Recording guitar is certainly less complicated than recording drums. But it can get as complicated as you want. That said, here are a few tips for recording guitars.
- Use more than one mic. You don’t have to just strap a 57 to the front. Yes, it’s cool and yields great results almost every time, but you can also put a ribbon mic, for example, next to it and blend as needed. We love the non-bank-breaking Royer 121 but you can go even cheaper with a cheaper Russian-made ribbon like what Oktava puts out. Sometimes you’ll want a bit more articulated bite and using a small diaphragm condenser will assist in that struggle. We love the Neumann 184s on guitar cabinets. Sometimes SDCs can get a little too much attack so you can always pull them back away from the cabinet a bit to round off the attack. If you want to get more technical you can also phase align the mics using sample delay so they hit at the same time – as sometimes it can sound worse with two mics – more on that in a future article. The bottom line is use one mic or two. However, sometimes three mics is what you need!
- Move the mics. A speaker sounds different depending on where you put the mic. Placing the mic dead-center tends to be brighter. And inversely, the more you move it to the edge the more dark the sound will get. Experiment and find the right balance for your song.
- Use a room mic. It’s pretty rare you listen to amp with your ear right up the guitar cab (or do you?!). So why wouldn’t you put a room mic in the live room when recording the guitar in tandem with the close mic? Blending the room in with the close mic can really add a cool natural vibe to a recording. Sometimes it helps to have a partner in the studio with you moving the mic around as you hear it change. When it sounds good, plant that stand on the ground and don’t move it!
- Use a different speaker. You can have more than one speaker in your cabinet and generally they should sound the same, but often times they don’t. Try another speaker and see which one sounds better. At the same time, you can also experiment with different cabinets and different speaker sizes. Always remember to make sure your impedance is matching the amp or head, otherwise bad things can happen.
- Convert an open-back cabinet to a closed-back cabinet. This one is fairly simple. You just lay it down on its back. Voila! The bass in an open-back cabinet will be looser than in a closed-back cabinet. In a closed-back cabinet the sound will be tighter and more defined because the sound isn’t bouncing around back there and out of the cabinet. Open-back cabinet’s bass response is lower because what comes out the back is out of phase with the front. Something else you can do here to avoid the phase issue is bringing the amp back up and adding a mic to the back in a mirrored location to the front, but remembering to reverse phase on that mic so both the front and back mics are not 180º out of phase.
Recording guitars is fun and you should experiment. It’s pretty hard to get a bad sound with an amp and a 57, but there are so many more options to make a more unique and engaging guitar sound.