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Can You Record Guitar with a Practice Amp?

Hello everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well. We’re back with another FAQ Friday. That is Frequently Asked Questions.

Please, as ever, if you aren’t already, please subscribe, and you can go and join our mailing list, which is Highly recommend it, because you get loads of free gifts. There’s free videos, free multitracks, drum samples, which are some of the best drum samples out there, because they’re not just mine. There’s stuff from Aerosmith, there’s stuff from — I can’t say what half of these things are.

Anyway, they’re really good. They’ve been used on tons of great records. They’re a lot of fun, people like them.

Oh yes, and there’s that silly notification bell down there somewhere. If you hit that, you’ll get notified. A lot of people are asking me about the live streaming ones that we do, and if you hit that notification bell, then YouTube will tell us when we go live. We do normally go live on Thursdays at 11AM, but sometimes, we do a Tuesday as well, and of course, if you’re subscribed and you’re on the email list, you’ll get notified when we go live as well.

Okay, let’s go for the first question.

Can you record professionally a guitar with a practice amp?

Yes, yes, and yes would be the answer to that. I mean, what would we call a practice amp? I suppose we can break this down to two things. Traditional old school practice amps were like, six watt or 12 watt Champs, and as any of you will know, that’s a favorite amp, that’s the Layla guitar sound was I believe a six watt champ?

I also know when I was working with Don Smith that when he was doing all of the Stones records, and the Keith Richards solo records, that he also used a Fender Champ all the time on Keith’s guitar sound.

So let’s be honest, obviously, a Fender Champ is a small Fender tube amp. A valve amp. So it’s not a super, super cheap amp. I have over there a Fender G-Dec, which plays actually background tracks, and I can solo over it.

I also have a Yamaha THR series little baby amp. I have the little tiny Fender and Marshall, you know, quarter watt or whatever they are battery powered 9-volt amps.

Why am I telling you about all of these different amps? Well, all of them have a place, so yes you can.

Now, those really tiny amps are really, really good when you’re trying to get a guitar sound to cut through a dense mix.

I love the way that they have that little buzzy guitar sound. They’re really fantastic.

Now, let me tell you something about small amps, like 8” speakers and 10” speakers. One of my favorite producers and a good friend of mine, and I’m sure you know him, is Dave Jerden. Dave Jerden did all of the big Alice in Chains records. He did all of the big Jane’s Addiction records. He also did — well, you name it, he did a lot — Offspring, he did all of this kind of stuff, and a lot of the time, he was getting those massive guitar sounds with all kinds of variations of amps.

He almost always favored small amps, where he’d put a 57 on the front, and a 57 on the back, and he flipped the back one out of phase. So he’d use a small open back amp.

I had the same thing with Brian Colstrom, because of course, Brian was Dave’s engineer for years. Brian was a good old friend, unfortunately, he died a couple of years ago. Very talented.

Whenever we used to work together, I was tracking guitars on his productions, or we were working on his stuff co-producing it, it was always on small amps.

Quite often, we would take a little six watt Champ and run another head into it and drive that speaker really heavily.

So, my point is, don’t be discouraged. Don’t read somewhere that you can’t use this amp or that amp. The point is, there’s a place for everything with guitars.

One of the things I love, for instance, McDSP bought out that plugin called the Futzbox. Have you seen that? The reason why I suggest it is because they have this really cool feature where they go through all of these different IRs. We’ll talk more about IRs in the coming weeks. Stay out for that.

But what’s great about it is they have like, telephone speakers all the way up to 15” and everything in between. Every single speaker you can imagine, and it proves a point. You can setup a guitar sound, you can get a nice distorted sound, and then you can flick through all of these different speaker emulations, and it completely changes it.

So why am I talking about that? Well, it’s basically telling you there is a place for every single type of amp. So whatever you have, whether it be a little transistor amp that’s worth 20 bucks, all the way up to the most expensive tube amp on the market, there’s a place for it, and to be honest, I would go for using your practice amp, because you’re going to have a far more unique sound than just getting the same bog standard tube amp that everyone uses.

