Finding the Sound and Bouncing MIDI
Last time, I did a quick overview of the project so far I and went over how I got the arrangement done with the MIDI instruments and live instruments. Now that the arrangement is done, what follows is to get "the sound" that you're looking for by applying plug-ins to each track you want to manipulate.
The first step in doing this is applying your EQ to you track.
The guitar got the makeover first. The sound I was looking for was brighter instead of deep and dirty, and because I didn't particularly like the sound that came from recording the guitar through the pedalboard and the amp (I'll have to remember to not use the pedalboard next time), I had to do extra molding to achieve the sound i wanted. When applying EQ, you're essentially removing and adding frequencies. There could be a frequency somewhere in the mid-range that makes an undesirable sound, hum, or buzz, and so you'd remove that by finding where it is on the chart and then dragging it on the bottom half of the EQ chart. By pulling the curves above, you're adding those frequencies. I pulled some of the low end off, mostly what can't be heard anyway because the bass takes over in those low frequencies and also boosted and removed some spots in the mid-range. The guitar falls mostly in there, so there's not much tweaking done in the low and high ends.
And of course, to get the most honest sound, you want to only be listening to the track that you're molding. In this instance, I only have the guitar soloed so that I can hear it exclusively in order to apply the right EQ because no track will be the same, and you wouldn't be able to hear the guitar really well if the other instruments are blaring in the background.
After the EQ, I wanted to further mold the sound of the guitar, so I added a plug-in that's exclusive to Logic called Amp Designer. Other DAW's may have a plug-in like this, but as far as I know, Logic is the only one that has this plug-in that is as solid and configurable.
What you do is you pick your amp head and cabinet, and you can tweak the knobs as you see fit as though it were an actual amp. You can add or pull bass, mid, or highs, adjust the presence and gain, or event switch on delays and reverbs built onto the amp heads. If you also want, you can adjust the position of the microphone on the cabinet and even change the mic itself, ranging from AKG 414's to Shure 57's. So I cycled through a couple of preset configurations and once I found one that I liked, I adjusted the sound with the knobs until I found the tone I was looking for. I also did the same EQ and Amp Designer application to the other line-in guitar take that I had, but I didn't use the same settings. I wanted each take to have contrasting tones that complimented each other because even without the plug-ins, there sounds were completely different, so I wouldn't be able to mimic the other if I tried.
Once I finished with the Amp modeling, I added reverb onto the track through a bus. A bus is where you can apply a plug-in or multiple plug-ins and route multiple tracks to the same bus in order to conserve processing power and keep things tidy. The guitar track went to a bus and I put on some reverb using Logic's Space Designer. After applying that, I had to fix a part in the verse that I didn't think was on the money yet. It was a picking sequence that sounded a bit off, but luckily it was easily fixable!
Logic has another feature called Flex Time that allows you to manipulate the timing and rhythm of tracks, and it has different variations for polyphonic timing, monophonic timing, or rhythmic timing (guitars, vocals, or drums, respectively). It also offers a couple more, but for my purposes, those are the 3 I mostly deal with. Picking a variation may seem redundant because it's timing, but it tells Logic that you're fixing the timing of a certain instrument so that it can more accurately find the transients in the track, which are what I call the "strong beats" of the track. That may not be the actual definition of what a transient is when being applied to recording, but it helps me to understand what I'm moving around each time I do it!
The transients on this guitar track are each of those lines visible on the waveform file. Although you can create a transient anywhere on the track by clicking there, those are the "strong beats" that Logic detected in the recording. For this job, I used polyphonic timing because obviously the guitar is a polyphonic instrument, though it can also be monophonic if you're only playing one note at a time. I soloed the track and played it alongside a metronome to better hear the difference of rhythm between notes so that I might be able to sync them up better. Although it wasn't terribly off-time, having the ability to correct the timing of the track greatly improves usability so that things like delay can be effectively used (which I ended using for this guitar track). I used Flex Time to fix parts where the picking became rushed in the faster sequences.
After the alterations to the guitar, the bass was up next. I applied EQ and also the Bass Amp Designer that Logic offers just like the Amp Designer for guitars. The one thing that I did differently for the bass was that I added parallel compression in order to give it more presence and thickness in the track. Because I also apply parallel compression to the drums, though, I put the compressor plug-in on a bus so that I could send all of those to the compressor later. From running these tracks to the bus individually, you can adjust how much compression each track gets because each bus send has a fader on it that allows you to choose how much signal gets sent to the bus.
To be honest, I made a preset for parallel compression because there's a lot of knobs and sliders here. If you want to achieve the same thing in your mix, then you're more than welcome to make your own preset from what I have here! The result definitely makes a difference in the tone of the instrument that you're running through the bus with.
After the guitar and bass have been worked with, I bounced the MIDI into individual audio files. Nothing too complicated there, actually! I just counted how many MIDI tracks I had and made the right number of audio tracks to bounce to, then just went down the list and converted them all to audio. So all of those green rectangles that you saw before have now been changed to permanent audio. However, at any time, I can always go back to the MIDI instruments (I just hide them to keep things clean) and make any changes and re-bounce the stuff if I need to, so it's semi-permanent.
And because the MIDI that I recorded was quantized (synced with the project), I can slice any of these audio regions anywhere I need to and they'll be in sync so I don't have to worry about using Flex Time to fix any mistakes!
That's a wrap for this portion, and when I get to making the next post, it'll cover mixing the tracks as well as bouncing the MIDI drum files and applying channel strip settings to those, much like I did for the guitar and bass. Cheers!