Recording your Guitar Amp


Hi everyone, on this page i want to talk about recording your own guitar amp using mics. We're going for the best possible recorded guitar tone.


These days there are a lot of ways to record guitars. You have DI's, Pods, direct hard disc recording and more. But one of the oldest and trusted ways, and my personal favorite, is recording your own guitar amp in the studio or at home, by use of microphone(s).

In studio situations there might be a recording engineer. They know what they are doing, so if you're going to argue with them about how to record your guitar, be sure you know what you're talking about.


The first thing to realize is that in terms of tone, if it doesn't come from your amp, it won't be in the recording.


A few pointers before you start recording:

- Put fresh strings on your guitar at the start of the recording day. This will improve tone, clarity and intonation;

- Make sure your guitar intonation is properly adjusted for octave harmonics;

- Tune your guitar between every take


Record using your usual sounds, including effects.

The best way to get your signature guitar sound recorded is to just set everything up as if you were playing a live gig. It's good to just record with your effects pedals on. The only thing is this: adjust the levels and settings of your effects for recording.

recording your guitar amp - miked cabinet


What does that mean? In order to get a good balance between wet and dry, you'll have to set your time-based effects (reverb, delay) and modulation effects a bit more wet than you would normally. This is because reverb and delay can easily get lost or 'snowed under' in the mix of a complete band. Mix them in a bit higher to compensate for this.


Recording distortion or overdrive guitar

Take it easy on the amount of gain on your signal. Too much gain can result in higher noise, unwanted sounds and muddiness. Less gain, on the other hand, can make your playing sound more expressive.


Tweak your amp's EQ settings instead of 'fixing it in the mix'

When recording your guitar amp with microphones, ideally you should tweak your amp's EQ settings for a perfect balance between highs, mids and lows. This can help you avoid having to tweak the EQ later, in the mix, which can be problematic.


Here's how it's done: set your amp to a very low volume and put your head in front of the amp's speaker cone, as this is where the microphone will be placed. Play something while listening intently. Does the balance between lows, highs and mids sound good? Tweak the EQ if it feels neccesary. Listen again.


Now, put the amp back to normal volume. This should be quite loud in order to get a good recorded tone, especially for tube amps. Take about 5-9 feet (or about 2-3 meters) distance from the amp, squat down and put your head at same height as the speaker cone, while playing something. Carefully, make sure you don't hurt your ears! Does the EQ balance still sound good? Not to muddy, not too sharp? Enough mids to cut through the band? Great, we're ready for miking. If not, tweak amp EQ settings and listen again.


Miking your guitar amp

If you're not working with a recording engineer here's the simplest and most effective way to mic your guitar amp's speaker.


Use a simply microphone like the well-known Shure SM-57 or Shure SM-58 or whatever else you have available. Place it pointing straight at the cone. The best sounding position is usually somewhere between the middle of the cone's radius and the center of the cone. More towards the center of the cone gives a sharper and more direct sound. More towards the edge of the cone gives a fuller sound with a bit less definition. Experiment with this by recording short bits of guitar playing in 3-4 different mic positions and choose the best sounding one! If possible, ask someone else to listen and see if they agree.


If you record both clean and distorted tones, place the head of the mic close to the cone, a few inches away from the speaker grill or cloth. If you're recording only clean guitar tones, move the mic a bit further away from the speaker as this can give your recorded tone a bit more fullness.


Recording engineers will sometimes mike your amp using more than one mic. There will be a second mike, for instance, placed at the back of your speaker (if it's not a closed cabinet). Having more mics can be great when mixing as you can balance two or more different recorded tones to get the best final result. The front mic is the most important one, however.


Ok, you're all set up now for a great recorded guitar tone. Relax and don't drink too much coffee! Good luck.


Recording your guitar amp - miked amp