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Tutorial: Tips For Recording Electric Guitar

By moosers on 07/22/2009 - (Anyone)
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Shure SM57
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Shure SM57

Dynamic Microphone from Shure belonging to the SM series.

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Introduction

This tutorial will give you some tips and ideas about how to record electric guitar.  While it may seem like an easy thing to record, and it is when compared to recording drums, there are still a ton of different ways that you can record guitar and get good results.  It all depends on what type of sound you are going for.  Here I will aim to give helpful tips and hints across the spectrum for recording guitars in general.

Step 1

The first rule for recording guitars (and this is the closet thing you will get to a rule when it comes to recording) is to make sure that it sounds good at the source before putting up any microphones for anything.  This means using the best possible guitar and amplifier combination possible and not sacrificing that for anything.  If it does not sound good from the source, there is nothing that you would be able to do to make it sound good later!  Beyond the player, this is the most important thing when it comes to recording electric guitar.

Step 2

The next tip for recording guitar is that if you are going to use effects, I would really recommend only using one or two at a time as the more pedals you have within the chain, the more the sound quality gets degraded because of it (unless of course you are using pedals that have true bypass).  In a perfect world, I would say only use one effect at a time (unless you are combing) and overdub each effect with only the single pedal in the chain.  This makes sure that you are getting the cleanest tone possible without having your signal degraded by pedals.

Step 3

Once you have set up your guitar and are happy with the tone that you have gotten, the next step is to choose a microphone or two that would like to use.  The first thing that I do is set up a microphone that is close up on the grill and line it up with the center of the cone of the speaker.  I usually use either a Shure SM57 or a Sennhesier MD421 or 409 as I find that these mics do a great job of recording electric guitar up close.  Since they are dynamic microphones they can handle a lot, and that is a necessity when recording electric guitar.

Step 4

While a lot of engineers will only use one microphone for recording electric guitar, I always place another microphone about three feet back from the amplifier.  This gives the guitar sound a little bit of the room, which I will then blend in together with the close mic when it comes time to mix.  This part is definitely open to interpretation and there are a ton of ways to do this.  One thing that I would recommend is using a large diaphragm condenser mic as that will pick up all of the subtle nuances that you want in a room sound.  I usually use a Blue Kiwi or a Neumann U87, but any condenser microphone that you have available will work!

Step 5

Once you have everything dialed in and the microphones are placed, you are ready to record!  However, even after you record your job is not done as mixing the combination of microphones is quite important as well.  I usually put the room microphone back in the mix a little bit, but when it calls for it I will put it out in front.  This is all up to you and really depends on what you are trying to do!

Conclusion

Please keep in mind that these are guidelines and tips and by no means are the rules when recording guitar.  Get creative and try out your own ideas, but it is always good to have a guideline and to know what will work for you.  I hope that you will find these tips helpful and please experiment with different guitars, amplifiers and microphones if you are able as you can get an endless amount of sounds!
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