A virtual guitar or bass rig is one of the most powerful tools in a professional producers toolbox when they know how to use it. It all starts with the realization that your amp sims don’t conform to the same rules as a regular guitar amp.
Once you start growing outside of a traditional amp’s limitations, you’ll realize that a virtual amp adds flexibility that you could never achieve a standard tube or solid-state amplifier.
So the next time you’re working with guitars, bass, or anything else you might want to send through a guitar rig, keep these five freedoms in mind:
1. Doing Stereo (The Right Way)
Micing up two speakers on a guitar amp can be a nightmare. If you’re trying to capture two speakers from the same cabinet, you’re going to be dealing with some extreme phase cancelation and unwanted muddiness. The resonance and cancellation between the speakers (and the cabinet itself) are enough to drive an engineer insane.
This is the reason you see so many engineers micing up a single speaker with multiple microphones, even on something like a 4 x 12 cab. While the additional speakers are great at adding volume in a live setting, the studio is where you should be capturing the pure, unadulterated tone you’re after.
Instead of fighting to get a wide, full-spectrum guitar tone by micing up two speakers (or two cabinets if you’ve got a true stereo rig), why not use something that’s been designed for stereo use from Day 1?
Tools like Toneforge Guilty Pleasure are made for big, anthemic guitar tone. They’re designed to sound great in stereo or mono, but bring a whole new meaning to “wall of sound” when stacking stereo double-tracked guitars.
2. Swap In Virtually Any Cab
I know that people are after the natural dynamics that come with a good guitar cabinet, but when you’re talking about high-end equipment, most guitarists are only going to have one or two of those at their disposal.
Rather than settle for “the best option at the time”, why not leave yourself the flexibility to swap out for a different cab whenever you want?
With built-in Impulse Response loaders, virtual guitar rigs give musicians the flexibility to use their own IR collection instead of the on-board models included with the plugin.
These IRs can be anything: from sessions you’ve recorded that you captured your own IRs from to IR bundles from the web. I tend to lean toward the latter when looking for new sounds – there are so many bundles out there filled with exotic and hard-to-find cabinets.
3. Custom Guitar Pedals
When’s the last time you were shopping for an amp and the sales guy offered to throw in a bunch of free pedals?
Didn’t think so.
With virtual guitar and bass rigs, we know that the amp alone doesn’t make up the tone we’re after.
Instead, virtual amps are loaded with pedals that don’t just sound good on their own, but have been tweaked to specifically match the tonal characteristics of the amp. Could you imagine having each of your guitar pedals modded by a guitar tech to exactly match your amp’s sound?
The pedals in virtual amps run the full range of options as well: overdrive, reverb, delay – even wah pedals can be found in Toneforge. If you love tweaking pedals on your board to experiment with new sounds, but you haven’t tried it in a virtual rig yet, I can’t even begin to explain the flexibility you’re missing.
If you’re all about control from start to end – automation is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to guitar tone.
Tweaking your pedals before, during & after recording is not only possible – it’s encouraged.
Things like delay throws and echoes can be extremely tedious to get right on a physical guitar pedal. The knobs aren’t precise, you need to stop playing to change the settings, and you’ll rarely be able to replicate the same thing twice (at least not with any level of accuracy).
In the box, the entire game changes. Delay throws can be drawn in, with a smooth ramp up and down if desired. Other parameters like the rock of your wah pedal are just as easy to control, making sure you’re nailing the exact position on every solo.
5. Post-Amp Control
An engineer is always going to want some type of control over the final guitar tone, and may already have some tools to get them there. Toneforge makes it easy to take control with built-in post-processing.
Just like the pedals: the included post-processors have been optimized to work with the specific virtual amp you’re using. For Guilty Pleasure, this meant improving on our EQ and rolling out an all-new Loudness Maximizer for pure, in-your-face tone.
And while you can always add your other plugins to the mix if you’re looking for a specific sound, it’s great to have the best start-to-finish tone available inside of one convenient package.
Did We Miss Anything?
If you’ve got your own sounds that you’re able to achieve using Toneforge that you can’t get with anything else, head on over to the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum to let us know!
We love hearing what you guys are doing with JST plugins, and are constantly impressed with the innovation and originality we’ve seen from engineers that are using these tools day-in and day-out.