It’s really important these days to have individuality, and to have your own unique sound.

So whatever you’ve got, use it, have fun, make some great music.

Do you ever reamp?

All the time. Okay, so, couple of answers to that though. Again, it always needs to be two answers to every question I get. Well, the two answers are first of all, I always print the DI. Always. Very rarely do we do a guitar with even with an artist or myself playing where I don’t print a DI.

I like to print DIs for two reasons. Number one, you can reamp, so you can — I can go back out through my chain, I can use a Radial reamp box, go back out and play through that, or secondly, and just as importantly, I can stick a plugin on it.

So I can use it for reamping either back through an amp, or I can stick quite often just a SansAmp. A bog standard, comes free with my DAW SansAmp. Or you can use Bias, you can use Amplitube, you can use all kinds of wonderful different effects.

However, just so you know, another reason I like to print the DI is if you’ve got super, super heavy guitars, and it’s a big blob of grunge, [mimics guitar], you like that emulation? You’ve got this massive, grungy guitar sound, it’s really, really difficult to find where the strums are. If you print DI, it’s a lot easier.

You’ll see the transient. You can scroll for it slowly, you can find the transient and nudge it just back if it’s a little bit late or a little bit early. Makes editing so much easier.

What is for you the best technological improvement in music production in the last ten years?

Wow. In the last ten years? That’s a big question. You can tell I don’t rehearse these answers currently. Um, hmm… In the last ten years… Well, I think honestly, you know what? It’s interfaces.

Interfaces. That’s the answer. Because when I first started doing stuff at home, outside of big studios, or even my bigger studio, I had a Digi 001. You rememeber those? That was like this white, I think it was green, and I did make records on it. I did vocals on it, guitar overdubs, tambourines, I remember doing some acoustics on a song that eventually became a hit in the early 2000’s.

However, the difference between my Digi 001 interface and even the early M-Boxes and where we’re at now is massive. It is massive.

The cheapest, within reason, interface out there sounds, I don’t know, at least twice as good as one from ten or fifteen years ago. Interfaces now have moved massively.

So if you watch our one mic series, you’ll see me taking one mic and singing through it, track some bass, acoustic, one mic on a drum kit, usually over the shoulder or over the floor tom.

I’m using an iD4 for that. The Audient is really, really, inexpensive, and we’re doing it all with one mic. When we’re mixing in the box, we monitor with, you guessed it, an iD4.


The point is that’s where we’ve come to. We’ve come to an inexpensive interface like that having good enough mic pres to make a record with, a good enough digital to analog converter to basically sound as good as anything I was doing on more expensive systems ten or fifteen years ago.

I feel like now, those inexpensive interfaces sound as good as my HD did back fifteen years ago, when it was new.

So that I believe is the biggest advancement. I think the ability to edit, to slip things around, to grid them, to use MIDI, whatever, all of that stuff has been pretty darn good for at least 20 years now, but the interfaces have gone through the roof. Even the cheapest of the cheap sound really, really good.

So there is no real reason now not to be able to make really good records with home based equipment.

What is the white box on top of the Marshall amp head to the right of the screen over Warren’s head?

That is the Yamaha THR-100H I believe for Head? There’s actually a video I did with it. We can post a link somewhere around about here I think, or up there, who knows. We’ll post a link. And it’s a pretty phenomenal amp, because you can try all kinds of different amp sounds, you’ve got EQs, you’ve got ways of storing stuff, you’ve got reverbs, different emulations, it’s pretty darn amazing. You can use it either through a cab, like I do quite often with a mic on it, or you can run directly out, balanced line into a mic pre, and get a tone that way. Get an amazing sound.

So we use it quite a lot. There’s a video of me using it, demonstrating it. It’s a little buzzy, not because of the amp, because we had full lights around it and single coil pickups, but it’s a really, really good amp, very affordable, very, very easy to use, and it comes with a footswitch where you can program in all the sounds.

