Recording Electric Guitar In 1 Easy Step
By Ben BlakesleyGeorges Music
There are many aspects of recording that will drive you nuts: getting the perfect drum sound, recording an isolated vocal in the same room as the band, getting rid of that annoying air conditioner hum!Fortunately for us guitarists, recording electric guitar is one of the easiest tasks we get the privilege to undertake. But there are a few things to keep in mind to help you achieve that electric guitar auditory bliss.
The Tried and True
Here is the number one, most used electric guitar recording technique: a 57 on the grill.I've worked with countless engineers in numerous studios and this is the one common thread with all of them. At some point during an electric guitar recording session there will be a Shure SM57
placed right up to the grill of the amp.This works well for a number of reasons: 1) SM57
s can take a high SPL (LOUD NOISE) and not get distorted, 2) You won't get much (if any) bleed from other instruments in that mic when placed in that position, 3) The midrange response on a 57 is just about perfect for delivering edgy yet detailed guitar tones. Plus 57s are plentiful, cheap, and rugged.
Easy, right?Within that simple framework of a mic on an amp there are myriad ways to shape and sculpt your recording before hitting tape (or hard disk).1. Guitar/Amp/Effects - As with any recording, what you put in front
of the mic is far more important than what mic or anything after that. The player, the instrument, and the amp are going to affect your recording more than mic placement or processing. So make sure you like what you hear with your own ears in the room before you go making after-the-fact adjustments.2. Mic Placement - Just saying, "Throw a 57 on the grill" could mean a number of things. If you have an amp or cab with multiple speakers, put your ear as close to each speaker as volume will allow to find the one that gives you the best sound. You'll be amazed at how different each speaker in a cabinet can sound when you really listen. Once you've found your winner, experiment with moving your mic from the center cone toward the edge. The further you get from the center, the less 'beef' you'll hear. Then try moving the mic back ever so slightly to let some of the room noise in. The closer you get to the grill, the more immediate and aggressive the sound, the further away the more natural and open your sound will be.
Here are some more tips to help you reach the nirvana of recorded electric guitar.- Distortion is great, but on recordings less is more. Start off with your normal gain for live gigs/rehearsals and then back it off a step or two. Proof positive: check out some of your favorite recordings from the Who, Black Sabbath, etc. Really listen to how much distortion is on the guitars. Not as much as you might think. Too much distortion on a recording will quickly take away the impact you were trying to make.- TUNE YOUR GUITAR OFTEN. Can't stress this enough. Get an accurate tuner and tune after every take. There's nothing worse than an out of tune recording.- You may not have to be as loud during the recording. In a band situation, you're competing to be heard with your bandmates, but on a recording that will be taken care of during the mix. Focus on getting the right sound, which isn't always the loudest.
So grab your axe, amp, and 57
and have at it! Just don't tell your drummer how easy it is...(isn't it great being a guitar player :-))
Ben Blakesley is in charge of Marketing and Technology at George's Music and records all kind of guitars, amps, and players using an SM57 as the Chief Engineer for Javboy Records.