dead guitar recording

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by Death addeR, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Death addeR

    Death addeR Guest

    Hi, I am getting a poor sound when recording the electric guitar, so I am hoping to see if anyone knows some possible reasons this may be happening.

    To be more specific, it appears that there is a particular character in the sound I am unable to eliminate and/or mask “at the source.” It’s hard to describe, but one way to put it is the guitar sounds “dead” and “dull” on the recording. The words “cloudy” and maybe “muddy” or “thick” come to mind as well. The recording is *not* “vibrant”, “bright”, “clear”, “transparent” and/or “alive.” My ears aren’t very skilled, so take this with a grain of salt, but it’s as if there is a lot of energy in the fourth octave, and a slight brittleness with little clarity in the upper octaves. However, I’m not convinced it is purely an EQ consideration. To note, this problematic character isn’t apparent as I listen to the amp in the room – it’s just on the recording.

    Equipment wise I am using an RME Fireface 800 interface, FMR RNP, Shure SM57, Fender Super 60 amp head – rack version, Randall 4x12 cabinet and an Epiphone Les Paul.

    I have tried recording in three separate rooms – a big rehearsal space (maybe 40’ x 25’ x 20’ ?), a control room (maybe 16’ x 10’ x 10’ ?) and a bathroom (maybe 10’ x 10’ x 10’ ?). Although the rooms produce different sounds to a greater or lesser extent with some of the mic placements, the problem is constant regardless of which room I record in or where the amp is placed.

    Mostly, I have spent hours in all three rooms trying different mic placements as well as tinkering with the amp EQ section a bit. I have tried everything from dead center of the speaker to the edge of the speaker, against the grill to as far as several feet away from the amp, on and off axis, etc… in combination with just about every EQ setting I can think of (including extremes). Although I am certainly getting different sounds, the problematic character seems to be fairly constant. It is a tiny bit better if I turn the bass and mid on the amp down to 0, while turning the high and presence up to 10. However, it is still noticeably “dead” and, as one might guess, a little intolerable at those extremes.

    I have two SM57s, so I have tried both, and each one seems to produce more or less the same sound. I have tried the pres on the Fireface 800 as well as the RNP, and the problematic character is constant in both, though the RNP does fair *slightly* better.

    Just to note, I am using Genelec 1029A’s to monitor. When I listen to other guitar recordings on these monitors in the same room, setup, etc. everything sounds fine, so I am certain it isn’t the monitors.

    Please let me know if anything jumps out as being possible culprits. My guess is that it is the guitar and/or amp itself, or the input section of the Fireface. I am planning to try a different guitar and amp tonight to do A/B/C/D comparisons. As far as the Fireface is concerned, I don’t seem to have this problem when I record straight in – however, I may have just never noticed it before. If it’s as simple as “that’s the way budget mic pres sound” then that information would also be useful. If I am trying too hard to get the sound “right” before relying on post-recording processing, please let me know. Thanks in advance for any possible advice.
  2. Oats

    Oats Guest

    sounds like an amp problem-- first make sure it's working correctly. after that i would say that there are some pieces of gear that are great live but don't record well. i used a tube screamer on the road for a dozen yrs-- wouldn't trade it-- but i would never record with it! hope this helps-- good luck!
  3. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Sounds like the 4*12 cab sucks. Try using a single speaker, no phasing issues and such.
  4. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Also, I'm imagining what it sounds like.
    Can you post an example?
  5. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    Jan 10, 2008
    New York
    Sorry if this seems obvious, but this is something I had to learn when I first started. I don't know how experienced you are so I'll just throw it out there anyway...

    Get the exact sound you want to hear by putting your ear to the speaker and tweaking the amp settings so you are hearing exactly what the mic is going to pick up. So, you should be on your hands and knees with your head tilted right up against the speaker in the spot where the mic will be placed. Dial in your sound, and then put the 57 right there. This should sound pretty close to what you are after. It could be because you're hearing the room and all sorts of other stuff when you're standing in front of the amp that the mic isn't hearing. Sometimes what sounds good in the room sounds terrible on tape and vise versa.

    I have no idea if this will help at all, or if it's even relevant to the question, but I posted it anyway. No worries, you should definitely be able to get a decent guitar sound with the equipment you have. Good luck!
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    The SM57 and FF800 should be a great combination for guitar recording.

    Does your Randall have a pre-amp output that you could run into a much smaller single-speaker amp with the main 4x12 muted? Get the distortion and other effects you want from the Randall front-end, then mic the smaller cab. You won't need a lot of volume and the sound is much more controllable for recording purposes. Oh, and don't put the cabinet on the floor!

    Another thing worth considering is recording the guitar signal direct (via a DI or an instrument input), and then replaying via a re-amp box into the cabinet setup. In this way, you can loop a solo or just a riff and experiment with small positional movements of the microphone (an inch can make a huge difference), and also with the effects of tone and volume.

    Another advantage of re-amping for finding the best mic position is that it's much easier to move your ear around in the sound field if (a) it's not deafeningly loud, (b) you have a repeatable passage for comparison purposes and (c) if you are the player as well as the recording engineer. When you have found a mic position that gives a sound you like, keep it there, disconnect the re-amp box and go live again.
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