Thread: What should raw guitar sound like?

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  1. #1
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    Default What should raw guitar sound like?

    Heya, I was advised to post here by a member of gearslutz, and I'm hoping to get a response from Mixie or Slippy, but of course anybody is welcome to critique. Also, I'm confused if this belongs here, or in "Zen and the Art of Mixing"


    I'm a live sound engineer of 2 years, trained at an audio engineering tech school, so I have a good foundation, but of course I am extremely green.

    I've recently started building a home studio for my own music, nothing special. And after tracking one of my songs I've found myself unimpressed with the quality. I do not know if it's the quality of the raw guitar recordings that's so poor, as well as a bad mix, or if the recording is fine and the mix is just terrible haha.

    I'm hoping to get some feedback and mixing critique. For the most part I have a general idea of what I want the mixed guitar track to sound like, but I'm unaware of what a good starting point is when recording, and what sound I should be expecting from a raw guitar track that can sound fantastic with good ears and mixing.

    What I'm recording is hard-rock/modern-rock. Punchy, heavy, and aggressive. And currently the mix is very dry and brittle sounding, the guitars seem to lack that nice smooth yet heavy sound you hear in a lot of quality recordings.

    To record guitar I have an sm57 going into an mbox 3 into Pro Tools 10. KRK Rokit 6" monitors.


    I've attached a short clip of the raw guitar, tell me what you think of it's quality. I recorded it with an on-axis sm57, about 2 feet away from a 2x10 cabinet, about 1 inch off dead center between both speakers. Cone level of speakers.


    I'll also attach the roughly mixed song for you to reference, to get an idea of what I'm going for to help influence your advice. Any and all critique is welcome, iron sharpens iron.

    I appreciate it a lot.

    Cototh
    Attached Files
  2. #2
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    I do not listen to this style of music very often, so I could be all wet.

    But I will say - a good mix starts with the arrangement. There's a lot of dissonance down low in the register that seems to be muddying the waters.

    It sounds very dry. Like you said. The drums sound odd. There's no room around them?

    But maybe this is normal for this type of music. There's a bunch if fellas around who deal with this sort of thing regularly.

    You went to an engineering/recording school? Did they teach you what to listen for when recording guitars?

    The main thing I've learned around here is to get the sound you want coming out of the amp. Then mic it so it sounds like that in the control room. Pretty much all there is to that.

    That and don't recording a vacuum. Listen to the sound in context.
    Mike
  3. #3
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    From a guitarists perspective on the raw guitar file, I would
    -back the gain off in the chordal parts, as they sound a little messy,
    -back the treble off a little on the guitars tone control to get rid of the brittle treble distortion.

    From a guitar players perspective on the mix I would try to get the simultaneous guitar parts more diverse in timbre and texture,
    like, use different amps, or use an overdrive pedal for one part,
    not to get more distortion (less is often more), but to get a slightly different frequency curve before hitting the distortion stage, and get a different and more distinguishable flavour of sound for the second guitar.
    I have a tubescreamer, that I modded to not cut the bass so much, and I use that for rhythm stuff.
    Drive to zero, level to taste, just to get the preamp stage of the amp working, and tone to fit in the arrangement.
    This still slightly controls the low end, intruduces a bit of compression and lets me shape the guitar a bit more.

    From a bass players perspektive I would rather keep out the high mids.


    Hope that helps,
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Heya, I was advised to post here by a member of gearslutz, and I'm hoping to get a response from Mixie or Slippy, but of course anybody is welcome to critique. Also, I'm confused if this belongs here, or in "Zen and the Art of Mixing"


    I'm a live sound engineer of 2 years, trained at an audio engineering tech school, so I have a good foundation, but of course I am extremely green.

    I've recently started building a home studio for my own music, nothing special. And after tracking one of my songs I've found myself unimpressed with the quality. I do not know if it's the quality of the raw guitar recordings that's so poor, as well as a bad mix, or if the recording is fine and the mix is just terrible haha.

    I'm hoping to get some feedback and mixing critique. For the most part I have a general idea of what I want the mixed guitar track to sound like, but I'm unaware of what a good starting point is when recording, and what sound I should be expecting from a raw guitar track that can sound fantastic with good ears and mixing.

