How to record electric guitar: Microphone and DI combo!
Guitar sounding flat and boring? Not enough direct sound making into your recordings?
Been recording some electric guitar with a student in the studio today and thought a lot of what we were doing could help people out there recording at home.
Firstly start with a good amp and realistic expectations of what your instrument can achieve. Cheap guitars, strings and amps sound just like that but that can be a good thing!
Secondly make sure amplifier is placed away from any large surfaces that can reflect sound. Moving it away from the walls is a great start! Many people with combo amps take the decision to raise them up on a stand or piece of furniture to help reduce bass heavy reflections from the floor entering the microphone.
The two methods of placing microphones on a guitar cab/amp involve the terms:
“On axis” – To place the microphone directly in line with the speaker cone
“Off axis” – To place the microphone away from the central “on axis” position wilst still point at the cone.
“Ambient Mic’ing” – To place the microphone at a sufficient distance away from the guitar amp to be primarily recording room reflections. The mic can either be directional or omnidirectional and can placed anywhere within the reverberant field.
As you can see from the picture using a Sennheiser e606 (formally e609) off axis and a Shure SM57 on axis gave good results.
Using a DI box is a great idea for recording mic’d guitars as it means a “dry” DI (Direct Injection) signal can also be recorded for virtual amp re-enforcement.
This is achieved by plugging the guitar directly into the DI box and using the link channel to take a copy of this signal into the guitar amp whilst another connection (XLR) takes the DI signal away for recording seperatly.
Finally nothing beats using headphones whilst setting up guitar mics to help you directly hear the implementation of the small microphone movements you have to make to achieve a better sound. Experiment with placing mics 3 – 6 inches away but beware to observe extra bass when getting too close thanks to the proximity effect.
Don’t be afraid to combine more than one microphone sound when mixing and remember it’s always possible to delete things you don’t like later if you have the courage!