This touches upon one of the problems with mixing your own music.nvbrkr wrote:
Multitracking rhythm guitars is basically the gateway to mixing h**l. Try to cut down on that habit for a few productions and see if you like the end results better. The problem is that multitracked guitars might have a more satisfying quality to them during the tracking phase when you're working on the composition and all options are still open, but when it's time to pull it all together you'll often find that less is more.
You don't have to care about the preamps so much if you just mix things wisely. If something sounds good to you it should be emphasized in the mix and the elements that don't sound as good to you pulled down. Things tend to sound "livelier" if you just create some room around them.
It is very easy to become emotionally invested in every little part of the arrangement. To the detriment of the song as a whole. Sometimes those multiple harmonized guitar/synth/tambourine tracks which sound so great to us are not what the song calls for. Perhaps it is our ego saying 'yeah! I did that!'. Where an impartial observer would say they can't follow the melody or the lyrics are inaudible.
I've developed a habit of just piling on tracks until I feel like I have more than enough. Then I go back and start chopping stuff up and muting various regions. My goal is to get to the least amount of stuff that still carries the song.
As far as fancy preamps, they are not necessary. A good performance recorded on ho-hum gear will always blow away a tedious performance recorded well. However, I do find that having preamps with low and hi cut filters helps me clean up the mud a bit. And having tube, modern solid state and vintage op-amp preamps helps me to slot instruments into place. One old Yamaha mixer I have just works perfect on electric guitar. It smooths out the high end and give a slight nudge in the mids so the guitar sounds more like 'a guitar' and less like 'a microphone 3 inches from a speaker'. This same mixer works wonders on synths and drum machines as well.
I'd also add that just because your DAW program came with 30 EQs and 40 compressors does not mean we have to use these on every track. I find it annoying that Logic Pro X defaults to loading this stuff all over your tracks. It is usually better to only compress stuff that is really unruly. Save compression for vocals that are having a hard time getting above the instruments.