Need some fresh electric guitar recording ideas

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brainfreezebob
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Need some fresh electric guitar recording ideas

Post by brainfreezebob » Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:01 pm

I'm working on a song with my "band" right now that is simple (yet big and spacey). It rides along on a steadily strummed electric guitar, and I like the part (and it's a crucial harmonic anchor for everything else), but I'm having trouble coming up with a sound that is interesting enough to be heard very nakedly for a minute-long stretch.

I've run into this problem before whenever I try to do something really simple, and I usually get really frustrated and decide to add more elements to hide boring sounds, but I really want to keep this one simple.

The sounds we're coming up with right now are fine. Tasteful even. But dead boring. So we're looking for character. I'm thinking about the guitar sounds on late period Tom Waits records. The sound of a dirty little amp in a nice big room. But I'm also thinking the variously mystical guitar sounds of Radiohead and the Flaming Lips.

We've got tons of guitars, and a couple of nice amps. We've got a decent ribbon mic, a 57, and a couple of AT 4050's. We have a re-amp.

I guess what I'm looking for is 1.) an interesting approach to micing the amp, something that can create more room sound, more space, or more otherness and 2.) some interesting signal chains or mixing ideas that might set us on the path to audio magic.

That's what we need: sound magic. Got any to spare?

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Post by xSALx » Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:44 pm

I haven't heard the late Waits' records. But the way I got a nice room sound with a guitar that was pretty interesting was by having a 57 with a couple of SDC about 15 back 10 feet up in stereo spaced pair. I ended up getting a nice mid range that stuck out beautifully in the mix without tweaking eq, just a little compression to make it blend.

So my advice: 57 up close (though I figure the ribbon would be cool as well with a little eq) with the AT4050s in the back of the room spaced as high as possible. Obviously this is taking into account that the room sounds decent as is of a medium size.
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Post by Professor » Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:10 pm

Is it a minute-long stretch of one basic riff repeated a bunch of times, or is there something there to sustain interest? It's always important to start at the arrangement, and then the instrument, then the mics, then the effects.

Now assuming it's a sound that would be interesting in person, I suppose that to get more room sound, you need to have the mics further from the amp... so they can hear the room. I don't know that 15-feet back is entirely necessary, but I routinely pull guitar mics back to between 3-6 feet depending on what I'm doing. And if I want room sound, I go to a stereo pair so there is actually a way to catch the space. If you have a couple of 4050s, then there you go.
Since you have the ribbon mic, and if you need a closer sound when the band get's going, you might put that in as the close mic.
Might even be able to create a really nice effect by starting with the distant pair low in the and distant in the mix, bring it up over about 15 seconds, then start dropping it off as the close mic comes up over the course of a big 45-second crossfade to where the band comes in. It should create a sense of the sound in the distance coming in closer and more focused. (Of course, for that kind of effect it might help to have a longer distance than just 5-feet.)

Otherwise a lot of what I might think to try would be based on what the guitar is doing. 60 seconds worth of Les Paul vamping into a tune is different than 60 seconds of Eddie Van Halen soloing.

-Jeremy

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Post by brainfreezebob » Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:21 pm

Thanks for the replies. I should clarify that this isn't a minute of guitar by itself. It's more like a minute of guitar as an accompaniment to vocals in a pretty darn good song (not mine, so I'm allowed). The strummed chords are doo-wopy, dark and slow. Think third Velvet Underground album. After about a minute (probably less), they're joined by drums and a pretty wild bit of noise guitar.

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Post by drumsound » Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:57 pm

Some odd off axis stuff might be cool. I assume a figure 8 ribbon. What if it was a foot or two from the amp, but with the null pointing to the speaker? Or throw a mic in a drum case or something.

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Post by I'm Painting Again » Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:46 am

I recorded a song a while ago and put a absolutely cranked amp in a room with a bunch of junk that vibrated with the airwaves..put a cardioid mic in the middle facing all the junk and away from the amp..the song is just guitar and keyboard bass..evey stroke the junk in the room would ring differently..

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Post by red cross » Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:28 am

In this instance I think the magic has to sort of happen at the amp and not the recording chain. Would the "tasteful" sound you're getting now pass muster if you played the song live at a gig?

Maybe some light percussion in the arrangement would help too. Maybe time to dig out the old tambo?

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Post by fossiltooth » Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:54 am

PART
Performance
Amp
mic

I purposefully left "Guitar", "Preamp" and "Recording Medium" off the list, because I didn't want to make it exceedingly complex and debatable. I'm with the Professor on this one. If a part gets "boring" to your ears, I wouldn't look to the guitar sound first.

