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I am recording a Guitar track, through mic'ing a guitar cab. I have gotten a decent sound out of it, but I am having troubles getting good clarity. I am using logic express 9. Are there any inserts or effects I can use to get a very good to excellent quality tone, or should I go line in with it? I would love any input anyone has! Thank you!

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Can you elaborate on what you mean by "clarity"? Are you after a clean guitar sound that's really bright, with no hint of clipping in it? If you can, post an example of the sound you're after. And if you can give us a run down of your signal chain, starting with the guitar you're using, we can give better direction. –  Ian C. Feb 15 '11 at 16:48
Also, the genre of music? detail and clarity in metal would mean really thick, controlled low end, on some others, like your pop/rock ballads would mean really bright guitar (arpeggios, lead solos, etc), funk would also be a really compressed, bright guitar etc. –  jlebre Feb 16 '11 at 8:56
for clarity i mean the most clear you can get through distortion without any unnecessary... uhm like muddy sounds. I'm recording heavy metal, and pop-punk, so examples of that would be Big wiggly style by The Devil Wears Prada for heavy metal, and for pop-punk Let the flames begin by Paramore. again thank you! and im not sure about the guitar because im recording another band on a later date. but what im all using is, a mac mini, logic express 9, and Tascam US1641. please also tell me what maybe i could buy or use to improve the tonality of the guitar! –  user514 Feb 16 '11 at 15:12
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3 Answers

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Do not go line in. Guitars have a really high impedance that is not compatible with the line in buffers on most desks and sound cards. If you have a built in DI on your desk or soundcard, chances are it's built with a really low quality transformer (if at all - using instead really really cheap op-amps without a transformer for the output - which is present in more expensive models of active DI's).

I think we would start going of topic by mentioning the trouble of impedance on guitars but the internet is full of it. There's a great debacle on true bypass switches for pedals vs. buffers for the exact same reason.

Which leads me to the second point of not using line in. Not only you will warp the sound of your guitar pickups (which can go easily up to a grand) if you don't have buffers on your pedals and other effects you will change these too! say you spent a while dialing in a nice distortion an applying a filter on your delay line, or you calibrated the boost on your wha pedal - all gone!

Now, your amp. It's not uncommon that I have to be the mad surgeon and operate on the amp before being able to record. If you get yourself something with valves for the amplifier st age (Something like a Marshall JCM800 and are recording some "clean" guitars for your rock album chances are you will want to drive the amp really really hard for that valve headroom slight distortion) things will rattle. Take the pegs off, other screws that are loose. If the leather cover is loose, it will also rattle. If your amp has a reverb tank (spring) you will want to decouple it and pad it somehow. I think you are getting the drift - the sound has to be clean at the source.

Now, it's not uncommon that you'll have several microphones on your cab. Say, dynamic and condenser, ribbon close by and condenser far back. I think the trick here is to consider the microphone dampening factor - this will act as a natural compression as well. For instance, the U87 is going to be much lazier than a royer ribbon, so you will probably have more of the transient coming through, hence more clarity per note. It is very important that your notes still have a nice, defined attack, specially if you are trying to cut through distortion.

When you get two or more microphones together, you should be aiming at combining them to take best part of each. Say you like that transient response of the Royer, but you feel like bottom end - a nice condenser capacitor could probably do the job - just slide it in until you are happy.

IF you have a good passive or active DI, you will have a line out and a through put. The line out feed it to your DAW (Logic isn't it?) just in case. You can always reamp it later) the through put to your amp. This is an unchanged copy of your signal - it has probably just gone through a resistor series network to get a duplicate.

Something else to consider would be mic placement in the room and in front of the cone:

  • A microphone directly in front of the cone will have harsh, bright tones, but also more defined transients. Ribbons that actually have a LPF slope are a good help on this, but most of the time the polar pattern of a microphone can be your friend - twist your microphone around a bit.
  • A microphone on the side of the cone will be much mellow-er.
  • A microphone place more inside the room will benefit from the room characteristic. Reverb is a natural form of amplification and equalization (by adding to the source with each reflection it gets). But it will be more washed out and defined. But you might find the microphone right at the cone as being to agressive, so maybe a mix between both is in order.

If I'm under pressure and have to get a sound quick in 15 minutes I'll get someone to just get me a DI, a C414 and a 57. Seriously, I hate to say I have a recipe, I would very much prefer a database of I tried that, didn't like that, but sometimes time is a factor, specially when renting microphones, renting a studio, having a session musician in, etc.

Also, when you DI, you have a dilemma - DI before or after the pedals! you might need to DI After the pedals to cover some more exotic effects that you might not have access to at a later stage.

And, gates can also have a nice effect on it. Have a look at this

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You really should start with a good recorded signal - so consider getting a suitable amp or working on the tone before futzing around in the computer. If you have the mic right up on the grill of the cab, you'll be getting extra bass, so pull it back a bit and you'll get a little more treble in the signal. Moving the microphone left and right will also change eq of the signal depending on where it is on the speaker cone.

I'd recommend cutting low mids a bit and boosting above 500hz to add some brightness. The amp simulator in Logic 9 is pretty nice and can radically change a tone - not sure if that comes in express now.

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"so pull it back a bit and you'll get a little more treble in the signal" not exactly true. Proximity effect will depend on the type of microphone and polar pattern. You might also pull it back and end up in a stationary wave reinforcement point, whilst your cab is in a null point. –  jlebre Feb 16 '11 at 22:11
I assume every poster is using a sm57 in a perfectly tuned space, so my statement IS exactly true ;) –  Sam Greene Feb 16 '11 at 22:25
"perfectly tuned space"? That would require some advance thinking when building the room - golden ratio for proportions, no paralel walls, and even then probably having to use some (more or less clever) form of diffusion. Unless you are trying to dry the room out of the offending frequency for that particular node - with a material with absorption coeficient of 1 for that frequency range, at least 1/4 of the wavelength you are considering. I really don't think users that would mic a cab only with a 57 would consider this much (no offense intended :) –  jlebre Feb 16 '11 at 23:37
I think you just missed the sarcasm! –  slhck Feb 17 '11 at 23:22
y I believe so :) –  jlebre Feb 20 '11 at 11:59
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Line in of course. That will be the most clear.

The problem is it will also be the most clean, which is probably not what you are after.

In any case, when I record electric guitar, I usually have the guitar going into a mixer from where I can record the clean signal and send the signal to the guitarist's rig. That way he (it's usually a guy) can play how he feels best. I also record that signal as well for reference. Then I use FX prcessors to tweak the clean signal exactly how it fits well into the mix and represents the sound the guitarist/band wants.

That being said, I'm not very into a grungy sound. However, if you are, feel free to re-mic the clean signal if you want to get some cab/mic distortion. Make sure you are comfortable trashing your mic. It will sound really dirty then. ;)

The advantage this has is you can re-mic it as many times as you need without the guitarist. He won't have to play it over and over until you figured out the perfect sound.

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You put the guitar through a DI before going through line in, right? –  jlebre Feb 20 '11 at 11:58
Well, yes of course, if it's really "line" level in and not an instrument input. I would have thought he knew that. Though, I probably assumed wrong. I see you've covered the topic quite well in your answer. –  d-_-b Feb 21 '11 at 3:10
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