first post:

I've been recording/producing for 4-5 years but I've always struggled to get electric guitars to sound the way I want them and I'm wondering what I can do to improve that. (also done double tracking but the problem still persists)

The problem:

The guitar sounds 'flat' (not pitch-related), one dimensional, and papery. It doesn't feel very full and it doesn't sound like it has much depth. It sounds kind of harsh and biting, not smooth how I typically like guitars to sound.

Signal path: Fender Jazzmaster (single coil) -> Pedalboard (don't typically use many pedals if any) -> Vox AC15 -> Mic (Either SM57 or AKG Perception 420 large Diaphragm Condenser) -> Focusrite scarlett 18i8 -> ableton live 10

Mic is typically center on axis, sometimes just slightly off axis. EQ wise I high pass at ~100hz but don't really mess with the EQ much aside from the high pass. Amp is fairly clean sounding, amp EQ is set so it doesn't affect the sound. Typically I do use a bit of the amp reverb and apply more reverb in the box. Usually add a decent amount of compression in ableton also

  1. Is there a better mic positioning that I can use? What advice can you give me on mic-ing guitar amps?

  2. Is there any additional EQ/processing that I should be doing?

  3. Is it mainly just my amp/guitar choice? I believe that Vox amps are a little more aggressive than some fender amps so maybe it is part of that?

Thank you!

Sound example of what my guitar tone sounds like, starts at 1:15. Maybe you may not think it sounds as bad as I do

  • Also, please have a look at Music Stack Exchange - which is for questions on practice and performance. – Rory Alsop Sep 18 '18 at 8:32
  • Thank you for the suggestion. Based on the replies I’ve received I probably should have made it more clear. I know I’m not a great guitar player, I truly don’t practice it much because my primary concern is composition/song writing. So I know I have plenty of room to improve. I’ve primarily been looking for recording advice. Regardless, everyone who has responded has given me solid advice and certainly inspired me to practice more! And the example I provided certainly isn’t my best one either, I personally think it is one of the worst (tonally and performance) which is why I provided it – California English Sep 19 '18 at 13:30

In addition to @frcake's excellent answer, I have a few points:

I have been gigging for over 30 years and I still have trouble getting some sounds I want. One solution that most guitarists go for is to have many guitars. All of mine sound slightly different, sustain, wood tone, pickups, bridge, electrics, resonance etc. Some have higher action or greater tension, which leads to different pick dynamics.

Then you start to collect amps and effects, and you copy your heroes, always being aware that the sound you think is right when playing solo will be very different with others playing with you. You'll need to scoop out frequencies that clash (have a listen to Angus Young's guitar isolated from the rest of AC/DC and you'll see just how extreme his sound is. Incredibly thin! But it works in ensemble)

I have recently bought a Kemper just to try and reduce the amount of hardware I have - as it simulates almost every combination I have of amps and cabs (and even some effects)

So- first try and borrow a friend's guitar to see how that changes your sound? Better/worse - try playing your guitar through other amps and cabs. Go with stuff that sounds good to you. And any time it sounds good, photograph your settings and setup!

  • Great addition. I chose to stay away from guitars (and money spending GAS :D), but you've put it in a very nice way. Achieving great guitar tones consistently (especially in a variety of genres and feels) needs a great deal of knowledge about a lot of things. I personally ended up using a fender twin reverb (SF) cause everytime you switch a knob you meet another reference sound and i think this is priceless (kemper looks interesting though). And for guitars i ended up with a quacky strat and a round gibson SG.It's all about diversity, options and experimentation. – frcake Sep 18 '18 at 11:05

As a rule of thumb, closer to the center is trebly , closer to the ring is mellower - more bassy.

Electric guitar recording is a world of it's own, many people go to insane extends to hunt the tone they want.

First you have to fix the tone way before the recording stage, for instance in a song as soft as the one you posted, you can't just have an accented picked guitar.. it just sounds out of context no matter how you compress and eq it. Try a softer touch with the pick, or try playing with your fingers.

There are so many things you have to actually match together to create a nice guitar tone. Pickups - Amp - Cabinet - Speaker and then the microphone and the actual room.

For me, the best way to achieve a great guitar tone ,in practical terms, with just the gear you have is to record your guitar with a DI, then put the amp in a separate room and re-amp the signal. So you don't have to worry about performing and tweaking the sound at the same time. Now while you're monitoring have a band member or a friend to mess with the settings, until what you actually hear is the tone you want and just record it. That said, this technique will not fix a bad performed guitar for the song you're making and i'm saying this because i think that the guitar in the track you posted has problems way before the recording or even mixing stage. So never say "I'll fix it in the mix".

If you end up using 2 mics (there are many popular techniques documented well on the internet) be super careful about phase.

Also be sure to try different microphones on different positions, and give a go to any ribbon mic you have laying around, personally i think it's the best microphone for guitars (most of the time at least..).

The reason I'm not providing a list of endless mic positions, is because it's all about experimentation to get closer to the sound/tone you want, first in the room (while you just play the guitar) and then finding the correct way to get it in the mix. So it wouldn't be feasible to just copy and paste random techniques from the internet.I'd rather offer you a mindset that will help you approach guitar recording in a better way.

At last, search for the bands that you like their guitar tone, find some popular reference, if you dig a bit and find out who produced it, chances are that you'll be able to find how this guitar was actually produced or what techniques the producer/engineer you like utilizes.

  • Thank you for your answer. I'll be sure to try to experiment some more with my sound (currently it is difficult with the room I'm in). Do you have any tips on EQing electric guitar? As I said I haven't EQ'd them much and I'm more curious about what people generally do, I know it isn't a magic fix – California English Sep 16 '18 at 22:54
  • It really depends, asking about an eq curve is just about the same as browsing for presets named "Electric guitar".. if you find it's harsh check your hi-mids if you find it hollow check your mids and goes on... it's just sound EQing. Your problem is elsewhere (imho). – frcake Sep 16 '18 at 23:06

using a flat response mic helps but they are usually small condensers that cant handle high db though. they work best at a minimum distance of 6" from the amp if not more, any closer and they get overpowered and sound muffled.

if you use a large diaphragm mic for the bass(500hz and below) and a flat reference mic together side by side that can give some good sounds.

if your record a frequency sweep with both mics it will show where the big diaphram needs its eq.

placement is key play with it until you are happy first Roy Orbson the Beatles producer said this was the most important and i believe him he did amazing work with 50s tech mics, does Paul McCartney sound realistic enough?...,

i usually play my recording and switch to another song while listening/watching the overall eq so i can get a feel for what my recording is doing...

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