Three Quick Tips for Recording Guitar
Free your microphone placement and gain structure, and your EQ and compression will follow.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to another Dojo! In the last two columns, I’ve focused on bus mixing techniques to get your recordings more on point—and I hope that was helpful. This time, I’d like to place focus in the other direction and give you three tips to capture your best recorded tones yet.
In my experience, the best way to get great recordings begins with getting in tune with your inner ear and the tones you are hearing in your head. This understanding will act as a catalyst for the first important tip: choice and placement of microphones. As simple as this is, we run the risk of listening with our eyes instead of our ears, because we are creatures of habit. How many times have you placed the same mic in the same place on the same amp (or same place at the guitar, for acoustic players)? Did you really explore the possibilities, or was this the best solution at the time and now it has become ingrained? Maybe it’s time to re-think the process and try something new?
Regular Dojo readers are already familiar with the three most common microphones used in recording: condenser, ribbon, and dynamic. Regardless of what mics you have, use your ears and listen to the source you want to record. For example, listen not only to where the amp sounds the best at the speaker, but also in the room. For acoustic guitar, placing the mics near the 14th fret in addition to other locations can yield a wide variety of tones. If you are recording by yourself, make several different short recordings and document the mic placement for each, listen, and then make decisions. The idea here is that you want to get the sound you’re looking for without using any EQ. In short, if you don’t like the sound you’re getting, move the mics until you do!
Once the decision has been made, the second tip for making better recordings is to pay careful attention to your gain structure (aka recording level) and give yourself plenty of headroom. The best way to do this is to set the recording track’s fader in your DAW to unity (zero), and then adjust your preamp’s gain level until the signal meters between -15 and -5 for most DAWs (check your specific DAW to find out which VU metering type you are using). If you’re somewhere in this range, you’ll have good signal-to-noise ratio and ample headroom for loud passages, like when you kick in the overdrive channel for the chorus and solo sections.
A scenario like Fig. 1 has bad news written all over it. The track faders are pushed near the top of their range and the master bus has already peaked. This can happen quicker than you think if you didn’t set your input levels properly to begin with. If you find yourself in this predicament, you’ll need to recalibrate your gain structure for every track for the entire mix. Ouch!
The final tip is focused on signal processing and preserving the efforts of the first two tips. Once your tracking is completed, don’t be too quick to start adding copious amounts of EQ and compression. The reason for steps one and two was to mitigate the need for EQ and preserve the natural dynamic range of your tracks. Now, when you need to use EQ and compression, you can use it with subtlety and not out of necessity to fix a poorly recorded track.
As always, if you have any questions you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I also want to invite you to checkout my new single “Christian Graffiti” on your favorite music platform to hear all of these tips in action. Until next time, namaste.
Christian GraffitiProvided to YouTube by DistroKidChristian Graffiti · Bryan ClarkChristian Graffiti℗ Rainfeather RecordsReleased on: 2022-09-30Auto-generated by YouTube.
Recording Dojo: Get Fuzzy! Tips for Doubling Down on Dirt
Things can get tricky when distortion pedals and DAWs meet. Here's how to show your stomps who’s boss.
This month, I'm going to offer some tasty insights into recording that beautifully finicky, peculiar saturation that we guitarists spend a huge part of our musical lives obsessing about: fuzz. I'm also going to invite you to come and watch these tips in action.
To briefly recap for those of you who might be a little fuzzy on the subject, the two main flavors of fuzz stem from two types of transistors: germanium and silicon. The earliest fuzz pedals were all germanium-based, but by the early 1970s, silicon-based circuits were the norm. Cost, consistency, and quality control were the main culprits for the change.
I've found germanium-based fuzz pedals possess a creamier type of distortion, overdrive, and fuzz. I've also found them to be more responsive and finicky to changes in dynamics (volume rides, light-to-heavy picking, etc.) than my silicon fuzz pedals. Regardless, the recording tips I'm going to give you, apply to any type of fuzz or distortion.
Okay, the dojo is open.
