Recording a single guitar for a big sound (ZZ Top, Bonamassa, etc)

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Barcslay, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Barcslay

    Barcslay Senior Member

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    Hey there,

    I'm in the process of tracking guitars for my bands album, and I was wondering what techniques are used to make a single guitar sound big? A lot of places say "record twice, and pan hard left and hard right", but when I listen to Zeppelin, or Bonamassa, or early ZZ Top, it sounds like one guitar. What techniques are used? Is it a close mic panned slightly left and an ambient mic panned slightly right?

    Help me out guys! Thanks!

    Ryan
     
  2. clane04

    clane04 Senior Member

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    Use several different mics, or atleast two. now you have two guitar tracks that are exactly the same. Feel free to manipulate how you see fit
     
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  3. GitFiddle

    GitFiddle Premium Member

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    Use a big mic.

    [​IMG]

    Sorry, somebody lock me up now...
     
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  4. blues_n_cues

    blues_n_cues Senior Member

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    there's a million ways to do it.

    close mic & far mic
    stereo mic
    duplicate the track & add a dab of verb & zero-rated chorus to the duplicated track & pan it a hair.
    I prefer manually doubling the track but that's not for this thread.
     
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  5. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    if i need one guitar track - literally a single track, no room for extra mics, etc. - i take my sennheiser MD421, place about a foot off a 1x12 cab loaded with an EVM12L speaker, and crank a 100 watt amp to at least 1/2 way on the master (if not a little more). i do this because once the pre and power stage are working together the mic picks up a lot over overtones, and almost every individual note will be on the verge of feedback. that gives a realistic impression that the guitar is about to explode.

    another realistic aspect to this issue is how you handle the mix. everything can't be "big". some instruments have to "suffer" in order to make something else "big". personally, i prefer a big drum sound so my guitar sound is a lot thinner and "weaker" in order to make sonic space for the drums.

    i have mixed for "big" guitars and one of the things i discovered is it is equally important to realize that a lot of the "meat" on a killer guitar tone is actually delivered by the bass guitar. don't go over-boosting the low end on the guitar because you end up eating bass guitar frequencies.

    even using the recording technique i mentioned above, you have to be careful with the EQ. the EVM speaker doesn't break up (which is why i use it for that technique), but as your amp attempts to batter it, it get rather thick in the lower mids. i have found that i just run my amp EQ as i would live and do a little SUBTRACTIVE EQ-ing during mixdown.

    i mix on an analog board with 2 sweepable mid ranges. i start at the lower mids and carefully tweak until i have cut them enough to still have the "beef" without having any mud. i will also roll-off the lows - usually around 2db. IF i find the track lacks clarity, or harmonics aren't "popping" i will put an aural exciter in the insert and add a bit of "sheen" to the whole track. that is a rarity though.

    also, don't forget about compression!! that is a great friend when making something "big". personally, i like to use either the fairchild 660 or LA-2A plug-ins. sometimes i use both - the fairchild to push the track, then the LA-2A as a limiter to keep it from going TOO far!!

    out of curiosity, what instrument and amp/cab are you recording and what style of music are you going for? might be able to give you some more specific advice knowing that info. thanks!
     
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  6. roscoenyc

    roscoenyc Senior Member

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    I like 1 guitar split to 2 different amps - 2 different tracks. For me that's the way to a big guitar sound. I like to have the amps set a little different, one a little cleaner than the other. With 2 amps you can go a little more extreme than you normally would 'cause you'll be blending them one way or the other. Different speakers, different mics all help.

    I especially like how 2 different amps will respond to pedals differently too. Give it a try.
     
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  7. Barcslay

    Barcslay Senior Member

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    Hey there! I'm running a Les Paul into a Marshall Jubilee into a 2x12 with 65 watt Greenbacks. I have a bunch of different mics, so using multiples at the same time isn't an issue. I have 2 57's, 3 SM58's and an AT2050 I usually use for vocals.

    My whole thing with tracking 2 separate guitar tracks that aren't the same is that I want it to sound the way it will live. We're a power trio, so having multiple guitars for rhythm will kind of break the sound. Thats why I'm looking at how I can blend mics etc. to create a better sound for the mix and be more representative of what it is that we do.

    Thanks!
     
  8. Tchap

    Tchap Senior Member

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    Howdy there Barcslay. Well, you didn't say what you are recording into; for example a hard drive or tape. It really doesn't matter I suppose, but, with a hard drive it generally is easier to duplicate a track. Once it is duplicated a couple or a few times, pan just a little to the left or right of the original guitar track. Then, zoom way in on the duplicated track and move the whole track either forward or back a very slight amount. this will thicken up the guitar track and there will only be one guitar used. Plus you can EQ each duplicate track a little differently.
     
