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Acoustic Guitar Mixing Chain: StudioRack Unchained

Jun 18, 2020 | 35,146 Views

Learn how to quickly mix acoustic guitars, using this custom StudioRack plugin chain. Watch how the chain was created, step by step, learn how to control it using the included macros, and download the free chain preset to use in your mixes.

Download the free Studiorack “Acoustic Guitar Focus” chain preset:

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Plugins included in this chain: F6 Dynamic EQ, DeEsser, CLA-76, Greg Wells VoiceCentric, Renaissance Reverb

About This Chain Preset

Mixing acoustic guitar tracks can be challenging for some, but it needn’t be if you have a plugin chain preset that can deliver the goods each and every time. Most DAWs include some form of plugin chain function for saving and recalling settings; but StudioRack provides more options which we demonstrate in this video, showing you how to create your own custom plugins with StudioRack’s macros.

In this in-depth tutorial we show you how to assign and manipulate several plugin controls in one twist of a single macro. Some of these StudioRack techniques recreate how pro engineers manipulate physical controls on real analog outboard gear with two hands.

In this in-depth tutorial we show you how to assign and manipulate several plugin controls in one twist of a single macro. Some of these StudioRack techniques recreate how pro engineers manipulate physical controls on real analog outboard gear with two hands.

We demonstrate these techniques by creating a custom acoustic guitar mixing preset using Waves plugins within StudioRack designed to:

  • Remove muddy frequencies using dynamic EQ while boosting subtle levels of top-end air
  • Remove harshness using a DeEsser
  • Apply level compensated compression using both Waves CLA-76 input and output controls at the same time on one macro
  • Create tasteful stereo width from mono acoustic guitar recordings
  • Add two layers of smart parallel reverb

Acoustic Guitar StudioRack Preset Profile Explained

Below we explain how we setup each macro in this custom StudioRack acoustic guitar mixing preset. Gain a better understanding of StudioRack’s macro edit window by watching this video which will help you to get the most out of it when building your very own plugins.

Macros 1 And 2 – Tone Shaping

Acoustic guitars

Acoustic guitars often need a little tonal balance to help with sitting them tastefully in a mix as acoustics can sound a bit proud in the low mids. In instrument recordings, excessive weight in this range is widely referred to as mud which, depending on the recording, is found anywhere between 200 Hz to 500 Hz. Muddy frequencies rob definition and impact from not only acoustic guitar tracks but can go on to upset the overall balance of the mixes they feature in.

EQ is your best friend when treating mud but apply too much and your guitars may lose a sense of body and tone resulting in overly thin-sounding recordings. How then can we rein in muddy frequencies yet maintain a rounded sound?

A neat way is to employ a dynamic EQ plugin which can be set to compress the dynamic range of specific tonal ranges while leaving other areas in the spectrum untouched. The exact range and amount of compression you may need to apply in the low mids will depend on the sound of the acoustic guitar recording and the mix it sits in, so best to experiment.

A neat way of locating and addressing mud is by making use of a couple of macros in StudioRack using the Waves F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ. In the macro edit window you can set specific control ranges, which is super helpful in the case of setting up a macro to control the position of an EQ band within the muddy 200 Hz to 500 Hz range. A second macro can then be assigned for dialing in the range (amount) of compression on that band, which you can see demonstrated in this video at 2:01.

In designing this particular preset we chose to go one step further by assigning an addition EQ control to the StudioRack macro which increases the range of the dynamic EQ. The resulting behavior of this macro in Waves F6 proved to be super helpful as while the range increases in the low-mids and muddy tones reduce a second high-shelf band increases slightly giving guitars a little more presence. The behavior of two bands moving in opposite directions is something that could not be achieved with a single mouse click before. Watch the video from 3:24 to see how to assign multiple plugin controls to one macro that can move in different directions.

Macro 3 – Deharsher


Mud aside, harshness can also prove to be a problem area in acoustic guitar recordings. Like mud, harshness can also be addressed with some static high-end EQ but you may find your guitars start to sound a bit dull. Typically used on sibilant vocals, de-essers, being a form of surgical compression, are super helpful at knocking back harshness in recordings.

In this preset we set the frequency in Waves DeEsser to 3 kHz and assigned the threshold control to macro 3 in StudioRack which would introduce the process when twisted in. However, out of the box the macro’s direction of travel didn’t move in the right direction which would not have been an intuitive use of the macro. Control ranges can easily be reversed in the macro edit window which, in the case of this preset, made the macro behave as expected. You can see this macro being setup in the video at 7:45.

Macro 4 – High Pass Filtering

High Pass Filtering

Filtering low-end frequency content is one of the simplest ways of getting acoustic guitar recordings to work alongside low-end focused track types in a mix such as bass guitars and kick drums. At 8:50 in our video we show you how to assign two frequency controls in Waves Q2 EQ to a macro in StudioRack which can simply be used for one knob in filtering.

Macro 5 – Compression


Compression evens out and controls the dynamic range of performances which not only helps a track find a suitable level but, in addition, adds a sense of attitude which helps a track gain some vibe and interest. FET compressors by their very nature are fast sounding compressors which lend themselves to acoustic guitar recordings performed in a strummed style.

For this macro we wanted to have a one knob style compressor which would increase the input of Waves CLA-76 compressor while at the same time lowing the output. If you were to perform this on a physical analog compressor you would use both hands at the same time, which we cannot do with a mouse in a plugin. Luckily, there is a way of assigning macros and setting up StudioRack’s macro edit window to control multiple controls in varying directions and control ranges which can mimic analog hardware interactions. Watch the video at 10:40 to learn how to set this up for yourself.

Macro 6 – Stereo Imaging

Stereo Imaging

Recording acoustic guitar tracks using a single microphone is the simplest way to get great sounding tracks down, though with one microphone your tracks are in mono. In some situations, you may want a touch of width applied to help your guitar sound more interesting in a mix. Doubler plugins can be used to achieve this. For this macro we assigned the doubler from within the Greg Wells VoiceCentric plugin as it provides a sweet-sounding stereo effect. To hear how the Doubler in VoiceCentric sounds on acoustic guitar, watch the video from 14:06.

Macro 7 – Reverb


For the final macro in our StudioRack acoustic guitar preset we wanted to incorporate reverb, but we wanted to do this differently using a parallel split. We chose to use two different styles of reverb, one being a short to medium sized room on one parallel rack, the other a plate on the second rack within the split. Blending reverbs is a common practice in mixing, especially when reverbs sound different in tone and size. For this single reverb level macro we wanted to make full use of the macro range sliders so that one reverb could in effect hand over to the other reverb at a set point in the macro’s travel. Watch the video at 14:58 to see how we set this split up and to hear the results.

In Summary

Hopefully our in-depth video showing you how to assign macros and edit them inspires you to come up with your very own creative plugins in StudioRack, a plugin we feel is limited only by your imagination.

Download your free copy of StudioRack.