EQ for Guitar – Four Tips to Understand How to Get Started

eq guitar

Equalisation is one of the most important parts of the mixing and mastering process, but what if you’re a guitarist trying to mix and master a track by yourself? By understanding what sounds make up a guitar strum or picked note, it becomes easier to learn the basic principles of EQ which can be applied to all parts of a track – whether a heavy riff, a lead line, or some acoustic fingerpicking for an indie ballad.

Know the ins and outs of what makes up sound

A note on any instrument is made of the pure tone itself as well as undertones and overtones. You may know these from guitar techniques such as natural and artificial harmonics. However, beyond this, knowledge of the frequencies which make up sound in general is the first stage to understanding how EQ works, as well as its purpose in a mix, and therefore how it is applied specifically to guitar.

The spectrum of sound which is audible to the human ear can be divided up into different sections called bandwidths. You may have heard mix engineers talk about sub bass, bass, or use terms like ‘mids’ or ‘high mids’. These all refer to different frequencies of sound, whereas bandwidths are the groups themselves, often as they show up on an EQ plugin – a range of frequencies between two different set points on the spectrum of sound. Below is a rough guide to how audible sound can be divided up and how this shows up on a typical EQ plugin such as the default which comes with Logic X Pro.

Below 50 Hz – sub bass

50–150 Hz – bass

150–200 Hz – low mids

200-800 Hz – mids

800-2k Hz – mids to high mids

2k-5k Hz – high frequency, verging into noise and overtones (think a hi hat or cymbal crash)

5k-20k Hz – noise

Understand how EQ affects guitar in your track

Electric guitars – specifically rhythm guitars – are going to hover around the 200-500 Hz mark in terms of the main note – low enough in the mix to bulk it out and support a soaring vocal or guitar solo. Knowing this means that you can focus on these bandwidths while understanding that anything significant which is much lower or much higher could potentially be room noise, noise from outside the studio, or other unwanted sound.

Things can get confusing when you realise with any given instrument, a note can span the whole range of frequencies, including those at the extreme high and low ends of the spectrum, which often give it it’s fullness and richness. Another example would be sound at 2-5 KHz, which is often called ‘presence’ and adds brightness to the sound. These extra frequencies are the ones you are generally removing when EQing. For example, removing the lower frequencies from your lead guitar can prevent them clashing with other instruments which sit lower in the mix and giving the track overall a muddy sound where nothing stands out clearly. Essentially, EQ is all about understanding where instruments naturally sit, and altering other frequencies to carve out space for them in these places in relation to other instruments.

For guitar solos and harmonies, you may be going into the range of anything from 500-800 Hz +. However, the most important thing to remember is that when EQing, you are separating instruments, so they stand out cleanly in the mix, and these bandwidths and the way they are commonly divided are a useful guide as opposed to hard and fast rules. The main point of EQ is to clean up unwanted frequencies surrounding the main tones, meaning that each instrument is more distinct on its own – as well as boosting frequencies which you want more of, such as if a guitar low in the mix is lacking impact, at which stage it can be given more presence to make the sound brighter. 

Learn how EQ works with multiple guitars

Separating your rhythm and lead lines can be relatively straightforward, but what if you wanted to double track a guitar or add some subtle harmonies over your main riff? The same principle as above follows – find where your instrument sits naturally in the mix and see where some of the frequencies which make up the spectrum of its sound may be clashing with other instruments. By removing the lower frequencies from your high guitar harmony, you will not only prevent muddiness but also give more space to your lower riff.

When EQing, rhythm and lead guitars much be treated separately not only due to generally occupying different bandwidths but also due to having different purposes within an overall track. Higher sounds tend to pop out of the mix more than lower sounds, meaning that your guitar solo may not need equalising as much as a groove or riff might do, as it stands out already, but could benefit from lower frequencies being removed so that the chord progression could be heard. On the other hand, rhythm guitars can benefit from being more aggressively equalised with the higher and lower frequencies around them being cut more dramatically so the sound sits cleanly, especially in relation to other instruments around the same bandwidth such as bass and drums.

Understand EQ with other instruments such as bass and drums

Another thing to bear in mind is that different instruments bring different things to the EQ spectrum. A bass isn’t going to bring as much to the high end of the spectrum, but a full set of drums generally adds noise in terms of echoes, overtones, and undertones to all parts of the EQ spectrum due to the different parts of the kit ranging from high cymbals to the low kick drum. Guitars tend to sit somewhere in the middle of these two extremes but can sometimes be particularly sensitive to room and outside noise.

Overall, EQ may use different skills than simply playing guitar, but it is nevertheless one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal – not just in terms of creating a fantastic track but also in honing you’re playing and taking it to the next level. By getting a better idea of what your lead lines and riffs are like in the context of not only other instruments but also how they are affected by the mixing process, you can gain mastery over your sound when working both alone and with a professional producer simply by understanding some of these basic EQ principles.

Innovating with Music Technology – the creative design processes behind 5 Top VST Plugin products and how they are unique [2022]

This one is special, we promise you. We have decided to try to present a “best of the best” in each class, and a bit of justification for how we reached this conclusion. Without further ado, let’s start:

Top 5 VST plugin products: Reverb

When designing a reverb, one of the most important things is that it is true to life. Different companies try to achieve this in different ways – however, one of the most successful in terms of meeting the needs of producers and sound designers is Eventide’s Blackhole reverb. This reverb has even been named producers ‘secret weapon’ by many of the world’s best mix engineers. What makes it so well designed? Well, the people at Eventide have decided to blur the lines between conventional reverbs which seek to recreate the sound and ambience of real life spaces, and digital FX which create spacey sounds to bring reverb into the world of sound design almost as an instrument in its own right.

