Getting Better At Mixing & Engineering Part 2 (12 hours)

Recording The Electric Guitars (The First Time)

Recording the electric guitars for this project was difficult because I was finding difficult to get a sound that I was happy with.

At first, the electric guitars were recorded using an Adrenalinn 3 modelling amp and a Mesa preamp together. This setup was suggested by the band’s guitarist because his favourite marshall was being re-tubed at that time. I decided that It may also be a good idea to set up a real amp as well as the modelling amp and Mesa pre-amp. At first, we tried a Blackstar in combination with the direct guitar sound, but something was not right with the sound after some tweaking I eventually gave up on that amp. I then decided that we should just record the guitars direct using the Adrenaline 3 modelling amp and Mesa pre-amp together.

I had the guitarist move from the live room into the control room to record his guitars. He set up his gear in the control room and we began to record the guitars. I didn’t feel that the tone was that good and the guitar was not very well set up so it was fretting out in places but I thought that I may be able to “fix it in the mix” (i was wrong).

Once all of the songs that need electric guitar had been recorded we moved on to the acoustic guitars and mandolin.

Recording The Acoustic Guitars

By the time it came to recording the acoustic guitars and mandolin we were fast running out of time. Due to the lack of time, I just throw up two mics on the acoustic and decided that I would record both and pick the best sounding one.

The first mic was a Rode NT2000 and the second mic was a Sontronics Sigma. Once I got the signal through to the DAW on both mics we began to record and to my surprise, both mics sounded fantastic together. I had a look at the waveforms for both mics and they looked like they were in phase. So I decided to flip the phase in reaper just to be sure and I found that I had accidentally thrown both mics up perfectly in phase.

Trying To Fix In The Mix

The day after recording the guitars I decided to see if I could get the electric guitars to work in the mix. After trying to EQ the guitars many different ways I gave up and sent an e-mail to the band saying that the electric guitars sound bad and we need to re-record them. The band’s guitarist replayed saying that by the next recording session he would have is Marshall JCM 800 back and we could try that.

Researching Electric Guitar Recording Techniques

I decided that I had better look up some techniques for recording electric guitars for the next recording session. I found some very useful information on the sound on sound website specifically an article called Guitar Amp Recording by Mike Senior.

Getting It Right At The Source

In the article, it stated that you should get a guitar sound that you are happy with before you even think about recording. “The stupidest thing that any musician can do,” remarks Tony Platt, “is to just plug in and play and say ‘make that sound good’. It doesn’t work like that”. It also went on to say that there is clearly a great deal that the guitarist can do for the sound by changing guitars, strings and amps. The article also stated that it is also good to think about how the guitar amp is interacting with the room it’s placed in. For example, Roy Thomas Baker mentions that he sometimes sets up the same guitar cab in different rooms because of the effect on the sound. Even if you’re restricted to one room, a number of producers suggest trying out different positions of the amp in the room. With all this in mind I contacted the guitarist and asked him to bring a few guitars with him so that we could try them out and see what sounds good.

Choosing Microphones  

The article suggested many microphones that would be useful for recording guitars, but the two that I felt would be best suited to what I was doing was the SM57 and the MD421. The SM57 is well suited for recording guitar because the microphone’s frequency response has a sub-200Hz response roll-off reduces low-end cabinet ‘thumps’, which might otherwise conflict with the kick drum and bass in the mix. This also compensates for proximity boost when the mic is used very close to the speaker cone. However, there’s also a slight ‘suckout’ at 300-500Hz, an area where muddiness can easily occur, and a broad 2-12kHz presence peak, which adds bite and helps the guitars cut through the rest of the track. The MD421 is also well suited for guitar and has a wider frequency response, none of the low mid-range suckout, and an even heftier sensitivity boost upwards of 1kHz. This microphone also has a larger diaphragm than the SM57, and the off-axis response anomalies of the larger diaphragm, in particular, give a different character to the sound. The MD421 is a good microphone to pair with other microphones for example a SM57 in the fredman technique.

Micing Different Speaker Cones

The article suggested that micing up two different speaker cones can result in some interesting sounds. Steve Churchyard: “If I’m using a 4×12 cabinet, I find two of the best-sounding speakers, and I’ll put an SM57 right on axis and right on the cone of both those guys. Then I’ll mix them in the control room, combine the two together. It seems a little different than just using one mic. It’s not twice as good, but it’s just mixing the character of two different speakers.” The article also went on to state that while recording AC/DC’s Back In Black, Tony Platt used a pair of condenser mics to pick up different speaker cones and give a wider sound to each guitar.

Recording Guitars The Second Time 

When it came to recording the guitars the second time I was intent on getting a good sound. We spent some time moving the guitar amp around until we found a spot in the room that sounded good. Then we perfected the tone before I setup any microphones, Once we had a tone that we liked I got a SM78 and a MD421 and set each mic on a different speaker. I checked that my phasing was ok and we began to record. Some of the songs where recorded using a telecaster to get a more aggressive sound and a stratocaster was used for the cleaner sounds. We also decided that it would be best to record the crystal clean guitar parts with a Roland jc 120.



2 thoughts on “Getting Better At Mixing & Engineering Part 2 (12 hours)

  1. Interesting run though of your process.
    “The stupidest thing that any musician can do,” remarks Tony Platt, “is to just plug in and play and say ‘make that sound good’. It doesn’t work like that”.
    Smart, there is always some trial and error when beginning a recording to get the best sound.


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