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Recording electric guitar - Direct recording

The ultimate guide to audio recording - Part 70

Today we will discuss direct recording an electric guitar.

View other articles in this series...


Even if I strongly encourage you to record your electric guitars with any of the "traditional"ways I've mentioned in the previous articles, I must admit that direct recording the performance of a musician is by no means a bad idea. And it's pretty easy! You could, for instance, use a DI box to duplicate the signal of the instrument and send a copy to a preamp of your soundcard and another copy to your amp. A second option would be to use an ABY pedal like this one, or this one, to go into an instrument input of your audio interface and your guitar amp, obviously.

Just one final remark before moving on. To enjoy the greatest freedom when using such direct recordings, it's crucial that you observe as strictly as you can the advice given in the article dedicated to achieving optimum levels to get a recorded signal that is as faithful as possible to the original.


That's all very nice, but what's the use, you ask? To be honest, there's no single answer to this question...

The first advantage of this technique is relatively simple to understand: direct recording a take, while you're miking the amp at the same time, is like having a comfortable safety net to fall back on if need be! In fact, if the musical performance is exactly what you were expecting but the amp recordings aren't that convincing, you could always re-record that same take to set things right using the reamping technique.

Enregistrement 70

The second advantage has to do with the creative possibilities a direct recording provides. As you probably know, it's not that easy for a guitarist to tweak his/her effects when playing. And yet, it would be fantastic to be able to vary the sound textures throughout the song. So, reamping the direct recording with all the freedom to tweak anything you want might prove to be the ideal solution. A famous example of this type of usage can be heard on the famous Paranoid Android track by Radiohead. To play the outro solo, guitarist Jonny Greenwood first recorded his performance and then fed it twice into the legendary Mutronics Mutator rack while playing with the settings. It was certainly worth it, wasn't it?

The last advantage is that direct recordings allow you to play with virtual amp plug-ins. I know some people might want to kill me for what I just wrote, because nothing can ever come close to a true guitar amp! And yet, you'd be surprised to learn that such plug-ins have been used much more often than you'd think in big productions lately. Besides, you must also admit that the quality of these products has evolved quite a bit in recent years, to the point that, in my humble opinion, it's completely impossible to tell the difference between them and a "true" amp. Finally, never forget that the weakest link in a home studio are usually room acoustics. And virtual amps allow you to completely forget about that issue. So, why not embrace this option when it offers so many advantages?

← Previous article in this series:
Recording electric guitar - Double-tracking
Next article in this series:
Recording electric guitar - With or without effects? →
  • angelie
    AFfluent Poster
    350 posts
    Recording directly in combination with a mic or two can also interesting results.

    #1 You could split the tracks use a low pass filter on the direct signal and a highpass filter and combine them to one stem/signal. Or the other way around

    #2 just mix both together to create your own special sound.

    #3 use different types of effects on both signals... For some crunchy sound or even demonic :-D

    #4 gives you more freedom to experiment with your track

    - Angelie

  • spcover
    New AFfiliate
    1 post
    I've been recording my guitar from my guitar into my EVH 5150 III head then into a Rivera Rock Crusher to reduce the heat of the signal into my Yamaha MG12XU mixing board into my computer.

    I sent a friend of mine, who does music production, for a living my latest song. He says "The guitar tones have a little too much bite and sound a little demo-ish. A common occurrence if you record guitars direct and into a computer. Try taking off a little 4k or there abouts with an equalizer. Pull it down maybe -3db. Maybe more, maybe less, adjust to taste. You could also try boosting a little 1K or maybe 1.5k to add a little warm mids. Try it and see if it helps. I think that will help the guitar sound a bit more pro."

    I haven't had the chance to try it yet, so I can't comment on it. Anyone else have experience with having to tweak their direct recording of guitar tracks in such a way?

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