This idea of crossing the lines between different reverb categories manifests in its 50 pre-set reverbs which range from small rooms to reverbs designed to recreate the hypothetical sound of outer space. Furthermore, acknowledging that its target audience are the sort who like to experiment with sound, the ability to create unique reverbs of your own makes it one of the most well designed and all-encompassing reverbs on the market. Here, Eventide has really ensured that the thought processes of real musicians and sound designers are always at the forefront.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE PRICE FOR THE EVENTIDE BLACKHOLE VST PLUGIN

Top 5 VST plugin products: Distortion

Distortion is one of the most versatile effects in terms of how it can be used in music, and designing a good distortion plugin varies depending on what genre it is intended for – and therefore the heaviness, tone, qualities, timbre, and varieties of distortion which it includes. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting and versatile distortion plugins with the most thought put behind it is Soundtoys’ Decapitator – a stellar plugin from the innovative plugin designers responsible for the phenomenal voice changing plugin Little Alter Boy.

According to Soundtoys’ website, this plugin was designed by studying analogue gear of all shapes and forms, both modern and vintage, in order to design a digital plugin which encapsulated the subtleties of analogue sound which come from the warping and altering of the sound waves as they interact with the different bits of gear. It ranges from subtle saturation to full blown digital distortion – and the choice to include the full spectrum of options means that Soundtoys have designed this plugin with many sectors of the market in mind.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE PRICE FOR THE SOUNDTOYS DECAPITATOR VST PLUGIN

Top 5 VST plugin products: Delay

A delay plugin, in contrast to the lushness of reverb, focusses on specific types of echoes and as a result is extremely precise – therefore taking a lot of technical knowledge in terms of its design. One of the most thought out delay plugins on the market is Polaris by Audiority – a great example of the complex design processes which are behind every plugin we use.

Polaris is based off some of the digital reverbs of the 80s, meaning it was designed to be a creative plugin as opposed to just a practical one. It is designed so the producer has both control over the early reverb effects and the echoes, which sit on two different sides of the reverb interface – allowing complete creative design over the reverb tail. This is one plugin which really breaks down reverb, delay, and echoes into their constituent parts for ultimate creative control.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE PRICE FOR THE POLARIS VST PLUGIN

Top 5 VST plugin products: Wah

Wah plugins imitate the wah pedal – as popularised by Jimi Hendrix – and as a result their design is more highly focused on the tone and qualities of the sound, it’s creative uses, and the ways the FX can be used in songs – as opposed to it being a plugin which is simply technical in terms of the mixing and mastering process. This means that the design process behind any good wah plugin is slightly different, with more focus on sonic creativity instead of practicality.

As a result, one of the most well designed wah plugins for beginners is the one which comes as part of the Steinberg Vintage Stompbox package – a plugin designed especially to emulate the sound of the 1970s and as a result add warm tones to your solos, harking back to a time when guitar was all about creating that perfect, psychedelic, immersive feeling. Why is it so well designed? Well, it’s great for beginners, being easy to use, but it’s also perfect for more advanced producers who appreciate the more nuanced levels of sound. When designed a complex, creative sound such as wah, it takes some skill to get it to work for multiple different market demographics and the Steinberg Vintage Stompbox does this spectacularly. As a result, the plugin can be used either as part of the FX pack as a whole or it can be used in isolation for a simple but versatile and trusty wah sound.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE PRICE FOR THE STEINBERG VINTAGE STOMPBOX VST PLUGIN

Top 5 VST plugin products: Distortion (part 2)

Plugins designed off analogue distortion are all very well and good, but what if you want to get a bit more technical and in depth looking at sound design and the technological processes behind shaping sound, as opposed to simply production and arrangement?

Waveshaper plugins allow you to explicitly control the distortion by mapping the input to the output, meaning the wave can be fine-tuned and is able to mimic any distortion (within reason) such as the fuzzy, analogue, tube generated distortion or saturation of older eras of music, to hardcore, extremely warped digital distortion – sounds which couldn’t be created by any piece of analogue gear.

The Audiothing Wavebox 8 is designed to be a perfectly nuanced waveshaper aimed at more technically skilled producers and sound designers who not only want to alter the sound of their guitar, but also to have complete control over the nature of those alterations. How have Audiothing gone about designing this plugin? In the interface design, they have prioritised simplicity and precision. For a plugin with such an invariably technical and precise nature, it would have been easy for them to go overboard in the way they arranged or divided the different functions – but they’ve opted to keep things simple and let the technical repercussions of such a plugin work for themselves, with two knobs controlling the shape of the wave and a selection of LFOs and envelopes to keep things interesting. And at only 52.53 USD, it’s a small price for a very useful plugin which can dramatically alter many of your sounds.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK THE PRICE FOR THE AUDIOTHING WAVEBOX 8 VST PLUGIN

And if you are interested in getting them at a good price, be sure to bookmark our Deals section – click here!

The BEST Plugin VST products for the unique requirements of Metal Guitar [2022]

Wellcome to our list of the best Plugin VST products for metal guitar. This is by no far an end-all list, as I am sure you all have your preferences, it is merely an enumeration of must-have tools to have in your arsenal.

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Ample Metal Hellrazer

One of two virtual instruments on this list, The ample metal hellraiser stands out in its speciality in djent and progressive metal. It’s not often you get virtual instruments designed for such a niche subgenre, but the djent scene has been dominant for some of the past few years and to have such a great virtual instrument dedicated to mimicking these sounds mean that any producer or sound designer looking to get to grips with this technique and how it interacts with the wider components of a track would easily benefit from getting their hands on the Ample Metal Hellraiser.

