As you're building up your engineer’s toolbox (your plugin collection), you’re likely to end up with several different virtual guitar rigs. Often, this comes about because you’re after a few different tones. Maybe one has an exceptional clean tone while another is good for high gain tone. Maybe you’ve got one that interacts better with extended-range or down-tuned guitars.
Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure – recording professionals love to have variety.
So once you’ve got all these different options at your disposal, do you know what to do with them? Rather than running just one virtual rig per guitar in your next session, try out one of these unique approaches afforded to you by going the in-the-box route with your guitar rigs.
Side by Side
One of the most effective ways to get some thick, complex guitar tones is through the use of multiple amps side by side. When you double track guitars (or make a duplicate of a single track) and pan them 100% left and right, you can get a nice, wide sound. Unfortunately, that doesn’t equate to variety or complexity.
But with multiple virtual guitar rigs in your arsenal, you’ve got a way to make them unique and well defined. Run a different rig on the left channel than you do on the right channel and you’ll quickly notice how full your sound gets. This isn’t a replacement for a good, tight performance, but it’ll enhance nearly any session by giving your listener complex harmonics and variety.
For those with a single virtual guitar rig, you can add a similar mixture of tones simply by dialing in one track's settings differently than the other. I recommend starting with a “dark” track and a “light” track. By having one with additional low-end and body and one sounding bright and aggressive, you can get a decent sounding selection even if it’s the same guitar through the same amp.
If you’re looking to get outside of the regular approach to recording, look no further than loading your favorite guitar rigs up in series. By loading one amp then another immediately after it, you get a unique, overpowered stack of amps that is most certainly not recommended in the analog realm.
In the box, you don’t have to worry about impedance matching. You’re not going to blow up any amps by plugging one into another or by running a bass guitar into a guitar amp or anything like that. In the virtual world, they just work together.
If you do take this approach, be sure to consider how one amp might affect the other. One of the most common things engineers will do involves disabling the cabinet and post-processing in the first virtual rig and only using the cabinet and post-processing in the second one. This gives a more direct amp stack – emulating one head into another.
Think about how one drives the other when doing this – you’re essentially turning your first rig into a “pedal” for the second. A little overdrive or gain is going to go a long way in that setup.
If you’re hesitant or struggling to get the sound you want using this method, maybe the third option is right for you…
Mix & Match
Who says that these rigs have to remain independent? Nobody!
While many of the effects, pedals & processing are custom-built to work best within their own collection, there’s no reason you can’t mix and match your favorite parts from each one to form your own Frankenstein’d signal chain.
One of the most common examples of this is when you’re looking to use a pedal from one rig with the amp in another. Check out how Fluff uses Toneforge Misha Mansoor’s Precision Drive pedal in front of the Bassforge Hellraiser rig to drive it just right:
Once again – there are no rules. Want the pedals from one rig, the amp/cabinet from another, and the post-processing of a third? Go for it! Treat your session like a mad scientist and reap the rewards of a completely unique tone that few others have ever even considered!
Achieving Any Tone
Engineers that are serious about finding their tone can get everything they’re looking for in our Toneforge Bootcamp, featuring my personal Tonestep System. The boot camp dives into identifying good tone, explains how you should be using reference tracks, and teaches you to get the exact tone you’re hearing on your favorite songs in no time.
The Toneforge Bootcamp and dozens of other resources are available exclusively to JST VIP members. Start your monthly membership today for immediate access.