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20 Tips On Recording Guitar Part 2

Tuesday 18th September 2012 Recording

Courtesy of Sound On Sound

PAUL WHITE and DAVE LOCKWOOD strum up a few tried-and-trusted methods of improving your studio guitar sound.

* You don't necessarily need a big amp to achieve a big sound. A small practice amp can sound great. In addition to the miking arrangements outlined in the previous tip, try putting the mic at head level so it 'hears' what you hear. Also, try miking the side or rear of the speaker cabinet to see what that sounds like. It's easiest to find the best spot if you wear enclosed headphones and move the mic around while the guitarist plays. Lift the guitar amp or speaker cabinet off the ground to reduce bass or stand it right in a corner for more bass. If the sound is too brittle, point the amp into the corner and mic it from behind. It's also worth trying different mics, both dynamic and capacitor, to see which one produces the best tone.

* Compression is a useful tool to even out the tone of the guitar and also to add sustain. By using compression, you may able to get a better lead tone with less overdrive. For clean sounds, introduce EQ after compression: for more mellow results, EQ before you compress. Using compression after gentle overdrive allows more control over the amount of distortion via the guitar volume control without the overall level changing too much.

* Hedge your bets by recording a clean DI feed (via a high-input impedance DI box) on a spare track so you can reprocess it later. This way, if the original sound doesn't work out, you can play the clean track back via a specialised guitar preamp/effects unit or even play it via a small amp and then re-mic it. Alternatively, use both the original and the reprocessed sounds to create an interesting stereo effect.

* When you need a thicker sound, try real double-tracking rather than ADT (Artificial Double Tracking). In other words, play the same part twice over on two different tracks. Depending on the player, you may get better results by muting the original part until the new part has been recorded. If real double-tracking is too difficult, use a pitch-shifter to add a small amount of delay and detuning to fake the effect more convincingly than chorus. * When DI'ing, you can still use a small guitar amp to monitor what you're playing. This often makes playing seem more natural and the acoustic coupling between the speaker and guitar strings will add life to the sound. Even a small battery-powered practice amp can help you deliver a better performance.

* To get a more lively electric guitar sound when DI'ing or recording with the amp in another room, mic up the strings and add that to the main sound. Use a mic with a good high-end frequency response -- a capacitor or back-electret mic is best -- and position it around 15 to 20cm from the strings.

* If using a valve amp with speaker simulator, be sure to use a simulator model with dummy load if the amp needs to be silent when you're recording. This is especially important as the output transformer can be damaged by running with no load. In the case of transistor amplifiers, running without a load shouldn't cause problems, unless the amplifier has a transformer output stage (rare in transistor amps). If in doubt, check the manual.

* If you play in the control room with your amp in the studio, you can hear what the recorded sound is really like via the control room monitors as you play. However, you lose the acoustic coupling that you get with a loud amp close to your guitar so the sound may be different, especially if it is heavily overdriven.

* When using cabinets with more than one speaker (for example, four by twelves), listen for the best-sounding speaker and mic that one. Miking close to the centre of the cone gives the brightest sound, while moving towards one edge produces a more mellow tone.

* If you decide to use a gate to reduce noise or interference, put the gate after the overdrive stage if possible, but before compression or delay/reverb-based effects. This is so the gate won't cut off your reverb or delay decays. Adjust the decay time so as not to cut off notes prematurely and set the threshold as low as you can without allowing noise to break through. Either an expander or a dynamic noise filter will do the same job, often with less noticeable side effects than a basic gate.

* To get a 'glassy' clean sound, compress the guitar signal and then try adding a little high frequency enhancement from an Aphex Exciter or similar processor. When trying to achieve this kind of sound, DI techniques often work better than miking because more high-frequency harmonics are preserved. If you like a really glassy top, then try switching any speaker simulation out when using a clean sound.

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