In the last guide you’ve read how to record drums.
We are going to do the same thing with electric & acoustic guitars.
If you thought it was that simple: plug in the microphone and pop it in front of an amp, you are dead wrong.
Recording an electronic guitar will be the same anywhere, it has the same universal principles.
If you don’t get the recording part right from the first step, it won’t be any better in post production.
There are enough things you forget when you're taping, a heavy metal part or a simple rhythm.
Let's get ready.
Step 1. A Good Start when Recording Guitars
.. Is half the battle, but we already knew that right?
Yes, I can hear y'all think.
Make sure you have everything planned out neatly.
So before you even think about pushing the red recording knob, there are a few things I have to point out.
Of course: You need to invite a good guitar player. (like Joe Satriani)
What is a good guitar player?
It’s someone who can play really tight.
A guitar player that can’t play that tight might not stand out in a band, but in a studio he will definitely stand out.
Because, you will go through a lot of frustration.
So save yourself all that trouble and invite somebody who invested in those extra guitar lessons.
I mean someone who fits the description of a good player.
Step 2. The Gear
Get all your gear ready for the musician in question.
In this case, it’s the guitar player.
The last thing you want to happen is the loss of signal.
So invest in some good cables to avoid crackle or disturbance in your recording.
Don’t go out buying a golden plugged cable for $1000.- Just get a decent one of about at least $20.-
The rest of the equipment should be well maintained.
The guitar pedal or the preamplifier should be clean for the best possible signal.
Step 3. Re-Amping?
There could be moment in time when you’re going to use this technique which is called Re-amping.
A dry recorded signal which is sent to an amplifier to color the sound, which is then recorded.
You will split the signal before the preamp with, for example a volume pedal with two outputs, and with a DI (Direct Instrument) or a Re-amp-box.
To record the dry signal separately.
Step 4. Adjusting Settings
To make preamp sound good and especially with a tube-preamp. You will need a whole lot of level.
Make the preamp work harder by setting it to a lower watt setting and opening up the gain.
But maybe the sound of a lower watt setting with low volume is what you're looking for?
Everything depends on the genre of the music being recorded and the role of the guitar.
Even the choice of guitar can make a world of difference.
Don’t try to make a metal sound with a 60’s surfing guitar if you know what I’m saying.
What kind of effect do you need? A compressed sound with an extra octave or something totally different?
It comes down to this: The less you have to do after recording the better. Even if your re-amping, choosing the elements before recording can help you out in the end.
Step 5. The Microphone
To get the best recording from a preamp you need to generate a lot of static noise.
Try to just record the output of a preamp directly into your daw! It won’t be good.
The choices of microphones you can use in front of a preamp are endless. But usually you will get far with a single dynamic microphone.
But when you're using a dynamic mic you will need to “close mic” the preamp.
A dynamic mic can withstand more pressure than a condenser microphone. If a condenser is too close to the preamp, it can be overdriven giving you a distorted sound.
The placing of a close mic is crucial, the closer you position it to the preamp, the more a slight change of a few mm will affect the sound.
The placing of the mic in front of the speaker drivers is also very important. Aiming for the middle gives you a clear sound while aiming for the outer rim will give you a full tone.
So the art of this is to get a well balanced sound, by changing to the character that you need.
Another trick to find the “sweet spot” is to generate a lot of noise. One is by opening up all knobs. By using a headphone you can place the mic precisely at the spot with the best balance of high and low noise.
Another trick is to place the mic with an angle. So that you record the edge as well as the middle of the speaker.
Step 6. Second Microphone
A second mic is usually not needed..
It can be extremely useful to have when mixing.
Because you have more sound options at your disposal.
For example, you can add more color and tone.
You can choose a different 'spot' on the same or another preamp for recording..
...You probably benefit more by placing a room- or ambient microphone..
The reason for this is the same as when you start recording drums.
You try to capture the character of the amplifier in the recording room.
Which is a fun effect.
When placing a Mic further away from the preamp, you will get a less direct signal.
...You will get more reflections from the room.
So play with close Miking and placing the mic further away, to get the signal that you want.
But when recording from a distance a condenser microphone will be the better choice, because it needs less signal when comparing it to a dynamic mic.
Step 7. Experiment!
If you can achieve a great basic sound by using one or two microphones, then their is nobody who can tell you not to experiment further.
A ribbon mic in front of your preamp can give you a characteristic room- or close-sound!
Or a figure of eight microphone behind the preamp (beware of phasing) can pick up early reflections!
Or you could plug the line-out of the preamp directly into your interface's input. (Just because it's grimy sound)
You're the boss, Have fun!!
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