    What I'm recording is hard-rock/modern-rock. Punchy, heavy, and aggressive. And currently the mix is very dry and brittle sounding, the guitars seem to lack that nice smooth yet heavy sound you hear in a lot of quality recordings.

    To record guitar I have an sm57 going into an mbox 3 into Pro Tools 10. KRK Rokit 6" monitors.


    I've attached a short clip of the raw guitar, tell me what you think of it's quality. I recorded it with an on-axis sm57, about 2 feet away from a 2x10 cabinet, about 1 inch off dead center between both speakers. Cone level of speakers.


    I'll also attach the roughly mixed song for you to reference, to get an idea of what I'm going for to help influence your advice. Any and all critique is welcome, iron sharpens iron.

    I appreciate it a lot.

    Cototh
    Pardon me for being blunt, but your basic track sounds like UTTER SHIT - it sounds like it was tracked with a Guitar Center beginner's package with a shitty transistor amp.

    You have to take the time to get the sound right coming in. If you don't do that you're doomed. Utterly doomed.

    DO THE FUCKING WORK. There are no sort cuts.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    To record guitar I have an sm57 going into an mbox 3 into Pro Tools 10. KRK Rokit 6" monitors.

    I've attached a short clip of the raw guitar, tell me what you think of it's quality. I recorded it with an on-axis sm57, about 2 feet away from a 2x10 cabinet, about 1 inch off dead center between both speakers. Cone level of speakers.
    The mic placement seems a little strange for an sm57. You might want to read Slipperman's distorted guitar thread.

    What amp are you using? What's the guitar?

    For the brittle high end I would probably start with turning the gain knob down on the amp.

    Also, don't take Eppstein's aggressive comments too seriously. He just likes to scare off all newcomers.
  6. #6
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Hi Fairchild, and welcome to the Womb!

    Here's a question which almost requires a book (or a few feet of library shelf) as an answer, but I will try to keep it reasonably brief.

    Recording guitar, like anything else, is about a vast number of co-dependent parameters, not the least of which is the context and the relationship to the mix as a whole. It's very hard to say whether a certain guitar recording will or will not work, because the context itself is a moving target.

    When I listened to your "soloed guitar", I couldn't hear any immediate deal breakers that would make the sound impossible to use. Let's face it, it's like Slipperman said one time (paraphrased): No one has ever been able to agree on what a good guitar sound is for more than 15 minutes at a time, anyway.

    The frequency content of the recorded sound is consistent with your mic selection and placement, as I understand your description: Moving coil dynamic mic, at a distance of two feet and not aimed directly at, but rather between the two speakers - 10"s, to be specific.

    I would expect there to be a certain drop in low frequencies, since you're not right on the grille, and a kind of overall "non-immediacy" to the sound. And that's what we seem to have. Note that this is not, in and of itself, necessarily a problem. But you specified "punchy, heavy and aggressive".

    You said you do live sound, so let me ask you this: Is that how you would mic a guitar cabinet in a live situation? I have a feeling I know the answer to that one.

    "Write what you know" is a credo of many good authors, meaning that in order to tell a convincing story, you should be intimately familiar with the setting, occupations and types of people in the plot. So my first advice would be this: Don't start out in completely unfamiliar territory, under some illusion that "recording is different"; start out with what you know, meaning how you would usually mic up a guitar. Something tells me you would be right up against the grille cloth on the best sounding speaker in the cabinet - which would go a long way to add the low-end punch, warmth and immediacy I felt was lacking in the clip.

    There are other things one might look at. The pronounced "honk" in the mids and "fizz" in the high end is a product of the mic and the distance to the cabinet and the cabinet size, but it is also a signature sound of 10" speakers - the same quality that makes them excel at twangy country guitars also gives a kind of peculiar "bark" to heavy distortion. I suspect that using a cabinet with 12"s would get you even closer to what you're aiming for. I'm not saying that recording distorted guitar with 10"s is completely unheard of, but to me it has a certain trademark character which I feel makes it less great for that.

