Recording guitars - what other considerations?


So Im comfotable with setting up an amp for recording, mic placements and the variation that can provide. Im comfotable with my current mic's (a shure 57, a shure 57 beta, zoom H4 and occasionally a Rode NT1 for room ambience) and the limitations/opportunities they provide and I recognise the limitations/positives of my Roland VS2000 DAW. Where I feel Im running into some hurdles though is during mixing and mastering.

Id be keen to hear what other people do once a guitar is recorded. Eventually I would like to purchase a good ribbon mic and an external pre-amp (the rolands in built ones are kind of digital sounding). I find doing stand alone amp clips the hardest. When Im working on a song its less of a problem because your aiming for the feel of an entire song and vocals are the issue but when doing amp demo's, heavier songs or recording tests I loose tone, depth and ambience every step of the way towards a final MP3 until it ends up sounding lifeless instead of a 'wall of sound'.

How do people track and pan their guitars? How many tracks for each guitar and how to pan rythym and lead tones together? If using more than one mic do you pan them or keep them together? How do you use effects in the mix after recording and do people master their amp demo clips or just mix them down raw? Are people using compression or EQ when recording or afterwards? Do people add after effects like BBE sonic maximizer? With so many steps in the chain I often have EQ overload making it hard to assess how to improve the sound or what needs fixing. Would buying a better ribbon mic and pre-amp be most of the way forward or are there some golden rules I should be following when recording, mixing down and mastering to obtain fat chunky dynamic guitar sounds?

Any help would be much appreciated. Ive been using 4 track tape machines and digital porta-studio's for some time now but Im finding doing amp clips really hard despite their apparent simplicity.


I'm not a pro, but I'm not a noob and have a pretty well equipped home studio. Here's what I DO know:
-Don't try to get Nickleback's or Chevelle's guitar sounds on your portastudio because it won't happen no matter how much eq you add or subtract.
-Get at least one or two really nice channels of mic pres and a/d/a converters.
-get some decent monitors so you can actually tell if what you're hearing is what's really there.
-You won't go wrong with a ribbon mic and a 57 combo
-Use as little preamp gain as possible to get the tone you want
-Try to get the sound/tone you want at the tracking stage and don't expect to be able to fix it later
-Tune your guitar frequently while tracking
-use different guitars and/or pickups for stacking guitar tracks

Lastly, if you can't afford to upgrade your set up for now, don't go nuts trying to nail the sound of your favorite band because chances are, they had access to top notch gear, a good engineer and a professional mastering engineer. Just push the gear you have to it's limit and get the most you can out of it. If you agonize over getting amazing guitar tones from portastudios, you'll end up in a padded room.

Do a search for the word, "Slipperman" and you'll find a total freakshow who happens to know a lot about recording guitars. I'm pretty sure he's lost a few bolts down the road, but knows what he's talking about.

Zero Point

I'll pop in on this subject a tick :)

Guitars have a nice balance with the frequencies. Electrics tend to get a nice, thick tone at about 380 hz. Lower if it sounds boomy, and higher if it is hollow. So that makes a range of 240-500 hz for the "body".

Presence, or a freq. that can help you really cut through in a mix, lies at about 1.5 to 2.5 khz.

For a sparkley, british kind of presence control, a wide Q at 3.2khz is kinda cool.

So for the EQ I usually preset the following:
- 6.8 or 10khz high shelf
- 3.3 khz High Mid Freq with a Q of about .7
- 390 hz Low Mid Freq. Q of 1.0
- Low shelf at 220 hz
- High Pass at 80 hz

Once I get those set up, that gives me a nice starting point. Just remember that a little goes a long way. :)



Thank you very much for those suggestions.

Guitarzzan I think you're right. One of the main problems I have involves the rolands pre-amps and gain. I think the purchase of a good pre and AD converter would be worthwhile as I can always use it with other DAW situations in the future. I have to currently turn the gain right up to capture the sound at volume (even with amp loud). It often results in a little amp hiss being picked up. I never had this problem with my old Boss BR series studio so it could be something else Ive overlooked having only owned the roland several weeks.

Zero point - its funny I have a knowlege of frequencies for radio (like ham radio bands) but absolutely none for music tones so I appreciate your technical advice regarding hz and khz. I

What about panning and mixing guitars in the spectrum? Im ok for songs but what about amp demo's? I liked David Bray's clips where he pans the wet reverb off to the right with the main guitar off centre to the left ala VH. Maybe the mic pre's are a big part of it. The best recordings Ive heard with roland VS series involved external pre-amps.


