Those killer guitar sounds everyone promise you but no one figures out.

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Member Since: Sep 02, 2006

Ok, I'm freaking out with this.
I followed tons of tutorials about miking and mixing guitars, they all promise a "pro" sound, but I just can't figure it out. I even tried the "get-a-phat-sound" thing, with dynamic and condenser mics in-phase, and OK, the thing's fatter but it still sound sooooooo cheap, kind of fizzy and airy, it has no "life".
First of all: I use a Marshall MGX-100 (valvestate) head, on a 4x12 Hughes & Kettner cabinet. Yep, the head's no tube but still yet sounds cool. It plays on and loud in a big and almost empty room, so I put a wood "V-wall" in front of it, like this:
cabinet --- |> --- wall
Notice I tried it without the "wall", but the result is an even cheaper sound.
Ok then I put an SM57 right on dead centering the cone, no angle. I tried the condenser thing, but solving the in-phase thing is really hard and takes too much time for the result it produced the first time. I followed the hundreds tutorials about EQing guitars, added a bit of compression to get the punchy-attack thing, and have turned out a quite good sound but it still sounds no "pro". At all. I watched a guy recording guitars in a studio, just the same way (Sm57 straight to the cone etc. etc.), but what it turns out is a PRO sound as itself BEFORE any EQing and compressing. Ok, he uses a Peavey tube head, but that's not the matter: I like the sound of my own head, it just don't reflex on the sound I listen to after recording it. I guessed then it's a matter of HOW I record it (maybe the wall thing etc.).
The sound I'm aiming to is this:
(song) - (band)
Hurricane - Something Corporate
Don't Wait - Dashboard Confessional
Does anyone have ANY tip or suggestion on how to get close to it? Or maybe just explain to me what the hell am I doing wrong...
Waiting for a light,

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Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

Sep 02, 2006 03:17 pm

How old is your 57, they can degrade over time. I know of some guys the re-build a 57. I'm not sure what's done, but I've heard it.

As for the tone, the valvestate head may be your drawback (notice I said 'may'). Many times what you hear isn't what's recorded. Now this may because of the room, too, so there's that issue. Maybe put packing blankets around the amp, making a tent for it when recording.

I'd still suggest a tube amp of some sort, maybe a small one, or borrow one. Clapton did Layla with a fender champ, and that tone is pretty good. Maybe not the tone your looking for, but it might be the missing link.

Hope that helps.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Sep 02, 2006 04:08 pm

One thing to think about is if you are turning the amp up too loud for the room. It usually inst necessary to crank the volume on the amp to record a good tone. Many times that is what kills the recorded sound is too much room getting into the mics from the amp being far too loud.

As well I would definately experiment with the placement of the mics. Try the 57 off axes such as about an inch from the outer ring of the speaker cone and pointing slightly towards center. This can be varied to get a good tone. There is no short cut to setting mic's up to record a guitar tone. There is no one set way either. They are only starting points. What works fine in one room may not work in another room. And not only that but the guitar itself can add or subtract from the end sound.

Sure, it sounds good coming out live with it turned up loud. But the mic's are not your ears and will change the way they make the amp sound depending on where they are placed and how loud you turn the thing up.

I definately suggest trying to turn it down and experimenting with the mic positions. I use the 57 in combo with an LDC and get excellant results. But it doesn't get set up in 2 minutes and I'm ready. It can take an hour to get them set properly.


Ne'er ate 'er
Since: Apr 05, 2006

Sep 02, 2006 06:30 pm

You can't forget that "pro" sound starts with "pro" equipment. My mother used to say "You can't make chicken soup out of chicken s#!*."

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Sep 02, 2006 07:06 pm

I agree with that in theory, but not in reality, I have heard some DAMN good recordings come from semi-pro's more in the engineer than the gear...I good engineer can make chicken soup...

but then, just cuz it's not top of the line pro gear doesn't mean it's chicken s#!* either...there klies a huge gap between pro gear and s#!* gear with loads of fine gear in between.

Ne'er ate 'er
Since: Apr 05, 2006

Sep 02, 2006 10:54 pm

Very true, Dan. But I think everyone would agree that it helps to have the best quality gear possible from the top down, to avoid having to "fix it in the mix." Microphones, microphones, microphones. Did I mention microphones?

