Good afternoon music fans! You know, we’ve talked a lot about electric guitars here at ProAudioLand and it makes perfect sense; they’re pretty much hands down the single most popular instrument in all of modern music with only the piano/keyboard or a drum kit being close contenders. They’re also downright cool. Anyways, we’ve featured plenty of articles here regarding the recording of the electric guitar from tips on double tracking to techniques on fighting feedback. In fact, just yesterday we checked out a few different miking techniques that can positively alter the sound of your recording. Even with all that said, there is still plenty more ground to cover. While taking a look back at previous articles, I found myself thinking about the knowledge I assume most of our readers probably already know. Things such as always making sure your guitar is tuned before you record, changing your strings regularly – you know, the simple things that you’d figure most guitarists and home studio producers should already know. But as made my way through different music forums or chat with a customer/reader or two about general recording principles, I’ve found that maybe I assumed a bit too much. With that said, I’d like to use today’s article to cover a few general guitar tips that home studio musicians should know – but might not.
There's More Than One Way To EQ
Nowadays, it seems like plenty of home studio producers tend leave much of the EQ or sound alterations for the post recording phase – “fix it in the mix,” as they say. I myself – along with plenty of other music techs out there – strongly disagree with this idea. Post production EQing and tinkering is meant to mend the little rough patches of a great take. It is not used to make a rough take great. Understanding that the track is only as good as the raw take is key here.
Another little problem that should be rectified is the propensity of some newer producers to not use all the tools at their disposal – not looking at the bigger picture. Remember, recording and live performance are two very different animals and should be tackled as such. So we all know that guitar amps have EQ knobs that work great for dialing in a desired tone during live performances but did you know that too much EQing on an amp can make your tone sound harsh or even push the amp towards some pretty unpleasant sounding distortion? Not exactly what you’d want for a track but how about instead of reaching for those knobs you try a few mic placement tricks instead?
Just as we covered in yesterday’s article, messing around with mic placement for recording is an equally effective way of EQing that too many home studio producers neglect to employ. In general terms, the closer a mic is to the center cone of a speaker, the more low end and high end will be picked up. If you were to move the mic towards the outside of the speaker, the midrange will start getting more pronounced. Along with this, you can also move the axis of the mic a bit for even more EQing capabilities. If you angle the mic about 45 degrees outward from the cone will reduce the upper midrange frequencies while angling the mic 45 degrees inward will increase the low-midrange.
Did you know that the pick you use has a big effect on the tone of your guitar? I’m sure most every guitar player out there probably already knows this little fact since it’s kind of impossible not to notice a difference as you switch from picks of different material. The problem here isn’t that they don’t get this idea; much like the ability to EQ through mic placement, the trouble is that some home studio producers never apply it to their recordings. A good example that comes to mind where the type of pick can positively – and drastically – change the tone of your guitar is using a metal pick for a guitar solo. This allows you to increase the attack while giving it a very bright sound – all without having to touch a single knob on that amp. Another good example is the use of felt picks for soft rhythmic guitar parts. This creates a very subdued but warm kind of tone that tends to fit perfectly with keyboards and piano.
Too Much is More Than Enough
Another common mistake made by some home studio producers is their propensity to use way too much reverb during the recording phase. I should know – I was once a huge violator during my early days. Honestly though, I get it, I understand why a rookie home studio producer would heavily cake their guitar with reverb; adding a bit of that echo can make a bad guitar player sound better similarly as it tends to give vocalists much more confidence during takes. That’s all well and good but you have to remember that you’re recording and not performing – you can always add reverb during the mixing phase if you really want it in there. Using reverb during a recording not only robs you of the option of removing the effect during the mixing phase in case you don’t like it but it also tends to sound completely amateurish when used too heavily. Unless you’re going to be playing some echo heavy surf rock, easy on that reverb – or at least wait until post processing.
Taking Advantage of DI
Another good tip that most new producers fail to take advantage of is recording through DI. I know the argument, recording through DI doesn’t sound as natural as amp to mic but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about dual recording. By using a DI box, you can have your recorder set up to record a raw, untouched guitar track along with the effect-laden, amp to mic track. Imagine if you happen to nail down a guitar part perfectly but then you decide that the effect used just isn’t adding up with the rest of the song. By having that raw guitar track, you can rest assured that your perfect guitar performance is always available even if the amp to mic take wasn’t what you thought it would be. Not only that, you can always use the raw DI track to beef up your other take. At worst, you’ll simply have an unused raw track. At best, it can save a perfect take from going down the drain. I’d definitely say it’s worth it!