A lot of producers have this question, how do I decently record my guitar?
In music land there are, like always, a thousand options you can try but in general there are 2 main categories.
- Micing your amp
- Routing the Headphone jacket/Output to your interface (if available on your amp)
You could also connect your guitar directly into your interface, this needs no further explanation. The only thing you have to do is making sure that particular pre-amp is set to ‘instrument’. Almost no one does this. Why? Because you kill your guitar sound. You can’t compare a decent amplifier to a little pre-amp on a audio interface.
Option number 2 is pretty much the same thing as plugging in your guitar directly except it goes through your amplifier first which makes a huge different in sound. Of course you don’t pass your sound trough your amp speaker which still makes a difference. This however will drastically improve your tone and is cheaper because there is no microphone needed.
For option number 1 there are a thousand, if not more, possibilities that you can try. I’m going to discuss the following points:
- Instrument mic or Studio Condenser mic
- Placing of the microphone
- Using multiple microphones
The most common, and a very good one at that, is the Shure SM57 instrument microphone. I could recommend it to everybody who wants to record a guitar. It is a very decent piece of hardware and will last a long time if you don’t decide to smash it. There are other instrument mic’s out there but for the price of a SM57 you can’t go wrong, so we’ll be using this as an example.
Some people have asked me if they can use their studio condenser mic, and in fact, you can. Personally I own the Rode NT2-A. And it sounds very good on a guitar amplifier. Most condenser mic’s will give you a bit more high end than a dynamic mic such as the SM57. However it has to be said thatif you have a low end condenser mic’s probably won’t sound very good on an amplifier.
When you play live you obviously can’t use a studio microphone because it would capture too much of the sound of other instruments. Mic’s such as the SM57 are specifically designed to pick up the source you point it at and (almost) nothing else.
Placing of the microphone is very important for the sound you’re getting. Certain positions will give you more bass while other positions may give you more treble. This picture shows you how the general idea works.
My recommendation is to take a headphone. Mic the amp. Listen through the headphones and move the microphone around until you think it sounds best.
Recording with multiple microphones is always fun to do. You can experiment with new sounds, different placing, …
The strength of an SM57 lies in capturing punchy midrange frequencies, so you might think about putting a second mic with different sonic characteristics on the cabinet. A very good choice to do that is the Sennheiser 421, which paired with the 57, provides a nice bottom end and a smooth top.
An important issue when you do that is to make sure the sound of the mic’s is in phase. It is possible that you record your guitar and it just sounds weird. These days most DAW’s and some preamps offer phase switching so it’s easily taken care of but it is something you have to remember.
With the two-mic technique, you should try placing one mic on axis and one off axis. Off axis simply means you’re changing the angle of the microphone in relation to the speaker. Instead of pointing the mic straight at the speaker (on axis), turn it slightly to the side (off axis). This angled position alters the tonality.