So for live, phenomenal tool.

Thanks for asking! Nobody has ever asked that question before.

What is the one piece of analog gear under $1,000 you’d recommend for someone looking to go a little outside of the box?

I love not being prepared and just being handed these questions, this is really good. For under $1,000… See it’s tough, because the first thing that springs to mind is microphones. It really does, because $1,000 is actually quite a lot of money in anybody’s world, and in the world of microphones, is a lot of really good mics. As you’ll notice recently, we did the 540, we did the Delphos, we did a lot of microphones that I’m really, really impressed with. I think the Roswell Delphos is an amazing mic, I think the Lewitt 540 Sub Zero is an amazing mic.

Both of those videos I’m sure could be floating around down here were both the one mic videos we were talking about we recorded a full song start to finish using just that mic. This is a question that’s difficult to answer without using an individual case. Like, what do you already have and what do you need?

If you don’t yet have like, a mid-priced, high quality condenser, that’s what I’d recommend. There’s a lot of good microphones $300 and below. There’s a lot fighting for that $300 price range, but the $500-1,000, there’s two or three microphones that stand head and shoulders above all of the rest, and we’re going to try out some more soon, some great mics soon, but I would say, it’s probably microphones, but it depends on what you’ve got, because if it’s not microphones in an analog world, it might be other pieces of equipment, it might be hire a musician.

I mean, $1,000 will buy you a used Ludwig drum kit, and I feel like if you’re a producer and an engineer, and you’ve got a small room that you could turn into a drum room, buy a drum kit, because learn how to record drums, have a drum room, even if it’s in your garage, and then have it setup, have it tuned, get it sounding absolutely amazing, and you’ll save yourself on a fortune of going to different studios. You’ll have your own drum room at your place.

One of our Academy members, Jeff McDonald, built an amazing drum room at his house in Canada where he lives, and it sounds phenomenal. He does incredible work, and I highly rate him, and he’s a drummer obviously as well, which helps, but there’s loads of our Academy members that are either drummers or want to have drum kits, and they put together those kind of scenarios. I think that as a producer and an engineer, I think if you have to do anything rock and roll based, rock based, country, indie, alternative, whatever, you really need to know how to record drums, and what better way than having your own drum kit.

So I think for under $1,000, I think it’s either microphones, or if you’re a producer and you want to establish yourself, get yourself a drum kit and record it.

How often do you rely on a spectrum analyzer when mixing?

I use the PAZ spectrum analyzer, or I think it’s called frequency analyzer, frequently. Frequently use the frequency analyzer, and I don’t use it all the time, but I use it frequently if I’m just to check something out.

Now, there’s lots of these great plugins that have frequency analyzers built into it so you can see where there might be a boost or cut. However, I don’t personally use too many of those, and you might ask why? Well the reason that I don’t use them is I find that I am looking and not listening. I like to mix and identify something that I don’t like.

Like, “Oh, what is that? There’s something honky about it. Is it six, is it seven?”

Then I’ll open up the PAZ and I’ll find that offending frequency, and I might cut it a bit. I find if I’m looking at frequencies going like this the whole time inside of a plugin, I might start cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and before you know it, I’ve lost all personality.

We recently — in fact, just the other day, did a feedback Friday inside of our Academy, and somebody said they thought the electric guitars were a little harsh, and I had to agree, they were a little harsh, however, that’s what I wanted. I wanted that section to be really kind of aggressive, and nasally, and high mid harsh, so that when it broke down, the girl vocal coming in after that was really soothing. It was a deliberate recording technique.

However, if I gave that to somebody to mix, and they were always looking at a spectrum analyzer, they’d probably go, “Oh, it’s peaking in the high mids,” and then smooth it out, and then before you know it, you’ve got a really safe, really boring mix, and this is a big problem when it comes to a lot of YouTube tutorials, they’re all sitting there telling you how to take things out and flatten your mix, as it were.

