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How Loud to record Guitar

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by eknapier, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. eknapier

    eknapier Member

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    SO i'm doing a demo w/ my band and last weekend I had an argument with the producer/engineer about the volume level of my head. I have an upgraded Hot Rod Deville, 2 x 12, and as all Devilles, they are loud amps. I was doing lead guitar overdubs and my amp was isolated, so it could've been as loud as I needed. But the guy insisted on setting the volume to just under 2. To my ears, the amp does not really start opening up til at least 3, or just under 3. Because of the volume taper on this amp, there is a huge difference between just under 2 and 3. But he said that the lower the volume on the amp, the cleaner the recording, and any feeling I have that the amp sounds better at 3 is just an illusion, as the natural tube distortion/breakup doesn't happen until the amp is much louder than I wanted to set it anyway. But to my ears, there is a difference.

    Any thoughts on this? IS it better/more natural to record an amp at higher volumes? Why would he want such a low volume out of my amp?
     
  2. JoeP

    JoeP Member

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    Usually it's the engineers job to capture on tape what you do, not to tell you how to do it. When we recorded our album, I had 3 amps running at once, and trust me, they weren't on 2....
    It makes a difference. If your paying for the studio time, then your the boss. The engineers job is to just put it on tape, unless he's hired to produce the demo. Producing the music is another job entirely....

    If he doesn't think that opening up an amp allows for more ambiance from said amp, he must not have very good ears. Or else has no experience in recording loud amplifiers..

    If he was producing it, he could have been telling you that because it (to him) sounded better for that particular track in the song..
     
  3. michael patrick

    michael patrick Supporting Member

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    Yep.

    Reminds of the time my band was getting set to do a demo. The engineer kept trying to talk me into using a POD. I told him he better make room for my Marshall head and 4x12.

    So we get done recording, and we are listening to the final mixes. The engineer turns to me and says, "Damn, that Marshall kicks ass!" :D
     
  4. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I don't know what he's talking about.

    My rule of thumb is turn it up to where it's sounding good. If on your amp it's 3 and beyond, then 2 is not where it should be.
     
  5. E-Rock

    E-Rock Member

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    The only thing I can think of is maybe he was worried about his mics?
    Really high SPLs are hard on some mics.
    However, just move the mic a few inches or a foot back, and it should be fine.
    Any engineer worth his salt should know that tube amps need to get up to a certain level to "give up the goods" so to speak.
    I do think that, generally speaking, smaller amps work better in the studio.
    100 watt Marshalls are really hard to capture, and they usually end up sounding smaller in the recording.

    That sucks, your engineer is supposed to help you achieve the sound in your head.
     
  6. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Member

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    Strictly speaking, an engineers job is simply to get your signal to tape (or digital medium) as hot as possible without distortion. Anything more than that and he's out of bounds.
    Now if he's producing...that's a whole 'nother story.

    I can see both sides of the coin here. As a guitar player I play better when I feel like my tone is there, and I want the guitar sound on tape to be my sound. As a producer, I know that often the guitar sound a mix needs isn't always the perfect guitar sound...it's a compromised guitar sound that works perfectly in that given mix.

    A
     
  7. elambo

    elambo Member

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    If you give a **** about how good your amp sounds on tape, you might give the engineer the benefit of the doubt. It's NOT the engineer's job to simply get a hot signal on tape, it's his/her job to get the best, or most appropriate signal to tape. It might just be that your amp sounds best "on tape" at 2. Take what you're used to hearing live and throw it out the window. Instead, record the amp the way the engineer suggests, and if it sounds great, it's great. However, if it sounds bad, it's bad. But remember, there's an art to capturing sound on tape that's not necessarily how you might expect it to be.

    Now if the engineer is a hack, he could simply be following some guidelines that he read in a book somewhere about SPLs and mics and amps and tape, etc. That's why I'd recommend that you listen to the "recorded" guitar sound yourself.

    Yes, the engineer works for you, but his/her job is to make the most out of what you bring to the session. His/her techniques might not always make sense, but use your ears on playback to decide. And make sure you mention to him/her that it's your opinion that the amp sounds best when played louder. Play it live how you like it so he/she can hear what you're talking about.
     
  8. elambo

    elambo Member

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    A producer's job is simply to get the most out of everybody, including the engineers and musicians. That means the engineer needs to capture the right tone and the musician must hear the most inspiring tone. It's possible to have both at the same time. There are ways to prevent sacrificing either area. It's not easy - no doubt about it - but that's why producers cash the biggest checks.
     
  9. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    Oh this is tough but here goes. Most amps do sound better cranked past 2. I am right now working with a band as a co-producer and the engineer and some of the amps we can record at lower levels (because they are lower wattage combos). The Rivera with a 4x12 however sounds like a dog unless it has a more healthy volume usually above 3 at least. Capturing guitar sounds is not always as easy when the band is used to a certain sound from live gigs. There are a ton of factors including mic choice, placement, mic pre, converters, etc. We will assume for this case a SM57, close mic, basic mic pre and converters because a well miked amp will sound pretty decent no matter what unless you are using Garage Band and the internal apple mic :) ha,ha.