    You might also try a few different mics, although I won't belabour that point, since many excellent guitar recordings have been made with 57s. It is definitely not the mic with the greatest low end, but it has a character which many people prefer, and correctly placed there is no reason you shouldn't be able to make it work.

    Moving on to the larger and probably more important topic of context. Even a skinny guitar sound may work great sometimes, if there is something else in the mix that provides the weight and punch. Neither the bass nor the drums in your clip offer much in the way of low end, warmth and punch, and everything seems very heavily compressed. The drums have no impact because they're buried in a hissy wash of cymbals, which competes with the guitars. They are also compressed to the point where they have almost no attack and size. Low mids and low end seems to be scooped out, to the point where the whole mix sounds brittle and thin. I can tell where you've been before, for it is a place where the utter bullshit internets meme of "rolling out the mids" is taught as gospel...

    I would try to ease off a great deal on the compression, and use longer attack times. I would also, as a starting point, remove compressors on any close mics - I can tell you're using programmed drums, but I'm guessing you are probably breaking out separate channels for each drum. Drum libraries and VSTs are generally pre-cooked to a degree that they need very little in the way of processing.

    For the bass, you might try running at least a portion of it clean - the bottom end is more defined (and supportive to the guitars) when you don't distort the whole thing. For this type of sound, I usually run a miked bass amp (or a plugin sim of the same) clean and punchy with lots of bottom end and a generous midrange scoop. To that, I add a high-passed version run through a guitar amp that has a lot of grit and "clank" in it. This is brought up underneath the clean bass sound. Experiment with exactly where you high-pass it - too low and the distortion sounds "farty", too high and you don't get the aggressive quality of the distortion. Make sure the signals are in phase, or you will lose your definition and the bass won't project evenly on all notes.

    Best of luck with it - although luck has very little to do with your results.


    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    I took a break from mixing and recorded a quick example of the bass thing I described, using the stock Logic amp plugins. Results will obviously improve if you use real amps.

    1) A short phrase with DI bass, just as it was recorded with a touch of compression.

    2) The "clean" amp sim applied.

    3) The distorted amp sim, on its own.

    4) 2 and 3 blended together.

    Notice how 2 and 4 appear to lose a little of the extreme low end (#3 is deliberately high-passed). This is often the case with both amps and sim plugins, and not necessarily a bad thing, but worth taking into account.

    Replies in this thread will invariably include "I liked ____ best", and "It all sounds like shit". But it all boils down, as per usual, to context and taste. The basic idea works, however.


    otek
    Attached Files
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
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    Default

    I took a break from mixing and recorded a quick example of the bass thing I described, using the stock Logic amp plugins. Results will obviously improve if you use real amps.

    1) A short phrase with DI bass, just as it was recorded with a touch of compression.

    2) The "clean" amp sim applied.

    3) The distorted amp sim, on its own.

    4) 2 and 3 blended together.

    Notice how 2 and 4 appear to lose a little of the extreme low end (#3 is deliberately high-passed). This is often the case with both amps and sim plugins, and not necessarily a bad thing, but worth taking into account.

    Replies in this thread will invariably include "I liked ____ best", and "It all sounds like shit". But it all boils down, as per usual, to context and taste. The basic idea works, however.


    otek
    I liked #5 the best, but they all sounded like shit....





    Just figured I'd get it out of the way early. :sly:

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Somehow I find Otek's reply way more useful than John's.


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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Probably so.

    Didn't mean to be quite so negative sounding.

    I'm a grumpy old man.

    The point I was trying to make, though, is that the time to get the guitar sound is coming in. You need to take the time with mic placement and selection (I understand that a lot of people don't really have a lot of different mics, but you shouldn't automatically reach for a 57 because "everyone does it" I very rarely use a 57 anymore, actually, but then I've had a thing for collecting mics - not all of them expensive - for a long time now, going back to the days when I spent a good part of my weekends at flea markets.)

    Also you don't want to set up a particular way because you read somewhere that somebody said that's the way to do it or that that's how the got the sound on this or that favorite song - You're not them, the amp you're using isn't the amp they had (even if it does happen to be the same model), the speakers aren't the same speakers they had (ditto - even if speakers are the same make and model there is considerable unit to unit variance, especially if the speakers have been used for any length of time), and, most important, the player isn't the guy they were recording. Every recording project is different and needs to be approached on its own merits.

