Recently I finished tracking for Vanessa Bley’s new EP. We tracked a lot of electric guitars on the tracks “Disbeliever” and “Standstill”. The tone was important on these tracks and it required some attention to capture the urgency in the parts.
“Disbeliever” has a Clash type vibe to the guitars. For this track I ended up using two different amps and 3 mics. I’ve been getting into using more than one amp on electric guitar. The idea is to use the blend of amps as eq. There are a lot of times I feel like one mic on one cabinet is too narrow. I used a Victoria 518 (late 50’s Champ) and ZVex Nano into a closed back cab (Plexi Marshall). The guitar was a Telecaster. A Tele has a great way of being unapologetic. I put a 57 on each cab (I prefer off the center of the cone were it isn’t so bright). I also put an AKG 414 up as a room mic to get the combination of the two, plus some of the room reflections. My intent was to treat this as one sound, summing them and compressing them all together on a bus. It sounded much more like it did in the room which was my goal. Punchy with grit and spark.
On “Standstill” we tracked the guitar parts direct in an apartment in the wee hours. We used an amp simulator plug-in (the blow-up sex doll of the guitarists community) to get the vibe knowing we would reamp the guitars later when we could make noise. When it came time to reamp the guitars I set up all the amps I had in a room. Each part I tried through different amps with different mics and preamps until I found what I was looking for. Sometimes I was surprised by what I liked. Surprised in the sense it would not have been my 3rd or even 4th choice. For example: there was a guitar part that worked really well by using the cheapest mic I had standing across the room from the amp. The mic was also getting a lot of gain through a tube mic pre. I had been listening to a lot of early electric Muddy Waters. I was attracted to the way the amp was picked up by the mic in the room.
One thing I’ve noticed about recording guitar amps…. I don’t like guitar amps in soundproof isolation booths. You know the kind with all that weird looking foam in them? I don’t now who’s idea that was, but it ranks up there with fake wood paneling and aluminum siding. I would put a Mr. Yuck sticker on all of them!! Aside from the fact that is sounds dead in there, I’m not all afraid of some bleed if you’re tracking live. Take a listen to Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You” and tell me the guitar amp bleeding isn’t a beautiful sound. Let it breath in the room. Don’t be afraid, your neighbors don’t like you anyway.