Heavy tones tech talk?

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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HarlowTheFish
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Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by HarlowTheFish » Thu May 20, 2021 6:41 pm

Hey y'all,

Curious what you're all doing for heavy tones -- I'm not necessarily talking like Meshuggah heavy (though I'm hella interested if you've got tips), but Iron Maiden is about the limit on the light end. Amps, pedals, plugins, EQ, all that jazz, any stuff you're playing around with is fair game. I've gotten into a bit of a rut with this stuff, because I'm either running my Grandmeister with a plugin EQ (high shelf, wide high-mid boost around 3k, wide but shallow mid scoop around 1-1.5ish, narrow low-mid cut anywhere from 250ish to 800ish depending on tuning and guitar, and low shelf a bit higher than the lowest note) or the ML Audio Plexi plugin with that exact same EQ setup.

Not a bad rut or anything, because it sounds nice and bright ala Rise Against or Propagandhi and still has some serious chunk ala Fei Comodo, but I see a lot of setups that to my smooth monkey brain seem utterly alien that also pump out some nuts heavy tones. Maybe drop a post if you're interested with your setup, what you use it for, and some comments on how you're feeling about it?

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Thu May 27, 2021 6:09 pm

It really depends on how everything interacts. Sounds like you have a good starting place. All that sounds correct to me.

The heaviest tone I ever got was years ago when some friends from work invited me to their rehearsal space to jam. I was into shoegaze and they were into Sunn O))) so there was some crossover.

I tuned my vintage Jaguar to an open D and brought along a tweed Bassman, a Vox wah, and my Op Amp Big Muff. And ear plugs.

They all had a good laugh at my “old man” set up. Especially the singer. Until we started playing.

The drummer and guitarist were brothers and while I could barely hear the guitar at all, Jimmy the drummer had a huge grin on his face and was wailing away. I played the heaviest sludge stoner drone riffs I could think of, since I usually don’t play like that, and we jammed for about 10 minutes. Well, me, the drummer and the bassist did. Daniel the guitar player was mostly fiddling with his amp trying to be heard, and the singer gave up and went outside with his girlfriend to smoke.

When we finally stopped the bassist high fives Jimmy and Daniel is immediately over looking at my gear asking how did I sound like that? How could I be heavier than his Jackson and Soldano?!? He sounded like a chainsaw by himself, but disappeared against my setup and the Ampeg SVT 8x10 the bassist played through.

My strings were heavier (12-54) and I had locked the Trem, but I don’t remember the amp settings. I usually rolled off the bass and kept treble and mids just past straight up on that amp though. The Big Muff cuts mids though, and I usually kept the gain around noon and hit the amp with a little extra volume instead of cranking the sustain knob so I still had some headroom. Otherwise you get mush instead of heavy.

Most people seem to dial back the treble, but I find a little tightens the bass end up, which makes it sound heavier to me. Then you have the attack forward Jaguar pickups vs humbuckers, and we both had a D tuning, but I think he was just Drop D, whereas I had gone DADFAD. The Bassman on it’s own was more heavy crunch than chainsaw and the 4x10s punched more than the 4x12s our old friend Dan was playing through.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Fri May 28, 2021 10:23 am

Other than Iron Maiden and Meshuggah I didn’t recognize any of the bands that you mentioned.

After listening to a couple of Meshuggah videos, that is definitely more the sound they were going for. Including the Cookie Monster vocals. I thought they were more in line with Korn or Rage Against the Machine?

Oh well, heavy bass, chainsaw guitar, growling vocals and hard hitting rapid drumming. I can’t remember what they were calling themselves now. Maybe it was Pus Head?

Jimmy wanted me to join and play heavy rhythm while his brother played lead, but that was just not my thing.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by mbene085 » Fri May 28, 2021 11:51 am

If you're feeling like you're in a rut, try building a tone up without a single piece of the gear you currently use. Sounds like you use one amp with an EQ built to suit it, and then found a plugin that suits that same EQ.

Set them both aside. Try something completely new, even if for budgetary/practical reasons that means using nothing but free plugins.

I had narrowed myself down to one specific JCM800 profile on my Kemper that I tweaked into various gain levels and to suit various guitars and genres. I just loved it.

Then, I decided to sell my Kemper. I wanted an AxeFX III for practical reasons (handling more than one instrument at once, reamping, replacing my pedalboard due to superior FX, etc) and knew there had to be tones I liked in there.

So, I was suddenly a stranger in a strange land. I decided to stay away from the JCM 800 patches and just build something new.

