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A Guide to Reamping Guitars in the Recording Studio

Many records are cut in less than usual locations these days. Often, you’ll find artists in apartments laying down guitar tracks late into the night.

This obviously presents several problems. The first is obvious: noise. Because of the volume it takes to record a guitar amp, you have to choose carefully when you track.

Even a 5 watt amp can be enough to annoy many a neighbor. Especially when you’re trying to create a part.

This is when reamping comes in handy. You can record your parts through headphones and reamp the DI guitar through real amps during the afternoon when sheeple are at work.

This is one of the most common thought of uses for reamping. There are definitely others though too.

Brothers From Another Mother

Having more than one amp can really open up a guitar sound. In a big recording studio, it wouldn’t be hard to setup a Vox and Fender amp at stage volume. There are no volume restraints and you have plenty of microphones and inputs.

It’s much harder to play two amps at the same time in a project studio. Noise is an issue as well as space, inputs and microphone availability.

Some mixing engineers will make great use of multiple amp feeds from the same performance. They may choose different amps for each section of a song.

They may also combine amps for dynamics or tone adjustments. It’s nice to pick amps that compliment each other. For instance, if I’m using a Blackface Fender, I may choose another amp like an Vox AC30 that has more midrange energy.

Both amps make up for each others weakness.

Line Them Up

Here’s is what I do when I may want a multi-amp setup. Personally, I like to record with at least one real amp. Amp simulators have come a long way, but they still don’t feel/sound totally right to me. I rarely track a real performance strictly with sims. Party, because I have the option not to.

Step 1: I set up my Radial passive DI so I can send one signal to my amp and one to my Apollo. I’m not even going to monitor the DI. That’s for later. I’ll check the DI signal for ground hum and make sure my levels are healthy.

IMG_4653

Step 2: Set up an amp and place one or two mics on it. I use a Fat Head II and a SM57 on most occasions. If I just use one mic, it’s usually the Fat Head. That’s a personal choice.

Once I have the performance I want, I’ll send the DI track back out using the Radial JCR Reamp.

IMG_4659

Step 3: At this point I set up a different amp and decide what microphones and positions I want. Here’s a variety of amps from a recent session.

amps

Hold The Press

But, before I start recording or setting levels, I make sure to grab the guitar I was tracking with and plug directly into the new amp.

You want to make sure you’re feeding the amp the same level as your guitar would. For instance, a Strat with single coils is going to feed an amp less than a Les Paul with humbuckers.

The Radial JCR has an output level dial. I compare the reamped signal to the guitar signal until they’re the same. Gain staging with an amp is really important and definitely affects the tone.

Step 4: I record the reamped track. Duh!

Seems like we’re all done right? Not quite. There is latency involved in a DAW. By the time you go out of your interface and back in again, you’ll notice the waveforms don’t exactly line up.

This can create phase issues. You may hear a loss of low end and volume. To deal with this, I’ll zoom in on the original amp signal I recorded (not the DI signal). I compare the reamped signal to the first amp signal. I move the reamped signal so it’s lined up perfectly with the original amp track.

This way, sound is reaching each of the mics at the same time. You’d be surprised how many people reamp guitar only to find the sound is thin.

There are plugins that can help you deal with this too. I use the UAD Little Labs IBP on occasion. Especially when I want to use phase as an effect. Mostly, I just move the waveforms.

Tip: Make sure if you have more than one mic on an amp that you group them. You don’t really want to move mic 1 and not mic 2. That will create phase issues as well.

Lost In Space

It’s not uncommon for me to send guitar tracks through the internet these days. When I do, I always send a DI signal along with my recorded live amp.

In the event that the producer feels like the sound isn’t right, I can reamp through a different chain. This allows me to keep a performance that is likely fine.

I always make sure to put the DI before any effects. That way I have a perfectly clean signal to reamp later. For example, I can blend a cleaner, less effected signal with a highly effected signal from the same performance.

You can really get creative with treating the same guitar track with various effects and amps chains. Have fun.

What are some of your favorite multi-amp or multi-effects setups?

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com


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