Miking for Great Electric Guitar Sound - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Miking your electric guitar for great sound is a personal thing. If you’re a real guitar player, you undoubtedly take great pride in recording your sound exactly right on tape, er, disc. You likely spend countless hours tweaking your amp and adjusting the mic to get the sound just right.

On the other hand, if you’re not a real guitar player, you may just want to record the part and get it over with. Either way, you can start looking for that perfect guitar sound by placing your mics in one (or more) of the ways described.

Using the room

Whether you play through a small jazz chorus amp or power-chord your way through a six-foot-tall Marshall stack, the room that you play in has less impact on your sound than it does if you play drums or sing. For the most part, look for a room that is fairly dead — a room without natural reverberation.

Getting the most out of the mics

Guitar miking involves mostly spot mics, so your only consideration when recording a guitar using an amp is how your neighbors feel about noise.

The type of mic that you choose largely depends on the type of sound you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for a distorted rock guitar sound with effects, a dynamic mic works just fine. If you favor a clean sound, a small-diaphragm condenser mic may work better for you. If you’re going for a warm, full-bodied sound, try using a large-diaphragm condenser mic.

No matter which type of mic you use, you get the best sound from your amp speakers by putting a mic about 2 to 12 inches from the cabinet, with the mic pointing directly at the cone of one of the amp speakers (the cone is located in the center of the speaker.

Start by placing a mic near the cone of a speaker in your amp.
Start by placing a mic near the cone of a speaker in your amp.

You may want to experiment with how far the mic is from the amp and the angle at which you point it. Sometimes just a slight movement in or out, left or right, can make all the difference in the world. You can even try pointing the mic at different speakers if your amp has more than one, because each speaker has a slightly different sound.

If you can’t quite get the sound that you want from your amp with the one mic pointed at the speaker cone, try adding a second mic 3 or 4 feet away. You also point this mic directly at the speaker cabinet for a more ambient sound.

This may also give your sound more life, especially if you have a room with natural reverberation. If you add a second mic, remember to watch for phase differences between the mics and make adjustments accordingly.

Are you sick of the same old sound coming out of your amp? Do you wanna really shake things up? Well, put your guitar amp in a tiled bathroom and crank it up.

You can put a mic in the bathroom with your amp (a couple of feet away) and maybe another one just outside the door (experiment by how much you close or open the door). The effect is, well . . . try it and find out for yourself.

On most digital recording systems, you can use an effect called an amp simulator to give your guitar a variety of sounds. The amp simulator can make your guitar sound like it was played through any number of popular amplifier setups. This can save you the hassle of trying to mic your guitar amp and keep your neighbors happy. Just plug your guitar into the Hi-Z jack in your mixer. If you don’t have a Hi-Z jack, you can use a direct box or the line-out jack of your amp.