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  • Recording Guitars 101?

    Okay. I'm new to recording with live sound, as I have previously recorded guitars with a digital processor plugged straight into a computer... So I need a crash course on everything I need and everything I need to know about recording guitars at home. The more detailed you can be, the better. My budget is pretty tiny at the moment, so price is most certainly an obstacle.



    I have my guitar, my amp, and audacity. I know I'll need an amp mic.... What make and model do y'all swear by? Or at least, what specs? (Compressor, dynamic, condenser, small diaphragm, large diaphragm, cardioid, figure 8, etc., all of which I know absolutely nothing about). Between the mic and the computer, do I need anything else, or can I use an XLR-to-USB cable straight in? If I do need anything else...make and model?



    I know enough to know that microphone placement, type of room, and amp placement within the room all make a difference in the sound. But I don't really know anything about how to manipulate all of that.



    Plus there's probably a ton of things that I don't even know to ask. So any and all help is greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    The standard mic used for hundreds of thousands of recordings has been

    the Shure SM57which can be bought for under a hundred bucks.

    Another great mic which I discovered works well is the PG57 which

    is about half the cost of an SM57. I actually switched over to using them

    over the SM57 because they sound better on my amps.

    Built better too, very heavy and rugged. There are plenty of other great mics

    you can use. Its just a matter of trying them out and comparing the results.



    The SM57 is a dynamic mic that has a very focused poxcimity effect.

    It doesnt pick up allot of sound from the sides so its good at isolating its

    sound and preventing bleedover from other instruments.



    If you google yo the frequency chart for the mic you will see it has

    a frequency bump between 4~5Khz and a roll off below 100hz.



    This frequency bump is the ideal for guitar. You dont have to EQ the

    mic much if any to get it to sit in a mix properly with other instruments.

    The low end roll off is dependant on the proxcimity from the source.

    If the mic is close to a speaker or voice it has a warm bass responce

    and as its moved away, up to 6" the bass rolls off below 100hz or so.



    The mic is used up close and can be set on axix or off axis.

    This means pointing the mic straight at the cone or with the mic turned

    to an angle of say 45~90 degrees. This will change the sound quality you

    get from the mic and can give some nice blends in tone.



    As far as micing the amp, if its a smll combo, I suggest elevating it anywheres

    from several inches to ear level. You dont want it flat on the floor.



    I'd start wit the mic pointed straight at the center of the speaker cone.

    You can try other positions and angles later to get the best sounds.

    Use a mic stand and dont just drap the mic by its cord over the speaker.



    Next wear good isolation headphones to dial up your sound on the amp.

    First thing you'll likely notice is, your live amp settings have way too much drive.

    Start from a lean tone and gradually dial up your drive to where it sounds good

    and no more.



    The more clean tone you can retain the better clarity the recording will have.

    The other fact is, you can always add drive to a track that didnt have enough. You cant

    make a dirty track clean so err on a cleaner tone if in doubt. If your playing technique

    sufferes from not having enough drive, my first suggestion is get over it. A recording is

    about capturing great tone, not your comfort zone. Second, if you have to, use a

    compressor pedal with some light compression added if need be to overcome the loss

    of drive and string touch responce. I often use a compressor for clean guitar parts, especially

    with Fender guitars to get that clean jangley sound so I'm not having to overwork my right

    hand getting a consistant pick attack.



    Next you want to EQ the amp so the guitar has the best chance of sitting in the mix properly

    without additional EQing in the DAW. What I do on an unknown amp is set all my EQ knobs

    at 12:00, then I dial up my drive, then I tweak the EQ as needed. Setting the EQ for how you play

    live rarely works. You have a mic between your speaker and your ears now and the focus has to be

    on what it hears, not what you'd hear with the headphones off.



    Much of what you hear from an amp live is room reflection which colors the sound.

    A mic close to the speaker is going to hear very little room reflection.

    An alternate way of dialing up your tone is to sit directly in front of the amp at ear level

    so the center of the speaker cones are right in your ears. You obviously cant run the amp

    as loud as you would with the amp on the floor or you'll wind up melting your ears off.



    Running the amp lower is better for recording anyway. Most use preamp drive or pedals

    for their drive on transistor amps so the amps power can be run lower with little issues dialing up good tone.

    If you have a classic tube amp where you get the drive from the Power Amp/Transformer/Speakers

    overdriving then you have no choice but run the amp louder. Thats where the headphones and

    even an isolation cab come into studio use.



    I'd avoid using a hot plate to reduce power.

    They do allow you to retain the poer amp and transformer saturation, but you do loose the speaker

    drive which is an important element for the mic. Speaker frequency responce changes when run at

    low wattages and sound best when run around 50~70% of the maximum RMS wattage. This is why

    you really dont need much more than a 10w amp for recording to get great results and big stage

    amps are overkill.



    Next, If you want to capture the room reflections I suggest using a second condencer mic.

    Condencers, like a large diaphram condencer have built in preamps and head baskets that

    pick up a flater responce at longer distances. With two mics panned left and right you can

    get some really cool stereo effects withthe close mic on one side and the room reflection on the other.



    The problem setting up two mics is you introduce phasing problems.

    Sound takes time too travel through the air from a speaker and the

    wave it produces doesnt begin at the same time on both mics.

