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RECORDING ELECTRIC GUITAR


OK, so you have your electric guitar ready and you are going to record. But WHERE to put the mic?

When I record cleaner tones, I tend to use a single U47, U67, or U87 about 10-12 inches in front of the speaker (usually straight on but sometimes tilted). I approach recording heavy rock guitar differently.

I know many people that will just stick a 57 flat against the speaker cover smack in the middle of the cone. This may be great live but will not necessarily give you the best sound possible.

A friend of mine was assisting a session for a great engineer, and he later excitedly told me what had happened. This guy was mic'ing a Marshall cabinet and set up TWO 57's, each pointing at a 45-degree angle (so that the two mics were sort of pointing toward a single point behind the cabinet) rather than face on. The mics were positioned a little outside the center of the cones (where the cone started to come forward). The mics were sort of pointed towards the center of the cones.

He panned the mics hard left and right, and although the resulting sound was not very wide, it sounded and felt full, natural and powerful. The engineer then combined the two tracks to mono, and claimed that doing so was better than using just one mic.

Of course I tried this the next time that I recorded guitar and it was great. It seemed that the pressure from the speaker had been creating COMPRESSION by pushing the dynamic capsule too much, and although the sound had a certain force it was not as natural as letting the capsule vibrate more freely by turning the mic 45 degrees. I had tried many things prior to hearing about this, including putting mics around the cabinet, but nothing worked as well as this. The old "less is more" rule was once again proven.

One day when I was mixing "X" in LA I met the engineer of a famous rock guitarist. We were talking shop and when the conversation came to how to mic speakers, I told him what I had picked up from the other engineer (via my friend). He told me that the famous guitarist he worked for had him set up a 57 at a 45 degree angle, then ANOTHER 57 straight on (with the sides of the mics touching). He then combined both of the mics in a split "Y" mic cable so that both were going into a single Neve 1073 mic pre. I asked if putting the two mics into the same mic pre caused any problems, but the other engineer said it sounded perfect.

I have yet to try this technique. So far I have been happy with the tilted 57 (or two if there are two speakers). One day I should try the two-mics-in-one-mic-pre technique, but I imagine I would have to first check to make sure both mics sound exactly the same (57s have a way of getting beaten up for some reason).

Depending on the sound, I sometimes use U87s rather than SM57s on guitar amps...but more often than not I rock the 57s Regardless, I always tilt the mics.

Don't forget to move the mics around a little bit and listen for where they sound best. Also, do not forget to check each speaker cone to see which sounds best. Lower speakers may have more bottom than upper speakers.

** BE SURE TO CHECK THE SPEAKER POSITION AND DO NOT ASSUME IT IS CENTERED OR EVEN WHERE THE SPEAKER COVER MAY BE WORN IN. I HAVE SEEN MANY CABINETS WITH SPEAKERS MOUNTED OFF CENTER **

It has been suggested that people use old freezers as a way to isolate guitar amps so you can crank away and not bother the neighbors. While I can see this as a good idea, remember that they can be dangerous to kids and small pets that may get locked inside without air...or even more lethal - when you are about to hit that power chord.