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Recording Tips

Thursday 16th June 2011 Recording

Thanks for all the nice comments about all the great guitar tones we manage to capture here in the Jamtrackcentral studio. We want to share our techniques for recording guitar and help you with your recording. Let's make it nice and straightforward, just simple stuff we can all do in the studio or at home. Right ho, let's kick off with a question. Does your guitar and amp sound good to you in the room? If it sounds horrible, it will be a waste of time to capture that and think you can "sort it out" later. Take time to listen and play around with the settings of your amp and guitar. One great tip - if your tone is a bit too bright and distorted, turn down the volume on your guitar. As long as it's not fitted with a treble bleed, this will reduce the gain at while giving you a warmer tone without sacrificing the fatness from your amp. Turning up the amp volume can sometimes significantly improve the overall tone but can be too loud for home so it's a good idea to invest in something like a Marshall Powerbrake to reduce that high volume. This is a device that you place between your amp and your cab. It "soaks" up the output from your amp without damaging it. We have one here in the studio and use it all the time so we can crank up those amps to get that fatter tone.

If you have a low wattage amp of a decent quality, try using that instead of a 100 watt beast. The majority of smaller amps tend to sound rather good in a recording situation. We are fortunate to have an original 1966 Fender Princeton, which is a beautiful recording amp. (It has a silver face but the guts are the same as a Blackface). Guthrie used it for the entire Melodic series 1. It also accepts pedals most graciously!

OK, now you have a tone that you like, so let's look at how to mic it up. Here in our studio we generally have two microphones permanently positioned on the cab. One is the trusty old Shure SM57 and the other is a Shiny Box 46MXL ribbon mic. They are both very close to the speaker and we generally use only one at a time although we do sometimes blend them for different sounds. The photos will show their positioning better than describing it in words.  

   

 

You will notice that the amp is not in the same room as the cab. We keep the amp in the control room with us so that we can alter the amp tone more easily. We connect whichever amp we are using to the Marshall Power Brake and then we run a cable from the Power Brake to the speaker cabinet, which is in the live room. This is nearly always a Cornford 1 X 12 open backed Cab loaded with a Celestion Vintage 30. The mics are connected to the preamps of our Soundtracs Jade Console (very nice!). We do have some other outboard preamps but we like the ones in the desk - and it's convenient too! We check the preamp gain to make sure that we are getting a good signal without it being too hot! Listening to each mic in turn individually whilst playing along with the track, it will be clear which one is better for the job. As a rough guide, if the tone is quite overdriven then the SM57 seems to work better. If it's a clean tone, the ribbon mic usually outshines with its open sound and fullness. TIP - if you are on a limited budget, the SM57 will always deliver very good results for any sound. Saying that, the shiny box Ribbon mic is only 300 UK pounds, which is astounding for such a high spec. We should do their PR!

If the guitar sound is quite dynamic so that the sound level varies too much, we will add a compressor to the chain via the patchbay of the Jade desk to smooth out the peaks and troughs. We have a Manley Variable Mu, which does the job exceptionally well. It's got that great quality of compressing the sound without you noticing. Lovely! If you are not sure at home, record it without compressing and deal with it later. Just make sure that you don't overload the signal at this stage, especially digitally. Digital overload is particularly nasty so please be careful. At this stage we don't use EQ.

Once the guitar is recorded, we process it with some equalization if necessary, compression if necessary and spatial enhancers such as reverb and delay. EQ - We add fullness in the low frequencies (100Hz to 500Hz), remove harshness in the midrange (800Hz to 3Khz) and add clarity to the high frequencies (2Khz to 6Khz). Sweep around to find the sweet spots to boost and the nasty spots to dip. We use the EQ on the mixing desk for this task. COMPRESSION - This keeps the sound tight and steady. Don't over-compress, as this will make the sound too small. We use UAD or Waves plug-ins and the Jade console compressors. Play around until itsounds right. The UAD Fairchild compressor...

Waves Renaissance Compressor... 

REVERB: Add some decent room reverb to give the sound a sense of place and some delay to give the feeling of distance without pushing the original sound too far into the background. We use an Ensoniq DP4 for this. It sounds great, although a bit noisy, but you can pick these units up for next to nothing. You get four effects independently accessible in one box. Cool!

Once the solo is sitting well in the mix (or over the backing track), we usually compress the whole mix to help it to gel together. We patch the Manley Variable Mu into the stereo buss inserts and reduce the gain by about 4dB with a medium attack and slow release. We make these settings by ear until it sounds about right. We might also EQ the mix a little, just to give it a bit of extra polish. For this we would use our Manleymassive Passive. This would be inserted after the Variable Mu.

.

The mix is then recorded onto our Tascam DV-RA1000HD...

From there, we transfer the recorded file via USB back into the Apple Mac and master it with a good old dollop of Digital limiting via the UAD Precision Limiter. We try and get about 6 db of limiting to make it as loud as a commercial release...

 

And that's it. All done and ready for the site! We hope that this is useful to you. We'll keep updating this section as we come up with more and better ideas. Happy recording! Oh yes, here are a few of our favourite amps, guitars and pieces of kit that have played a major role in creating our products. Sequis Motherload speaker emulation... 

 Selmer Treble 'n' Bass...

Cornford Roadhouse 30 watt Head...

Laney GH50L 50 watt head...

 Marshall JCM800 100 watt head...

  

Cornford MK 50 head..