Zero Point

Well my suggestion for panning is rather simple actually. It's really old school too.

Pop on a set of Sony MDR-7506 headphones (or monitors of your choice), close your eyes. Play back your mix. And place the guitar in the hole you can "see" with your ears. :D

I'm sorry I can't be more specific, man. Mixing is an artform really. Every bit as much of a peformance as playing an instrument. I'm still not as good as I want to be with it.



close your eyes. Play back your mix. And place the guitar in the hole you can "see" with your ears. :D
Mixing is an artform really.
I often do this and will usually do several mixes with different pans then listen back on a bunch of different music players. Its definately an mixing and overlaying colours to paint a picture with.

I guess I have to just keep experimenting. I just started using two mics and sometimes pan them together, sometimes pan apart. Each decision then effects how the reverb will sound etc.

What would be interesting is to record a song all raw, send the tracks to someone else and see how they mix and pan it. Could be good knowledge exchange.

Zero Point

Yeah, man. Just takes some seasoning to get the good ole jambalaya goin'. ;)

I've narrowed my mics down to 4! :p *sigh*

I use 2 SM57's from the early 80's and 2 Studio Project C1's that I have rebuilt with higher grade components.

4 mics cause I use a Reeves 2x12 and a Marshall 1960b. I like putting a 57 off axis, and blending in the condenser mic on axis.

Heh, the experimentation never ends! ;)

Mics (like ribbons Royer 121 or AEA 92 for example) are important part of adding bottom end and smoothing guitar sound.
Mic placement (experiment, experiment, experiment) might do miracles. Don't just put mic in front of grill and start recording, try various angles and distances. If room is bad, try closer micing.
I use 3, 4 or more mics per tracking of one guitar (later on I can get rid of unecessary tracks easily).
Panning and other tweaks in mixdown phase are matter of ears and experience, it's impossible to say pan like that or EQ more or less. EQing is very important in context of other instruments.
Guitar sound that sits ideally in the mix (wall of sound, sweet solo etc.) can sound pure crap soloed (listened as isolated track), so don't try to make ideal sound of solo instrument during mix, but listen how it interacts with drums, bass, synths.

In order of relevance:

1./ Player (OK it's clear, but sometimes underrated)
2./ Pickups and guitar quality in general
3./ Arrangement, balance between instruments
4./ Proper equalization when mixing (if necessary) to place guitar exactly where necessary (good analogue EQ), no compressors usually
5./ Recording to tape first (if available) before going digital, not using digital simulators, pedals and DAW plug-ins for distortion, effects etc.
6./ Amp, mics and mic placement
7./ Tracking room (if some natural reverberation is necessary)
8./ Adequate Mic pre (BAE, Daking, Neve, API, Chandler)
9./ Good ADC (Apogee, Benchmark, Prism)
10./ Using lively analogue board (Trident, API, some SSLs, NEVE, Amek) on mixdown (preferably to tape), good analogue mastering and generally avoiding digital processing, well I like to add nice reverbs/delays (as older Lexicons) on this phase
11./ Cabinet (speakers)
12./ Good monitors to listen what you are doing
13./ Glass of wine before and good chick after
14.) Finally no BBE or similar enhancers, forget it for recording/mixing purpose (other than as special effect what was not point of OP).

It's rock and roll and to make good recording some efforts is definitely necessary. No chance to make really good tracks on PODs straight to Cubase etc., except if you just want to make some simple song for your girlfriend.


I want to echo Zero Point's eq tip. When the eq for guitar is rolled off below 80 hz, the guitar will be more articulate.


I also record with the Roland vs series DAWs. I did my first record on a vs1680 and now I have a vs2480. It's amazing what you can do with them, and although I agree with pretty much everything said above, I wouldn't sell yourself short by thinking you can't get a certain sound because you don't have the best gear. Just think of some of the very cool recordings done in the 60's with likely far less gear and technology than what you're working with in your own home!
One thing you may want to consider for recording guitars -- and I know I'll get nailed on this --- is amp modellers. I never use them live, but I have found them to be a great tool in the studio. the Pod XT really gave us a ton of flexibility with guitar suonds in the studio, and recorded and mixed properly, they can sound killer, and I would defy 99% of listeners to tell the difference.
It all comes down to imagination and experimentation, and being open to try different things.
Oh yeah, look into the Roland Universal Audio Compressor bundle for the vs series DAWs. Believe it or not, they sound killer, pretty close to having the actual Universal Audio 1176 Compressor/Limiter in your studio. Great for recording vocals and guitars. And even for running your entire guitar mix through when you're done.

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