Study Hall
Sponsored by
Audio Technica

In The Studio: Microphone Techniques To Get Great Electric Guitar Sound

Good starting points for capturing and recording the sound you want...

By Barry Rudolph December 8, 2016

Also be sure to check out Barry's related article, "A Wide Variety Of Microphone Techniques For Recording Drums"

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.” Granted, 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 among 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).

To facilitate seeing through the grill cloth, use a flashlight. This position produces the most high frequencies and moving the mic closer increase both level, low frequencies and reduces the cabinet’s contribution to the overall sound.

Some guitarists and engineers say there is nothing coming out of the exact center of a speaker that’s worth recording. (I could make a funny retort here too easily.) This is true for certain speakers, but test this position yourself to judge its usefulness.

If you want less highs and more warmth, move the mic sideways, parallel to the floor, toward the outside of the speaker. Move in 1-inch increments, with someone in the control room you trust listening for sound changes. With a mic positioned inches from a speaker cone, small increments make a big difference.

At An Angle
Figure 3 shows an SM57 at a slight angle on a Fender Brown-Face Deluxe. I find this a better position most of the time since you seem to get plenty of highs and more tonality than straight on.

Figure 3, click to enlarge

It’s a good idea to try from both sides and from the top or bottom. If the mic ends up on the floor pointed at the speaker, and sounds good, nail it down! The floor is going to trap bass frequencies and also add tone especially if it is made of wood and is built on a raised foundation.

Tilt The Amp
If the floor seems to “close down the sound,” try tilting the amp back. Fenders have chrome legs on the sides of the cabinets for that purpose, and it also projects the sound up at the musician. VOX amplifiers, like the AC30 and Super Beatles models, come with tilting carriage stands that completely isolated the amplifier from the floor.

If possible, I like to set the amp on a folding chair.

Figure 4, click to enlarge

Figure 4 shows an MD 421U on a vintage Fender Tweed Deluxe. Here, the amp is tilted back so that the bottom of the amp’s cabinet couples less with the floor.

All of these amps are open-backed, so a wall or open space directly behind them greatly affects bass response.

Front & Back
Figure 5 shows an open-backed amp, the Matchless DC30, with an SM57 on the rear and a KSM44 on the front.

Figure 5, click to enlarge

This set-up produces a very unusual tone and allows mixing the two mics for a mono track or using two tracks placed left and right in the mix. The phase of one of the mics should be flipped.

Try moving the mics very close to the speakers and processing the rear mic through a very short delay – less than 3 ms (milliseconds). Also, try NOT flipping phase.

Read the rest of this post


About Barry

Barry Rudolph
Barry Rudolph

Veteran Recording Engineer
Barry is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics. Be sure to visit his website, and also check out his related article, “A Wide Variety Of Microphone Techniques For Recording Drums”.


Have something to say about this PSW content? Leave a comment!

Scroll past the ”Post Comment” button below to view any existing comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tagged with:

Subscribe to Live Sound International

Subscribe to Live Sound International magazine. Stay up-to-date, get the latest pro audio news, products and resources each month with Live Sound.