1966 Gibson 335, 1990 Japanese Fender Strat, Gibson Les Paul, 1969 Fender Thinline...

 

Jan Cyrka at Jamtrackcentral Oct 2009

Recording Tips

Thursday 16th June 2011 Recording

Thanks for all the nice comments about all the great guitar tones we manage to capture here in the Jamtrackcentral studio. We want to share our techniques for recording guitar and help you with your recording. Let's make it nice and straightforward, just simple stuff we can all do in the studio or at home. Right ho, let's kick off with a question. Does your guitar and amp sound good to you in the room? If it sounds horrible, it will be a waste of time to capture that and think you can "sort it out" later. Take time to listen and play around with the settings of your amp and guitar. One great tip - if your tone is a bit too bright and distorted, turn down the volume on your guitar. As long as it's not fitted with a treble bleed, this will reduce the gain at while giving you a warmer tone without sacrificing the fatness from your amp. Turning up the amp volume can sometimes significantly improve the overall tone but can be too loud for home so it's a good idea to invest in something like a Marshall Powerbrake to reduce that high volume. This is a device that you place between your amp and your cab. It "soaks" up the output from your amp without damaging it. We have one here in the studio and use it all the time so we can crank up those amps to get that fatter tone.

If you have a low wattage amp of a decent quality, try using that instead of a 100 watt beast. The majority of smaller amps tend to sound rather good in a recording situation. We are fortunate to have an original 1966 Fender Princeton, which is a beautiful recording amp. (It has a silver face but the guts are the same as a Blackface). Guthrie used it for the entire Melodic series 1. It also accepts pedals most graciously!

OK, now you have a tone that you like, so let's look at how to mic it up. Here in our studio we generally have two microphones permanently positioned on the cab. One is the trusty old Shure SM57 and the other is a Shiny Box 46MXL ribbon mic. They are both very close to the speaker and we generally use only one at a time although we do sometimes blend them for different sounds. The photos will show their positioning better than describing it in words.  

   

 

You will notice that the amp is not in the same room as the cab. We keep the amp in the control room with us so that we can alter the amp tone more easily. We connect whichever amp we are using to the Marshall Power Brake and then we run a cable from the Power Brake to the speaker cabinet, which is in the live room. This is nearly always a Cornford 1 X 12 open backed Cab loaded with a Celestion Vintage 30. The mics are connected to the preamps of our Soundtracs Jade Console (very nice!). We do have some other outboard preamps but we like the ones in the desk - and it's convenient too! We check the preamp gain to make sure that we are getting a good signal without it being too hot! Listening to each mic in turn individually whilst playing along with the track, it will be clear which one is better for the job. As a rough guide, if the tone is quite overdriven then the SM57 seems to work better. If it's a clean tone, the ribbon mic usually outshines with its open sound and fullness. TIP - if you are on a limited budget, the SM57 will always deliver very good results for any sound. Saying that, the shiny box Ribbon mic is only 300 UK pounds, which is astounding for such a high spec. We should do their PR!

If the guitar sound is quite dynamic so that the sound level varies too much, we will add a compressor to the chain via the patchbay of the Jade desk to smooth out the peaks and troughs. We have a Manley Variable Mu, which does the job exceptionally well. It's got that great quality of compressing the sound without you noticing. Lovely! If you are not sure at home, record it without compressing and deal with it later. Just make sure that you don't overload the signal at this stage, especially digitally. Digital overload is particularly nasty so please be careful. At this stage we don't use EQ.

Once the guitar is recorded, we process it with some equalization if necessary, compression if necessary and spatial enhancers such as reverb and delay. EQ - We add fullness in the low frequencies (100Hz to 500Hz), remove harshness in the midrange (800Hz to 3Khz) and add clarity to the high frequencies (2Khz to 6Khz). Sweep around to find the sweet spots to boost and the nasty spots to dip. We use the EQ on the mixing desk for this task. COMPRESSION - This keeps the sound tight and steady. Don't over-compress, as this will make the sound too small. We use UAD or Waves plug-ins and the Jade console compressors. Play around until itsounds right. The UAD Fairchild compressor...

Waves Renaissance Compressor... 

REVERB: Add some decent room reverb to give the sound a sense of place and some delay to give the feeling of distance without pushing the original sound too far into the background. We use an Ensoniq DP4 for this. It sounds great, although a bit noisy, but you can pick these units up for next to nothing. You get four effects independently accessible in one box. Cool!

Once the solo is sitting well in the mix (or over the backing track), we usually compress the whole mix to help it to gel together. We patch the Manley Variable Mu into the stereo buss inserts and reduce the gain by about 4dB with a medium attack and slow release. We make these settings by ear until it sounds about right. We might also EQ the mix a little, just to give it a bit of extra polish. For this we would use our Manleymassive Passive. This would be inserted after the Variable Mu.

.

The mix is then recorded onto our Tascam DV-RA1000HD...

From there, we transfer the recorded file via USB back into the Apple Mac and master it with a good old dollop of Digital limiting via the UAD Precision Limiter. We try and get about 6 db of limiting to make it as loud as a commercial release...

 

And that's it. All done and ready for the site! We hope that this is useful to you. We'll keep updating this section as we come up with more and better ideas. Happy recording! Oh yes, here are a few of our favourite amps, guitars and pieces of kit that have played a major role in creating our products. Sequis Motherload speaker emulation... 

 Selmer Treble 'n' Bass...

Cornford Roadhouse 30 watt Head...

Laney GH50L 50 watt head...

 Marshall JCM800 100 watt head...

  

Cornford MK 50 head..

1966 Gibson 335, 1990 Japanese Fender Strat, Gibson Les Paul, 1969 Fender Thinline...

 

Jan Cyrka at Jamtrackcentral Oct 2009

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