So, how is it designed? It encompasses literally everything you would need to make an instrumental guitar track with this one single plugin – so, especially if working in genres like shred, it is in some ways pretty all encompassing, though it is also the kind of gear which can be added to simply if you feel like experimenting with how different sounds and plugins can work together. By everything, this means all the things needed to create a great mix such as EQ and other FX such as modulation and many different kinds of distortion as well as all the amps, cabs, and mics needed to fully define your own sound. Then there is the guitar itself – capable of simulating most kinds of technique from tremolo picking to bends, slides, vibrato, legato, and more.

Specifications: Windows 7/8/10, 64-bit only, MacOS 10.9 or higher. VST2, VST3, AU, AAX, or Standalone host

Price: 126.54 USD

CHECK PRICE: Ample Metal Hellrazer – Ample Sound

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator Unit

What is the goal of the retro decimator unit? To absolutely crush any sound to the sonic limits of distortion, overdrive, and other ways of altering your music landscape to make it heavier. One of the most ultimate, extreme plugins dedicated to turning every soundwave into a haze of awesomely destructive distortion, Inphonik’s Retro Decimator Unit will guarantee that your songs are never lacking in heavy duty FX again.

What’s so special about it is the fact that it goes above and beyond the normal scope of any plugin. Whilst many models on the market are focussed on providing specific effects such as phaser, overdrive, and so on, the retro decimator is ready to warp the soundwave in literally any way possible. It’s specialism isn’t conventional – instead, the Retro Decimator is out to find every opportunity to push sound design to the edge.

Specifications: VST, AU, and AAX pluginsavailable for Windows, MacOS, and Linux (exact operating systems not listed), Rack Extension for MacOS and Windows, and AUv3/IAA available for iPad and iPhone

GET YOUR FREE COPY: Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator Unit

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Line 6 Metallurgy Trio

There are tons of plugin bundles out there, but there are very few which focus so precisely and distinctively on the needs of metal guitarist beyond simply providing heavy overdrive and ample amounts of distortion. Metal is such a complex genre with an incredible range of different techniques, sounds, and complex mind bending riffs which go into the playing alone, let alone the intricacies of sound design and production required to separate all these complex and intertwined elements.

What other plugins recognise the nuances between doom, thrash, djent, hardcore, and so on. With four discreet amps which can be paired with eight speaker cabinets and any combination of two of eight microphones, the possibilities for mixing, matching, and crossing the boundaries of genre are numerous. And for the metal guitarist who loves to play live, the fact that all these plugins appear just as they would on a real pedalboard means that they are easy to pick up in no time at all.

Specifications: Operating systems not listed, but available as VST, AU, and AAX plugins for any DAW

CHECK PRICE: Line 6 Metallurgy Trio

Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Hydra

As opposed to plugins or FX, Shreddage 3 is a full blown virtual guitar. Beyond the expense and technical expertise needed to hire a luthier to create a physical guitar from scratch, this virtual instrument was a change for the creators at Impact Soundworks to really let their minds run wild with the best things they could come up with for sheer metal force.

What really sets this apart is it’s 8 string, drop-E capabilities designed to create the biggest walls of sound imaginable. So much of Shreddage 3 was recorded just for this virtual instrument itself, meaning you can find sounds which won’t be replicated anywhere else. It does all varieties of playing really well, from crushingly heavy to super clean, intricate tones needed for shred guitar.

Specifications: requires version 5.7 or higher of Kontakt Player – a free sampler from Native instruments.Kontakt Player itselfruns on Windows 10 or 11 and MacOS 10.14, 10.15, 11 or 12 (intel) as well as MacOS 11 or 12 (Apple Silicon Macs)

CHECK PRICE: Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Hydra

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: HOFA IQ SERIES REVERB V2

Reverb: that quintessential, all important plugin which no musician or sound designer can do without. Otherwise, unless you want your music sounded flat, dry, dull, and sterile, you can’t exactly avoid adding in the natural echoes and reverberations which would exist in a live studio recording but which get taken away when you work on a DAW. That’s where reverb plugins step in. Nevertheless, reverb for metal guitarists generally is a bit more unique and specialised than it is for pop or the lighter forms of rock. That’s because the complex riffs and techniques used in metal as well as the layers of sound and production which go into a heavy track mean that reverb has to be added carefully so as to prevent muddling of the sounds as well as it sounding unnatural.

For metal and rock a large variety of reverb types is also extremely important and this is where the Reverb V2 really comes into it’s own. This reverb plugin has been used on albums by Slipknot and Tool amongst others, and is unique in its wealth of reverb varieties and ability to emulate the classic atmospheric spaces beloved of reverb designers such as churches – but also for its combination of algorithmic reverb with more traditional reverb types in order to combine flexibility with depth of sound. For the complex layered sounds of metal, it is vital that a producer has plenty of options, and this plugin allows up to six different types of reverb to be in use at a time. In combination with compression, modulation, and extreme amounts of creative control over the timings, distance, and quality of different parts of the reverb, this is one of the most in depth and technical – but therefore indispensable – reverbs on the market for metal and rock guitarists.

Specifications: Not listed on site but predecessors ran on both MacOS and Windows in all formats

CHECK PRICE: HOFA IQ SERIES REVERB V2

Conclussions

So there you have it – a mixed, yet versatile and highly worthwhile bag of some of the most creative plugins for rock and metal guitarists of 2022. These plugins will boost your creativity, have you writing completely different riffs to what you are used to, and change the way you think about music.