Since: Apr 10, 2006

Sep 03, 2006 07:39 pm

Yeah but a dickhead with the best gear can still blow it

a.k.a. Porp & Mr. Muffins
Since: Oct 09, 2002

Sep 03, 2006 08:02 pm

Let me first say that I know 100% EXACTLY what you're talking about.

What I do is use two SM57's, both right up at the speaker grill, one dead center and one about half-way between the speaker edge and center. If you've got another mic lying around (I use a Sennheiser e609 as well), throw it on one of the other cab speakers for some more sounds to choose from. Now route all the mics to separate tracks, and you've got a much thicker sound that captures more of the frequency spectrum and can also be altered later in the mix. I've seen this technique used quite often both on stage and in the studio.

The other "technique" I use is the direct out on a Line 6 Spider 1 amp on "Recto" ;) Sounds great, believe it or not!

My other recommendation is to watch your gain. Less gain actually tends to sound bigger on tape. Don't cut your mids too much, either.

And, of course, double track all your rhythm parts and pan them L + R ;)

Since: Sep 02, 2006

Sep 03, 2006 08:04 pm

Amazing. Didn't have to wait for a reply :)
First of all, thanks for your advices.
Talking about gear with Herb, yep I'm lacking of a tube amp and good recording room. Mentioning mics, I saw recording damn good guitar tones in studio with the damn same SM57 I got and in the same way, but the difference between the two sounds is too big for just being a lack of tubes. I'm not claiming PRO, but I thought getting close to it shouldn't be impossible...
Speaking about the SM57, as pjk asked for, it's brand new, I just bought it 2 weeks ago. At least I can erease this from the black-list. :)
As well, I put off the wood-"V"-wall 'cause I figured out it caused an extreme reverb of a horrible frequency resonance. I tried the tent thing, making a "smaller room" for recording, and works really better.
Noize2U, you were right too. I rolled down the volume, even in the "tent-mode", and the tone turned out way better.
I also tried experimenting with mic-placements, and the sound gets really different in different positions, but each one still lacks of "life".
Moreover, today I noticed this: the tone seems great in the earphones, but sounds crap after recording it. My soundcard is good, a Terratec's EWS88, and doesn't give me troubles for other instruments, except a bit for the bass (still looking for a great sound, but I almost got it) and a lot for the distorted guitar. So I'm thinking about something cutting out some frequencies between the mixer and the soundcard. I'm thinking about the analog to digital converter I got in the middle of that way. Could the conversion cause troubles?
Just for drawing you the right picture, I'm not looking for perfection, it's just the tones I'm dealing with really remind me those cheap recordings with the cheapest gear everyone tried at the very beginning... When I hear that **** I almost start to cry :)

Since: Sep 02, 2006

Sep 03, 2006 08:17 pm

Mmmmm, I like the Line 6 pod, but I don't have one (and, as well, I don't have some cash to buy one).
Tomorrow I'll try the double sm57 thing. Speaking about cutting mids, I read everywhere about cutting mids to remove "cheap" sound, but the truth is when I cut mids around 800hz I throw away my tone's last breath, and it starts getting worse, like just noise and fuzz.

