May 12, 2023
From Berry to Hendrix to Van Halen to Johnny 5, electric guitars are irrevocably embedded in our cultural identity, and contrary to what some think, they’re not going anywhere. The only difference now is there are so many more ways to use them and record them well. So, let’s revisit capturing electric guitars in the current times.
Obviously, the biggest change since the days of the old guitar gods is the development of digital audio workstations (DAWs). It’s quicker, cheaper, and more precise to record than ever before – but that means it’s easier to cut corners and end up with a brittle or generic sound. Still, it’s also easier to experiment and come up with innovative sounds. There’s a tradeoff there, but it’s not hard to get the best of both worlds.
Another more recent game changer for anyone cutting guitars: modeling. Modeling tech allows musicians to simulate the sound of classic amps and effects pedals, which means not only has the stage amp game changed, so has recording guitars. In fact, everything about what you need to get a great guitar sound has changed – from how much you have to spend to how much space you need to how loud you have to be.
Does that mean we never go back to vintage cabinets and older methods? No way! It just means we have options. And as it turns out, products that bridge the gap between vintage tube-based tone and modern convenience are everywhere, not just as software models. Take Carvin’s VLD1 Legacy Drive Preamp Pedal, for example. This little guy relies on real tube tech – not modeling – in a small, portable package that can eliminate the need for a heavy rig while still delivering a true-to-life vintage tone.
While technology has certainly opened new possibilities for recording guitars, it’s still important to follow some best practices to achieve the best results. Here are some tips to get you started:
The space you need depends on the tech you’re using. If you’re going old school and miking a cabinet, you’ll need a room relatively free of ambient noise and preferably treated to reduce reflections and coloration. You don’t necessarily need a huge cab for recording – in fact, something like Carvin’s V112E might yield a better tone in the studio.
If you’ve got neighbors or family in the house, you may want to isolate the space if possible, or at least time your sessions so they’re not too disruptive. The good news is, placing an amp in a booth or closet can be super effective – just make sure if you use a closet, it’s chock full of clothes or treatment – closets can sound quite boxy when untreated.
The one thing you want to avoid is trying to record a loud amp in your control room. It can be near impossible to hear what you’re capturing that way.
Of course, if you’re taking advantage of modeling or something like the VLD1 or the X1 Preamp Pedal you can forgo the extra space and record direct. If you want to record totally clean and reamp later, use a DI box like Carvin’s FDR60.
There are plenty of right ways to mic a cabinet, and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed much. You do have more room for experimentation in the studio than on stage though, so in addition to the standard directional mic placed right up on the cone, you might try some other combos. Place a cardioid condenser 6 inches away or try a stereo pair 5 feet back – or try a multi-mic approach. Just be prepared to manage phase issues in the mix if you multi-mic the cabinet.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is you need to take care of the gear! If you’re recording in a studio rather than at home, the same guidelines apply as always: bring extra picks, strings, cables, and a tuner, change old strings, and do any maintenance beforehand. You may want to break in new strings for a few days before the session, rather than changing them right before.
Amps should be kept clean, and this goes for modern modeling amps as well as stomp boxes and portable preamps like the VLD1 and X1. Blowing the dust out of any hardware periodically is a great idea, as is keeping jacks and connections clean.
Once you’ve captured your tracks, you still have a lot of room to change things in the mix – even more so now than back in the day. A couple thoughts about that:
One of the advantages of using modeling technology is you can experiment with different amp and effects combinations to find the perfect tone. That’s why a lot of people like to record a clean or somewhat cleaner signal nowadays, so they can change at will in the mix. If you’re in the mix and not loving the models, you can always reamp with a real cabinet. There are even online services that can do that for you.
The guitar is still an evolving, relevant instrument, which means you don’t always have to try for vintage sounds. Don’t be afraid to lean into modern tools like the dizzying array of effects and audio mangler plugins out there. You can even translate your recorded guitar audio into MIDI and pipe that into soft synths for crazy sounds or use a guitar-based MIDI controller to begin with. Plus, there’s no shortage of insane hardware pedals, loopers, and other devices unheard of in the early days of rock. Embrace it all!
The electric guitar is still essential to recorded music, and new-fangled technology doesn’t change that – in fact it opens up exciting new possibilities for the instrument. Follow the same fundamental best practices you always have while taking advantage of the advancements that make it easier, and you should see no end to creativity with your guitar.
November 06, 2023
One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
October 30, 2023
Some of the great guitar-playing artists were self-taught – which means a great many of them use weird tunings. That’s probably no coincidence – using alternate tunings is a great way to come up with a unique sound. So, let’s look at a few of the most common uncommon tunings you could try with your guitar – or your bass.
October 23, 2023
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