And if you are on a tight budget, make sure you bookmark our Deals category by clicking here!

Happy sound design!

All About Tone – Ten Lessons I’ve learnt in using Digital FX to find the perfect sound

Tone is the feeling, the “vibe” that your instrument reproduces, and from a technical point of view it is close to “timbre”. However, it is much more, is is what defines you as an artist and it is something that you never fully consider as finished or final, always improving and expressing your creative identity.

Less is more

It may sound obvious to seasoned professionals, but a common mistake of beginner sound designers is using too many FX and plugins layered on top of each other. Not only can this slow down the processing power of your computer, it can also make your music sound extremely muddy and difficult to distinguish between the different tones, sounds, and even, in extreme cases, instruments.

Separate different sounds

Separating different sounds in the mix means that each one can truly shine on their own. By keeping your distorted guitars at one frequency and your acoustic guitars at another, you ensure that they end up being appreciated for what they are. This may sound like an obvious piece of sound design and production advice; however, it goes deeper and means not just producing cleanly but also mentally separating the distinct qualities of sound within your mix so you can more easily decide what to do with them.

But also learn how they relate to each other

Separating sounds in only one part of this technique, however, by learning how different sounds relate when next to each other, you can decide what plugins to apply and how to position your different tracks. This means understanding that when placed immediately after that slow part, your epic guitar solo might sound completely different than if you put it at the end of the song after the climax.

Balance rich and thin tones

Just like a meal, every song needs balance – for example, those fat, bassy sounds of the analogue-modelled valve amp plugin you just picked up need to be counterbalanced with something to ensure your tone doesn’t get too muddy. Adding another plugin designed to work on the top end of the EQ spectrum such as a phaser or flanger could ensure your track doesn’t become monotonous or too overwhelming.

Ensure your plugins work with your guitar

This can be an easy one to overlook, but your guitar itself is responsible for a lot of your tone, as is how you play it. As sound designers, it is easy to get bogged down in the wealth of plugins and FX out there and easy to get extremely carried away with testing new ones, however, the relationship between your guitar, your interface, and your DAW is just as important to keep in mind. A guitar designed for metal such as an Ibanez will react differently to those fat, bluesy plugins you might be using for some of your slower tracks or guitar solos – especially if you sit somewhere in between genres- as a Les Paul would.

Make sure nothing gets lost in the mastering process

When mastering, it is important to remember that in the process of reaching for a polished song, it is vital not to let the quest for perfection get in the way of a real, human sounding recording. This is especially important for guitarists as whilst specialist production advice exists out there, a lot of the tutorials on how to use DAWs such as Logic X Pro are geared towards pop artists who may not necessarily be looking for a rough and ready sound in the same was as blues, rock, and metal artists might be. Therefore, whilst mastering any track, allow some of the imperfections to shine through, because they are what make each of them have a unique fingerprint.

Mix different instruments according to tone

Have you ever considered the tone of different instruments before you add plugins and FX? Your guitar might have a naturally really clean, bright sound, so adding a valve amp could be a good idea if you want it to sit a bit lower in the mix in order to bulk your track or leave room for other instruments on top. This is just one of the ways you can mix according to tone, and one of the best tricks is to consider your instruments as comparative and understand the before and after of each one – therefore, making heavy use of any mute switches for plugins can be a real-life saver.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the design and makeup of your plugins

This can be one for real lovers of sound design but acknowledging the design and creation process which went into your plugins means that you can understand them better and thus mix and master more cleanly and efficiently. Are you using true-to-life plugins modelled after real amps and FX pedals with all components inside just as exact? Or are you using strongly digitally inspired plugins such as some of the spacier sounds which have developed through plugins designed for the era of DAWs? It makes a difference it then you can know not only how these plugins interact with others technologically, but it will also inspire you to use them in more creative ways once you are more confident with them.

Know what you’re looking for as a result

Knowing your desired results can go a long way towards choosing plugins. Having an overall picture of the track complete with how you want it mixed and mastered as well as arrangement and how this will affect elements such as EQ means that this can enable you to understand how all your creative choices bounce off each other and interact. This can make the mixing and mastering process much easier because it makes you able to see how tracks are put together and taken apart again and how plugins, AUs, VSTs, and other FX come into this. Building a track from the results backwards can be a great exercise in experimenting with gear, and it also allows you to develop an identity for the track as a whole and thus yourself as a sound designer, guitarist, producer, and more.

But also, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There’s a reason why tracks often have multiple versions including demos, bootlegs, remixes, and radio edits. It can sometimes be hard to identify what a track really needs to feel complete, but this doesn’t matter because with multiple possibilities, you can experiment with your gear to your heart’s content. It can become easy to get carried away with plugins, so why not harness this into something which becomes a creative bonus? You may thank yourself for it in the future when you have more material to draw on or are looking for inspiration for something entirely new.

Conclusions

These are just some ideas which can help on your creative journey as a sound designer – allowing you to think about your musical endeavours differently and not get hung up by the common mistakes and misconceptions which can plague a lot of beginners by using the same deep understanding of your gear which underpins any great piece of sound design.

TOP 5 BEST Guitar VST Plugin products [2022]

Hello and welcome to our run down of the best Guitar VST Plugins. We will go straight to the list, make sure you bookmark them and check our Deals category for a chance to get them at a better price. The order of this list is random and we do recommend you get them all as the overlap is very big.

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Positive Grid Bias FX 2

Ok, so the praises of this pedalboard have been sung by just about every guitarist and magazine out there. But does it live up to the hype. Absolutely. Beyond the dizzying array of pedals, effects, and other features which it contains – which would take an entire article to fully do justice to – its main draw is its guitar match feature.

