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    Question Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Hi guys. I'm having this problem right now where I'm trying to record a section of music that I want to have thick, dreamy distortion like what you hear on shoegaze records (e.g. - My Bloody Valentine - Loveless)... but I only have a basic setup: a distortion pedal + amp, and I work using Reaper.

    What happens is either I can maintain the melody (meaning the melody is audible/chord changes are recognizable and distinct) but the sound is too thin; OR, the sound is thick, wet and dreamy enough but I lose the melody under all the fuzz and distortion.

    What do you think is the best way I can handle this considering what I'm working with?

    I've split my guitar signal with my DI box with one output going directly to the mixer and another output as an input to my amp, which I mic into the mixer as well. For the rest of my setup, you can check out this thread: LINK

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Can you post some clips? A guitar should never be so smooth that you can't hear what it's playing.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Yeah, I'd like to hear this too.
    For those who keep asking, it's a picture of MUMs, as in my name is MUM.
    "Recording is stupid." - Brandon Drury
    My philosophy - If you don't agree with me, you're wrong.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Sure. Here's a sample (distortionsample.mp3) from the track I've been working on. It comes in at around 8 seconds into the track.

    The track is around 90% done, but I'm still not sure about that distortion/fuzz. It's the hardest thing to do on the track so far. I seem to go back and forth regarding how I want it to sound because something always seems to feel lacking.

    Also... If anyone has some tips/tricks about recording/mixing a good distortion sound - whether it's dreamy fuzz for shoegaze or aggressive crunch for metal - do opine.

    Cheers!
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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Hmm. I'm not sure I hear the problem. For the genre, it sounds just fine to me.
    For those who keep asking, it's a picture of MUMs, as in my name is MUM.
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    My philosophy - If you don't agree with me, you're wrong.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by mindundermatter
    Hmm. I'm not sure I hear the problem. For the genre, it sounds just fine to me.
    Well, I was considering someone would say this

    TBH, what I had was way worse when I created this thread. Then I started experimenting not recording through the mic'ed amp: Just through the DI-box directly into the mixer. And then I added some VST's on Reaper (reverb and eq) and this is what I came up with.

    Not sure it's perfect, so if anyone has any suggestions for improvement...

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    If it sounds good, it doesn't need improvement!
    For those who keep asking, it's a picture of MUMs, as in my name is MUM.
    "Recording is stupid." - Brandon Drury
    My philosophy - If you don't agree with me, you're wrong.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    wait a minute. What guitar are you talking about? The lead? I hear something in there that sounds like noise. I can't tell if it's a guitar or if my interface is acting up or if it's just noise. If that's the guitar you are referring to, then yes, it needs a lot lot lot of work.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    that is what i'm referring to! what could you suggest?

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I would suggest starting from the ground up. Think of it this way. If you bought an amp and plugged your guitar in and it sounded like that, you'd send it back after about 3 seconds of playing.

    I'd start out by studying up on basic methods to record electric guitar. Start by getting the amp to sound right, then mic the cab. Once you get that part down, then you can start thinking about how to get dreamy thick tones, but you can't do algebra if you don't know arithmetic, and you can't do calculus if you don't know algebra.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I usually play with decreasing the pickup gain for background chords
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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by garww
    I usually play with decreasing the pickup gain for background chords
    I think the problem here is far more fundamental than that. When listening to that sample, I had no idea that I was even listening to a guitar. It just sounded like noise, and I don't mean mean loud ruckus noise, I mean it actually just sounded like noise.

    First steps first. Make the guitar sound like a guitar. Then you can worry about whether it's dream and thick and fuzzy.

    On a side note, i took a listen to the my bloody valentine CD, and from what I heard, it sounded like a very low budget album. By budget, I don't mean money, I mean mixing skills. While I'm sure some of low lo-fi aspect of it was on purpose, it had a lot of characteristic sounds in there that sounded more "I don't know how to use an equalizer" than it did lo-fi.

    I'm not against lo-fi techniques, but this album sounds lo-fi on accident and not so much as an artistic touch.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by garww
    I usually play with decreasing the pickup gain for background chords
    Does this mean turning down the gain knob on the guitar a bit?

    Originally Posted by bozmillar
    I think the problem here is far more fundamental than that. When listening to that sample, I had no idea that I was even listening to a guitar. It just sounded like noise, and I don't mean mean loud ruckus noise, I mean it actually just sounded like noise.

    First steps first. Make the guitar sound like a guitar. Then you can worry about whether it's dream and thick and fuzzy.
    I'm starting to wonder if how I think I want this to sound and how you think I want this to sound is the same or at least similar.

