How to Record Electric Guitar

By Fred Grazier

Recording in the home studio is done more and more these days. The electric guitar is well suited to being captured within the restrictions of this environment. Guitar amplifiers are naturally quite loud, so compared to recording violin, less soundproofing is required, not to mention the possibility of using the vast array of Amp Simulators. With Amp Simulators, a good DI or a hardware amp simulator is all you need!

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So all you have in your home studio beside your instruments and amp is an MBOX, a few microphone leads, a dynamic and condenser microphone, computer, monitors and a stand! Not much, but more than enough to capture a great guitar recording. As two inputs are enough in most cases, some interesting techniques can help you get the sound you’ve always wanted.

One of the first things to do is make sure you have a great sounding instrument that is properly setup, has relatively new strings and of course, is in tune. An out of tune guitar is one of the remaining things that you can’t “Fix” in pro tools!

A good amplifier which suits the music and sound you’re after and of course, a good guitar lead. You wouldn’t believe the differences one lead to another can make! I’ve always thought of this as ‘gobbledygook’, but believe me, there are definitely differences!

If you don’t have a vast array of microphones to choose from, try each different microphone in your collection to see which one you like best. As always, trust your ears and go with the one that sounds best to you. It may not be the ‘Typical’ microphone for the job, but it may be the best choice depending on the sound you’re after.

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to recording guitar amplifiers, none of which is the quintessential method, nor any wrong. Some people like to place two different sounding microphones up close, one Shure SM57 close, a 57′ up close and a condenser in omnimode somewhere within the room capturing the natural reflections, a ribbon microphone is also often used.

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I have come to the conclusion that there is no “Best Method,”; experimentation is the key. A useful way of determining how the microphone sounds when in record is to send the audio back to a pair of noise-reducing headphones(In-Ear Monitors are best) whilst moving the microphone around the amplifier and the room, listening to the varying sounds that are produced.

You will need to have another guitar player playing or simply use a loop pedal to feed guitar signals into your amp. You will be amazed by the differences. Also as the guitar is loud, it’s a good idea to place the amplifier in a different room to your control room as you will be able to hear how it sounds through the monitors as well as your headphones.

There are two, prevalent microphone positions for recording guitar amplifiers. One is “On Axis” and the other is “Off Axis”. Off Axis is when the microphone is aimed at an angle to the speaker cone and On Axis is when the microphone is pointed towards the speaker cone.

On Axis will give you a more upfront and fuller sound, where off axis the soundwaves hit the microphone capsule on an angle giving it a thinner sound. On axis also gives the best rejection from outside noises and other instruments. This is useful when doing live recordings or when sound proofing isn’t accessible.

Some people like to record guitar amps really loud to get “That sound”, whilst others prefer to record a lower levels. I believe this greatly depends on the amplifier given; a 1watt amp will distort at lower levels than a 100watt amp. At the end of the day, it’s what sounds best to you and how you play. All of the above are simply guides to your endless world of experimentation recording guitar amplifiers. Good luck!

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