In Part One of this series on how to record electric guitar, I talked mostly about how to get your guitar equipment set up and ready to record. I talked about how to set up the guitar for intonation and tone; how to set up and prep the amp for optimum sound; and how to get your effects pedals and processors ready to go in a studio setting so you can get the good stuff at the source have the best chance to sound great.
Next up is, of course, how to capture those awesome sounds! Here’s what I do:
How To Record Electric Guitar
For electric guitar, you can record direct out of your stomp boxes or processor OR you can mic a guitar amp. Some guys will shudder at the mere thought of recording direct, saying that’s reserved for keyboards and some bass players. However, if done well, recording electric guitar direct can sound really awesome without the hassle of micing the guitar amp; without the hassle of unwanted noises creeping in; and without making your neighbors or housemates go nuts because you’re trying to pull off a speed metal solo (take 13) at 2 in the morning.
I’ve done both with great results.
Gibson Les Paul and ES335 thru a Mesa Boogie MkIII and, at the other end of the spectrum, an Ibanez S-series axe thru Guitar Rig software. Some pretty great stuff from both camps, if you ask me.
If you’re old-school, or an analog person, or you think that “tubes sound warmer”, well, then micing the amp is the way to go. More on how to do that later. If you can get your head around advanced processing, amp modelling, Guitar Rig software and other stuff that’s out of the trad box, then recording direct is a good option.
The most common way to mic the guitar amp is called “close micing”, and it’s just what it sounds like: put the mic close to the amp. A cardiod mic generally works best, with the Sure SM57 being a great choice. Condenser mics are great for acoustic guitar but a cardiod works better for electric guitar amps.
Put the mic about 3″ from the speaker grille, angled about 45 degrees, and aim it toward the center of one speaker. Try it and see how it sounds. Feel free to experiment by moving the mic to different spots and see how it affects the sound.. Moving the mic even a little bit can have a huge affect on the sound.
Some people will also use a “room mic” and, again, it’s just what it sounds like. This mic is placed further away to capture the sound of the room. I generally avoid this in the home studio because chances are, your room isn’t really dialed in for recording.
Skipping the mic altogether, and running the signal straight into your audio interface can work really well too. This can either be from the output of your effects chain, or from a direct out on the back of your guitar amp. One neat trick is to record with a mic AND the direct sound onto two different tracks, then mixing them together. You can get a HUGE sound by running these two tracks through a different chain of effects plugins inside the DAW, or by panning them left & right, or by adding a slight delay to only one of them. Again, the key is to experiment.
We’ll talk some more about these and other options in the next installment.
In the mean time, what would you like to know more about? Please let me know by leaving a comment and I’ll do my best to talk about whatever you want to know.