The Mix And You: Cutting or Blending with Electric Guitar

Ever feel like the parts you write for certain songs sound great by themselves, but don't sound as great when you play them in a band context? Sometimes your parts may feel like they're getting buried by the rest of the band and not sticking out enough, or conversely, they may stick out a little too much in certain contexts. 

The ability to control your own presence in the mix is coveted by players, and appreciated by sound guys everywhere. Some players use boost or EQ effects to move within the depth of the mix, but these same results can be achieved by simply changing the way you arrange your parts, and even by playing the same parts in different ways.

Here's a Buzzfeed-esque list of some strategies to try: 

If You Want to Cut Through:

  1. Voice your parts (especially chords) using higher notes 
  2. Use the bridge pickup
  3. Play the same part on thinner strings
  4. Pick the strings closer to the bridge
  5. Rotate your pick and strike the strings with it's edge

For the point on voicing your parts, inversions are your friend. In lieu of a more detailed explanation, a quick way to do this is by examine the open-position version of whatever chord the acoustic is playing, taking the highest three strings, and playing those notes in a different order higher up on the neck. (Email us if you'd like a more detailed description)

For the rest of the list, all of the techniques focus on emphasizing higher frequencies and subduing low frequencies. There is science behind this, but rather than delve into a long physics talk, just assume that higher frequencies sound more "present" in our ears, and that low frequencies can detract from this presence. Any way we can emphasize highs and subdue lows will make us stick out and cut through the mix. 

Conversely, if you'd like to blend, you can take the same points and turn each concept on its head. However, for the sake of convenience and continuity: 

If You Want To Blend In 

  1. Voice your parts using lower notes
  2. Use darker pickup selections (neck/middle)
  3. Play the same part on thicker strings
  4. Pick the strings closer to the neck
  5. Use the flat part of the pick or your fingers to strike the strings

By using these techniques, you can start to become the master of your own position in the mix, which leaves the sound guy to focus on other things besides adjusting your sliders, like trying to figure out how to make people hear that background vocalist who insists on holding their microphone at full arms length. 

What are some other strategies you use to cut through the mix? Let me know what I missed!

Thanks for reading! Hope your day is filled with trampolines and tacos!

Ian 

P.S. Like sharing Spotify playlists? Here's one I update every month: This Month In Ian's Ears