Few things give a mix the impression of power and aggression like a good, meaty guitar chug. It’s a staple of many genres, found commonly in djent and other various forms of metal, but just as fitting in more mainstream genres like pop punk and rock.
A chug is a guttural, bass-heavy sound. It doesn’t necessarily step on the toes of the bass guitar in your mix, but it walks that fine line between the low end and the mid range. A lot of beginners and self-recording musicians want a good chug, but few are able to achieve it without a thorough understanding of common mix techniques.
Their results end up being these bloated, flabby, floppy things. A bad chug not only sounds loose and inconsistent, but it has the potential to make the entire song sound muddy and amateur.
If you’re looking to fix this (as a beginner or an experienced engineer), there are a few common tools that can help get your guitar chugs pocketed perfectly.
Compress, Compress, Compress
A great guitar chug isn’t just powerful – it’s consistent. That consistency comes by taming the peaks and valleys of your signal; limiting the dynamics to a level that best suits your needs. Once the sweet spot is found, any mixer should find it easier to match the level of the guitars with the rest of the mix.
A chug with the right compression settings can be transformed into something tight and pocketed without necessarily reaching for any time-alignment plugins.
Some compressors have added controls for that low-mid range area where your chugs tend to have most of the content we’re after. Joel Wanasek’s BG-Guitars is a great example of this, with it’s built-in “Chug Slayer” control.
Check out Joel’s BG-Guitars and how it can be used to tighten/tame guitar chugs in this short clip:
Clean It Up With EQ
Your compression needs to be a one-two punch combo with a good EQ. The pair has their place as the most widely used dynamic processors in the industry for good reason.
While the compressor works to tame your chugs, it can’t work efficiently or effectively without a good EQ before it (and sometimes after it).
A good EQ before a compressor will clean up your chugs, leaving the best of the best to be compressed. Rolling off the low end of a guitar chug before compression cleans up a lot of muddiness, and reduces the load you put on the compressor. Your compression works best when you give it a source that’s as close as possible as you’d like to get out of it and the EQ can do that for you.
Sometimes, and EQ into a compressor won’t get you what you need, and that’s completely fine. Experiment with boosting or cutting small amounts (a few dB) as needed after compression to really draw out the frequencies you’d like to showcase.
For our chugs, a sweet spot can usually be found between 100 – 500 Hz. Try playing around with the frequency and gain until you find something you like on your next session with compressed chugs.
Like Peanut Butter & Jelly
Just like a good sandwich, EQ and compression should add some flavor and act like glue on the rest of your mix. You EQ is your jelly; lots of flavors and options. Compressors are your peanut butter, holding everything together.
If you found this information helpful, come join the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum. We’re constantly discussing topics like this and other mix techniques, and we’re constantly looking for more mix-minded members.
See you there!