What does it do? Essentially it takes the guitar you are using at the time of playing and turns it’s tone and overall sound it into any model of guitar digitally – giving you the ultimate freedom, variety, and flexibility in how you sound. Playing a Fender but always wanted to try a Gibson SG or an Ibanez? For those who love tone – or even major audiophiles who are not guitarists but want to try out different models before buying – this can be one of the most freeing features of an already stellar piece of kit. In addition, it comes in three versions: standard, professional, and elite.

Specs: macOS Sierra 10.12 to Big Sur 11.6.1, Windows 8 or later

CHECK PRICE AND BUY BIAS FX2 BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb

Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb can be calibrated to the very BPM of your track. How does this work – and why is it so fantastic for guitarists? It means that reverb can recreate almost exactly the echoes and rhythms of soundwaves in real spaces as they bounce off the surroundings in time with your music – or even with a bit of delay.

For genres which rely heavily on rhythm such as the chugging riffs of metal or djent, this can also add that extra oomph to your tracks in order to really make them groove. However, it’s not just for metalheads – this reverb is notably used by Stephen W Taylor, the mix engineer for 80s acts such as Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, and when applied to guitar, it can easily give those lush, far out sounds which were characteristic of the era and which can be achieved either by synths or by a carefully produced 6 string – as well as tackling the nuances of a lot more genres besides.

Specs: Mac OS 7 and up, Windows 7 and up

CHECK PRICE AND BUY CRYSTALLINE BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar Sounds/Loops: Perry Frank’s Ultimate Guitar Sounds Bundle

This one is a little different as it is aimed at producers as opposed to guitarists themselves. Designed for those who either don’t play guitar or don’t have access to a guitar, but who want proper rock, blues, and metal -inspired sounds to add interest and edginess to their tracks, it takes samples and loops from a wide collection of real guitars to provide you with the very best for your current project. What makes it stand out so much? Simply the breadth and depth of the samples, and the way they have been carefully selected so there is something for every piece of sound design which you may desire to add a bit more crunch to. There really isn’t anything else out there like it for those who want the sheer variety of different guitar sounds – as well as the realism and human feeling which comes from sampling real guitar as it is being played. This might be one of the most expensive plugins on the list, but is well worth investing in for those who love guitar beyond simply playing it – and who want to see how it can add to pieces of music far outside the typical genre conventions associated with the instrument.

Specs: As a bundle of samples as opposed to a plugin proper, this is available for practically all operating systems, including lesser-used DAWs such as Reaper. It’s versatility – and the fact that samples can be transferred without the constraints of software incompatibility -mean that in many ways, it is well worth the price.

CHECK PRICE AND BUY THE LOOPS FROM PERRY’S BANDCAMP

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: UJAM Silk

So many plugins out there are designed for electric guitar as opposed to acoustic. Even in physical guitar shops, acoustic guitars are generally further towards the back of the store in comparison to the huge market, which is rock, metal, grunge, blues, indie, and all other genres which use classic Fenders, Gibsons and others. In this way, it’s very rare that you find plugins which are so good at replicating acoustic guitar – and which do so with such attention to the guitar itself.

This isn’t just any acoustic guitar being turned into a virtual instrument – the classic nylon-string sounds heard here come from a model made by a renowned luthier and add just the right amount of softness and feeling to your track – something which can only come from the campfire-ready tones of an acoustic six-string. If you’re looking to go off the beaten track in terms of bringing acoustic guitar to your electric-guitar based sound design, then there is nothing better.

Specs: Note – this plugin is 64 bit only and available for Windows 8 or later as well as MacOS X 10.11 or MacOS 10.12 or later

CHECK PRICE AND BUY SILK BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: HY – MBMFX2 by HY Plugins

Although not as memorably named as some other plugins on the market, the HY – MBMFX2 is certainly a memorable plugin to use. As guitarists, we are often more oriented towards doing things physically and practically, and the purely digital sphere of DAW-based sound design can occasionally clash with the way we compose music.

That’s where plugins like the FX2 come in handy so much – by detailing every single variable feature in order to break down the process of how it’s sounds are formed, this multi-FX processor lets guitarists get hands on in shaping their sound digitally just the same as when they are using their instruments. Control over tone and sound processing is paramount in this plugin. It’s got seven kinds of FX, five FX per band, ten modulation options, and 22 other randomizable functions.

Specifications: MacOS 10.12 Sierra and up, 64 bit only as AU, VST2 and VST3; Windows 7 or higher as VST2 or VST3 as 32 or 64 bit.

CHECK PRICE AND BUY HY – MBMFX2 BY CLICKING HERE

Conclusions

These are just a handful of the plugins out there which can really make you reconsider how guitar works and how music can be put together, especially through the process of sound design. Though they are all very different from each other, what the designers have shared is a fresh approach in looking at the instrument and adapting it creatively for DAWs – so that the nuances and tone which have made it one of the world’s most popular instruments are properly translated to the digital sphere.

Inspiration from Analogue – 5 Fantastic Digital FX Inspired Directly By Real World Gear

Nowadays it is as easy as sitting down at a computer to make a good song. Sound design has been democratised with it no longer being necessary to have a full studio to create. However, whilst plugins are important, how you use them is also as significant. And choosing the correct plugins is not simply a matter of picking those which you like the look of or feel would work for your chosen genre. Just as plugin design involves taking something abstract such as a soundwave and combining it with the technology which can alter or modulate it, so does choosing plugins mean some thought is needed about what kind of sounds from real, live studio recordings you want to bring to your DAW. As guitarists, our physical instruments mean we are operating somewhere between digital and analogue even when working with a DAW – and the plugins featured in this article reflect this. Read on to find out this year’s top picks.

