I have spent a lot of time recently rethinking how I record electric guitars and as the result is a flexible, reliable and easy workflow for multi-microphone tone blending. This can either be done at the mix stage or by committing the sound “to tape” during tracking using some simple routing in Pro Tools and three of my favourite microphones for guitar cabinets.
Why Three Microphones?
I’m sure you have all heard stories from famous engineers about how they stuck a Shure SM57 on the guitar amp, it sounded amazing and that was the sound of the record. Well, I’m not a major fan of the Shure SM57 and I think there are much better mics around these days. I also like to blend mics to create tones that are not possible to achieve with just a single mic, which is why these days, I find myself using 3 mics.
The first mic I use is the Sontronics Corona which is a dynamic mic and is my alternative to the SM57. The real body of the guitar sound comes from this mic. The next mic I blend in is the Royer Labs R10. I love the warmth that ribbon mics can add without making the sound soft or woolly. The final mic I add is a new one to my collection and the main reason for this rethink is the JZ Microphones Vintage V11 condenser microphone. Condenser mics can sometimes be a little too bright or brittle to use up close on a guitar cab but the V11 is quite dark sounding and works really well on heavy distorted tones.
Using A Real Speaker Cab - Almost
I have been using the Grossmann SG-Box as my main guitar cabinet for over 2 years as it helps me solve one of my biggest studio issues, that being lack of space. The SG-Box actually lives in my drum room behind where I sit to play drums and while you may think that bleed from the SG-Box might be an issue, I can say from experience that what little sound that does leak out of the SG-Box has never been loud enough to be an issue to ruin drum recordings. The SG-Box is also great because I can easily change the 12” speaker type from a Vintage 30 to a Green Back or GT-75 or even a 12” bass speaker.
Three Microphones On A Single 12” Speaker
Getting three mics onto one speaker cone when using conventional stands can be tricky, but using the SG-Box mounting system and still being able to put the lid on is a real challenge. Add to the space issues the fact that the positioning of the mics on the speaker is very critical and you can see below quite how I had to juggle the mounts and mic clips to get it all to fit. The JZ V11 is still a “work in progress” as the mounting system for this is not the most flexible I have ever used but for now, it works and the sound is good.
Keeping It In Phase
Making sure the sound gets to the microphone diaphragms at the same time is all-important here. Remember that not all microphones put their diaphragms right at the front of the grill so a little bit of trial and error has to go into getting the mics in phase with one another. You can see from the side on photo below that it looks like the Sontronics Corona is too close to the speaker but due to its internal design the diaphragms all line-up.
Signal Flow & Routing
The routing for the new tracking process might look a little over the top for a tracking session but it is very straight forward. The 3 mics come into Pro Tools from channels 15, 16 and 17 on the console and into recording channels A15, A16 and B1 respectively. These three mono audio channels route via Bus 1 to a 4th mono audio channel called Combi. This Combi channel is set to Solo Safe and Input Monitor and is routed to the main outputs, in this case, A 1-2. Now as I set up the mics I can blend the 3 signals into the Combi channel for monitoring and use in the track but I also keep the three tracks from each of the mics so, if I need to, I can go back and re-record a new mix or blend of the guitar part. In this way, I’m committing to a sound or tone I like, whilst not backing myself into a sonic corner either.
Take A Listen
In the short video below you can see and hear how my new electric guitar recording technique works. I will let you hear the 3 mics blended together, then individually and then in pairs with the dynamic mic. You will be able to see that the fourth channel or Combi mic has audio in it. This is from the tracking session but you are not hearing this as the Combi track is set to Input Monitor.
Take a look at the recent Production Expert reviews of some of the gear used in my new recording technique.
Keeping Your Options Open
I am really pleased with this new technique as I get a big sound very quickly while tracking but it gives me the option to go back and re-mix the guitar mics that maybe don’t cut it quite so well later on in the tracking or mixing process.
Let us know how you record electric guitar and if you have any smart or time-saving tips or tricks that you have developed.