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Re: Guitar recording techniques


 
1/15/1999 7:06 AM
SpeedRacer Re: Guitar recording techniques
At the risk of dating myself, "Right On!".  
 
I couldn't agree more. I've been dipping my toes into home digital recording, and even with basic soundcards and shareware editors you can do some very cool stuff. With DSL and cable modems around the corners (here really), setting up private (personal even) record labels is an affordable reality; distributing your music over the net yourself.  
 
On real talent: I have had the pleasure to work with some really great engineers and it's true that what they know (and more to the point, what they HEAR) cannot be taught in books or comprehended from a BBS post. It's talent, vision and experience (not to mention hard hard work) that gets them there. I thought I had good ears until I worked with someone who really DID! It's humbling.
 
1/14/1999 11:59 AM
SpeedRacer
Technique-wise, I've never seen a "one size fits all" method of recording guitar (or bass fot that matter). Every engineer has favorite ideas & tricks. My favorite bass trick (if you can call it that) is to mic up a B15, and use a splitter to mix that with a direct in. You can get some great tones combining the two.  
Mic'ing stuff: the first rule is to use as few mics as possible. The 2nd rule is to ignore rule #1 and do whatever sounds good. An engineer whom I respect a lot used to goof around with up to 4 mics to record an AC30. Obviously you have a close mic (an SM57 or such), an ambient room mic (414, Neumann or whatever) but then he'd play with 2 "close range" mics, maybe 2-6 feet away. Mixing these with the close mic would yield various phase-cancelled frequencies - EQ really. Move the mics around, play with the phase and levels and you can get some great tones. It just takes some playing around. If you can avoid board EQ, all the better.  
Personally I like (lately anyhow) to use a large diaphragm mic with a small speaker. An idea I got from a Frank Zappa interview actually. A 421 off-axis on a 10" Mojo works great with a 5E3 style home-brew Deluxe and a Tele for "rootsy" type tones. But that's only 1 solution to a problem with an infinite number of solutions..  
It would be nice if there was a site to post tones, but everyone's guitars and amps are so different (not to mention sig processing!) it would be hard to hear the "setup" vs the final tone, IMHO.  
For "book learning" on mic technique and other studio topics, find "The Recording Studio Handbook" by John Woram. The basics are all there, and easy to understand.
 
1/14/1999 1:31 PM
Trace
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SpeedRacer....
SpeedRacer;  
 
Good points! All are very said and I completely agree. The thing with recording is there are rules that you should know to get around all the "problem" areas.  
One I would strongly recommend is know how room acoustics work ... basics is all.  
For example:  
1.) How many feet you can travel with a mic (from it's source) before phase cancalation introduces itself.  
2.) Know how far away from a source (in feet) you can be and how much delay will occure.  
This brings in a very interesting point; if you mic a bass amp and then run a DI (to obviously mix them together) alot of times "Phase Cancalation" rears it's ugly head.  
You wouldn't think it would but the signal from the DI arrives Immediately when your finger strokes the string and the mic has to wait for the sound to come out of the speaker and actually go into the mic itself before it will arrive at the recorder (or mixer depending on how you are routing the signal)  
Those are just a couple examples but it makes setting mics alot easier as well as getting sounds. The real "hell" comes into play when miking drums...oh man what fun! Phase is ALWAYS an issue there.  
I agree with you that engineering is an art and it takes years of hands on experience to get up to the level of the big boys. It can be done though.  
Perhapes the Ampage can include another little section for recording Bass & Guitar or just recording period...ha, ha.  
Alot of guys run DI's to get the lowend off the Bass. If you have axcess to a Neumann U87 or a Telefunken U47 you'll be blown away by how much "rich" lowend comes through. You can also use the AKG D-112. Alot of big studios use this in combination with the other mics. It's pretty inexpensive and very effective.  
Or....ha, ha....duck tape a Radio Shack PZM to the cloth Grill of the baffel or on the bottom (inside) of your combo. (check the phase between your DI). If you're using a sealed cabinet, slap it on the top of the cabinet. Slap a PZM on the floor in front of the cabinet (wood floor is always best)...see how that sounds & all this can be applied to guitar too.  
Remember, the sound waves have to travel further BEFORE the lower frequencies can be heard (another why DI's are so favorable).  
Now are you plugging into the DI first and then into yur amp? If so, almost all DI's (unless you are paying alot for it...that's the rule of thumb) will compress whatever goes out of the DI. So the amp might not seem as "dynamic" or "punchy" as when you just plug into the amp.  
I've had countless bassist complain about that when they are in the studio using a DI...it's like the lesser of two evils if the studio (or bassist) doesn't have a good DI.  
Ok, ok, ok....I'm babbling on and on like that pink rabbit on TV. Someone else should take a turn.  
 
