How to Smooth Out Harsh Sounding Guitars with Just One Plugin

Are your guitar tracks sounding too harsh and unpleasant? Don't worry, I have the perfect solution for you. In this post, I’ll guide you step-by-step on how to achieve the perfect guitar sound using just one plugin. You don't need any fancy equipment or extensive knowledge - all you need is one of these powerful tools and your favorite DAW.

The Power of Tape Machine Plugins

Tape machine plugins are highly effective at taming harsh sounding guitars and adding warmth and clarity to your recordings. They emulate the sound of vintage tape machines, which were commonly used in the early days of recording. By using a tape machine plugin, you can instantly smooth out your guitar tracks and give them that warm, clear sound that's so sought-after in modern music productions.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Set Up Your DAW

Before we get started, make sure you have your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) up and running. Load your guitar track into your project and create a new audio track if needed.

Step 2: Insert the Tape Machine Plugin

Next, insert the tape machine plugin onto your guitar track. Most DAWs come with their own tape machine plugins, but you can also use third-party plugins if you prefer. Look for the plugin in your DAW's plugin library and insert it onto the guitar track. If you don’t have a tape machine plugin, try SoundToys Decapitator.

Step 3: Adjust the Plugin Settings

Once the plugin is inserted, it's time to start tweaking the settings. Every tape machine plugin is different, but there are a few key parameters you should focus on:

  • Input Gain: Adjust the input gain to control the level of signal going into the plugin. Be careful not to set it too high, as it can introduce unwanted distortion.
  • Output Gain: Set the output gain to match the level of your guitar track to the rest of your mix. This ensures a balanced sound.
  • Saturation: Use the saturation control to add warmth and character to your guitar track. Be mindful not to overdo it, as too much saturation can make the track sound cloudy.
  • Bias: If you’re lucky enough to have a tape machine plugin with a Bias knob, The Bias feature in tape machine plugins can be a powerful tool for adjusting the clarity of a guitar track. By adjusting the Bias knob, you can control the amount of high-frequency content in the signal.

Increasing the Bias setting can result in a brighter and more articulate sound, enhancing the clarity of the guitar track. This can be useful in situations where the track sounds dull or lacks definition. On the other hand, decreasing the Bias setting can yield a warmer and smoother sound, reducing any harshness or excessive brightness in the track.

Experimenting with the Bias knob allows you to find the perfect balance for your guitar track. You can fine-tune the clarity to suit your preferences and the overall mix of your music production. It's important to trust your ears and make adjustments based on what sounds best to you.

Remember, the Bias feature is just one of the many parameters available in tape machine plugins. Don't be afraid to explore other settings and combinations to achieve the desired sound for your guitar tracks.

With the help of the Bias knob, you can shape the clarity of your guitar tracks and achieve a professional and polished sound in your music productions.

Step 4: Compare the Before and After

Once you've adjusted the plugin settings to your liking, it's time to compare the before and after. Solo your guitar track and listen to it without any processing. Then, activate the tape machine plugin and listen to the track with the plugin engaged. You should hear a noticeable difference in the warmth and smoothness of the sound.

Step 5: Fine-Tune and Experiment

If you're not completely satisfied with the results, don't be afraid to fine-tune the settings and experiment. Every guitar track is unique, and finding the perfect balance may require some trial and error. Play around with the input gain, output gain, and saturation controls until you achieve the desired sound.


Congratulations! You've learned how to smooth out harsh sounding guitars with just one plugin. By using a tape machine plugin in your DAW, you can transform your guitar tracks and give them a warm, vintage sound. Remember to experiment and trust your ears to find the perfect settings for your tracks. Now, go ahead and apply this knowledge to your own music productions. Happy guitar smoothing!

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