I ended up with all sorts of weird shit, like a Silvertone with some sort of power tubes I had never heard of, being slammed at the front end by an absurd amount of clean gain to drive its preamp, and then adding that to its power tube distortion, but running through a 2x12" cabinet with Celestions.

It sounded nothing like my old patch, but it still sounded exactly like me and my favourite guitars.

It made me realize how much I've sculpted my signal chain over the years to suit whatever amp or pedal I currently owned that I currently deemed to be "my main source of gain."

Changing amps/pedals/gain staging forces you to figure that out all over again. And instead of being tiresome, I find it refreshing. Sometimes I just decide I'm going to spend an hour fucking around with new tools to see where I end up. Modeling is fantastic for that - I don't have to pay any more money to set up a new rig, my current amp has all that capability right there. So does whatever computer you're using for your EQ plugin. Just pick some random plugins and tell yourself you're not allowed to open anything you've used before. You'll find something.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by zenarcade » Mon Jul 26, 2021 8:02 am

Because I live in an apartment i record usually in the following ways:

- Kettner Trilogy ("modern" Marshall style sounds) ->Suhr reactive load box ->RME Babyface
- Pedals (Suhr Riot for High Gain sounds, Sparkle Drive for Crunch, all kinds of Fuzz stuff) ->AC15 ->Mic (usually Md421)->RME Babyface
- Plugins: Helix Native is not bad for Clean/crunch sounds, Guitar Rig (for crazy effects stuff)

or you can of course record everything clean with a DI and reamp it later

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Sep 05, 2021 11:00 am

I think *most* gear talk is overrated in these conversations

A lot of “heavy” comes, in my view, for how parts are conceived and performed.

Creating a distorted guitar sound isn’t so complicated a thing to do, really, from a technical perspective.

But there are some counterintuitive aspects to performance—hitting the guitar too hard and with too much tension in the body can make things sound smaller; playing loose and open and relaxed can make things sound enormous.

That’s just one tiny thing that I consider to be far, far more important than anything having to do with gear.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by johnnysomersett » Sun Sep 05, 2021 1:04 pm

Either less gain than you'd initially go for or mixing in some clean signal always worked for me. Heavy music often isn't as distorted as you'd think.
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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Sun Sep 05, 2021 7:54 pm

johnnysomersett wrote:
Sun Sep 05, 2021 1:04 pm
Either less gain than you'd initially go for or mixing in some clean signal always worked for me. Heavy music often isn't as distorted as you'd think.
This is very true.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by Ceylon » Mon Sep 06, 2021 2:27 am

Perhaps off topic, but I'd say that heaviness in a recording is vastly different than finding a heavy guitar tone. Plenty of badass guitar tones disappear or don't work in the mix. If I think of bands or artists outside of metal that I would describe as sounding heavy, Neil Young and Crazy Horse comes to mind. Part of it for sure is Neil's amp always breaking up (the sort of trashy grainy texture of the tone can be much heavier than an all-out distortion I find, depending on the music), how everything is recorded and mixed and so forth. But listen to the first minute of Cortez the Killer and it's really how the instruments work together and how much space and air there is between them that gives the weight. It comes down to dynamics, as summarized by the Pixies' LOUDquietLOUD-style. A lot of stoner rock and doom (which is mostly where I move in metal) loses that effect by trying to be a constant grind, all-heavy fuzz-and-cranked-amp worship. Honourable shoutout to Sleep's Dopesmoker that goes still and quiet often enough to never lose that sense of weight despite the song being about 73 minutes.

For another example, listen to Grinderman's When My Baby Comes. The first 2/3rds of the song is relatively mellow and clean save a few occasional stabs of Warren Ellis fuzz noise, but then suddenly there's a fuzzed-out bass riff that comes in and fucking tears the sky apart. It isn't the gnarliest or nastiest fuzz bass tone out there for sure, but it's relation to the rest of the soundscape gives it an incredible magnitude.
Last edited by Ceylon on Mon Sep 06, 2021 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by johnnysomersett » Mon Sep 06, 2021 2:29 am

Ceylon wrote:
Mon Sep 06, 2021 2:27 am
Perhaps off topic, but I'd say that heaviness in a recording is vastly different than finding a heavy guitar tone. Plenty of badass guitar tones disappear or don't work in the mix. If I think of bands or artists outside of metal that I would describe as sounding heavy, Neil Young and Crazy Horse comes to mind. Part of it for sure is Neil's amp always breaking up, how everything is recorded and mixed and so forth. But listen to the first minute of Cortez the Killer and it's really how the instruments work together and how much space and air there is between them that gives the weight. It comes down to dynamics, as summarized by the Pixies' LOUDquietLOUD-style. A lot of stoner rock and doom (which is mostly where I move in metal) loses that effect by trying to be a constant grind, all-heavy fuzz-and-cranked-amp worship. Honourable shoutout to Sleep's Dopesmoker that goes still and quiet often enough to never lose that sense of weight despite the song being about 73 minutes.

