Steve Lagudi Blog Series: Guitars & Bass in a Live Setting – Treatment: Dynamics and Effects, Part 1

This is the seventh installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on Guitars & Bass in a Live Setting – if you missed his most recent four-part series on selecting and placing mics on stage, you can read it here.

So I covered what mics I like, how I place them and so on. I touched a little on how I EQ (or lack of EQ I should say). Now let’s talk a little about other treatments, such as dynamics and effects.

Steve at home, in the studio.

Gating

YES! I will gate guitars. If you have ever done sound for any band that uses distortion, then you are no stranger to the super annoying “buzzing,” “hissing” and “humming” that the amp will make,and you wish the player would switch to the clean channel in between songs or whenever he or she is not playing. So if you’re a guitar player, do the world a favor and switch to clean. Thank you. One way to combat that noise is to put a gate on it. You don’t need anything super radical. A nice gentle gate, with a decent amount of release time, usually around one second works. If you’re on a digital board then it’s no problem, you most likely have a gate available on every channel. If you’re on an analog console and used all your gates up for drums, or just don’t have any available, it’s OK – you have a mute button and fader, so just do it manually either by muting it, or lowering the fader down until it’s time to get going again. If you read my last blog then you know I bring my own gates. Yet again, another reason why I just bring ’em with me.

Compression

People like to argue compression for guitars ALL THE TIME. Look, just keep in mind, do whatever you need to do to make it sound good. I have mixed with compression and without compression. At the end of the day, I was happy with both results. Generally, I do like a tiny bit of compression, just to help smooth things out a bit. 2:1 ratios with a medium attack and medium release for the most part works wonders. I tweak these depending on the song, the player and, of course, the sound. However, on one tour that I did with Shadows Fall, Jonathan (the guitar player), when he would hit his lead boost for the solos, the boost was just a bit too loud for me out front, so I compressed this a lot more. I think I ended up with a 6 or 8:1 ratio, with the threshold pretty high, so during his rhythm parts it almost never went into reduction, but when he hit the boost the compressor kicked right in and tamed that beast! One other thing I remember about Jonathan’s solo boost was that it was overly bright and piercing in the 3Khz range, so another sweet li’l trick I did was add a de-esser. This was in addition to the compressor. So with the compressor smoothing the volume boost out for me, the de-esser focused on those really high notes that were jumping out a li’l too much. It was almost as if I made a multiband compressor. Unfortunately, the console I was on did not have one, so I just made my own!

See, once again, just because something has a specific design does not mean it can’t be used for other purposes. De-essers are normally used on vocals, but I just replaced the sibilance found in vocals to those high frequencies in the guitar. Another li’l tip – you can use that on high hats too. From time to time, you might get some hats that are super bright with the de-esser, but you can get surgical with it and locate the frequency area and tame it down if that happens.

Look for Steve’s next blog on effects next Wednesday!

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