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How to Fix Muddy Electric Guitars

Dec 25, 2019

When stacking electric guitars in the mix for a big, aggressive sound, muddiness can easily arise. We offer 4 tips for remedying this issue.

How to Fix Muddy Electric Guitars

Many factors cause muddy, unfocused and unclear guitars. We’ll look at 4 mixing tips to fix muddy guitars, including using subtractive EQ, multiband processing, effective layering, and applying glue compression to your guitar bus.

1. Remove Low-End Rumble with EQ

The easiest way to remove mud from your electric guitar recordings is with the use of subtractive EQ. Cutting around 80-100 Hz using a high-pass filter with a gradual slope will remove low-end rumble and make the part sound tighter in the mix. The H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer is an excellent all-round EQ that is capable of performing this type of processing, and more. Perhaps also cut gently around the 200-500 Hz range in the spot that feels the muddiest, being careful not to completely remove the body of the instrument.

The low-end of your mix doesn’t have a lot of space for different instruments, so you must do away with frequency content that isn’t necessary. Avoid using a high-pass filter with a very steep slope; this can sometimes sound unnatural and create an unwanted disconnect between bass instruments and other elements in your mix.

2. Use Multiband Processing

Perhaps you’re trying to apply saturation to your electric guitars to tame some top-end harshness using J37 Tape, but the low end starts to lose clarity when you do this. In situations that broadband processing isn’t providing the results you want, consider using multiband processing to affect different frequency ranges independently.

Duplicate the guitar track you’re affecting and insert an instance of the C6 Multiband Compressor onto each track. Set the low band’s cutoff frequency to somewhere around 300 Hz on both tracks. Solo the low end on one track and mute the low end on the other track. Make sure the threshold level is at zero, so no gain reduction is applied.

You’re now free to process frequency content above 300 Hz while leaving frequency content below 300 Hz unaffected. Use multiband processing to maintain clarity throughout the frequency spectrum of your electric guitar recordings while mixing.

3. Layer Your Guitars Effectively

It’s extremely common to layer different guitars together to create a “wall of sound.” However, this approach can easily turn into a muddy mess if not executed properly. To avoid this scenario, try using different guitars that dominate different frequency ranges. Start with a guitar that has a dominant low-end presence and then use a different guitar to occupy the mid-range and brighter frequencies.

If you don’t have multiple guitars to perform this with, try recording a direct input (DI) signal through your audio interface and run your recordings through some of the different amp emulations found in PRS SuperModels or GTR3 to provide yourself an assortment of tonal options. You could also try different chord voicings using a capo for a more interesting blend.

4. Apply “Glue” to Your Guitar Bus

To finish off your layered guitar effect, you’ll want to use some glue compression to tie together the different guitar tones. Glue compression draws attention to the attack phase of transient material by gently and quickly compressing the tail end of transients.

Use a plugin like the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, which has a clear and snappy character. Begin with a ratio of 2:1, attack time of 30, and release time of .1. Reduce the threshold level until you see the meter applying 2-3 dB of gain reduction.

Tweak the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor’s settings to further dial in the effect for your source. The result should be a gentle squeeze on your guitars that makes them feel less sloppy and a little tighter overall. Aim to preserve transient material and avoid heavy pumping effects.

Want more quick mix fixes? Get tips on fixing a boxy snare sound.

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