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  9. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    barsclay, here's what i would do with your gear:

    set the amp away from the wall toward the middle of the room. then set up these mics:

    one SM57 between the cone/edge of one speaker, set about 4" back. you may have to move it about to find the sweet spot. i am not real familiar with that speaker. do the same for the other speaker, maybe even use a 58.

    after setting up the dynamic mics, take a tape measurer and measure all the distances between the mics and the speakers. also measure the space between mic capsules. having equal distances should help you prevent phase issues.

    take the AT2020 and set it about 6 to 8 feet back, and around the height of your head. face it forward. this should help give you a room souond similar to what you hear with your ears.

    during mixdown, you would pan the dynamic mics to taste. the AT2020 would be blended to taste and even panned if you like the sound.

    do you have external preamps or phase reversal switches available? if you do, then worrying about the distance between mics isn't as important, because you can flip the phase on, say, one of the 57s if you get a weird cancelling effect.

    i would track as loud as possible, and put the amp in 25 watt mode. another thing that could help create a "big" sound is to remove the back of the cab. that will help the sound fill the room and make the AT2020 have more to do. if you were to do this, throw another dynamic mic behind the cab, about 6" back, pointing between the 2 speakers. blend to taste during mixdown.
     
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  10. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Hi, Barcslay

    Whatever you do, I don't believe you can expect some of the suggested gimmickry to give you the sound that you're looking for. Mucking up transients and creating phase problems with multiple identical, delayed tracks, adding chorus, or multimiking the shit out of it will only hurt the outcome unless you're really hip to EQing via microphone phasing. Instead I suggest you visit the recording forums and search for info on how those recordings were made. My "guess" is that back then channel-strips on consoles were in short supply, as were tracks on the reel-to-reel, outboard effects, etc. What they did have was good amps in good rooms, miced with good mics and pres, going to analog tape very hot (No, I'm not an analog disciple, that stuff can be simulated nicely in the digital domain).
    Try to get a good sound at the speaker, then try a few mic positions with your primary mic, then add maybe a room mic and pan to taste. Don't forget about compression, especially parallel and also the room mic.
    IMO, doubled guitars work great for bands that actually have 2 guitar players ( AC/DC) but all that layering just weakens the guitar's role in the track. YMMV, of course:)
     
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  11. Barcslay

    Barcslay Senior Member

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    Ah man, this thread is awesome with lots of stuff to try.

    So as far as recording gear, I run into a Tascam US-1800 that goes into Reaper. Simple, but effective. I'm good with EQ, but I don't want to "process" the sound since I'm getting the tone I want.

    Any more Ideas, keep 'em coming! I'm writing everything down to try!

    Thanks again
    Ryan
     
  12. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

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    +1

    I also love the sound of a double tracked guitar that's not 100% the same as the other track, like John Lennon's vocal doubles gives it a really cool space when they don't sync up entirely.

    Just my opinion though
     
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  13. blues_n_cues

    blues_n_cues Senior Member

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    the Stones were great @ that too. give a listen to Gimme Shelter & Wild Horses. particularly the guitars in G.S.
     
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  14. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Agree with all of this.


    I just want to add my 2 cents...it's been said already, but to me it's at the crux of the issue. The room. If you do the typical close mic right on the grill of the cab you are pretty much eliminating the room. Sure you will have a very tight, detailed sound but the room (especially with compression) will give you that sense of space and drama, the sense that there's a loud amp.
     
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  15. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Recorded a heavy rock guitar today. A mesa dual recto
    with a 4X12 and a Les Paul.

    I used a 57 and a DIY ribbon mic close to the speakers and a LD condenser about 7 feet back in the room.

    The tonal possibilities between the 57 and ribbon are very broad!

    I'm happy with the result...clips when I get a chance, right now i have to haul my fat ass to the gym though. :D
     
  16. LenPaul

    LenPaul Premium Member

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    I'm in the simplest is best camp as well, I'm not a fan of doubling guitar tracks to get a big sound.
    I don't record much guitar here at home but when I need to & need a big sound I stick the amp in the garage, it's a very lively space.
    A nice dynamic with low cut filter to tame the proximity effect, & a ribbon close up then a condenser for some garage sound.
     
  17. blues_n_cues

    blues_n_cues Senior Member

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    now would be a great time to post some of these big guitar sounds w/ your technique & how you achieved it.
     
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  18. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    I was going to just throw up a few sound clips but I have a better idea....though I'll have to wait until Monday before I can put something together.

    I figured that posting a video would be the way to go to illustrate the blending of mics. Pushing faders around on video means you can see and hear what is happening.
     
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  19. blues_n_cues

    blues_n_cues Senior Member

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    I thought about vid but noone wants to see my mouse working.:laugh2:
    seriously,it just takes too long for me to edit vid but I'll throw up a couple in the morning & give descripts.

    I will get cocky & say that for those that say "manually doubling" your own stuff is too much like trying to fake a 2nd guitar player live or whatever the excuse is. well either you need to hone your craft a bit or get a stereo mic or 2. doing it "old school" is so much better & more natural than any other way.IMNSHO.
     
  20. LenPaul

    LenPaul Premium Member

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    Can you clarify "hone your craft", guitar playing skills or recording skills?
     

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