Typo Szar
Since: Jul 04, 2002

Sep 03, 2006 09:13 pm

Is it too late for me to throw in my 2c?
I spent ALONG time working with very POOR equipment hunting down that i liked, and i think i found it, most of the stuff i did is already in this post but ill share my experience anyway. The first thign ofcoure is to setup the tone, get the tone you want from your amp and then golden recoridng rule, turn it back about 3 notches. However much distortion you want probably is too much, the cleaner ur breakup is the thicker it sounds recorded ive found. My guitarist uses a small fender twin, and we boost it with either a RAT or an MXR distort plus, we only "boost" it so that you can hear it distorting but its you can sitll hear every note ur playing in a chord clearly.
The next step for me is micing my amp and i do that something that that i think most recording people have to take seriously, is that actually using ur ears to find out where to mic things. I pretty much submit myself to abuse by letting my guitarist chug and chug adn do the song over and over while i sit infront of the amp with my ear up near it to find where the sound i want is coming from, because yes all the theories are true about where the low end is and the high stuff, but nothing beats u actually finding it. I then mic that either straight on if i want a high tone, or at an almost 90 deg angle to get a lower tone.
I dont build a tent aroudn my amp (i use to) but i got lazy and now adays i just drape a blanket right over the whole thing, this works for me, but maybe you like the space off the tent better. I make sure there is no reverb getting into the mic from the room and that i have a completely dry signal, this will make ur guitar really rip adn u can always reverb it later to taste. I use pretty thick blankets and cover the whole speaker enclosure, make sure you dont hit ur mic or muffle the mic though.
Then ofcourse dotn think youll get a rockin thick sound after all that, then is layering. I use about 3 guitars and different stomp boxes, amp settings and mic placements and my band uses lays down about 4-6 layers for the heavy rythm, but we want a really heavy sound, maybe youll only need two. But really go through the steps of recording a layer that is heavy in the low end, heavy in the high end, mid boost, kind of medium type stuff that way when you mix you can pick and choose even if you dont end up using them all. When eqing I just cut around to put it in its place but i try to keep the tone of each layer i recorded because for guitars i feel that i want the sound that im aiming for right off the bat without needing to treat it alot on tape.
I have way crappier equipment then most ppl here, no SM57 just some no name dynamic (we broke all uor SM's) and the fender twin, all recorded in our bed/practice room. But I'm very happy with the sounds were getting, so much so that my guitarists vow to never record in pro studios. Maybe the sound i have isn't what your looking for or "pro" but i think anyone, if they take the time and follow these steps can hunt down their own tone, the whole point of home recoridng (to me atleast) was to prove that we can all haev what we want without having to pay through the nose, it just takes alittle more effort.

I really went all out on this one guys, a bit long winded...

a.k.a. Porp & Mr. Muffins
Since: Oct 09, 2002

Sep 03, 2006 09:40 pm

Speaking about cutting mids, I read everywhere about cutting mids to remove "cheap" sound

On such things as kick drum, yes... But don't listen to anyone who says that when it comes to guitar tone :D

As for the POD, I bought one and played around with it for a week before returning it. The strange thing is, I couldn't get the same distortion sound I get from the Spider out of it at all.

Definately try the multiple miking technique. It was an eye-opener for me. And make sure to use your ear when it comes to placing them.

Since: Sep 02, 2006

Sep 03, 2006 09:44 pm

Thanks, I'll try the less-gain stuff, maybe I overgained the tone and it covers the sound with the crispness, the fuzzness and all the crap. That would also explain my troubles with the only distorted guitars.

not the brightest spark...
Since: Sep 13, 2005

Sep 04, 2006 07:15 am

Hey Angelo,

You mention that the guitars sound good in your headphones but thin on the monitors. What monitors are you using?

I've read a fair bit about monitor placement in the control environmment and monitors in general. Perhaps this might be the cause of your problems...then again you might just be a perfectionist..:>


I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Sep 04, 2006 09:33 pm

My stock advice for people in your situation:

- less distortion
- more mids

There's some great advice in this thread. Everybody around here has learned a lot in the past couple of years about this subject. I think this is the best guitar recording thread yet on these boards.

Also don't be afraid to borrow or rent equipment to test out different elements in your signal chain. This may or may not be possible in your area. I know I can't find an instrument/equipment rental place around here.

The player, guitar, amp, microphone, preamp, recording device, room ambience, mixing and mastering will all come into play. Plus a few x-factors that I'm sure that I don't know about.

I've yet to record an electric guitar at home that I've been totally happy with. And I love the way my guitar and amp sound.