    We just pooped all over one of their songs trying to capture a studio version. That can often mess with the musicians heads also. They are used to hearing it different. Changing the amount of distortion is going to be the ticket in our case. One other thought. Sometimes a little compression can help. I know people are already saying Distorted guitar is already compressed. Yes but capturing speaker compression and or the compression your ear hears in front of a guitar amp sometimes and I repeat sometimes can be helped by a bit of compression on the recorded guitar track. Experimentation is always the key in the studio. In our case we used a compressor pedal before the amp and that helped quite a bit.
     
  10. covert

    covert Member

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    As an engineer who plays, you should get a different engineer. While a less driven tone often translates better to tape, there are limits. Most, if not all, amps have a minimum setting to get any serious tone at all. If he can't hear the difference, and is too dogmatic even to listen and discuss it, go elsewhere.
     
  11. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    This says what I was trying to say, only better.
     
  12. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    Covert,

    Very well put.
     
  13. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth

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    As loud as it needs to be to capture your performance.

    Just because an amp can sound great at lower volumes, doesn't mean that your playing will. Many amps respond differently the hotter you run them, which in turn could have a healthy influence on how you play.

    Now, this doesn't mean that you wait until you get into the studio to start figuring out your sound...that's a "rookie mistake" that I have seen a ton of people make. They get to the studio, and spend more time tweaking their amp than they do tracking. A few things could be causing this.

    1. Inexperience
    2. Finally hearing your rig in a critical listening environment
    3. Tempermental gear...some gear gets visited by Murphy's Law the night before or even during a recording session
    4. Inexperience
     
  14. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Guest

    Come on, it doesn't sound like the engineer even bothered to listen. A DeVille on 3 just isn't that loud. God help him if he showed up with a Plexi. Without hearing what was on tape(including rattles and other noise that may have been there) its impossible to say definitively but it sounds like the engineer is a little inexperienced. If you are looking for the cleanest of clean sounds then he has a point to a certain extent. It will probably break up a little @ that level. Doesn't sound like that was the goal to me though.
     
  15. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    I think the element you're chasing here isn't breakup, where you overdrive your amp into it's own distortion... it's saturation, where the power tubes start working a little and give a fatter, more compressed sound. I'm in agreement with the other folks, your engineer is being unreasonable. Unless he's recording your amp with a vintage U47 or crappy preamps with no dynamic range, he should be able to handle the SPL's of the amp and translate your tone into a "clean" recording. I'm at a loss for why he thinks a lower volume will translate into a better recording... but if he's not willing to track your amp with it sounding how you feel it should sound, you should find another guy to work with.
     
  16. eknapier

    eknapier Member

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    wow, thanks for all the input. I really need to figure out what the reasoning is behind this guy wanting my amp at bedroom levels for recording. I'm going back in this weekend, I will try to get some of these arguments in my head so I can actually give him good technical reasons why I think my amp should be louder. Although he did get a pretty good, clean sound - several of my friends said it sounded a little sterile and fake, and not like me at all. I did notice that the amp was not quite as responsive as it is in a live setting. I'm definately not a rookie trying to figure out my tone - i went into the studio, set up ready to play. I know where all my eq's and levels should be to get the tone I'm after - he actually turned the amp way down w/o me knowing. I was in the monitor room and my amp was being mic'ed in another room. It was either that or play in same room with my amp and w/ headphones on. Maybe that would've been a better choice. But after I set it up where I like it, he turned the volume down to about 1.75. Then I did the session, thinking that the unnaturalness had to do more with being monitored and in another room from my amp, but then at the end I went outside and noticed what he did to my amp - that's when we got into the argument. I just didn't really know how to defend myself, and he was spurting off all kinds of techy talk about why it is a misconception that guitar amps sound better at louder volumes, etc. I just don't know what to make of this guy. Thanks for all the input, keep the comments coming, very interesting discussion.
     
  17. eknapier

    eknapier Member

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    "I think the element you're chasing here isn't breakup, where you overdrive your amp into it's own distortion... it's saturation, where the power tubes start working a little and give a fatter, more compressed sound."

    Yea, that's exactly it - now I have a name for what I'm trying to get across from this guy. Thanks man!
     
  18. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    .... Tell the engineer to buy some earplugs :RoCkIn

    Turn up the amp....
     
  19. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    There's a point on most amps, and Fender amps specifically, where the power tubes really start to work, and you'll hear it. If you continue to crank the amp, it'll continue to saturate until there's no dynamic range, but at like 3 or 4 on a DeVille, that's a good tone. I run my Sovtek at about the halfway point, where the cleans are starting to get edgy... that's my favorite tonal point in the volume curve.

    Just tell the guy you've got an amp with tube power for a reason, and you want to use it.
     
  20. 6789

    6789 Member

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    Ouch! Sounds like someone might be an engineer. I do all my own recording now. Years ago during my first time in a studio, the engineer made me record the bass guitar through only a direct box. He wouldn't let me mic the amp or take a direct signal from the amp. and you know what? it's the worst sounding bass guitar I've ever heard. I no longer blindly do what an engineer says to do when common sense tells me otherwise.
    If an amp sounds better at 3, then turn it up to 3. If his mic can't handle the volume at 3, then he need to use a different mic. If the engineer thought a cleaner undistorted sound would fit in the song better, then that's a whole different story.
     

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