And that might be good in an EDM world where you’re trying to cram in fifty things all at once, so you can get a big blob of loudness, but in a lot of organic music, you’re trying to play with peoples’ emotions subtly. You might want to just make something a little bit more aggressive in a place and then bring it down.

I’m not taking away from any genre, but ultimately, making everything really even sounding is good for somebody to put into a video, but in real life, doesn’t make good music. It makes very safe, boring music. You want your music to be exciting, and you don’t want to be mixing, you guessed it, you do not want to be mixing with your eyes. You want to be using your ears, and then enable a spectrum analyzer, a frequency analyzer, find something you don’t like, and go, “I hate this, what am I hearing?” Find out what it is, pull it out.

And to be honest, after awhile, I guarantee if you’re mixing and producing on a regular basis, you won’t need one, you’ll know when 700 is too loud. You’ll just go, “700, pull.” Pull it out.

For those of us that don’t have zillions of dollars, will you do a video sometime of your favorite Waves plugins and why you like them?

That was a good question. Yes, I mean, those that follow me know that there’s like, two or three go-to plugins by a lot of different manufacturers I use. Just to put Waves aside for a second, I love McDSP plugins a lot. I love how intuitive and musical they are — if I want to brighten something, I feel like when I use McDSP plugins, I just want to brighten something, and I add some air, and I can just add some low end, I can cut some mid-range. I think Colin McDowell is an amazing talent, and makes beautiful sounding plugins.

I think Steven makes things — Slate makes great plugins as well. For similar kind of ideas, I can pull up an organic sounding — analog sounding, I should say, plugin, and intuitively make it feel more of what I want.

However, with Waves, there’s a couple of great, great plugins, and I will do videos on them, specifically, but the R-Bass is magical. The R-Bass, put it on toms, boom. All the low end. Put it on, sometimes I’ve seen people put it on kick drums. Amazing on low end. Put it on bass guitar, impeccable, because it defaults to 80Hz, which is beautiful to round up on that on a bass guitar. Wonderful.

I actually think one of the best plugins on the market — inarguably, one of the best plugins on the market is the MV2. The MV2 has changed so many things that I do when I mix. You see it when I mix bass and stuff like that. Now, I can bring up the low level stuff, and then squash the high level stuff, and whether you’ve got a bass guitar that is very uneven — because a lot of players are uneven. I’m relatively uneven, I’m not the greatest bass player. I’m definitely not Sean Hurley. I’m definitely not someone that beautiful and even. John Button.

I’m not one of those guys — Dan Rothchild — that just have an amazingly smooth playing technique, I’m still just a guy who plays bass, not a great bass player.

So with me, the MV2 allows those high notes that maybe I’m over hitting, therefore choking a little bit and not getting the low end out, or same thing down on the low F, maybe I hit it too hard and it chokes out, it allows that low level stuff to come up, and the high level stuff to squash in, and it is genius on the end of a bass sub. Absolutely amazing.

Evens out my bass mixing so much. Especially when we’re in a world now where we’re competing against a lot of electronic stuff, and a lot of emulations, and most importantly, most people have the ability now to just play a sampled bass and it is recorded perfectly even, and when you’re playing a live bass, then even this disappears. The MV2 is a godsend. I’m sure there’ll be a link to it down here.

R-Bass and MV2 are probably my two biggest go-to plugins from Waves. And of course, I use the API all the time from — but anyway, those are my two favorites.

Thank you ever so much for those wonderful questions. Please, as ever, why don’t you tell me your favorite plugins, why don’t you tell me all — give me opinions on all the different stuff we talked about. This is an amazing community, everybody here helps each other. I love the sharing of ideas that we do, so thank you ever so much for being so wonderful.

I hope you checked out all of those books we were talking about last week, the Phil Ramone book in particular is one of my personal favorites, and have a marvelous time recording and mixing, and I’ll see you all again very soon.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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