    The Slipperman tract on recording distorted electric guitars is definitely a good place to get some understanding of the process, particularly what he says about determining mic placement.

    Once you have a sound recorded it's a lot more difficult to do remedial work on it that it would have been to take the time to get it right in the first place. In fact it will never be as good "fixing" it after the fact.

    There's a lot of nonsense floating around the internets about "carving" your parts with EQ to "make them fit" but that isn't the way most real recordists work. If you get your sound right coming in you generally won't need to do a whole lot. I think that the "carving" meme probably originated with bedroom producers working with canned samples and/or amp simulators* (where you can't get it right coming in because you have no control over the recording).

    What Otek said about compression is also important - there's a meme running around the internet that you need to put compression on everything, especially in heavier music. This is not generally the case, especially on distorted guitar which is already naturally compressed. Something to remember - too much compression makes things sound SMALL, not big.

    Ideally, you should strive to get a sound going to tape (or whatever) that's good enough so that when you push the faders up on the recording it sounds pretty much like a record without having to do much else to it.




    * - use of sims is a process know are here as "clownfucking" BTW, so if you encounter that term now you know what it means
    Last edited by John Eppstein; October 19th, 2013 at 12:22 AM.
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    It should be pointed out that although a guitar sound soloed may have a certain character, it is almost impossible to tell whether it will work or not unless you hear it in situ, as the producer intended it to be.

    This is not to say that the guitar cannot sound great in and of itself. It should, as well as in its intended context.

    It's always a good idea to record your overdubs with the basic tracks at a good relative balance, so you know what the track needs right off the bat. Where a lot of people go wrong is where they record a bunch of trigger impulses and DI guitars with the intent of "fixing it later".


    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
  12. #12
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Appreciate the comments, very useful.

    I've decided to re-do the whole song from the ground up. Starting with a healthy clean DI bass. The bass was recorded using a MIM Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass into a TS9 ran through distorted modulation. I know, bad idea.

    And as far as the "start with what you know" comment, I originally tried close micing but the sound was very hard and shrill sounding, which I think partially is thanks to the 10" speakers. The amp itself is a Peavey Classic 50 4x10.

    I'm going to redo the recording using a close-miced orange 1x12 cabinet with a mesa single rec and much lower gain. I've already spent time trying to find the placement and I can tell this will turn out much better, as the guitar sounds much more healthy and less brittle.

    I've read a rule of thumb is to record "hard" sounding amps with "soft" sounding mics, and "soft" sounding amps with "hard" sounding mics. I think the Peavey classic 50 4x10 miced with an sm57 is a good example of a hard sounding amp with a hard sounding mic, which is why I backed off, but lost a lot of intimacy with the tone. The mesa through a 1x12 is much softer and is doing much better.

    I'll post an update probably tomorrow night. Thanks again for all the input.
  13. #13
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    ...I think the Peavey classic 50 4x10 miced with an sm57 is a good example of a hard sounding amp with a hard sounding mic...
    you see...for what i've been doing in the past with a Peavey Classic 50, it's not a hard amp to me !
    i own a Classic 30 and i find it sweet !

    the point i'm trying to make here is that you really can't determine on paper how something will sound, and therefore how you'll choose and place your mics.
    There are a zillion variables every time, so the best thing (as Otek and John are suggesting) is to actually LISTEN to the source and start from there.
    And context is KING...with the only exception of a guitar-only record !


    My Mixes on Soundcloud


    With great monitors its easy to hear and fix problems but hard to enhance things that already sound good.

    With hyped monitors, everything sounds good so you don't hear the problems.

    With bad monitors, it seems easy to make absolutely anything sound better because you are really fixing the sound of the monitors rather than the sound of the recording.
  14. #14
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Appreciate the comments, very useful.

    I've decided to re-do the whole song from the ground up. Starting with a healthy clean DI bass. The bass was recorded using a MIM Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass into a TS9 ran through distorted modulation. I know, bad idea.

