The Music Espionage

Recording Electric Guitar

Recording Electric Guitar – Microphone Choice:

Recording Electric GuitarWhen Recording Electric Guitar typically, a dynamic microphone would be used , although it is not unheard of to record with a condenser or even a ribbon. But remember that most ribbon microphone are extremely sensitive and will easily break under too much sound pressure level (SPL). However, more modern models of ribbon microphones can handle large amounts of SPL and are finding a home recording electric guitars. If you decide to use a ribbon microphone check that the SPL is enough to cope. As with any recording, your choice will come down to the song, the artist, the room and personal preference.

Recording Electric Guitar with Sennheiser md 421 dynamic microphone:

[audio:|titles=421 close]

Recording Electric Guitar with sE electronics Titan condenser microphone:

[audio:|titles=Titan Close]

Recording Electric Guitar – Microphone Placement:

The tone of the guitar is hugely affected by the positioning of the microphones on the speaker. You may find yourself moving microphones centimetres at a time in search for the sound you want. Take a listen to these two recordings. Both with a Shure SM57 microphones but one is placed on axis (1 – centre of the speaker) and the second off axis (2 – edge of the speaker). Listen to the difference in tone. On axis will have more bite and sound sharp, off axis will be smoother and have more body.

Recording Electric Guitar - Microphone Placement

Recording Electric Guitar  – Shure SM57 on axis

[audio:|titles=SM57 on axis]

Recording Electric Guitar – Shure SM57 off axis

[audio:|titles=SM57 off axis]

A tried and tested method of recording rock guitar is placing a Shure SM57 off axis and then placing a Sennheiser md421 next to it at a 45° angle aimed at the centre of the speaker and then mixing the two together. One issue that will always occur is phasing. Flipping the phase on one of the channels can alter this.

Microphone Placement

Recording Electric Guitar – Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421

[audio:|titles=SM57 & MD421]

Recording Electric Guitar

Additional to a close mic, place a large diaphragm condenser where the sound of all of the speakers meet; usually about 3-4 feet back from the speaker and aimed dead centre of the cabinet. This captures the overall sound of the speakers and their interaction with the cabinet.

Recording Electric Guitar with Rode NT1 at a distance and Shure SM57 and Sennheiser 421 close mic:Microphone Placement

[audio:|titles=SM57, MD421 & NT1 far]

Quite often for recording an electric guitar, smaller is better. You can produce a bigger sound with a smaller amp, even as small as the Marshall Mini amplifier that only produces 1 Watt.

Recording Electric Guitar – Multi-tracking:

When doing a multi-track recording you will quite often want to do multiple takes for the guitar. If the guitar changes effect in the song, let’s say going from clean to distortion, the volume and tone will more than likely be altered as well. Therefore, you should do two separate takes, one clean and one distorted. This will make it easier when you come to the mixing stage.

Another reason to do multiple takes of a guitar is if you have more than one guitar part. Most modern songs will have a rhythm and lead guitar part. Try using different amplifiers, guitars and even microphones and placements to capture the two parts. This will give each guitar a distinctive sound and will help separate the two parts in the mix. The following audio clips were recorded using separate amplifiers and some microphone alterations. They have only had volume alterations to balance out the sounds; no EQ or effects have been added.

Rhythm Guitar

[audio:|titles=Rhythm Guitar]

Lead Guitar

[audio:|titles=Lead Guitar]

Rhythm and Lead Guitar

[audio:|titles=Lead and Rhythm Guitar]


Just Remember:

  • An Amp or speaker cabinet usually sounds better if its raised off the floor
  • •  Different tones are available simply by moving the mics. Different angles, different mics will alter the tonal quality.
  • •  The guitarists FX/Amp combination has a huge impact on the resulting sound
  • •  When doubling guitars try using different amps and guitars to allow more textures in the finished recording.