How To Craft Sweep Picking & Tapping Tones
Sweep picking, tapping, and other forms of alternative playing styles are some of the more advanced techniques for playing guitar, but with them comes a whole slew of mixing issues that differ from your usual approach to rhythms or leads. These techniques all come with their own set of tonal differences that must be accounted for when mixing if you want them to ring through loud and clear.
At a very basic level, just think about how the sound of a tapped guitar changes from the sound of a picked lead. Your pick attack is virtually gone as the tapping acts as more like a hammer on a piano string than a pick scraping against a guitar string.
How do you account for things like this in your mix to keep your guitars sounding consistent and full?
Clean Tracking Makes All The Difference
When recording these guitar parts, a proper tracking setup is going to make a huge difference in your final sound and options in the mix. I recommend using a DI to ensure the highest quality recording, but those using live amps should focus on minimizing noise in their recordings and use compression in front of their amp to bring out the softer notes in the performance. Often, guitar parts that are tapped or played with sweep picking lack attack due to their speed. Compression will go a long way to smooth out and inconsistencies in the performance, giving you a better source to work with.
Of course, a proper tracking setup alone isn’t going to do anything for your tone if your guitarist isn’t confidently able to play the part. These more advanced techniques often require hours of practice to perfect. If your guitarist can’t accurately play the part repeatedly, don’t expect to get lucky with a single take. Have them practice anything they’re struggling with over and over until they can play it in their sleep BEFORE you hit record.
Matching The Right Amp To The Tone
Not all amps were created equal for advanced picking techniques. There’s a reason you see so many players that take advantage of these styles of playing using high gain amps with tons of headroom – they’re needed to get the right amount of saturation to really make their solo soar.
For this reason, players like Jason Richardson continue to move more toward specific amps that help accentuate their tone in a more full-spectrum approach than standard amps offer. Through a combination of matching a high gain head to the right cabinet for the job with some post-processing, they’re able to get full-bodied guitar tones regardless of their picking technique.
Does this mean techniques like sweeping are going to sound bad on lower wattage amps? Not always. Just take a look at jazz and classical guitarists that use the technique.
Regardless of the gear being used, a well-rehearsed guitarist playing an advanced technique is going to sound clean in any style. Once again – it comes back to a great, accurate player being the core of the performance.
Post-Processing Sweeping & Tapping
A mixer needs to be able to take performances to the next level in the box, and that means relying heavily on post-processing to help get the guitar to pop out of the mix. With your guitar amp’s tone fully dialed in, using parametric EQ to shape the tone and dynamic processing to further compress and saturate will really push your leads into a new headspace.
This type of post-processing is exactly what led us to add on-board processing after the amp in Toneforge Jason Richardson. Guitarists, producers, and mixers have access to settings that will help tighten up the low end of a guitar, compress it until all of the notes sound even, and carve it into a shape that perfectly fits their production. Simply put, it’s got everything you need for a mix-ready tone for any playing style that includes the techniques Jason uses in his songs.
Beyond the all-in-one tones offered by Toneforge Jason Richardson, you can achieve similar results by understanding how any type of EQ or compressor will change your tone and developing critical listening skills required to understand what makes a great guitar tone. Engineers and mixers are constantly finding new ways to use things like transient designers and limiters to get the sounds they desire.
One of the quickest ways to develop an in-depth understanding of what goes into your favorite guitar tones is through our Toneforge Bootcamp. This course is designed to take you through every step of the process from tracking to final mixdown. You can pick is up now in the JST Store or get it as part of your membership as a JST VIP member.