For another example, listen to Grinderman's When My Baby Comes. The first 2/3rds of the song is relatively mellow and clean save a few occasional stabs of fuzz guitar, but then suddenly there's a fuzzed-out bass riff that comes in and fucking tears the sky apart. It isn't the gnarliest or nastiest fuzz bass tone out there for sure, but it's relation to the rest of the soundscape gives it an incredible magnitude.
This.

Go listen to one of the last two records by a band called Kowloon Walled City and they are heavy as hell but it's because of the space and the pace in the music.
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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by sessylU » Mon Sep 06, 2021 5:09 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Sun Sep 05, 2021 11:00 am
A lot of “heavy” comes, in my view, for how parts are conceived and performed.
This is the correct answer. Usually, "heavy" comes from compositional decisions. Have everything in its own space, where it operates effectively. The piece will sound much bigger and more muscular as a result. For me, the best example of this approach is ABBA. Seriously. Obviously not metal or heavy, but there's so much going on and nothing gets in anything else's way. That's how you write big sounding music.

On the gear sound of things: less gain than you'd expect, more mids than you'd expect. And more telecasters than you'd expect, too.

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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by Steadyriot. » Mon Sep 06, 2021 5:33 am

Heavy tones (and the ways to get there) are very subjective.

In my band we've gone fully digital, with me running a Kemper and the other guitar going through a Helix.
I'm running an Orange Rockerverb patch for both high and mid-gain sounds with the usual compression and noise gate setup. That's it, aside from delay and reverb (I'm an amp gain kinda guy).
The other guitar player has a few different presets on his Helix, most from or inspired by the youtubers doing that stuff. I haven't really dove into the whole Helix world so I can't comment on his setup except that it sounds good (but more digital to my ears).

Before going digital, I ran a JCM 2000 mostly (sometimes a Vox NT50 II) and he ran a Grandmeister, and honestly; we didn't sound that different (we just had to haul a lot more stuff around).

Recording wise I track DI and the Kemper simultaneously, so that we can always change things in the box down the line with the Logic and / or Helix (Native) guitar tones. In the studio the Rockerverb profiles also get used most for me, sometimes a Marshall of some sort or a AC30 gets intermixed too and I can sound just as "heavy" with those, just different.

I've found that strings and picks can play a big part in the way you sound and how it projects, I run 12-60 on my Johnny Marr Jaguar (stock pickups) and use the Petrucci signature Jazz pick's in drop C. Combined with the Rockerverb I get that super percussive thunk on the lower strings, and typical punk-rock chording too. Best of both worlds if you play in a pop-punk band! ;)
Everything above 24" gets 11-56 and yet again, not a lot of difference in heavyness.

Keeping it simple (also) goes a loooong way, as Fuzzjunkie already stated.

For some different views on "Modern" heavy tones, I'd check out Lee Malia from Bring Me The Horizon, Boston Manor's Mike Cunniff and ofcourse Kurt Ballou form Converge. Three totally different approaches to Heavy and all of them inspiring imo.
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Re: Heavy tones tech talk?

Post by NBarnes21 » Wed Sep 15, 2021 12:28 pm

I think a lot of it is balancing the drums and guitars, and getting some nice chunky lower end for the guitars. Usually this means thinning the drums out a bit but keeping them punchy and bright, and probably leaning on more direct mics than room mics. System of A Down's "Toxicity" record Is a good example of a punchy rock drum sound that doesn't hog up a load of real estate. Also doubling the guitars and panning hard left and right, which lets kick and snare smack up the middle. I did an EP of a few heavier songs as a fun experiment, and while in hindsight I don't totally love the sound (for instance I used too much tubby room mics in the drums) I was happy with the guitar sound. You can check it here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4mQcBDD6 ... l_branch=1

I was able to get some bigger guitar tones by using a Hoof Fuzz and double miking my AC15 (obv not the best amp for this sound) with a Cascade Fathead and a Warm Audio WA-47. Something about this mic combo worked really well for capturing a broad spectrum on the guitars.
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