Multiple Microphones on Guitar Cabinets

For those who still insist on sticking mics in front of guitar cabinets, here’s an old one I wrote for recordingproject.com

Introduction

A lot of this came from following around the God of Metal Engineering: Bill Metoyer. (Check the back of your records; if you don’t see his name on anything, you need a trip to the record store). I am sharing this because I see many posts on many online forums concerning recording guitars with multiple microphones. It is my hope that this tutorial will serve you well. Follow all that is suggested, and be on your way to glorious guitar tones whenever, and whatever you record with. Multiple mic’s on guitars doesn’t have to produce horrible phase artifacts if approached right. Here we go!

Intonation

Make sure your guitar is in tune, and intonated properly. Different intonations, even slightly different, can make completely separate flavors of distortion so get it as close as you can. If you know the difference in distortion sound between a 24 3/4″ scale guitar neck and a 25 1/2″ one then you know what I’m saying. In addition, guitars and basses that are not intonated together will surely fight each other in the mix, causing one or the other to dominate, and never blend perfectly. If you are not skilled in intonating your guitar, it is best to take it into a luthier that is reputable!

Preamp Gain

Most of the best guitar tones, especially in “metal” genres, come from less, a whole lot less (that’s right LESS), distortion/preamp gain than you would use live. For riffs and chord changes, the real heaviness comes from dynamics – the fact that it gets louder when your pick hits the string than when the string is just resonating.

This seems obvious, but it’s not really. You need to maximize the dynamic range at this stage because from here on out, the signal is going to be compressed and degraded in all sorts of ways. In most cases the gain should be about where a chord actually comes out clean when you strum softly. Transistor amps/pedals may not do this (some will), which is another reason tubes are usually preferred for this type of thing. Not all preamps are created equal! Having a preamp that works with your genre is essential! Pick wisely, and pick from a lot of experimentation. Keep in mind too that pickup/preamp combinations work differently from each other. A Seymour Duncan Invader pickup will drive just about any preamp to distortion a lot quicker than a stock Fender Strat single coil pickup will. So much more could be said about selecting the right pickup and preamp for your “sound”, but that would regress this tutorial. Therefore, we move on!

Tone

Scooped mids, cranked bass and treble right? WRONG!!! For recording you will need a lot more mids than you normally would live. You need to be heard. The way our ears work, we take most of our cues from the midrange. Get as much body in the tone as you can…. not bottom, body. You can always scoop it out later if you must. As the carpenter says, “Always cut long.” Again, we could talk a long time about the tonal characteristics of different amps, but that would regress this tutorial.

Power Amp and Speaker

Ok, on to the power amp or the power section of your head if you use one. Here is where you start the dynamic reduction process. You want to get a sound with enough sustain to work, but, being careful whether or not you want to actually hear power tube saturation or speaker distortion. Nothing right or wrong here, you are only limited to what sound is right for your production. Get a good sound that you enjoy – that is what counts.

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