Trace
 
1/14/1999 11:28 PM
Carlo
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Great thread guys! It's nice to know there's plenty of recording enthusiasts here at Ampage. Lately, for drums, I've been taking the simple approach; using only four mics. I put a mic on the kick and one on the snare. Then I set up a stereo pair about 10 feet in front of the kit at ear level. Mostly, I use MS stereo. This all results in a very natural, open drum sound.  
 
Carlo
 
1/15/1999 6:55 AM
SpeedRacer
Carlo: A time-tested recipe for drum-micing success.. that's how the old Who records (and many others I'm sure were done.. )Kick, snare and an overhead pair. For kicks, try an RE20, sometime. For gobos, try a pair of Marshall 4x12's !! (and some blankets on the floor in between them) Works great. If you have access to fancy mics you can do what I call the industry standard snare mic-up: a 414 and an SM57 (top and bottom). Drums are, IMHO, the hardest part of the whole process to get right, and the final measure of an engineer's skill. Bass and guitar have some tricks, but it's easy IMO to get passable tones. Great tones are tougher.. yes. But Drums are the make or break deal to me.
 
1/15/1999 12:03 PM
Trace
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Here's my 10 tips....for what it's worth (2cents?)
Speed;  
 
Brother you said!!! Drums are the hardest thing record. Let's be realist if only for a moment;  
Since the drums are the "bed" or "foundation" of any recording (well most) shouldn't people pay more attention to them? I've heard alot of albums that sounded like S$!t although the guitar tone was cool. I've heard great albums too and 99% of the time the drums sounded really good or at the very least honest & natural.  
The AKG414 on the bottom of the snare and a Shure SM57 is the industry standard and it's pretty hard to make a snare sound bad like that (of course when ever using a mic on the bottom of the snare--flip the phase)  
An RE20 is a great idea on a kick and really produces some great lower tones that are warm and robust.  
You can do ALOT with room mics on drums. Hell, ask Jimi Page who vertually invented that technique (as well as reverse reverb).  
Ask any rock drummer "what do you want your drums to sound like?" Most will mention "When The Levee Breaks" by Led Zepplin off from the 4th album. If you know the story behind the drum sound then I won't bore you with it. If you'd like to know give me a shout.  
Another thing engineers SHOULD do is actually listen to the each idividule drum seperately and then listen to the whole drum kit BEFORE you place a mic on the kit!!  
This also applies to guitar sounds as well as bass sounds. Sure there are places to start that will sound good...but what about that one guy who comes in and doesn't sound like everyone else?? Give the guy a chance!!  
Another REALLY important thing that all drummers seem to over look on their first few times in the studio....tuning. WOW....I'm a guitarist who plays drums (because I had to learn how to relate to drummers) and I can tell you that tuning these round little buggers is very important!! It will make or break your drum tone.  
Some "does and do nots":  
1.) I once had a bassist come into a session with a GK head (yucky) and set up his rig. I walked over to listen to the cabinet to see where I should place the mic.  
I look around to see where the cabinet was. I asked him "where's your cabinet?" He said "Right here Duuude!" It was a moniter with a 15" speaker (blown I discovered)and a horn.  
I would file this inder "Horror Stories" and DO NOT bring a moniter into a session (ha, ha) *True story* & it was a classic DI for that sesison with a fake dummy mic to apease him. (I hate doing that)  
2.) If you don't have a good head or cabinet then I would suggest you rent or borrow one form a buddy. The recording will most likely be around for a long time (as most are) even if it's a demo. These things have a way of resurfacing later on. (why is that??) Note: Same thing goes with your instrument  