Mimicking Analogue Sound: How to Recreate a Full Studio on Your Desktop

Much goes into the process of designing plugins and it is a fine art to translate real life sound from amps and guitars onto a DAW. Some plugins even go as far as to use circuit modelling technology to precisely recreate the components within a physical stompbox or other piece of gear. These plugins below aren’t verbatim copies of real life stompboxes, but they all use creative ways of translating analogue soundwaves to digital FX and are great pieces of gear in themselves. Although roughly arranged by genre here, they are nevertheless all very versatile. Below is some inspiration and the best current FX on the market for those who wish to create studio tone from the comfort of their desktop.

Best For Indie:

PhoenixVerb is a brand-new collaboration between Exponential Audio and iZotope. iZotope was originally founded as a company aimed at musicians as opposed to engineers and so balanced the technicality of its products with easy-to-use interfaces which meant that musicians could simply focus on being creative as opposed to figuring out all of the mechanics of the product.

This shows through in PhoenixVerb’s distinctive dials and frequency display – it also has over 900 presets to help the musician on a time budget but also allows a sound designer to get deeper if desired with independent output controls for attack, tail, and early reflections. The verb’s frequency display is real time responsive to even the smallest changes and Exponential audio have modelled the sound to allow the musician control over every component of a soundwave, allowing for maximum independence and direct connection to the world of real studio sound when mixing and mastering.

https://www.izotope.com/en/shop/exponential-audio-phoenixverb.html

Specifications: Runs on Mac OSX Mountain Lion (10.8.5) to Mac OS X Catalina (10.15) and Windows 7 to Windows 10

Price: 99 USD

Best For Blues:

Waves Abbey Road Saturation – Waves Abbey Road Saturation FX plugin would be welcome for all genres, but for the rounded, warm, fuzzy sounds of blues, it is beyond comparison. It’s flexibility allows it to be used for all kind of warm sounds, whatever your niche may be, from rockabilly, blues, pop rock, or simply for adding a bit more warmth and depth to guitar recordings. Waves is modelled of the Abbey Road exclusive patented TG12345 desk distortion and has been dubbed the ‘compander’, compressing inputs and expanding outputs for a super-rich sound. As well as with its REDD distortion, it can be cranked up to add some grit and distortion proper to your heavier sounds or kept in the background adding layers of nuance.

https://www.waves.com/plugins/abbey-road-saturator#introducing-the-abbey-road-saturator-plugin

Specifications: Runs on MacOS 10.14.6, 10.15.7, 11.6.2, and 12.3. Also runs on Windows 10 64 bit and Windows 11.

Price: 29.99 USD

Best for Pop and Rock:

Chowdhury DSP – Chow Phaser. Made by independent American FX designer Justin Chowdhury, the Chow Phaser is modelled after a legendary piece of 70s analogue gear – the Schulte Compact Phasing ‘A’. This plugin is designed to have both mono and stereo features and prioritises roughness and warm to create nonlinear, multi-layered waves. The original Schulte Compact Phasing was used by artists as diverse as Kraftwerk, Ritchie Blackmore, and Pink Floyd. It’s interface allows for an incredible amount of fine tuning but it is the way this plugin mimics the warm sounds of the era it was based on that means it really brings the best of both worlds to your FX rack.

https://chowdsp.com/products.html

Specifications: Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Another great feature is full source code is also available on the designer’s website

Price: Free download from the designer’s website

FabFilter Saturn 2 – This plugin is currently one of the most talked about on the market and it’s modelling after real amps and FX is one of the things which has made it’s warm tone so appealing to many guitarists. The diversity of waveforms allows any musician to tune their FX to their satisfaction. It is also available for a 30-day free trial, meaning that you have plenty of time to test the FX to see which ones work for you before purchase. Saturn 2 also works with tape saturation but comes into its own when used for distortion overall.

https://www.fabfilter.com/products/saturn-2-multiband-distortion-saturation-plug-in

Specifications: Windows 7-11 or Vista, MacOS 10.12 or higher (64-bit only)

Price: Free trial for 30 days and then 129 USD as single

Lastly, Krush by Tritik is a fantastic middle ground between the sharp noises of the digital real and the rich, fuzzy tones analogue afficionados look for. It contains both bitcrushing and an extremely flexible modulation centre which expands the number of sounds possible exponentially, enabling you to go from gritty high speed guitar to soft, ballad-ready overdrive. It’s analogue modelled low pass and high pass filters are a make it an unusual but therefore desirable sweet spot between the digital and analogue realms, offering the best of both worlds. Krush sits in a unique position where it can achieve some of the dirtier higher, and sharper sounds which you would expect from a digital VST as well as adding richness and depth from its analogue inspirations.

Krush

Specifications: Windows 7 or later and MacOS 10.9 or later

Price: Free

These are just some of the plugins on the market which are inspired heavily by specific analogue technologies – and though they span a wide range of prices and genres, the technology behind them shows how the sound of your favourite studio recordings can be translated to your own work. It’s no easy feat replicating the world of the studio for a DAW, but all these designers have done it extremely well and despite rough guidelines listed here, these plugins are worth investigation for guitarists of every genre and budget.