Since: Sep 02, 2006

Sep 05, 2006 09:21 am

I played around with the gain, the volume, multiple miking and EQ.
First of all, I figured out I had to turn totally down the trebles on my amp, 'cause they were causing too much "grit", even at low gain.
I tried a couple of solution, then I landed in this: low gain, loud volume, 2 mics (as PorpoiseMuffins wrote) but in 2 takes, that means I double tracked each track, the first with the dead-center one, the second with the other mic in the middle, and then panned out each one. Recording 2 guitars (at least 4 tracks, then) and using the dead-center ones as the "main" sound (so one dead-center/first guitar on the left, one dead-center/second guitar on the right, and viceversa for the middle-mic), it brings the classic punch of double tracking, but also brings some "stereo" effect, dividing the guitars and having more depth. I don't know if it just works with my crappy environment, but if you have some time to kill try it once.
Of course I did some layering, and worked a lot with EQ. (I use Cubase SX) In each track I used a Q-filter to bring down low-cut and resonances (other point to work with, 'cause now that the sound was getting better, resonances were killing it, don't know why) and the classic track EQ. In other words: I cut with the Q-filter and pump up with the EQ. THEN I made up a group channel for all the guitar tracks, and applied another pair Q/EQ, this time I used the cubase's EQ tu bring down some middles around the 800hz and used the Q to pump up a quite large scoop around 2k. I pumped it up really hard, then moved the scoop carefully back near the 800hz and then (surprise!) found a damn cool sound, totally unexpected 'cause the thing were getting better but it was not yet what I was looking for.
The problem is it still had some troubles to fix, and I changed too much things since the last recording, so I played around with gain or volume and changed back the mic position and turns out I didn't fix it at all. So I gotta start back from the beginning, but I'm almost near to it.
By the way, I figured out (casually) a good EQing work can bring up a good sound from a crappy take. So I think someone that really knows what to do (not me, I just play around following my ear and starting from advices, most of the time I do not even know what am I doing) should write down a more accurate tutorial about EQing, layering and mixing down guitars.
Anyway, thank you so much for your advices!

Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

Sep 05, 2006 09:43 am

I think you're figuring out, that there's no set way to mix stuff. EQ is a 'taste' thing, and can't really be learned by reading. Only by doing. Plus your taste for each part of the EQ spectrum may be different than mine, etc.

Practice seems to be the real teacher, as you're seeing.

I just tracked some vocals this weekend in my new 'space' and it seems that it turns into a 'magic' trick sometimes, to get the right things into the mic, and out of the speakers.

whatever works, i figure.

Musical Philanthropist
Since: Nov 11, 2004

Sep 05, 2006 09:44 am

I'm not familiar with the songs you posted as examples, but I've found that turning down the volume on the guitar itself can be key. With tube amps at least this allows you to get a great tone at a moderate level.

Answer:On a good day, lipstick.
Since: Jun 24, 2004

Sep 06, 2006 12:23 pm

2 cents....

I complete agree with Tadpui. The mids are going to be where a lot of the tone is. If you listen to Zakk Wylde, his mids are way up, and his tone is great. Keep the distortion down too. Listen to AC/DC - Angus Young doesn't have half the distortion you'd think.

I've successfully recorded guitars with just my little Epiphone Valve Junior (one knob....but I think it goes to 11..). No EQ tweaking necessary. I used an SM57 on that. Also, the POD/V-AMP/SansAmp type emulators are much better than you'd imagine. Dashboard Confessional use PODxt's, apparently.

Other tricks are to use VST amps in your DAW. Try X-Amp, or the Voxengo Boogex (free). They can add some nice grit, and 'oomph' to the thinnest sounds. The Boogex has a cabinet/mic option where you can have so many combinations. Very cool.

Since: Jan 12, 2004

Sep 08, 2006 03:48 am

All I ever do for guitar tones;

1) Record the Marshall with a 58 (grille unscrewed) and pointing straight at the cone, slight angle, a touch facing down.

I NEVER change my EQ on my amp. EVER. That said, I have it set with a mid-range bass, middle about 1/2 o'clock and treble about before 1 o'clock (or less) ... gain at 5 and volume as loud as I can crank ;-) ... err, no, joke with the volume. ;-) .. you DONT want to saturate the sucka or it WILL sound cheap and nasty.

2) Use the VAMP. It has some superb tones.

3) Recently, used my Korg AX10G - some REALLY sweet tones on there. Less FX than the VAMP and man is it cool...most recent recording is using that (on my profile)...I like it.

However, its all down to taste.

