How to record an electric guitar

This post is going to be for those who are starting out and have to record electric guitars. It is also assumed you know how to plug in a mic cord or line to get a signal into your recording system.

There are lots of ways to record an electric guitar. Amplifier and microphone, using a stand alone amp modeler, plugging directly into a channel. There are engineers who will swear by certain equipment, plug ins, certain mics, certain mic positions etc.

If the guitar player is using an amplifier, a good microphone in front of the amp works.

Obviously the guitar player needs to be able to play and play in tune and have a good sound coming from the amplifier.

Put the mic in front of the amp. And let er rip.

There are guys who mic the back of the amp, the front six feet away, get headphones on and move the mic around until they get what they think is the sweat spot.

And if you want to do those things, it may or may not pay tonal dividends, but if you want to get a guitar sound that’s great and quick, stick a Shure sm57 8 inches from the speaker and you are set to go.

You don’t even need an sm57, use what ever you have.

Hit record and enjoy.

The feel and spirit of the guitar player will be volumes more important than how many inches the mic is from the speaker cabinet.

Or what mic you used for that matter.

Many guitar players fuss incessantly over their sound. Many of them have it nailed and know exactly how they want it.

If it sounds not so good, chances are the guitar player or his/her gear is not so good. Don’t beat yourself up. If you are a guitarist yourself, don’t be afraid to make a few suggestions.

Having said all of that, much of my most successful guitar work was done with an electric guitar straight into the recording console. No amplifier, no mic. No amp modeler. I did not need any distortion on many of those records, so I just went direct. It worked.

Also, today we have a incredible array of virtual sounds, modeled amps and effects, hundreds of things at your fingertips, great sounds. These you can put directly into the recording channel.

Many folks record a straight clean guitar sound on a track and add the amp and effects after the fact in the DAW. There are plug ins for most any sound you are going for.

A couple of things to watch for. Transient distortion due to a momentary signal surge that causes the channel to overload. If it happens while you are recording, it is hard to get rid of. Sometimes it is so fast that the input channel indicator doesn’t even show red. If you hear a click or pop, re record.

Another thing is the guitarists headphone mix. Many guitar players are used to the way their amp sounds with them standing in front of it. Many times, especially if you are overdubbing, that is hard to do. But you can put the guitarist in front of his/her amp and direct them to take one ear piece of the headphones either off or partially off, that gives them the smack of the amp they are used to. You can also put the speaker cabinet in a secluded place and let the guitarist listen to the main monitors, and that is obviously if you are using an amp.


Author: Chad