Condenser microphones also provide the opportunity to experiment with different polar patterns such as omnidirectional and Figure-of-Eight (see my article about this here). Omnidirectional mics do not exhibit the proximity effect and will pick up more of the total sound of the amp and room tone, rather than one particular speaker.
I like omni mics for more of an ambient guitar sound or for room mics. Figure-of-Eight mics also pick up more of the room, but only from directly behind the mic’s body opposite the front side.
Speaking of Figure-of-Eight, one of my favorites for guitar is the ribbon microphone. I have a pair of Royer R-121 Figure-of-Eight microphones that offer a whole new range of warm electric guitar sounds.
Big, cumbersome and old ribbon mics have been around for years, but using them on loud instruments carried the fear of knocking the fragile ribbon element off their suspension mounts. The smaller, lighter Royer mics can handle huge volumes without the worry.
One engineer remarked to me,“when you switch from the Royer back to the 57, you wonder where half the guitar sound went.” Grantedm a big, fat and warm guitar sound on its own might sound ideal, but does it fit into your song production?
The Royer mic picks up sound from two opposing sides in what is also called a bi-directional pattern, and you can take advantage of this to get more of the recording space (room) in the sound. Sound entering the rear of the mic is 180 degrees out-of-phase with that coming into the front.
Figure 2, click to enlarge
Various mic placements on guitar amps are closely guarded trade secrets amongst recording engineers, but here are some tried and true methods that’ll make good starting positions.
From The Front
Figure 2 shows an SM57 pointed at a very rare 1960s Gibson recording amp.
I aim the microphone exactly at the center of the speaker driver inside the amp. (For those who don’t know this amp, the speaker is not mounted in the exact center of the cabinet, but I’m acting as though it is).