3.) Bassist should really have new strings put on a day or two in advance. A.) They get to stretch rather than stretching outta tune in that one great take! B.) Bass tones are horrendous with old strings unless that's the desired effect.  
4.) Make sure your tubes are in good condition. Sure they don't need to be new but if they're beat so is your tone and EQ or effects won't help. I've worked on SSL's and Vintage Neve's...the best EQ in the world...it still doesn't help.  
5.) Try and record dry unless the effect is so dertrimental that the song will suffer if you don't print it to a track. If you really can;t live without the effect while tracking...print them to a seperate track. ALOT of guitarist wish they hadn't printed their effects when it comes time to mix. (just some friendly advice is all :-)  
6.) Make sure you can hear what you need to hear in the headphones!! Be a downright Bottyhole about it. It sure makes things flow easier and doesn't everyone like to hear them selves at rehearsals & live gigs?  
If the engineer says there's nothing else he/she can do ... ask themn to come into the room and listen to the headphones. (hint: they usually won't come into the room but WILL fix the headphone mix)  
7.) Get used to playing with headphones because 99% of the time they are a necessary evil. Practice at home...it's free! (ha, ha)  
8.) Spend time with a simple four track recorder and get "your sound" right there at home. It's not THAT much different from a big studio. They have more channels and tracks but if your guitar is going onto one track anyway...then you should be able to get the same sound (if not better because of the better gear in pro-studios, if they are pro).  
Purchase a Shure SM57. Every major "Guitar-God-Like-Tone" was most likely done using one of these. Experiment with mic-placement. Get a cheap compressor and learn how to use it (bassists too) Hell, even a cheap 'ol Alesis 3630 will do. Compression all works the same. The quality differs but the ratio, threshold, etc still work the same. You'd be surprised how much of a difference this will make on home recordings and demos.  
Learn how to use the Noise Gate. It can be your friend in the home studio! Plus it can make your recordings sound more pro.  
9.) Get a cheap DAT recorder. Mix your music down to two tracks (regardless if you own a 4 or 8 track) Get it just right. Then take a line out (left and right from the DAT player) and record the mix onto your 4 or 8 track (onto two tracks panned hard left and hard right) Heyyyyy....you just picked extra tracks for your vocals, backup vocals, and lead guitar!!  
This technique has been around forever but always get's over looked in basic conversation with engineers. Haven't heard of it?? Ever hear of the Beatles, Hendrix, Cream, etc? They ALL DID IT LIKE THIS EARLY ON!! You could use a regular cassette deck too. NOTE: you might want to add some high end when mixing down like this...it get's lost easy as does reverb.  
10.) Never trust moniters in your house. Use headphones (AKG 240DF's...cheap and found in every major studio!). Compare what you hear in the phones to what you hear coming out of the speakers. You "control-room" isn't acoustically tuned like the big studios and those reflections that are bouncing around (bass build up, standing waves, etc.) WILL effect what you are hearing.  
Ever do a mix you slaved on? You took it to your car stereo or a friends house and it didn't sound the same??? That's why...the only place it will sound the same is in your controlroom.  
So get used to headphones and be monogamous so you are used to hearing that one set of headphones....take them with you to other sessions!!!  
 
Well...I've blabbed on once again (plus I'm snowed in!!) I'll shut up now.  
 
Hope it helps;  
Trace
 
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