Finally, a good engineer can work with minimal tools and make it sound good. A bad engineer cant work with anyting and make it sound good ;-) (in relation to the points above about gear). YES, if you have total rubbish, you wont get great results but half-decent/moderate gear with time and patience can (and does) sound good...

All the best.


Since: Feb 14, 2006

Sep 10, 2006 02:17 pm

i run a totaly different sound then you but this might work for you. what i did was i took a 8*6*4 ft dog crate raped it in 8 huge thick 8*6 furniture pads. rape the side that the amp front is facing for a better clean sound. What this does is it eliminates almost all natural reverb and you get a beautiful clean sound. You have to use a Sm57 or what i used was an Audix i5. The other thing you should do is run it directly to your mixer while recording it with a mic. This gives you a perfect clean sound and no reverb since its not miced.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Sep 10, 2006 03:30 pm

re: crux

for what it's worth on the 'clean' thing, i will relate an anecdote.

there's a half-complete song in my profile. called 'airlock.' i'm not saying it's recorded well (at all) but a friend noticed something with the distortion. in the section where distortion 'jabs' come in (theres space between them--this is in the 'prechourus') he asked me how i got that distortion. he said it sounded thicker and better than what my POD usually puts out. i notice a little difference myself. not major, but there.

it turns out that that section was not originally distorted, and hence i had two clean tracks in there, which i left in after the distortion was added. i think it's hard to hear. it's buried in there. but maybe the attack comes through. its the same part the distortion plays, but it's clean, and panned to only one side. then, besides that, there's also a single-string figure, also clean, in there: the same one that had been rolling up till the distortion comes in. the picked part.

these clean sections have rotary speaker on them, but i dont think that matters too much.

soundgarden, in their 'superunknown' album, also seems to have layered clean electrics beneath distorted tones. the effect always seems to be punchier in a subtle way.

Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

Sep 11, 2006 12:55 pm

I was playing around with that one day, that clean / distorted combo sound.

I had one speaker plugged into the PA side of my powered mixer, and the other speaker plugged into the monitor side of the mixer. So two amps were driving each speaker independantly.

I then added a little reverb to the monitor side, but added distortion to the PA side, through the aux bus.

It sounded huge. The two mixed together were great. I'm dying to try it again, but am still working on the studio. I'll try when I'm tracking again.

Since: Sep 11, 2006

Sep 11, 2006 01:13 pm

Some one showed me the clean and distorted layer thingy in the 80's it makes the track large and adds so many overtones etc..... I found this.. which might give people an idea how moving mics around changes the sound of a guitar track.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Sep 11, 2006 02:59 pm

yeah, and a little bit of short reverb on the clean track does wonders, adds depth, and allows you to almost go completely dry-distorted on the other channel.

Since: Nov 26, 2008

Nov 27, 2008 01:31 pm

So layering my sounds? as in recording multiple takes? or just duplicating the audio file?

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Nov 27, 2008 09:59 pm

Yep, different takes will make for a much better sound. You can layer duplicated tracks if that is the only way. But giving each a different EQ and place in the mix is key to using a copy. But that is honestly not the best for getting a huge thick sound.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Nov 28, 2008 11:14 pm

one thing i have noticed, and only lately really, is, layering your own tracks works well, but layering tracks with another guitarist makes it thicker again.
just 2 different approaches to the piece, comes across better.

Ne'er ate 'er
Since: Apr 05, 2006

Nov 28, 2008 11:50 pm

You can't forget that "pro" sound starts with "pro" equipment. My mother used to say "You can't make chicken soup out of chicken s#!*."

Whert? Did I really say that? What a drunkenfurken statement.

Good sound starts from the ground up. Decent equipment will record a decent sound. There.

