Skip to main content

hardcore metal guitar recording that lacks 'width'

This is my first post and I would really like some life saving help on this one.

I am recording some songs from my band, I have recorded guitars, drums bass and some vocals. everything looks fine except for the fact that the guitars' stereo image is narrow compared to other professional recordings. I use an ibanez js1000 fitted with emg pickups which runs into a noise suppressor and DF7 digitech distortion. all this goes into a jmp-1 preamp and into an EL34 tube marshall 100watt power amp. I am using a 4x12 marshall 1960 cabinet which is miced with the usual sm57. The mic is pointing at edge of cone w{ith a slight 10 degree off-axis). i use a behringer mic preamp which runs into a mixer and then into my sound card (delta44). I don't eq anything during the recording.
I am doubling the guitars and panning them one hard left and the other hard right (the usual thing). The recorded guitars sound stereo but lack that width, they are too much up close. I can't figure out what is wrong other then something that has to do with the guitar rig I am using.
maybe the tubes have worned up a bit and giving out a reduced tonal range. I tried a different amp but it is still the same. I then started to look at different cabinet position (i.e middle of the room, against wall, elevated) but although the tone changes the stereo spread is still the same, narrow. I tried ambient mics but although they gave a better spatial sense to the tone, I still feel that the fleshy parts of the guitar are narrow in stereo.
hope somebody can give me some help on this one.
tried using stereo enhancer plugins and MS techniques but all they did is stretch that guitars along the L and R dimesion. what I need is stereo loud guitars with hole in the phantom center.


Davedog Tue, 09/12/2006 - 17:02
Hunting down and killing problems is one of the joys of being a recording engineer......... Did I say 'joy'???? WTF??

For a great tutorial on distorted guitars and the recording there-of, go to PSW and search out Slippermans recording distorted guitars from hell thread. Funny reading as well as truth and art and all that crap.

You may have solved yer problem of you may have uncovered the BEGINNING of the general problem. Good luck.

lmu2002 Wed, 09/13/2006 - 05:05
Phazing the truth

Am I confused of is this your conclusion: the stomp box distorts not only the colour of your tone but also the phases of different frequencies. E.g. the mids pass through in fairly unchanged/correct phase but certain highs get hold back a bit? Am I lost? Obviously it is known that any eq will cause phase issues in that way no matter what quality your gear is. When you start to chain those gear that affect the tonality of a sound you will get the problem in your face.

My first reply was to mention the fact that you shouldn't compare your bare recording with a finalised, mastered and polished product.

I'm glad you have raised this issue here. There's always room for better guitars!!

lmu2002 Mon, 09/11/2006 - 04:17

You may want to consider the fact that any finished product has passed the mastering stage where more juice is added to the mix. Stereo imaging is surely one process that will take place. I wouldn't worry about it at mixing. Once you get all other dimensions sorted and find a place for each instrument it should sound better. I use Waves Shuffler (or whatever it was) to blow a whole in the centre of mix. How similar are the guitar tracks? If they are nearly identical it is hard to achieve the spread. A gentle touch of a chorus or phaser could be useful, too.

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/11/2006 - 06:38
I know that the mastering stage will actually improve the sound scape of the song but I still want to make sure that what I have on the tracks is adequate to work with. The sound of these guitars or any nu-metal guitar is so difficult to fit without obscuring other instruments. I 've given quite alot of attention to the arrangement in order to avoid this but still, i need to work on the timbre of each instrument and how each of these occupies a particular niche in the frequency spectrum. I definitely need lots of experience. I am weary of using any effect on the guitar tracks cause I am afraid of disturbing any tones present in the guitar track. (I just softened the low end to give space to the kick and bass and added some highs to get a bit of a sparkle) I spent lots of hours trying to get a good recorded sound so as not to rely on eqing in the mixing stage. I will definitely try to get some effects. Do you think that tube condition in the amp may effect the stereo space of the guitars? can it be that the center panned instruments are not powerful enough to push the guitars on the side? I also tried some subtle reverb on the guitar tracks but I am not particularly happy with that approach cause I want the guitars and kick working on the same level so they can add pucnh to each other especially in the breakdown sections and staccato parts.
thanks for your help

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/11/2006 - 06:48
before i forget, I have 5 guitar tracks. 2 for melody tracks (which are not continuous throughout the track) 3 for rhythm.

rhythm is made up of three separate takes all playing the same thing.
track 1 : (panned hard right)slightly displaced mic on a cabinet powered by the el34
track2 + track 3 (panned hard left): these tracks include a blend of two performances one recorded on the el34 power amp and the other recorded from a randall vintage combo amp.

I used the same stomp box for each performance with slight variations.

pr0gr4m Mon, 09/11/2006 - 10:21
Re: Wide(ne)r

lmu2002 wrote: ...Stereo imaging is surely one process that will take place. I wouldn't worry about it at mixing.

Bad advice. If the stereo image isn't there at mixing, mastering won't put it there. When you're are mixing, the final mix should be exactly what you least as far as panning and instrument separation goes. Never leave something like that up to the mastering process.

lmu2002 wrote: How similar are the guitar tracks? If they are nearly identical it is hard to achieve the spread. A gentle touch of a chorus or phaser could be useful, too.

Good advice, although I wouldn't recommend using a chorus or phaser unless the track calls for it.

