject to the natural low pass filtering of the speaker. But then some effects may be added to guitar after recording. So ask yourself if the effect is supposed to sound like a guitar player's effect or like an effect added at mixdown.
  4. JoshBour

    JoshBour Active Member

    Hey, thanks a lot for the responses!

    DonnyThompson your post was really interesting and full of useful info and to be honest so far I've been using the way you describe when dealing with effects.

    I agree with you bouldersound, guitars are different from other instruments when coming to effects especially when dealing with dry signals.
    I've actually tried the "natural flow" as in how you would chain the effects on a pedalboard for example, but I think your last sentence is the answer to my question.
  5. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    I've always controlled my own tone, because it affects the performance.

    When soloing I'm reacting to the sound, recording a clean signal, and adding effect later wouldn't result in a better performance during the recording.

    The guitar reacts differently when new harmonics are generated.

    I control feedback by changing the position of my body, in relation to the amp.

    Like bouldersound said, are you doing general processing, or creating a performance.

    I prefer to get my tone on the way in.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I agree that you should have a track dedicated to the way you want your tone, on the way in... because you're right, different tones and effects do affect the way you play, and it's really helpful to hear those things, and sometimes, even necessary.

    I was just suggesting that it's not a bad idea to also record a completely clean version of the exact same performance at the same time as well; it gives you options down the line when it comes time to mix.

  7. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    There are no set rules for a guitar signal chain depends on what you're going for, and the style of the music.

    Sometimes I go direct into my interface, with a stomp box or two, or take the line out of my amp.

    All depends on what I feel that day.
  8. rjuly

    rjuly Active Member

    For guitar (and bass as well if the bass player uses an amp or any effects) I always record a wet performance version along with a pristine dry signal straight from the guitar, as standard, splitting it off from the DI box into a separate mic pre. It gives you options down the road - and has saved me numerous times and costs nothing.
  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I should say that I never had good results with clean recording, reamping and amp simulators until I got a proper DI/preamp to make the tracking.
    I'd rather use a well recorded guitar cab with good choice of mic and placement before using reamping or simulators. But I lately made some tests with my UA 710 and 610 and I was surprised of the results. The trick with does if you want a distorted sound is to push them just to the point of saturation. With that signal, Amp-simulators I've tried did sound very well compare to a signal comming from onboard preamps of my interface.

    The other thing to consider is commitment. I often feel artists are loosing time and a lot of energy revisiting sounds at mix time. If you recorded the sound you wanted with an amp/cab and the performance is great, why the hell touching it !! ;) The only exception is for the reverb. Unless it's a caracteristic spring reverb, I ask the player to record without or half of the reverb he is used to. The reason is, my room is a bit dead sounding so guitar players always play with too much reverb and also, the reverb could not be removed. if we end up wanting an in your face sound at mix time.. I'd be screwed if there is too much reverb on the track.

    This implies you already recorded clean and want to mix the track. You should do any re-amping before applying effects (EQ Comp, reverb etc)
    In the end, you need to decide the chain order to accomplish the sound you want. do you want a distorted chorus ? put it before the amp, you place it after ; the sound won't be the same.. if you put a reverb before distortion, it won't sound like reverb anymore. You need to experiment and get your OWN sound !! ;)
    Speaking of reverbs, I rarely use reverb for only one instruments. For me using a reverb is a way to place the band in a credible space. I may use many reverbs but I try to build a environement that could really exist. So they always go on a stereo bus

    But Hey, that's just me !!!
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    disagree ..... record it with effects .... done. if you hate it later, do it over. make a fu*%in' decision.
    pcrecord likes this.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Your decisions for tone can change as the song progresses, though.

    Even back when I was cutting to tape, I used to tell all the Garth's and Wayne's to leave their hiss-box, ground hum boxes at home.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well I dunno about that. Kurt, I love you man. :D But, this is subjective big time ,
    for starters, you are basing everything on the professional studio you built. What does this have anything to do with it?

    Thank you for asking :) If you had my rig and were mixing for people, (all but a few) you would ask mass to avoid effects, keep it clean and let me deal with it after.

    Being said, my favorite vocal chain is an LA2A/1176 combo.
    But on the other hand, I pretty much dislike Amp simulators on guitars. They sounds like cheap SS zzz x10. But, they sure sound better than a compromised room.
    Same with Bass. I hate those wooly howling 200hz bass tracks combined with kicks that dominated and entire track. You loose everything from them so, there are tricks the serve us better when you have a clear print.

    I think you need to have a caveat in all your posts saying something to do with, if you are able to play start to finish, have the luxury to track in a good room, use excellent mic's, have a quality rack of pre-amps, know what you are doing, this is what I would do. :D

    for all the others that are learning or prefer ITB processing, track clean and do it ITB.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    On the other hand.. we got to be good because we couldn't fix after :D
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i didn't just build a studio and then start recording. i built these habits long before i opened the studio. a lot of bedrooms, garages and four tracks on the way.

    lol .....
  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I never sent a band back to rehearsal but I can't say I never was tempted to do so ;)

    When tracking a band live, I always found it was better to punch in the whole band instead of retracking only an instrument later on.
    I make a point so every musicians listen to his part and confirm that the performance is good enough to go on the final product.
    If band performance is not possible. I rather make some ghost tracks and record band member one by one..
    I will watch the headphone bleeds more closely from now on..
    Great discussion !
    bigtree likes this.

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