Capturing great guitar recordings and creating lush, layered sound can give your music amazing depth. For many genres of music, it is one of the secrets to establishing the midrange warmth that creates a full, well-rounded sound. The following tips provide some options for how to achieve this in your guitar recordings:
- Tone blending
This is a great place to start, whether you are recording DI into an interface or via a microphone in front of your amp. Having access to a wide variety of guitar effects pedals allows you to blend different types of tones to create dense layers of guitars.
- Multiple microphones and amps
Experimenting with different types of microphones is a great way to create different tones and textures. The possibilities are endless when you consider combining different microphone positions, into different pre-amps and also guitar amplifiers. Even if you only have one amplifier, simply by experimenting with different settings you can achieve so much variety in sound.
- Different types of guitars
Humbuckers, single coil or acoustic… or perhaps all of the above? Different guitars will offer wide variety in tones and textures. Quite often the same brand/model of guitar will also have slight differences in sound and the way they play. When combined with correct panning settings, more than one type of guitar will appeal to the listener purely on the differences in tone.
- Frequency blend
Quite often frequencies can overlap with multiple guitar recordings. A good strategy to implement is to remove certain frequencies on one guitar(s) and compensate the reduction by a boost in the opposing guitar(s).
- Acoustic guitars
There are a number of methods to capture acoustic guitar recordings. If you have access to more than one microphone, experiment with both stereo recordings (e.g. one mic pointed at the body of the guitar and the second mic pointed at the neck) and mono recording (one mic in front of the guitar). Always check the phase if recording in stereo!
- Volume and mixing
This topic opens up a completely different area of guitar treatment once it has been recorded. Mixing the guitar in context with the song is critical and it’s important to pay close attention to volume levels and tasteful use of effects. Automation is a great way to bring life to guitars (e.g. automating the volume during solo’s and reducing levels during verses or quiet sections). Be careful of the levels of distortion you add during mixing, as it can easily clutter your mix. Golden rule is get it right during recording then the tracks will require very little mixing. High and low pass filters are an important part of getting rid of unnecessary rumble and top end with guitars too.
Tastefully panned guitars create depth and width. Some mixers swear by hard panning left and right (particularly for rock/punk/metal music), other mixers are more conservative. It ultimately depends on the genre and there are no set rules. Experiment with different panning positions and let your ear guide you to where things seem to sound best.
- Picking style
Finger picking, heavy or light plectrum, what’s your choice? Different styles of picking and strumming will also add variation to the tonal qualities of the recording. Once again, experiment and happy picking!
Until next time,