Studio Diary #42: Why I Need To Support Different Guitars In One Preset

‘Studio Diary’ is an occasional series where I talk about building a home recording setup for hobbyists and enthusiasts like us. I share my personal experiences, and the thinking behind some of the decisions that I’ve made along the way.

Fractal Audio have recently overhauled their amp modelling in the Axe-FX 3 / FM-9 / FM-3. And my recent dive into the Orange Getaway Driver has shown me that I need to revoice my signal chain. I’m taking this as an opportunity to re-evaluate everything about the pedal preset I’ve built for the Axe-FX 3.

In this post, I want to explain something that I haven’t seen other people do; namely, why I build support for different guitars into the same pedal platform patch.

Series Tracker

This is the third post in this series.

You can see the full list of these blog posts over on the dedicated FW 25 Pedal Platform Preset page.

My Three Types Of Guitar Tone

When I’m exploring new (to me) pedals, the guitars I’m using can normally be grouped into three distinct buckets:

Tone TypeExamples
Most guitarsGibson Les Paul in middle or bridge position,
PRS Custom 24 bridge humbucker,
Fender Stratocaster middle pickup (position 3),
Fender Telecaster bridge pickup
Darker-sounding pickupsPRS Paul’s Guitar neck position,
PRS Paul’s Guitar middle position,
Fender Telecaster neck humbucker,
(sometimes) Fender Telecaster middle position (neck humbucker + single-coil bridge)
(sometimes) Fender Stratocaster neck pickup (position 5)
Brighter-sounding pickupsFender Stratocaster bridge pickup,
(sometimes) Telecaster bridge pickup
Grouping guitar tones by how bright or dark they are to me

I’m normally able to dial in a sound that works for most of the guitars that I play.

But I’ve got a couple of guitars (my PRS Paul’s Guitar and my Fender Postmodern Telecaster) which put out a lot more low-end. As a result, I’ve found that I need to dial both the amp and the cab in differently for them. Turns out, this setting often works really well with my Strat or Silver Sky neck pickup too – but it isn’t really designed specifically for that.

And then there’s the bridge pickup on my Strat or Silver Sky. That produces a much brighter tone than any other pickup. Again, I’ve found that I get the best tones here if I dial in the amp and cab differently.

Three Tones Means Three Scenes In The Preset

A single preset in the Axe-FX 3 can contain up to eight scenes.

Inside these scenes, we can:

  • turn blocks on and off, and
  • (indirectly) change settings inside each block by changing which channel (A, B, C, or D) each block is using.

If I want three sets of settings for each amp & cab (most guitars, for darker guitars, for brighter guitars), I have to use one scene for each of them. That means setting up separate amp and cab channels for each scene.

Thankfully, Fractal Audio’s Axe-Edit III software makes this very painless to do.

What Changes In Each Scene?

Here’s a table showing what I go in and tweak:

Scene NameWhat Changes
4 Most Guitarsn/a; this is the tone I dial in first
4 Darker Guitars(compared to ‘4 Most Guitars’ settings …)
add EQ between guitar and pedal board
reduce Depth and/or Bass on the amp
move virtual mics to reduce proximity effect
move virtual mics to increase upper mids
rebalance signal levels between virtual mics
4 Brighter Guitars(compared to ‘4 Most Guitars’ settings …)
move virtual mics to reduce treble
move virtual mics to tweak proximity effect
rebalance signal levels between virtual mics
An overview of what I change when building scenes for different guitar tones

General Method For Dialling In Each Scene

Before I touch the Axe-FX 3, I choose which pedals I’m going to use for whatever amp & cab models I’m voicing. I don’t use the same pedals for each amp. I think I get better results if I use pedals that suit the amp best.

I’ll talk about specific pedals when I cover each different amp & cab in later blog posts!

I always start with the ‘4 Most Guitars’ scene, and dial in the amp and cab by ear to suit. I’ll keep switching back and forth between my Les Paul and other guitars, trying to find that sweet spot where I like how they sound. Thankfully, I’ve never run into a situation where I couldn’t find a single setting that didn’t work for this.

Once I’m happy, I’ll copy the settings over to the other two scenes, and use those as a starting point.

With the ‘4 Darker Guitars’ scene, there’s two guitars that I use to dial this in: my PRS Paul’s Guitar and my Fender Postmodern Telecaster. With the way I use them, both of these guitars put out a lot of extra low-end. I always dial the amp and cab in with the pre-pedal board EQ blocks switched on.

Finally, for the ‘4 Brighter Guitars’ scene, I’ll switch to the bridge pickup of my Silver Sky, and adjust the cab until I’m happy.

Why Do It This Way?

Why do I try and stuff a single preset full of support for different guitars?

Well, at the time of writing, this new pedal platform patch has 27 different blocks in it. Only 3 of those are related to the amp and cab. The other 24 blocks remain the same, regardless of which guitar I’m using.

It really reduces the maintenance effort if I can support as many guitars as possible in a single preset!

Final Thoughts

Thanks to this approach, when I’m trying out a new (to me) pedal, it’s so effortless to switch guitars. It’s not just that I get to spend all my time discovering what the pedal can offer. If I’m not sure about something, I can go back to a guitar I’ve already used and be confident that I’m back on the sound that I had before.

This is a good example of how digital modellers like the Axe-FX 3 make it easy to solve problems that were a pain in the all-analogue world.

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