Craig’s Mix Tips: Sweeten Your Guitar Tone with DeEssing

A DeEsser is an effective tool for more than just vocals. Learn how to use it to obtain a sweeter, warmer tone from your guitars, either from mic'd recordings or through amp sims.

By Craig Anderton

Craig’s Mix Tips: Sweeten Your Guitar Tone with DeEssing

 

DeEssers, and the Waves R-DeEsser in particular, can do more than just vocal de-essing. They can serve as an “intelligent tone control” for your guitar. When hitting the strings hard and using distortion, guitarists often turn down the tone control to give a sweeter, warmer sound with less harshness. However, you don’t always want the tone control turned down—if you start playing less forcefully, the sound can feel overly muted. If only there was an “intelligent” tone control that turned down automatically based on the amount of high frequencies present…

Fortunately, the Renaissance DeEsser does exactly that. This technique can work whether you’re recording through a virtual amp like GTR3 or PRS SuperModels, or if you’re trying to mix a slightly harsh electric guitar stem you’ve received. Place R-DeEsser in front of the amp sim (this technique is especially effective with high-gain amps) or as the first insert on the recording, and when the DeEsser is edited properly, the result will be a warmer, smoother guitar tone. If you then want to brighten the sound, you can insert a gentle shelving EQ after the amp. Because the harshness has been reduced, the sound will now be sweeter and brighter.

Setting the DeEsser

Setting the DeEsser

Setting the DeEsser

  1. Insert the Renaissance De-Esser before the amp you want to sweeten, or as the first insert on the recording.
  2. Choose Type as “Bandpass” and Mode as “Split.”
  3. Set Range = -48.0 and Thresh = -80.0. Generally I’ve found that these extreme settings work best but, in any case, they’re a good starting point. You may want less drastic settings for leads with a lot of dynamics.
  4. With the amp enabled, play your guitar hard, and enable the DeEsser Sidechain. Vary the frequency control until you find the most annoying, nasty sound. It will probably be in the 2-5 kHz range. On a recording, simply identify the “harshest” part of the performance and identify the problem-frequencies.
  5. Switch over to Audio and you’ll hear a sweeter guitar sound.

The audio example plays some power chords with the Renaissance DeEsser bypassed, and then repeats the same chords with the Renaissance DeEsser enabled.

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