If the tracks are too similar you can loose a bit of the stereo spread. What I generally do is have the guitarist use a different cabinet or amp or even guitar for the doubled track. If you don't have access to different guitar rigs, using a different mic or micing a different speaker or using a different micing technique may be enough to distinguish the doubled track from the original.

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/11/2006 - 12:09
Try only panning them about 65% out on each side. It seems like it would make it more narrow... but it really helps balance it out and I think it makes it feel a bit wider.
What I do is run the 2 main guitars panned opposite, about 65-70%, and then I add 2 filler guitars that are lower in the mix, one panned 100%L and the other 100%R.

I found that panning to the extreme can take away a lot of life... so that's worth a shot.

Also, adding a little bit of thin room reverb can add a lot of vibe. I usually end up with that. Not so much that you notice it, really... but it's there and it helps give it a more natural large sound without sounding fake and over-reverberated. :D

Scoobie Mon, 09/11/2006 - 14:33
I usally have good stereo image useing a delay, instead of reverb.
I have a long verb and a short verb set up with chorus and a delay.
I don't pan tracks to wide, but i do sometimes if the track needs it.

Make sure when you have that many guitar tracks that your EQ'ing
a space for all of them to set well in the mix. Leaving room for the rest of your tracks.

One more thing that I'll add. I all most allways go for the 57 on guitar cabs, but i tend to use a different pre on each track. If i'm tracking in the studio. Gives its own EQ(color) to the track.


P.S. get yourself a different pre than the B-ringer,
For cheap but usable......StudioProject VTB-1

Scoobie Mon, 09/11/2006 - 14:45
I just re-read your post...................

Why do you go from your mic to the B-ringer pre , to the mixer,
to the Delta 44. ?????????

Why don't you leave out the mixer in the chain and go stright to the Delta. The Delta can handle the output from the pre just fine,
And it would be one less thing in the signal chain. Just my 2cents....


Davedog Mon, 09/11/2006 - 17:02
I hear your pain. The suffering only gets worse my son ,only worse......

Part of your dimensional problem is the lack of dimension of your preamp itself. But we have to work with whats there so heres a try...

You have a pre for the guitar sound...Y/N? And a speaker with a tube power amp...Y/N/?
Reading all your posts I get a picture. You are on the right path with the doubling of the tracks. You need to go a bit farther however to make up for the basic deficiencies in the micpre.

Here's your new mantra...." DIGITAL DELAY IS MY FRIEND"...say it again..."DIGITAL DELAY....etc etc..."

Digital delay with PANNING. And sub-busing.

Hard left /hard right is TOO much for the doughnut youre trying to create.

Try this: 75% both directions. These are your foundations. Then create a sub-bus stereo track for each side.... Reamp em if you got em...Then lets do a slight bit of DDelay to each sub stereo image and pan each one of them out 75%. Are you with me still? Do you have enough processiong power to get this happening? If not, then you need to do five or six takes and delay each a few little milliseconds and stretch this front and back ....

L/R = panning....F/B = volume and tone controls

Anyway...the point is, the (insert B word here) while able to pass decent sounds through it, tends to be flat and two dimensional. ONE pass with a high-end pre and you'll understand. (OH! THERES that frickin SOUND!!!!)

Any questions dont be afraid to ask... Report your progress.

You could also record a pass through the JMP preamp direct....blend to taste... The second guitar works like a charm to add front and back to a big sound.

If you can...make the stems and adulterate each of them as you go. Watch the sound grow. Kill yer TV.

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 09/11/2006 - 23:35
thanks for all the advice but today I think I managed to find the source of all evil. THE STOMP BOX. the df7 I am using has 4 dist models. what is happening is this ..
I tested each model (i.e is I recorded double tracks for each dist model and used my ears to compare each of them) to my surprise 4 of the 7 I tested had some phase problem (I presume) going on because they sounded narrow. The other 2 where unbelievably wide ( I also did a phase correlation test to compare them, the shitty ones stayed at almost 0 whilst the good ones gave a mild fluctuation between -0.5 and +0.5). I tried everything from changing mics, cabinets and amps but I really have to say that the quality of the distortion is the bottle neck of this whole wide guitar issue. My conclusion is that i'd rather start using the distortion from the amp (in fact I guess most professional recordings rely on the distortions from jcms and mesa or even the new valve module randall heads). I have a jmp-1 guitar preamp with valve distortion and I did not use it in this application because the emg pickups of my guitar makes the otherwise warm tones of the jmp-1 sound abit fuzzy. in fact once i tried a telecaster in the jmp1 and into the power amp (el34) it made me shit in my pants, the tone was absolutely incredible.. The jmp-1 was not intended for high output pickups. I am looking at the possibility of changing the pickups so I can record with the jmp-1. I am no expert but I definitely can conclude that the distortion effect should be choosen not only on the quality of the tone but also on the extent of separation it can lend you during the doubling process. as with mixing effects , i agree that they help but i think the bottle neck is definitely the guitar rig. I really don't like messing to much with the recorded guitar tracks, even eqing, I definitely start hearing the phase shifting kill the guitar tone when i overdo it with eqing. all i do is get the bottoms of the guitars under control the rest is fixed at the micing stage. this also helps me get my micing techniques solid.
thamks for the response you gave me on this very difficult subject.

P.s it is true that i could just connect the mic pre amp into the delta 44. I really don't know why i added the mixer preamp to the chain. its stupid, i should be beaten to death.