    On one hand, the way you described it as "sounding like noise" is actually a characteristic I want the distortion to have. Although on the other hand, while I want it to sound like fuzzy noise, I still want the notes/chords to be distinguishable.

    Originally Posted by bozmillar
    On a side note, i took a listen to the my bloody valentine CD, and from what I heard, it sounded like a very low budget album. By budget, I don't mean money, I mean mixing skills. While I'm sure some of low lo-fi aspect of it was on purpose, it had a lot of characteristic sounds in there that sounded more "I don't know how to use an equalizer" than it did lo-fi.

    I'm not against lo-fi techniques, but this album sounds lo-fi on accident and not so much as an artistic touch.
    At the risk of sounding like a fanboy (although Loveless is a great and important album): I don't think it's actually lo-fi. I believe Kevin Shields worked and reworked on the tracks repeatedly in the studio: Infamously recording, re-recording and meticulously post-processing the tracks for such a long time to get the exact sound he wanted to the point that their label and the producers almost went bankrupt.

    In any case if you do have the time, try listening to this other band Jesu, particularly their track Silver (from the EP of the same name) to have more examples of how I'm envisioning the guitar would sound like. You could listen to their other material as well since they're known for using the same fuzzy distortion I'm talking about.

    Originally Posted by bozmillar
    I would suggest starting from the ground up. Think of it this way. If you bought an amp and plugged your guitar in and it sounded like that, you'd send it back after about 3 seconds of playing.

    I'd start out by studying up on basic methods to record electric guitar. Start by getting the amp to sound right, then mic the cab. Once you get that part down, then you can start thinking about how to get dreamy thick tones, but you can't do algebra if you don't know arithmetic, and you can't do calculus if you don't know algebra.
    I totally agree with learning the basics and fundamentals of music and recording. However, is how an amp sounds in a room and how you want it to sound on record necessarily the same? Since I'm recording and not playing live: Wouldn't I want to EQ the amp so that sounds good as recorded and not so it sounds good in the room?

    Right now, I'm actually thinking that maybe I should try out layering different takes on top of each other: Some dirty/thick fuzzy & some cleaner and more defined --- and maybe I could get the result I'm looking for.

    My apologies if I come across sounding stubborn BTW. I appreciate the replies. I just want to discuss things further. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by mindundermatter
    Hmm. I'm not sure I hear the problem. For the genre, it sounds just fine to me.
    I don't know how you can't hear that, mindundermatter--there's a ton of fuzzy static on the track.

    I'm not an expert on this genre, but based on the My Bloody Valentine songs I've heard, this fuzziness is not normal. Nor does it sound good, IMHO. I would agree with valacirca that it is definitely a problem.

    Have you looked into guitar amp modeling software at all? It gives you a whole range of guitar sound options inside your computer. This, plus the many free plug-in effects now available, allow you to customize your own guitar sound, and with some experimentation I'm sure you can closely approximate the shoegaze vibe.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I downloaded the Loveless tune this morning. There are a lot of possibilities.

    For one, I wouldn't look to distortion so much, but fuzz devices. At the same time, some old tube recorders can be driven into utter saturation very much like transistors. They could also be running some signal through a synth ?
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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by valacirca
    Does this mean turning down the gain knob on the guitar a bit?


    I'm starting to wonder if how I think I want this to sound and how you think I want this to sound is the same or at least similar.

    On one hand, the way you described it as "sounding like noise" is actually a characteristic I want the distortion to have. Although on the other hand, while I want it to sound like fuzzy noise, I still want the notes/chords to be distinguishable.


    At the risk of sounding like a fanboy (although Loveless is a great and important album): I don't think it's actually lo-fi. I believe Kevin Shields worked and reworked on the tracks repeatedly in the studio: Infamously recording, re-recording and meticulously post-processing the tracks for such a long time to get the exact sound he wanted to the point that their label and the producers almost went bankrupt.

    In any case if you do have the time, try listening to this other band Jesu, particularly their track Silver (from the EP of the same name) to have more examples of how I'm envisioning the guitar would sound like. You could listen to their other material as well since they're known for using the same fuzzy distortion I'm talking about.


    I totally agree with learning the basics and fundamentals of music and recording. However, is how an amp sounds in a room and how you want it to sound on record necessarily the same? Since I'm recording and not playing live: Wouldn't I want to EQ the amp so that sounds good as recorded and not so it sounds good in the room?

    Right now, I'm actually thinking that maybe I should try out layering different takes on top of each other: Some dirty/thick fuzzy & some cleaner and more defined --- and maybe I could get the result I'm looking for.

    My apologies if I come across sounding stubborn BTW. I appreciate the replies. I just want to discuss things further. Thanks!
    Nope, understand exactly what you are saying. After reading up on the album, I found that a lot of people actually like the way it sounds.

