Recording your guitar

Whether at home, in the studio or your practice space, we show you ways to get your guitar sounding great.

Posted: 24 March 2020

Ask any guitarist what’s most important to them and they’ll respond with the same thing – tone. Regardless of gear or technique, all guitarists are on their own personal quest for the best tone. Although ‘good tone’ is widely subjective, there are certain techniques used in recording environments that ensure a really great sound and a solid foundation to work with. From mic’ing techniques to mixing tricks, we’ve done our research and put together some of the best recording and mixing techniques for guaranteed tonal bliss.

Start at the source

Mic it up

Everyone has a different technique when it comes to amp mic’ing, but there’s some commonly used setups that will ensure a great sound that you can work with.

One technique is to use a cardioid dynamic microphone (these are particularly useful for their sub-200hz roll-off to avoid boomy, low end interference and ability to reject sound from behind the microphone.) and position it close (less than 2 inches away) from the speaker cone.

From here you will want to experiment with different positionings, as an-off axis position towards the edge of the speaker cone will sound different. Having trouble finding the speaker cone? Touch the fret cloth with your hand or use the torch on your phone to get the position right. You can also try using two different dynamic mics together, making sure you keep them very close to each other to avoid any phase cancellation.

Another common technique is to use a condenser microphone as a second mic and position it further away from the amp, this acts as the ‘room mic’ and captures a wider, ambient sound.

If you’re recording from home these microphone signals will go into an audio interface. Depending on the price these interfaces can have higher quality preamps which can affect the sound of the recording, but even the most affordable interfaces on the market have solid input preamps. Don’t forget to make sure your audio signal isn’t clipping or going much higher than -10db!

If you’re recording from home these microphone signals will go into an audio interface. Depending on the price these interfaces can have higher quality preamps which can affect the sound of the recording, but even the most affordable interfaces on the market have solid input preamps. Don’t forget to make sure your audio signal isn’t clipping or going much higher than -10db!

Mix it up

When you’re tracking guitars, try using different pickup positions, try using different chord inversions for different takes, you should also try different playing velocities with your right hand to see what technique gives the most emotive performance.

Stack it up

There’s a time and a place for a single guitar line but primarily with rock-based tracks double tracking is your friend. It helps fill out the sound and gives your guitar that extra bit of oomph. Record your guitar part, then repeat the recording and play both together. You can then pan the tracks left and right to get a wider, stereo spread. It’s not uncommon to do 4 or even 8 tracks of the same part with alternative panning and mic positioning. Keep in mind things can become muddy, so you’ll want to keep your parts tight and if the song calls for it, adjust the audio so the tracks are all tight and in time with each other.

Clean it up

So now you’ve got a high quality, in-tune guitar part that’s been mic’d up properly. If you’re mixing the track yourself it’s time to consider how a guitar part works in the mix and its sonic properties.

Firstly, you’ll want to look at using a noise gate to remove any noise floor in-between your playing. Tighter, more responsive noise gates will work best for metal and heavy rock parts. Consider your EQ, and don’t be afraid to drastically roll off some low end or high end to make sure it sits right in the mix. A track that sounds brilliant isolated doesn’t always work well when it’s being played with everything else.

A useful technique to clean up a guitar part is to pull one narrow EQ parameter extremely high and then ‘sweep’ across until you find unpleasant sounds, then you can pull those out. Another thing to consider is using short reverbs and delays to create a little extra spread, particularly on lead parts.