    This is why you want to use the 3:1 rule and carefully measure the distance

    between the two mics. Get a tape measurer and measure off the distance

    between the two mics. If the one mic is on the speaker grill, measure off

    3', 6', 9', 12' distance from the first mic. This will ensure the positive and negative

    sine wave the second mic is in sync with the positive and negative sine wave

    of the first mic.



    If you place the second mic at say 1.5', 4.5', 7.5' etc you'll have the two mics

    180 degrees out of phase. The first mics signal will be going positive and the

    second will be going negative and most of the signal will be canceled out.

    (This is the same thing you get with guitar pickups out of phase)

    You can also use your ears for setting the two mics up. Use your headphones

    and set the monitoring for mono. Measure off the distance between the two,

    then move the distance a little closer or further back till you have the loudest

    signal between them.





    Once you learn to get themin phase, you can then break the rules and use some phase

    cancellation to vary the tone. I'd keep it under 90 degrees or you'll have some major

    mono compatibility issues with guitars dissapearing in a mix.



    Phase isnt an issue if the two tracks are panned hard left and right in a stereo mix, but

    on mono playback like on a radio station, TV, or even some smaller playback systems

    your guitars can drop in volume or even dissapear. Keep your phase correct and its a non issue.



    From there its all experimentation. Remember, electric guitar is a midrange instrument.

    Its effective range is between 150 to 6K hz at the most. Dont try to make it sound like

    the whole band playing when the track is playing solo. Its supposed to have strong midrange

    so if the track sounds a bit smaller than you think micing the amp, thats normal. You have other

    instruments in a mix for the lows and highs. The more instruments you have in a mix, the smaller

    you have to make each of them sound so they can all be heard.

    Comment


    • #3
      Duplicate post

      Comment


      • #4
        Awesome, thanks for all the info..... So all I really need to buy is a mic, a mic stand... and is a XLR to USB cable okay?

        Comment


        • #5






          Quote Originally Posted by lilfoolish50
          View Post

          Awesome, thanks for all the info..... So all I really need to buy is a mic, a mic stand... and is a XLR to USB cable okay?




          USB to XLR?

          Missed that in your first post.



          No, you dont use any kind of adaptor cable.

          You need to buy an interface - You know a device the converts analog soing to Digital data?



          You have three choices for a recording interface.

          A PCI card, A USB, or a Firewire interface.



          A standard computer sound card is a PCI based interface.

          Most are garbage made from $1 in parts and wont work right

          with DAW recording programs because they dont support ASIO drivers.

          You cant record at higher sample rates like 24/48 or 96 either so you're stuck

          with CD quality of 16/44.1 which isnt so hot for professional recording.



          You can buy studio quality PCI cards but many are being phased out with PCI slots

          dissapearing in computers.



          Firewire is a peer to peer communication port and used by most studios because it requires less computer CPU power.



          USB is fine for beginners. If you're only recording a few tracks at a time and you have a USB 2 or 3 port

          you should be fine. The cheapest USB interfaces worth buying sell for about $50 new. If you want to EBay a used one,

          do your research. People often sell off stuff thats obsolite and drivers, and computer hardware can be issues. Google

          up reviews and see what the dirt is on what you buy. Its better to know whats up before you buy vs after.

          Comment


          • #6






            Quote Originally Posted by lilfoolish50
            View Post

            Okay. I'm new to recording with live sound, as I have previously recorded guitars with a digital processor plugged straight into a computer... So I need a crash course on everything I need and everything I need to know about recording guitars at home. The more detailed you can be, the better. My budget is pretty tiny at the moment, so price is most certainly an obstacle.



            I have my guitar, my amp, and audacity. I know I'll need an amp mic.... What make and model do y'all swear by? Or at least, what specs? (Compressor, dynamic, condenser, small diaphragm, large diaphragm, cardioid, figure 8, etc., all of which I know absolutely nothing about). Between the mic and the computer, do I need anything else, or can I use an XLR-to-USB cable straight in? If I do need anything else...make and model?



            I know enough to know that microphone placement, type of room, and amp placement within the room all make a difference in the sound. But I don't really know anything about how to manipulate all of that.



            Plus there's probably a ton of things that I don't even know to ask. So any and all help is greatly appreciated!




            You'll need a audio interface of some sort for the computer. Beyond that, most of your questions are probably answered in my Guitar Miking 101 article.
            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks thanks to both of you.

              What makes for a good audio interface, what kind of specs should i be looking for?

              If you have any suggestions for a make and model, that'd be great--keeping in mind im on a tiny budget, what's the best i could get for below $200?

              Comment


              • #8
                Focusrite makes some good stuff and they have good preamps



                http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlett2i2/



                http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlett2i4/





                You can get something cheaper that comes with Cubase as well.

                http://www.americanmusical.com/Item-...FQf0nAodBigAoA

                Comment


                • #9
                  Since I assume you are working by yourself, one handy trick I've found is to use a looper pedal to play a guitar part (the closer to what you plan on recording the better), and then you have two hands to adjust amp settings, mic placement, and pedals.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Awesome. So all i need right now is a mic and and an interface and i'm good to go?

                    mike, i do have a looper, thanks for the tip, i'll be sure to try that.

                    Comment

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