Tip 1: Fuzz directly into a preamp or DAW. Don't worry if you don't have a vintage EMI console lying about, ready for you to plug into and overdrive the mic preamp. Plug your fuzz directly into a DAW input. Crank it up and enjoy the angry beehive. This can get you very close to that classic Beatles' “Revolution" sound, or, more recently, U2's “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." For the latter, just add a little slapback delay (around 120 ms). You might notice that you have to play your guitar a bit harder to have consistent amounts of fuzz, or you can use a compressor before the fuzz pedal and that will even things out.
Fuzz pedals have always been hit or miss with me (as well as wah pedals). They're either too shrill or have a huge spike somewhere in our ear's most sensitive zone, which lies between approximately 1 kHz and 6 kHz. So how can we tame that and sculpt it into something different?
Tip 2: EQ after the fuzz. Say you have a particularly shrill fuzz and you want to reign it in with some EQ. You could use your pickup selector switch, and/or tone knob, and/or adjust the tone settings on your amp. But my experience is that none of these choices can really tame those offending frequencies without adversely affecting the others you love. Having a dedicated multiband EQ pedal can do the trick deftly, and it's useful in other areas as well.
Most offending frequencies in fuzz pedals hover around the 2 kHz to 4 kHz zone. Sculpting these via a multiband EQ pedal can greatly improve your fuzz sound. The Boss GE-7 ($119 street) is a worthy addition to any pedalboard, and you can tailor the sound to your liking. If you're not sure which frequency band is the one that's driving you (or your audience) crazy, simply boost each band one by one until it jumps out at you, then turn that band down. It usually doesn't take more than 6 dB of reduction to get the tone just right.
Compare Photo 1, a stock GE-7, with Photo 2, an XAct Tone Solutions (XTS) modded GE-7 ($189 street). The stock GE-7 has the following frequency bands: 100 Hz, 200 Hz, 400 Hz, 800 Hz, 1.6 kHz, 3.2 kHz, and 6.4 kHz. However, 200 Hz lies in bass territory and 6.4 kHz is in hi-hat territory. Thus they are not very useable, giving you only five bands to reliably work with. Knowing this, some companies have been making mods to this stock pedal. The XTS GE-7 has: 400 Hz, 800 Hz, 1.2 kHz, 1.6 kHz, 2 kHz, 2.5 kHz, and 4 kHz. These frequencies are much more “musically" centered in the sweet spot of the guitar's range and where it can sit in the mix.
If you don't have a pedal, you can use an EQ plug-in. Start by boosting and sweeping with a narrow Q [Fig.1], and once you locate the offending frequency, notch it out to taste [Fig. 2].
For an audio/video example of this month's article, I invite you to watch my “Bryan Clark: FUZZ FLAVORS" video, where I do both Tip 1 and Tip 2 scenarios.
Until next month, namaste.
Ground Control Audio Unveils the Noodles Tone Shaper
An interesting take on a 3-band active EQ/boost that features 64 different combinations.
Montreal, Canada (December 11, 2020) -- After two years of relative silence, Montreal’s guitar pedal outfit finally unveils the fruit of this crazy year’s work: the Noodles Tone Shaper.
The Noodles is a 3-band active EQ/boost pedal. It features a bass, mids and treble channel. Each channel has its own gain control as well as a choice of 3 carefully selected frequencies of interest that you can cycle through using a simple push button. Each channel is togglable using a foot switch for a total of 64 different filter recipes to add flavor to your tone. When enabled, the output of each channel is mixed in equally with the others as well as the dry signal, which always comes through.
Not a complicated EQ, not a simple boost, just the best of both and a nice kick in the tone to push your amp right past the edge of breakup.
The Noodles features the same pre-amp technology that made the success of our Amaterasu bright pre-amp and Tsukuyomi midrange booster as well as a digitally-controlled solid state analog signal routing system built around the ARM Cortex-M microcontroller platform.
The Noodles Tone Shaper is available January 2021, directly from Ground Control Audio’s website and from select retailers at a suggested retail price of 249USD.
For more information:
Ground Control Audio