    And as far as the "start with what you know" comment, I originally tried close micing but the sound was very hard and shrill sounding, which I think partially is thanks to the 10" speakers. The amp itself is a Peavey Classic 50 4x10.

    I'm going to redo the recording using a close-miced orange 1x12 cabinet with a mesa single rec and much lower gain. I've already spent time trying to find the placement and I can tell this will turn out much better, as the guitar sounds much more healthy and less brittle.

    I've read a rule of thumb is to record "hard" sounding amps with "soft" sounding mics, and "soft" sounding amps with "hard" sounding mics. I think the Peavey classic 50 4x10 miced with an sm57 is a good example of a hard sounding amp with a hard sounding mic, which is why I backed off, but lost a lot of intimacy with the tone. The mesa through a 1x12 is much softer and is doing much better.

    I'll post an update probably tomorrow night. Thanks again for all the input.
    Good idea on the amp change.

    As to the "rule of thumb" - as a rule of thumb you should always takes rules of thumb with a grain of salt.

    This is audio - put more stock in ears than in thumbs. Or eyes, for that matter.

    If you have different mics available try 'em all. You might be surprised. I've gotten a lot of good guitar sounds using an AKG D-12E, which most people these days pigeonhole as a "classic kick drum mic". (It's not - it's good for almost anything sometimes - The Beatles even occasionally used it for vocals.)

    Never be afraid to experiment - that's where the fun is!

    On the bass - if you have a good sounding bass amp available you might try using it instead of a DI - or using both and compare the results as a learning exercise.

    EDIT - by a good bass amp I mean something that sounds good but not hyped and has a decently large speaker - the 10" speakers that are currently in vogue with a lot of people don't generally record all that well. A recording bass amp doesn't necessarily have to be super powerful - the classics are the old Ampeg B-15 N (30 watts) and B-18N (60 watts) - it just needs to have a sound that sits well in the mix.
    Last edited by John Eppstein; October 19th, 2013 at 01:32 AM.
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    I've decided to re-do the whole song from the ground up. Starting with a healthy clean DI bass. The bass was recorded using a MIM Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass into a TS9 ran through distorted modulation. I know, bad idea.
    Your definition of "clean" certainly differs a bit from my own...

    Note that there is really no reason to not record the bass with whatever sound you have in mind for it right off the bat. If you plan on using something like the above technique with the distorted and clean sounds blended, why not commit to that sound immediately and allow it to influence your decisions down the line?

    And as far as the "start with what you know" comment, I originally tried close micing but the sound was very hard and shrill sounding, which I think partially is thanks to the 10" speakers.
    Even at an angle near the edge of the cone?

    Like I said before I am not a huge fan of 10"s for distorted guitar, but you should still be able to make them not hurt your ears with mic placement, and amp settings.

    I've read a rule of thumb is to record "hard" sounding amps with "soft" sounding mics, and "soft" sounding amps with "hard" sounding mics.
    Sorry, but I would have to call complete internets bullshit on that "rule". What on earth is a "hard sounding mic" anyway? Or for that matter, a soft sounding amp?

    I've recorded probably forty or fifty Peavey Classic amps in all different configurations with a plethora of different sounds, and what determines hardness or softness is not down to any one parameter, it's a combination of everything.

    Rules like that only distract you from actually listening.


    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    . What on earth is a "hard sounding mic" anyway? Or for that matter, a soft sounding amp?
    I dunno, maybe one in one of those furry Rycote blimps?


    (Sorry, couldn't resist.....)

    Edit: Misread it as "soft sounding mic."

    Perhaps a "soft sounding amp" would be one of those old tuck and roll upholstered Kustoms?

    Nah.....
    Last edited by John Eppstein; October 19th, 2013 at 11:55 AM.
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  17. #17
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    What on earth is a "hard sounding mic" anyway?
    AKG C2000?
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
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    SM57....thats why they're useful as hammers....

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    The C-2000 is a dreadful sounding mic. I would hesitate to put it on any amp, "hard" or "soft" as it may be.


    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
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    Default Re: What should raw guitar sound like?

    Never use a slow mic with a fast amp -- you'll never catch up!
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

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