When recording an amp with one speaker, I tend to go for one mic... unless I need a room mic. For amps with two speakers, I tend to go for two mics (most often a dynamic plus an LDC) ...unless I need a room. I only tend to use a room mics on electric guitars if the part is really important or if the arrangement (or guitar part) is really sparse.

This is all just a matter of my taste. Figure out your own! If you're recording an amp with a single speaker, try each of your mics, one-by-one and internalize what they do to your guitar sound.

Then, try switching amps. Marvel at the difference! Amps are fun. Amps are good. Whatcha got?

A recording guitar player or a good engineer has got to get to know his available amps on an intimate level. I look to amps to make larger changes, and I look to mics and preamps to help accentuate the things I like about the sound .

What do you want out of the tone? Throatier? More Sparkly? Tighter? Broader? Chimey? More dense? Grittier? Smoother? Coarser? Woodier? If the sound should go significantly further in anyone of these directions, start with the amp and instrument. Refine the tone through mic choice.

Get to know you tools! It's fun.

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:19 am

stick one mic close-ish to the amp in standard fashion. give another mic to a bandmate and have them walk around the amp/room with it whilst you record the track. pan both dead center and see what happens.

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Post by kayagum » Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:27 am

You can try a simple double track, pan hard L-R.

Or maybe the part really isn't that great to begin with. I always look at the compositional elements before the recording elements if something's not working.
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Re: Need some fresh electric guitar recording ideas

Post by 43hertz » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:19 am

brainfreezebob wrote:... or more otherness and 2.) some interesting signal chains or mixing ideas that might set us on the path to audio magic.

That's what we need: sound magic. Got any to spare?
Okay, call me crazy but hear me out.

Put the ribbon in front of one speaker of a 2X12 cabinet, put a peice of sonotube (the concrete pouring stuff), as long and as big around as you can get or afford up against the other 2x12. Run the sonotube into a tin wash tub turned on it's side. Put a cardioid LDC, backwards in the tub.
Record the tracks, then run the ribbon mic up the middle of the mix, and run the LDC's tinny/tubby track into an SPX90 or other autopanner and bring the two sides of the processed signal up panned left and right. Don't bring them up too much, just more like a crazy uncle occasionally peaking up over the hedges at the edge of the soundscape. Swirly goodnes that worked exactly once for me.

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Re: Need some fresh electric guitar recording ideas

Post by Nick Sevilla » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:37 am

brainfreezebob wrote:I guess what I'm looking for is 1.) an interesting approach to micing the amp, something that can create more room sound, more space, or more otherness and 2.) some interesting signal chains or mixing ideas that might set us on the path to audio magic.

That's what we need: sound magic. Got any to spare?
Try this:

1. Record direct.

2. Insert on the track first, a reverb, and get the "room" size you are looking for.

3. Then AFTER the reverb, insert a chorus. Set it to be mild, so it gently moves the guitar around the stereo field. Like a nice gentle breeze.

4. If you want more, add AFTER the chorus some phasing. Again, blend it in to taste.

If you want dirt, try inserting a distortion effect AFTER the reverb, but in between the other effects. Experiment as to where you want the distortion placed.

Cheers
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:07 pm

combine all of the ideas suggested thus far and you will really be onto something.

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Post by RefD » Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:17 pm

from a thrift store , get an old all-in-one bookshelf stereo with 1/4" mic inputs for the cassette deck part and use that as an amp.

might suck ass, might sound great.

*suddenly realises post is a bit worthless*
Last edited by RefD on Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by JGriffin » Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:19 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:stick one mic close-ish to the amp in standard fashion. give another mic to a bandmate and have them walk around the amp/room with it whilst you record the track. pan both dead center and see what happens.
Yeah, this is what I was thinking as well: movement within the sound is what will (hopefully) keep it interesting. My thought was somewhat different: put a mic on the amp and another in a length of PVC pipe pointed at the amp (I loves me some PVC pipe). Set the PVC mic on a folded t-shirt or sock, tie a string to it, and pull it slowly through the pipe away from the amp over the course of the take. Better yet, do the pipe trick after the recording, with the pipe aimed at the studio monitors (so you're basically re-amping) and print one pass of pulling the mic away from the speaker and one pass pulling the mic towards the speaker. Combine these two pipe tracks with the original guitar track and see what happens.
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