Welcome to part 2 of our 10 recording tips for electric guitar players. In part one we looked at our first 5 tips to get you on the road to success. Recording can seem daunting, but with digital home studio gear becoming more affordable than ever, great results can be achieved with a relatively small budget. Here are 5 more tips to help you get the best possible results from the start.
6. Craft Your Tone to Suit the Song
When it comes to your guitar tone, it pays to think about the bigger picture. In other words, what sounds good in isolation might not work with the rest of your track. Generally speaking, less is more; particularly when it comes to distortion and effects. It takes a bit of experience and a good set of ears to get this right first time. If you’re unsure, consider using a DI. This way, if you get it wrong, you can always use the clean DI signal as a backup to either process with amp simulators or re-amp the signal back into the amplifier. Radial Engineering makes a great quality re-amp kit, which includes everything you need to DI your guitar and send it back out to your amp after recording.
7. Less Distortion for a Bigger Sound
One pitfall guitarists often get into, is the mindset that if they turn the gain up further, their sound will be bigger. Although a high-gain tone can sound good in isolation, it rarely sounds good when combined with the rest of the track, or when double-tracked (a technique commonly used by guitarists to get a big sound). The result is much like a wall of white noise, which sounds harsh and thin. A better technique is to use less distortion, but more tracks. Your guitars will sound much clearer, more defined, and more importantly – bigger. Less is more once again.
8. Consider a Room Mic
Room mics are a great way to capture natural ambiance and gel a performance together. The catch, of course, is the quality of your room acoustics. In the case of most home studios, they’re usually less than ideal. This being said, if you’re lucky enough to have an interesting sounding room, take advantage of it using a room mic (ribbon mics are a popular choice in this application). A famous example of using natural room reverb is Led Zeppelin IV, which features the natural reverb of an old country manor called Headley Grange. The 3 storey stairwell was used to create their signature stadium drum sound, which is proof that you don’t always need a posh studio to record a great record. Other examples of albums recorded in houses include: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magic and Counting Crows – August and Everything After.
9. Don’t Fix It in the Mix
It’s easy to become too reliant on technology when recording. In the digital realm, we can capture almost infinite takes and edit them to suit. With such technology to hand, it’s easy to become lazy when it comes to getting a performance captured. In most cases, the best practice is to capture the best performance possible. If you become too reliant on editing to make up for poor performances, or to craft something that never really happened, more often than not – most of the human feel of the performance is lost.
Additionally, it is all too easy to adopt the attitude that if your tone isn’t working with the track, you can always fix it with EQ, compression, or a mix of other plugins. If you need to apply extreme EQ to your recordings, not only should it be telling you something isn’t right, you will also run the risk of creating phase problems. In conclusion, there is no substitute for getting a good foundation down from the start. Mixing should simply be the icing on the cake.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice, practice, and practice some more. It’s a little bit of a cliché, but the better rehearsed you are, before pushing the record button, the more enjoyable the process will be. Getting a good result will be easier and because the performance will flow more naturally – you’ll likely find that your mind is free to be more creative. In an age where recording high-quality music is more accessible and affordable than ever, musicians are perhaps pushing the record button a little prematurely. Relax a little, and remember music should be fun.