I am striving to record Electric Guitar on heavy distortion. I'm using an SM57 and an Audio Technica AT2020 as a room mic. I'm getting a pretty good sound but is there anything i can do to, really UP the sound of it, and give it a lot more clarity?

I am not a Guitarist, but recording an Old School heavy metal, like Pantera, and Metallica.

  • 2
    What kind of amp and cabinet?
    – Warrior Bob
    Mar 11, 2011 at 15:33
  • 1
    Guitar, pickup configuration (active vs passive), pedal configuration, and amplifier settings are also very pertinent to answering this question correctly. Does the amplifier sound good in the room before you record it?
    – Jduv
    Mar 14, 2011 at 0:30

4 Answers 4


Try replacing the SM57 with a large diaphragm condenser microphone (such as a Neumann U89 or TLM 173), and play around with placement, directionality and volume. (I normally move the amp + mic to a separate room, and turn up the volume to a level that you shouldn't listen to using a human ear.) While a SM57 works fine in most situations, you could get a more crispy result using a condenser.

  • Condensers will certainly get you more clarity here. The SM-57 is middy by definition.
    – Jduv
    Mar 21, 2011 at 5:56

I might be completely missing the point here but... Why record with a mic? Just plug the input of your recording device into the headphones port of your amp.

Personally, I use Guitar Rig 4 with FL Studio as my DAW. FL Studio comes with a great audio recording tool called Edison.

So, in new mixer track in FL Studio, I'll change the input to my guitar, load Guitar Rig into the first effects slot and make it sound heavy and distorted. Then load a Limiter into the second effects slot to avoid clipping, then Edison into the third slot. Set up Edison to start recording on input (I usually have to add a noise gate in Guitar Rig to get this feature to work or the noise triggers Edison's record function) and I'm ready to go.

FL Studio also comes with a sweet sample based drum machine called "FPC" which when combined with the above technique can end up with some really professional sounding metal music. \m/

  • Line out's cannot reproduce the physical properties of an actual speaker cabinet--and speaker emulators don't really get you 100% there either.
    – Jduv
    Mar 21, 2011 at 5:56
  • I was just stating what I do O.o
    – RyanScottLewis
    Mar 22, 2011 at 2:21
  • No worries man, I'm not trying to be abrasive :D. I was just thinking through what most professional production houses do (at least the one's I have worked with) and line-in is usually only useful for a dry mix track. What you described is great for home use, but I don't think it's the right answer. Would remove the down vote but I can't anymore.
    – Jduv
    Mar 22, 2011 at 3:04

I haven't recorded any metal for a few years, but I'll give it a try!

Metal may not need much room noise - you mention clarity, so try backing off the room and see if that helps.

Get a microphone with a good top end response - don't be afraid to shy from the 57 on guitar if you have something else to use. Of course, make the amp sound good in the room.

Locate the speakers on the amp if you can't see them behind a cloth. Move the mic to the left and right in front of the amplifier speaker until you hear the treble response you are looking for - don't just plop it there. Helps to have a fancy studio to do this with an isolated control room, but you can move the mic and then say it's position while you keep the recorder rolling.

Some people also mic the back of the cab for extra bass - perhaps try that with your 2020 with the 57 on the grille. Flip the phase on one of the mics and see how it sounds - it will sound better or worse or you won't be able to tell. If it sounds better, leave the phase flipped, otherwise don't.

You can also place both mics in the front and blend to taste.

Also, I'm not sure if they are still in use, but lots of metal guitarists I knew used those multi effect computer boxes, not normal pedals. I always thought they sounded pretty bad, aside from the POD - which I bought as a recording enthusiast.

  • Suggested edit: "Some people also mic the back of the cab for extra bass" Depends on if you have an open backed or closed back cabinet.
    – Jduv
    Mar 21, 2011 at 5:58

To get a wider, more stereo, guitar sound, a common trick is to record the guitar track twice with different settings. Use your favorite guitar settings for the first take. Then record a second take to another track with differnt settings on your guitar and/or amp. Use a little less distortion, different eq settings (less bass, more mid/treble) on the second track. Then pan the first track left, the second right in your mixer. I think I'd keep effects such as reverb and delay the same on both tracks, probably adding them in the mixer and not during recording.

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