    The point of adding effects is to make it sound different, so yes, you add effects until it sounds the way you want it to sound. What My Bloody Valentine has going is really odd to me, but their guitars sound like guitars. What you have in your song (and I'm not saying this to be a jerk) in no way resembles a guitar. Like a said in my first post, I didn't know if that was a guitar or if my interface was acting up. When my cell phone goes off, all sorts of noise comes blasting through my headphones. Had you never mentioned that there was a guitar there, I would have never guessed it was a guitar.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I don't know how you can't hear that, mindundermatter--there's a ton of fuzzy static on the track.
    I hear the fuzzy static. But if you listen to shoegaze at all, this is characteristic of the sound. After reading a few of the replies, I'm going to agree with the suggestion to get a fuzz pedal rather than using distortion.
    For those who keep asking, it's a picture of MUMs, as in my name is MUM.
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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I read up, listened to samples and asked around re: fuzz pedals then I decided that distortion is still probably the way to go. The thing is, most fuzz pedals (even the good ones like Fuzz Factory) seem to have a complete disregard for anyone hoping to play more than one chord simultaneously. I think it's going to sound more like static if I use the fuzz pedal.

    Anyway, someone just happened to point me towards guitargeek and I found Kevin Shields' (My Bloody Valentine mastermind) guitar rig layout over there:



    Wow.

    Oh and by the way, I posted the latest mix of the track on the bashing forum

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Fuzz Pedals are just emulators and can only do a few things.
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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    i hear pans clashing and no chord transitions. too metalic to be creamy. not being wise. trying to five finger download the bloody valentine cd, as i am curious about what the hale ur talking about.

    edit: i meant flimsy pans. sorta like a diesel version of those disposable aluminum baking trays.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Originally Posted by skippytdi
    trying to five finger download the bloody valentine cd, as i am curious about what the hale ur talking about.
    Great Try listening to some MBV and Jesu as I'm curious if hearing that will change your opinion somewhat.

    TBH, I'm pretty shocked at how many people here haven't even heard of MBV... to think that the band spawned a whole new genre of music and that "Loveless" is probably one of the most influential records of the 90s...

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    ur gonna have to remind me of what my opinion is, i'm having a hard time remembering. just farking with ya.

    i hadn't heard album at the time i wrote the post, but have had a chance since then. all i can say is that i remember "animals" giving me a way more intense sense of "holy shite" than this album, but i did give animals more than one listen, so i'll extend the same to loveless.

    as a general overall opinion of the genre i would say that this sounds like a genre that allows you, as an artist, to consume large quantities of drugs prior to performances. its like a not as balsy sid barrett act.

    and as for linking creating a new genre with success, well, at one time an engineer created the genre of suv's. and i also know a group of people that have created the genre of playing with nuclear weapons. both pretty dangerous. successful? well, yeah, i guess... in a sense. it doesn't mean they both don't need to die. ya dig?
    i wasn't speaking of loveless, mind you. just saying.

    would you be so kind as to point out a particular song on the loveless album that best exemplifies the sound that you are speaking about.




    Originally Posted by valacirca
    Great Try listening to some MBV and Jesu as I'm curious if hearing that will change your opinion somewhat.

    TBH, I'm pretty shocked at how many people here haven't even heard of MBV... to think that the band spawned a whole new genre of music and that "Loveless" is probably one of the most influential records of the 90s...

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    I dunno... the whole album is pretty much an entire showcase of mashed guitar sounds. The first track - "Only Shallow" - should do just fine.

    Aside from that, I think Jesu's "Silver" also exemplifies what I'm trying to do as well.

    Note that I'm not trying to copy their sound exactly, but rather create my own version in a similar style.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    Has anyone mentioned the Big Muff Pi?

    Seriously, it won't get you that sound exactly, only a Marshall or Orange all tube amp through a really nice cab mic'd properly will give you that sound. But if you are on a budget the Muff will get you pretty damn close if you mess with amp settings and miking.
    Last edited by JakeAC5253; 01-18-2010 at 11:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Getting thick/wet/fuzzy/dreamy distortion without losing the guitar melody

    good deal. fwiw, i like where ur going with your sample better. at least it feels like ur going somewhere.
    if i recall correctly, nin put out a free album called ghosts that was reminiscent of loveless, mishmashes pretty much, although technically i want to say they were studio "jams" that never went anywhere.

    Originally Posted by valacirca
    I dunno... the whole album is pretty much an entire showcase of mashed guitar sounds. The first track - "Only Shallow" - should do just fine.

    Aside from that, I think Jesu's "Silver" also exemplifies what I'm trying to do as well.

    Note that I'm not trying to copy their sound exactly, but rather create my own version in a similar style.

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