Since: Nov 26, 2008

Nov 28, 2008 11:54 pm

Okies figured something out. I'm recording from a Lexicon Lambda.Do i need to pre amp record my stuff cuz I'm still not getting the feel.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Nov 29, 2008 02:44 am

Lambada has its own pre's.
set your mic up pointing at middle of speaker on about a 35 degree angle facing inwards.

you are gonna need to crank the amp till you get "speaker excursion", which is where the speaker is pushing outwards when in use. so its up pretty loud. this is a major key point, distorted guitars sound puss down low in vol.

move the mic back off the grill bout an inch, now while someone is playing, and you have headphones on, swing the mic on the mic stand and sweep it across the speaker area until you hit a sweet spot that you like.
sweep it back and forth for as long as it takes till you like it.

honestly, trying to do this by yourself, going back and forth to the cabinet and fiddling around with it just isnt gonna work for what you're after.

once you found the sweet spot, (record) layer the guitar 4 times and pan them at 80 and 30 on the left side, and the same on the right.
that'll fatten it up heaps.
fat, obese guitars doesnt stop there though, it has alot to do with how you mix them. but to get good guitars to track in the first place, following this method, or there abouts will set it up nicely.

Sir SM57
Since: Jan 29, 2008

Nov 29, 2008 03:09 am

Ok i havnt read all the posts but heres a little something I posted a while ago:
I hope there is something in there that will help you out. My main thing is getting big sounds from distorted guitars. I think the main thing is experimenting with external pedals/units that can give you the sound your after. The fact is that driving a preamp/poweramp combination flatout can muddy or overbrighten things. I find that a driven clean channel and then overdrive or distortion to taste seems to be the way. It allows clarity, fatness and saturation at the same time. Amps whether tube or solid state really have nothing to do with it. Did you know that on one ZZ Top album (i forget which one) Billy Gibbons actually recorded with a fully driven Marshall Lead 12 (12 watt Solid State) practice amp...and I mean who have you heard complaining about his tone! The main thing to say as far as im concerned is that playing guitar to record is different to playing live etc. I found that my recordings did not start to sound any good until i 'cleaned up my act'. Make sure your notes are precise, clear and have plenty of punch and clarity. If your having trouble with this (dont take this as a insult) I would suggest using a compressor.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Nov 29, 2008 03:38 am

someone else mentioned not too much distortion, pedal or otherwise.

this is so true. it will thin the guitars right out and make em all scratchy and stuff which ya cannot get rid of.

in nutshell drive the amp hard, and back off the distortion and use the actual power of the amp to give you the smash you want rather than expecing distortion to do it. it just doesnt work as well.

yeah Boe, i think a pedal can give more character, i use a digi pedal on about 5 out of 30 in front of my head distortion.

Since: Nov 28, 2008

Nov 29, 2008 01:41 pm

to get a good sound out of your guitars there are many things you need to consider.
1. is it a good guitar? does it have good strings on? are you using a good pick? is the amp good? is the jack cable good (most times a good cable makes more difference than we'd think)? if you're using a pedal board is it properly set not to bother the signal chain and mantain a good full sound?

get a good sound off your gear first, then you try and pick it up as faithfully as you can

2. is the guitar player good?

a good performance means a better sound.

3. what is the recording space like?

especially if you don't opt for close micing, this really affects the sound. consider where to place the amp, consider the material of the walls and of the floor.

4. always try out every mic you own.

no matter what the most used mics are in recording guitars. you may find that in your particular situation an obscure one works for you better than the usual sm57 or akg 414...

5. experiment with mic placement

straight to the cone 2-3 inches away, slightly off axes, half a foot away, or why not?! at the back of the amp...
don't be fooled by standard micing techniques. the best thing is if you have someone listening to the sound while you move the mic, so you can tell the difference of the set ups immediately. if you are undecided try and record and then listen back to choose the best for you.

6. try multiple mic sets
sometimes using two mics give a more balanced sound. it's worth trying out and experiment a bit.

7. once you find a sound you're happy with and you record it, it's also easy that it gets lost in the mix, at the end you find yourself with a worse sound than the initial...
when EQing for example don't get stuck on getting the most impressive sound out of every track because it's not guaranteed that it's going to work well with the rest of the mix... try to keep an eye on the general mix when EQing every channel...
and take pauses! sometimes when you listen to sounds for too long you lose the ability to tell the difference from a good sound and a bad one cause you brain compensates for unbalanced sound to make them more pleasing to ears!

in conclusion, as others said, there's no general rule and no shortcut to get the sound you like. the best thing to do is trying all the options you have and LISTEN.

hope this will be useful.

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