Guitar Recording Tips for Professional-Sounding Tracks

Want to add some huge rhythm guitars to your mix? Check out these guitar recording tips and techniques to achieve more professional-sounding tracks.

Start at the Source

As with all recording, great sound always starts at the source.

Re-string your instrument and make sure it is intonated and in tune. Out of tune guitars are highly annoying, so get into the habit of checking your tuning between takes.

Obviously pots and switches need to be in good working order, but the most common reason for bad guitar sound is the cable. You can have the best gear in the world, but a lousy cable will make it sound like the worst. Make sure you have a good one.

Don't underestimate the importance of this stuff. These are among the most important guitar recording tips I can give you.

The Amp

one of my guitar recording tips involves turning a tube amp up loud© Bernd Juergens | Dreamstime.com

If you happen to have a tube amp you are blessed!

I've used many virtual amps and modules when recording guitar, and these units are very convenient and many sound great.

But they don't come close to the real thing.

There is nothing in the world that can take the place of plugging into a good tube amp, turning it up and sticking a mic in front of it.

When you have a speaker pushing air it just sounds more "real"!

But of course, if you don't have a tube amp you can still achieve a huge sound.

Many of these guitar recording tips take place during mixdown.

If you are used to playing with a hard aggressive sound, I would recommend turning the distortion or preamp down. This may sound a little strange to you, and may not feel comfortable at first. But if you try playing with a slightly cleaner sound and layer your tracks, you will produce a bigger sound that cuts through the mix with power and authority!

After cutting the preamp about 25% below normal, turn up the master volume. Turn it up loud. (If you can get away with it.) Spend a few minutes playing your part with this sound. If you normally play standing up you should record that way too. Don't hold back!

Miking

I generally keep things simple when miking my amp. For rhythm guitar I like to use a Shure SM57 placed in front of one speaker about an inch from the grille. A good starting point is between the centre of the cone and the outer edge of the speaker. Moving the mic from side to side even a little changes the sound dramatically.

If you have someone to help you, have them move the mic whilst you play and listen through the headphones. If not you'll have to play around a little.

When you've found the sound you like let 'er rip! Get your first track perfect before you move on.

Then record another track playing exactly what you played on the first. I like to move the mic slightly for the second track. Sometimes I even use a different guitar.

If you want to capture some of the room sound you can also set up a large diaphragm condenser mic about three feet away from the amp. Record each mic to its own track.

You don't need to compress when tracking, as a tube amp and speaker cabinet produce natural compression. Just make sure your mic input levels aren't clipping.

We'll apply compression on page two of Guitar Recording Tips.



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