Electric Guitar
Finding the right guitar sound inside the studio seems like a difficult sound for a lot of engineers and musicians. Which is why I thought through this blog post I could explain how I go about designing a guitar tone and which factors go into building a good guitar sound. Let’s break these down into simple steps that we can apply to get Right Guitar Sound in the Studio:

Understand the design of the song and build the tone to that keeping the song/sound of the artist in mind.

Step no. 1

Imagine and Describe your ideal sound:

Write down what you think is wrong with your current sound, do you think that the guitar sounds too bright and thin or do you think it sounds muddy and lacks clarity.
Make notes on what you want your ideal guitar sound to be, use it as a starting point to get towards a better sounding tone.
Many times this question about what the guitar should sound like is a matter of context of the song, some songs that have a heavy arrangement cannot have a guitar tone that is muddy and has lower frequencies as it will just add to the clutter of the song and have trouble standing out.
Instead, understand the design of the song and build the tone to that keeping the song/sound of the artist in mind.

Likewise, if you have a song that is quite empty and you design a tone that sounds thin and brittle then the guitar sound in itself won’t be able to take up space in the song and won’t work with the rest of the instruments. Hence, the fullness of the guitar will make it stand out too much when it shouldn’t.
Another point that needs to be discussed it the playing, I believe that a lot of the guitar tone is in the hands as opposed to pedals or amps etc. Depending on what the song requires do you need to be more dynamic or do you need to drive the guitar amps more by playing harder which more pick attack.

Guitar Amp
Step no. 2

Choosing the right Amp

As it is with making music, choosing the right piece of equipment for the right sound is extremely necessary. You can get a high gain amp for a funk song and expect it to give you great results. And the reason you need a different amp for different genres or styles of music is that different amps highlight or accentuate very different sounds that is characteristic of that genre.
Let me explain; if we use a VHT amp for a funky sound the reason it works is that it has that characteristic mid-range drive that makes it pop out of the song. If you were to use a 5150 for this, it would make it extremely high gain and exaggerate the low mids of the guitar, thereby removing the funkiness from it.

Below are the amps that can be used for various different styles:
Fender DeVille // Fender Twin Reverb: Great for Pop/Blues/Country/Jazz
Mesa Dual Rectifier : Rock//Metal//Pop
VOX AC50: Rock//Cleans
Marshall JCM 900: Rock//Metal
Step no. 3

Choosing the right Guitar and Pedal

Fender Tele: Great guitar for clean and shiny guitar sound
Gibson Les Paul: Warmer and more rounded tone, better for driven sound
PRS: Malleable guitar tone, great for cleans as well as high gain guitar tone, isn’t too bright intrinsically
Ibanez: Great for heavier stuff, not very great for cleaner sounds

Every guitar player and recording engineer should familiarize themselves with the electronics that go into building guitar amps, a little knowledge goes a long way.
Even if you use a Fender’s single coils as opposed to a Les Pauls Dual humbucker, understanding the electronics will give you an idea as to why a certain guitar sounds a certain way.
Try changing the position of your pickup on the guitar, this too has a very drastic effect on the sound of the guitar itself. Bringing the pickup closer gives you a much more full-bodied sound, experiment with all the pickups selected till you find a position where it sounds good.

Shure Mic
Step no. 4

Choosing the right guitar mics:

We have all been in a position when we plug the guitar into the amp and get a great sound but the sound doesn’t translate into the control room. Why does this happen? And how can this be fixed? The reason the guitar amps sound good inside the room and don’t translate into the studio is partly because of the microphone placement and microphone setup. So, I’m going to list down a few microphones that are common inside a recording studio to mic the cabinet:
SM 57: The standard, simple, point and record.
MD421: More pronounced midrange and body
C414: Brighter more balanced sound
e609: A microphone designed for guitar amps, great for picking up low mids
Placement of these microphones is key. Usually, my approach is to choose one microphone that can create the sound I’m hearing and place it around the cab to get it closer in perspective of the song. The general rule of thumb when micing a guitar amp is that the closer you mic center of the cab the brighter it gets and the more you mic towards to edge the warmer/duller it gets.

I hope this post sheds light on a few doubts that people have about recording the guitar inside the studio and finding that ever elusive guitar tone.
If you have any specific queries you can get in touch with me at ronak@gray-spark.com

Get in touch!

If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.

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