Your Identity as a Sound Designer: A Quick Cheatsheet for Using Plugins to Find Your Artistic Identity

It’s hard to find your identity as a guitarist. Whilst it may seem as if there are no more legends along the lines of Steve Vai or Eric Clapton, the meaning of being a guitarist is still constantly changing. Now the ease of digital sound design means everyone has access to similar gear, it’s up to the individual to use it creatively in order to convey a unique sound. Read on for how sound design can help do this and quick tips as to developing your own unique sound.

Sound Design Identity: Understand How DAWs Affect Artistic Identity

In the age of analogue, much of an artist’s sonic identity could come from their gear, whether that was a quirky, refurbished guitar, or the amps and cabinets available in the studio. The shape of the room, it’s furnishings, and the number of people present would all have affected the way the finished product turned out. On a DAW, consistent and controlled settings prevent this variability, thus the ability to create a unique sound belongs to the artist themselves. This means when using a DAW sound designers must get creative with adding the things which would come naturally with an analogue recording- layering reverbs, equalising, and mixing and mastering so their sound has just the right amount of distinctiveness – something especially important for guitarists where so much is reliant on tone and feeling to get the musical message across.

Sound Design Identity: Learn From Your Idols

How did your favourite producers, sound designers, or guitarists get to where they are today? None of them would have been perfect from the get go. What separates them from the thousands of guitarists who give up is the fact that they not only continued trying but that they fine-tuned and adapted their creative processes to avoid ever making the same mistakes twice.

As sound designers- whether you have a small bedroom set up and are just starting out or a personal studio and you may be wishing to reinvent your sound, using plugins to experiment with adding and subtracting things from your sound is one way of ensuring all your tracks are unique and carry that distinctive fingerprint which sets them out as yours and yours alone.

Sound Design Identity: Use Reference Tracks

Reference tracks are a heavy part of the production process, but for any sound designer there is always the risk of sounding too much like your inspirations. It can be frustrating when you don’t have access to the same gear as them and you may spend your time in the studio trying to find that perfect sound. The important thing to realise is that any alternatives you choose will mark you out as separate from your influences and therefore give you more of a creative edge. As a result, embracing differences and realising it’s impossible to sound exactly like your idols is one of the best ways forward – it can separate you from the hundreds of other guitarists who get stuck at this stage. Reference tracks are just that – references, and expecting your work to sound exactly like them limits your creative possibilities. Whether a producer or sound designer yourself – or a guitarist working with a team of other creatives – understanding this can be one of the most freeing parts of developing a creative identity.  

Sound Design Identity: Repurpose Plugins and Sounds

Default plugins on DAWs such as Logic are often geared towards some of the most crowd pleasing and popular sounds. This means harking back to the heyday of guitar with rock and hard rock oriented amps which are versatile enough to still be used in modern genres such as indie rock. But what if you want something different? Before shelling out on specialist gear to sound just like your influences, see if repurposing the default plugins on your DAW can achieve similar sounds at a fraction of the price and whilst simultaneously giving your music a distinctive edge. That metal plugin you bought on a whim and have now forgotten about as your band changed direction? Some of the reverb could sound great for one of your darker, moodier tracks, even if it doesn’t strictly fit into the genre.

Think Outside of the Boundaries of Genre

Out of the wealth of plugins available, many are often geared towards specific genres, especially in niches known to sell consistently such as blues. However, these genre labels need not limit you if you truly want to break boundaries a bit. If you’re a rock guitarist, why not use an indie style reverb for a ballad? Or taking that same reverb heavy noise of underground and indie music and using it for experimental or noise music? By looking at your own genre through the eyes of another, you can get a more accurate picture of where you stand within wider sound design and make creative movies which pinpoint your sound yet keep it familiar enough that it can draw in new listeners.

Know What You Need

There is a lot of advice out there on the internet and ultimately every sound designer ha their own way of working. If you haven’t yet found yours, it can be hard to tell what’s relevant. Knowing what you need can bring exponential growth in both your artistic and technical development. Are you a bedroom producer who simply wants some decent reverb to make those low key, soft guitars sound more emotional? Or are you knee deep in technical shred guitar recordings and are looking to ensure every note of a guitar solo shines through? By focusing on what you love, it’s easier to find what you need- and find plugins which really work for you in the process.

Overall, these are just some of the ways in which the process of sound design can help you define a distinctive identity as an artist. By seeing your artistic identity reflected in the plugins you use, waveforms you see, and creative choices which you make, you can further hone and develop your sense of yourself as a musician so that all your work has your own distinctive stamp on it – a compilation of the gear you use and the way you use it in a pattern completely unique to you.

The Hippie era and the Californian Desert: A guide to the guitar sound which created a musical phenomenon

Note – this article is not necessarily intended as a guide to the specific pedals out there on the market or used by musicians. Instead, it gives a deeper look into the mechanics of each of these kinds of effects – how they work to create the sounds that they do, and how this in turn shaped the musical era when these became popular- both in the public imagination and in the way guitarists continue to use them today. Any of these kinds of pedal can be found in both digital and analogue form, with digital pedals for sound design altering the wave form in a very similar way to their analogue counterparts.

The two decades spanning the 1960s to the 1970s were a seminal and pioneering period of music. As society became less restrictive, all forms of new subcultures were born. Beginning with The Beatles, who took a strong influence from Indian ragas – and ending with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, in this period music technology saw exponential growth in response to changes in demand by the music industry. Luthiers, technicians, and electronics specialists were able to showcase their skills with the design of new sounds and repurposing of old sounds.

