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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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:
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
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.
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.