TIPS AND TRICKS
RECORD ELECTRIC GUITAR WITH ONE MICROPHONE?
What do you really need to get a great sound with just one microphone when it's time to record an electric guitar? All you need is one microphone and patience. Of course, it is a prerequisite that you have an electric guitar and an amplifier with a speaker or a separate cabinet, but you probably already have that since you clicked on this article.
Professional studios often use several different microphones to create variety when recording an electric guitar. But as mentioned in previous articles, several microphones on one and the same source can create complications in terms of phase. Not everyone has an oversized selection of microphones either. More and more people also choose to have 2-3 good versatile microphones that can be used for most things.
But back to recording electric guitar, you first and foremost need a microphone that is suitable for the purpose. Shure SM57 or Sennheiser e609 are two very good dynamic microphones that can withstand a high sound pressure without affecting either the microphone or the sound. At the same time, they are two inexpensive options that can be used on multiple audio sources. If you do not have one of the two microphones, use only the microphone you have. As long as it is a dynamic microphone, you generally do not need to be afraid of the sound level from the speaker.
But where on the speaker should the microphone be placed?
It depends on what kind of sound you want. The most important thing you can do is GIRATS! GIRATS is an acronym for "Get It Right At The Source". It is an essential principle in all recordings you make, but is in many ways especially important in guitar recordings. If, after a guitar recording, you have to boost or cut frequencies by more than 3db to create the right sound in the mixing process, then the end result will probably be much better if you record it again.
When it comes to the actual placement of the microphone on the speaker, I will come up with some tips on how to arrive at a microphone placement that suits the song. You must first and foremost have a clear vision of how the guitar should sound in a final mix, at the same time as you should always control the sound against the song itself. Begin by placing the microphone a few inches away from the grille in front of the speaker, facing directly toward the center of the speaker. This will give it a sound that highlights treble. Try there first, before gradually moving the microphone out towards the edge of the speaker. Moving the microphone towards the edge of the speaker will gradually tame the brightest frequencies and create more depth and bottom in the guitar sound. Do some experiments where you pick up the guitar with the microphone in different places before you decide where to place the microphone.
If you still don't think you get the right sound from the speaker into the microphone then there are some other things you can try. 1) If you have several speakers to choose from in the cabinet, you may want to test all the speakers as these most likely give different sounds. Spend time finding the best speaker. 2) To get even more depth and bass in the sound, the microphone can be placed obliquely towards the speaker (as you can see in the picture below). 3) Although most people prefer to place a microphone close to the speaker to record only the actual speaker sound, you may like the sound that occurs in the room itself. You can therefore try to place the microphone about 20 cm away. This will allow you to record more of the "whole" speaker sound, while giving you more reflections from the surfaces of the room. This can lift the sound in the direction of what you want. Feel free to experiment with where the microphone is pointing when it is so far away from the speaker.
If you want to record two guitars to create a stereo effect, then you can easily create the impression that you are using different guitars, by moving the microphone position from one recording to the other. In this way, you make sure that the sounds differ from each other and thus spread even better. If you record two different recordings of the same guitar sound and the same microphone position, you may risk the guitar sounding almost mono, because they are too similar.
It can be nice to know that delay and reverb that comes from the guitar speaker (for example when using pedals) can be difficult to bring out in the recording itself. You may therefore need to resort to a reverb- or delay plug-in in the final mixing process, which in turn means that you may want to test this during the testing of the microphone placement.
As with all other recordings, there are no rules on how to make the final recording. If this means that you hang the microphone down from the top of the amplifier or turn the microphone in the strangest positions, then you are more than welcome to try it as long as the sound is the way you want it.