These new sounds led to musicians redefining what it meant to play guitar. Sound recordings became increasingly complex, and memorabilia from the era has become prized within the market. Conjuring up vistas of the desert areas of California, with their rocky outcrops, stunning saguaro cacti, and the backdrop to many a Hollywood movie, guitarists in the sixties were all about distorting the sound of the original note through effects which aimed as much for edgy rebellion as for a mellow, rich, soulful tone with plenty of harmonics and different layers. Jimi Hendrix is one of the most notable as he held the stage through the raw feeling of his distorted version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Below are some of the pedals which became popular within the era – and a guide to their internal mechanisms for anyone curious about the creation of its signature sounds.  

Wah

This pedal was most famously used by Hendrix – and is designed to make a crying sound come out of the guitar. Wah pedals work by adding a filter to the original sound which is controlled when the pedal is activated, as well as by controls which may vary from pedal to pedal. As a result, parts of the soundwave are chopped off, boosting the midrange, and excluding the extremities to make the guitar sound as if it has literally developed a voice of its own. This mid-range boost is a very characteristic part of its technology, mellowing out the sound- making it richer, fuller, and more human. On any DAW, the wah pedal is one of the most commonly included pedal in any FX library, due to its popularity and versatility.                                                      

Fuzz

The fuzz pedal – another characteristic sound of the sixties and seventies desert rock era – uses a phenomenon called clipping to create a very different kind of distortion from both wah pedals and the myriad overdrive pedals available on the market. This means that so much gain is applied to the signal that it distorts, hitting a threshold which essentially causes the soundwave to double back on itself and overlap, causing a very grainy, thick sounding wall of noise. Whilst clipping is undesirable in the mixing and mastering process, within a fuzz pedal, all runs smoothly based off a very simple circuit and the resulting sound is much softer than the process within the mechanics might suggest. In fact, this is one of the gentler forms of guitar distortion, used by pop rock bands all throughout the sixties and seventies but also perfect for the slower ballads of harder rock acts. Like the wah pedal, the fuzz pedal is a staple of pretty much all DAWs, and there are plenty of options.

Tremolo

Tremolo bars became a characteristic feature of classic American rock ‘n’ roll towards the end of the era as guitar effects moved on in their sophistication. As rock music became more complex and the solos contained higher and more intense riffs, tremolo bars were favoured to give a ‘wobbly’, distorted sound to high notes.

Tremolo can refer to both the tremolo or whammy bar – which is a feature on certain kinds of guitar – as well as to tremolo pedals, which use very small, frequent alterations in either pitch, volume, or both to create a vibrato effect. Both square and sine waves distort the original signal differently, with distortion in this case referring to a way of altering the notes, which is different to the emphasis of undertones, overtones, and overlapping waves in fuzz, wah, and overdrive pedals. Therefore, they are invaluable for cleaner solos and different sounds when rock or metal guitarists want to take a break and go clean again. A tremolo is easily found on many FX plugins on DAWs such as Logic and Ableton.

Distortion/Overdrive

Classic distortion is one of the most recognisable sounds of the era, and music legend has it that it first became a significant part of rock history when the Rolling Stones stomped on their amps to record their now classic song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. As a result, millions of other artists craved the sound which set them apart and provided a sense of edgy rebellion against the puritanism, clean sounds and lyrics of the fifties as middle America really came into being. The distorted sound became synonymous with music which set its listeners apart a little bit. It’s not hard to find distortion/overdrive on any DAW – and the multitude of choices means there is something for everyone, though as a result careful consideration is needed to find the perfect sound for your track.

Phaser

This pedal is most synonymous with the early seventies when Led Zeppelin began using it in their guitar solos to great effect. During this time, rock music began getting heavier. The phaser pedal is one which creates a sweeping sound by filtering the original signal via a sound processor. It has a series of peaks and troughs in its frequency attenuation graph, and thus when the positions of the peak’s changes, it makes the original note sound as if it is sweeping up and down due to the constantly changing frequencies within the pedal’s filter. As a result, this can be used to great dramatic effect. Phaser plugins range from state of the art to basic and can be found for all styles of guitar from psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll to heavy metal.

How have these sounds become associated with the Californian desert and how have they been repurposed for today?

Every era of music has its distinctive and characteristic sounds, but these sounds are some of the most evocative of a particular place and time because of the emotional and historical significance of the music which was created there. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix were pioneers of the music which shaped the minds and hearts of the youth at the time as well as bands such as Deep Purple, America, and earlier bands such as The Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas- and which for many who remember the era, this music still holds an extremely special place due to the memories of freedom and rebellion associated with it.

The Californian Desert was also the location of many historical festivals such as Woodstock – and saw the birth of musical get togethers which are still going on to this day. As a result, it is sometimes impossible to think of this era without also recalling the desert sounds and mesa outcrops which painted the backdrop to these festivals. Even to this day, the branding and decoration of some of these evokes the period with psychedelic lettering and bold colours, and the types of pedals in this article are perfect for bringing this era back to life or repurposing it’s sounds.  

Pluginboutique MEGA Spring Sale 2022

Hello guys, today is your luck day as Pluginboutique is running their annual VST Plugin Spring Sale. On the menu we have fresh deals from £3.95 / $5 + get UJAM’s PHAT 2 free with your purchase. Most of the offers end on the 1st of May so you better hurry and finish stocking up on virtual instruments for your studio.

The deals that are available right now on Pluginboutique.com’s 2022 Spring Sale:

  • Wavesfactory Plugins Spring Sale (Exclusive) – For 11 years, Wavesfactory plugins have provided pristine sound quality and a clear focus on user experience. They design their plugins to be innovative and evocative, crafted with love and care. Save 25% off their entire plugin range at Plugin Boutique.
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If deals are what you want, what you really really want, then remember to check our Deals category regularly!

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