When it comes to tracking guitars today, there are tons of tones out there for any genre or playing style. There are classic, world-renowned amplifiers that are a staple in any rock or metal track, some indie models with unique tones, and even boutique options that often take the schematic of an old classic or two and revamp them into something new and unique.
Even with all of these options on the market, there are plenty of reasons you can’t use all of them. Some are a matter of accessibility while the majority gets ruled out as a matter of budget. Nobody has every amp in existence, so it’s just a matter of using what you can afford to get your hands on.
With the growth of virtual guitar rigs like what we offer in the Toneforge series, variety is nowhere near as big of a challenge as it used to be, but even with a single amp there are tons of variants you can achieve to get a lush, full-spectrum guitar mix with a single amp.
Basic Amp Tones
One of the simplest ways to get unique, different tones in your mix using a single amp is to focus on the settings of the amp first. Many producers will use a cleaner tone with less gain to get some of the clearer, more precise playing. I like to think of these tones as though the amp is on the “edge of breakup”.
From there, they’ll layer in a heavily distorted track, either through the amp settings or the use of a pedal. These two styles can then be combined into a guitar mix that has the best of what each tone has to offer without having an exact replica. If your mix needs it, you can get a clean tone with the same exact settings just by backing the gain off further.
All of this variety comes from a single knob found on almost any amp, but the more settings your amp has, the more tweaking you’ll be able to do. Look for Lead/Rhythm channels, EQ boosts & onboard effects as other ways to build up your tone!
Using Different Gear Downstream
While the majority of your sound is going to come from the amp itself, people often overlook all of the variety your cabinet and mic technique change the way your guitars sound. Without even moving anything, simply swapping out a dynamic microphone for a large diaphragm condenser or ribbon mic can seriously alter your sound. Tracking the same thing twice with nothing but a quick microphone swap can give you two seriously different recordings – both useful when you’re trying to fill out a mix. Check out how Mendel bij de Leij is getting his tones using a similar approach with Toneforge Jason Richardson:
As you can see, there are plenty of options available right within the plugin, but some of the biggest difference makers don’t come from the amp settings, but the gear that surrounds the amp.
Getting All The Tones You Could Ever Want
Getting the tones you want can be a daunting task, no matter if you’re working with one amp or one hundred amps. Often, I get asked how to achieve the tones I’ve used on albums produced for bands and half the time, I just can’t remember – but I can tell you with absolute certainty I could recreate it if I wanted to.
Great tone requires an ear for other great tones. You need a point of reference, which is why my Tonestep System (included with Toneforge Bootcamp) starts off with Methodical Training – to get your ear to a point where it can pick out the characteristics of a great tone so you can replicate it.