Every rock album you touch has the biggest, ballsiest guitars. How do you go about engineering a great, huge guitar sound? Do you have a typical approach, or does it differ from amp to amp? What do you focus on when mixing them?
Thank you so much!!! There are few tricks I can share for the best guitar sound. First, you need a good guitar player (haha, duh). If they know how to fret properly, it will be easy to record them without fighting tuning problems. Then you need some quality instruments. They don't have to be boutique brands, just solid, consistent guitars like Gibsons or Fenders. It is nice if the instrument has been set up professionally, but remember, if the player does not fret properly, no guitar will sound in tune. If you find that every guitar the player picks up has intonation problems, it probably isn't the guitar.
Next, I like having the guitar plugged into a splitter box running to two heads and two cabs (as described in the entry about the System Of A Down guitar sound). Best if each head has a different character. For instance, the combination of a warm, round Marshall Plexi head with an aggressive VHT Pittbull head works well. One is midrangy and dynamic, and the other is tight and scooped. Take this into consideration when choosing speaker cabinets also. Having the Marshall Plexi going into a cabinet with vintage 30 watt speakers makes sense, and the VHT going into a cab with modern 75 watt Celestions is a good match. Watch out for too much gain on the guitar amps, let one of the two heads give a lot of note so you can really hear the chords being played without being clouded by distortion.
I put a Shure SM57 and a Sennheiser 421 mic on each cab, micing the speakers very close, at the seam in the center of the speaker cone. I bring up all 4 mics on the console. My preference for mic pre/eq is Neve 1073, just don't gain up the pre too much. Bus all 4 mics into one bus, so you can record a blend of the 4 mics to one track! Correct any phase problems if the blend sounds thin. You'll find that the 57s carry the edge and the 421s add the weight in each cab. Listen to the mic blend on each cab individually then blend both cabs and adjust the combination for each performance you record. For instance, if you want dynamics in a melody line, feature the Marshal Plexi, or if you want ripping rhythms, push up the VHT in the blend.
I like to create a landscape with guitar tracks, using the set-up described above. Here is how it's done:
Listen to the song from beginning to end, mapping out the sections where the guitar story is told by one voice, and where multiple guitars will add an exciting dynamic. I generally have one guitar performance running through a song, adding two more performances in the choruses split wide (and sometimes four). I call these the "doubles" and "triples". I try to have the player match his original performance on the doubles and triples, but we may try different guitars and heads. I especially like adding a pair of baritone guitar performances under the choruses for extra big impact.
Wow, I could just keep going! Thanks for letting me share this with you. Hope it makes sense. I will try to revisit this thread and add more tips and insight.
Thanks for the detailed info Sylvia. I'm curious as to whether you have had much/good experience with the Kemper Profiling Amp yet. I know many producers (myself included) have been using them to great success with multiple amps and heads.