In today’s blog we will have a small discussion about recording driven/distorted guitars through amps and find the right tone/sound for your recording. Before we begin first let’s understand what is distortion, overdrive and a clean amp sound. Distortion is an effect that cause a growling sound due to a increased gain on the input of guitar. The distortion sound in a guitar was originally caused by driving the signal through the vacuum tube through which the guitar signal was amplified. Here’s how we go about micing guitar amps:
You can use a mix of dynamic and condenser microphones to record an amp, most dynamic microphones don’t have a lot of high frequency content so they are a good starting point to shape your guitar sound. An SM57 is a great mic to record a guitar amp, it is a workhorse microphone that gives a great representation of the cabinet.
Microphone position from the Amp:
The position of the microphone will be one of major factors in deciding the tone of the amp. Usually most of the cabs are close miced so that you get the direct sound from the amp. In situations when you want to capture the interaction of the room with the amp is when you can bring in the room microphones.
Tone Shaping the amp to get the sound on the Amp:
Im sure all the people who’ve used a guitar amp know exactly what happens to the guitar sound when you fiddle with EQ knobs. Treble bring out the mid and the high frequency information of the guitar sound. The mid knob add more body or muddy texture to this done and the lows knob adds fatness to the tone. In some cases you might want to compress the guitar and eq it slightly before it goes into the amp so that you have the tone push before amplification stage.
Listen to the tone in context of the song:
This is a common mistake that i see engineers doing, they try to get the perfect guitar sound by just sitting with the guitar amp itself. There is no perfect tone, the quality of the tone is always in context to the song. In a song that has too many instruments like strings, horns etc a distorted round and full sounding guitar tone will just make things really messy. In this case the guitar tone will sound great by itself, but in context of the song the guitar tone wont work at all.
Position the mic from the cone to get different tone
If you point a SM57 toward the centre of the cone, you will end up getting a brighter sound while the further away you move from the centre to the side of the cone the microphone picks up less brightness and lesser transient definition. Think of this from a guitar arrangement point of view, if you want a guitar tone that is bright and sticks out of the mix, like a lead guitar i would usually point the mic towards the centre of the cone.
Record with plenty of headroom:
This is a common error i see amongst recording engineers/ upcoming producers. The signal coming from the amp is so hot that it is either overloading the microphone or the gain on the microphone is so hot that its clipping on the way in. Make sure that there is plenty of headroom when you’re recording.
Turn amp FX off:
I’ve seen a lot of recordings where the engineers/musicians have done recordings with the reverb on. I’m not saying this is a bad idea, it’s just that you are limiting your sound in the mix. The rest of the mix or sound will have to built around this sound. Instead record without effects and add reverb in the mix later.
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