Recording Tips for Lead Guitar

Lead guitar should have it's own voice and space. These recording tips will help you give it that, and make sure it stands out in the mix.

What's Your Approach?

I approach my guitar leads much like I do a lead vocal. It has to have a great melody, but different from what the vocal would do.

Also it has to stand apart from the other guitars, like a lead vocal stands apart from the other vocal parts.

So before I hit the record button, I work all that stuff out.

You may not want a melodic lead guitar, and that's okay. But knowing what you're going to play will help you make other important choices.

Choices like...

What Gear Should I Use?

guitar recording tips

When recording guitar, one of the most important recording tips I can think of is this:

Strive to make each guitar part sound different. If you have four or five guitar tracks all with the same sonic qualities, it will be mush.

                                                     © Wally Stemberger |

It's a good idea to use a different guitar and amp for leads than the ones you used for rhythm guitar. But I know that's not always possible.

If you must use the same gear, try using a different pickup and/or amp settings.

Even if you keep everything else the same, you can get vastly different sounds with microphone choice and placement. So please go ahead and move the mic around!


Whenever I record lead guitar, I always choose a microphone other than the one I used for the rhythm parts.

For rhythm I like a closely placed Shure SM57. For leads I reach for one of my condenser mics, and place it about three feet away from the amp.

If you don't have a condenser, or if you only have one mic that's okay too.

Moving a microphone even an inch from side to side, or back to front will change the sound drastically.

Try different mics (if you have them), and experiment with different mic placements. This will give you so much more to work with during mixdown.

In the Mix

I like to give my lead guitar tracks the same kind of attention I give to lead vocals. I make sure they are around the same volume as the vocal and I dig into my little bag of tricks.

Lead guitar can benefit greatly from some compression. A compressor will smooth out the track and make it more fluid.

Don't be afraid to really tweak with it. A medium attack and very slow release on a slow, melodic lead can give it an ethereal quality that's hard to describe.

Fatten it up a bit with a touch of stereo chorus, add a little reverb and some delay. Maybe pan it slightly off-centre. Get creative. That's where the fun is!

Please try these and the many more recording tips you'll find within these pages. 

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