Tips for Guitar Amp Miking
Today, I’m going to talk a little further about recording guitar amps. I’ve done a video of just recording with one mic using an SM57, and I’m going to do a little bit more of that. We’re going to expand upon it using multiple mics. Different kinds of mics. Dynamic mics, condenser mics, and of course, ribbon mics.
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Anyway, so here we are. We’ve got a Marshall; SM57 on one of the speakers here. This is pretty standard. We’ll start with this. Pretty great tone. I’m pretty close up onto the grille cloth here, and it’s basically in the middle on the dome, because I want a super bright tone. So here it is.
So that’s a pretty cool tone. Pretty standard tone. You know, that’s 99% of the time, I’ve probably recorded with that. So that’s if you’re using either a closed back cab, whether it be a combo or a 4×12, that’s what I would do. I would use a single 57. I might pull it back a little bit, I might experiment with using it a little bit more in the room, because ultimately if you like the sound of your amp in the room, then mic the room. Maybe combine an ambient mic in the room with that one.
Okay, so let’s move on to recording an open back cab.
So here we have a lovely Vox amp. It’s a 1964 AC30, and using the trusty Carl Martin DeLayla Echo, which I use all the time. You’ll always hear it on my recordings, and the AC30 is an open back amp. So basically the cab has an open back, and that gives us a couple of things. It allows a lot of the bottom end to come out of the back, so what I do in most instances with an open back cab is I mic the back as well.
Now, the way to do that is to take the second mic — I prefer to use two of the same mics — So a second 57, and point it exactly opposite this one.
Now, if you look at the front 57 here, you’ll notice that it’s offset. It’s not pointing at the middle of the cone, it’s slightly to one side. Well, the reason for that is that’s actually a post running down the middle. In this particular year, that’s what they did. So I have to offset it, or else I’ll just be micing a piece of wood.
Okay, so the 57 is there. The other 57 around the back is exactly opposite. This one has the polarity flipped exactly opposite to it. So the phase remains constant. So basically as that speaker moves forward, this one is obviously moving back, so you have to flip the polarity so they both see the waveform moving in the same direction at the same time.
It’s a great sound. What we’ll do is we’ll — I’ll play a little bit, and we’ll flip the mics on and off. We’ll start with just the 57 on its own.
A little rhythm.
[electric guitar, front only miked]
Cool. So let’s pull in the other 57, and you’ll notice there’s a low mid boost. We’ll print this on a separate channel, so if you want to subscribe below, go to the email list, we’ll send you the files of this, so that you can see what the back mic is doing.
[electric guitar, both mics]
Cool. So it’s adding some lovely low mids. Personally, I wouldn’t use it on its own. I think it would be a little murky sounding. It wouldn’t quite have the definition of the front mic, but in conjunction with it, you know, you hit the levels of say, your front mic, you’ll bring the low one up, and it just starts to feel really, really good. Get too high, it might start sounding a little cloudy, but just tucked underneath, just starting to notice it, it will really fill out the tone quite considerably.
I learned that trick from Dave Jerden, who, you know, produced all of the Alice in Chains records, and the Jane’s Addiction albums, and engineered some of the greatest records of the late 70’s and 80’s. So he’s very talented, and that’s how he records most of his guitars. A lot of those huge Alice and Chains guitar sounds were done with small amps, but front and back miked, with the back mic phase reversed.
So still with the Vox, and this time, we’re using a ribbon mic, which is a Sontronics Delta. It’s a relatively inexpensive mic. I love the sound of it, but the way we’re using it here is we’re pulling it back a bit, and we’re getting the sound of both of the speakers at the same time.
If I’m going to use a ribbon, it’s going to be because I want a smoother top end. Ribbons have a really great response in the top end. It’s nice and smooth, and it’s good for getting rid of overly brittle guitar sounds. So you know, probably something on a cleaner kind of tone like this.
[electric guitar, Sontronics Delta Ribbon]
So it’s a pretty nice, smooth sounding mic. All ribbons have that kind of response. I just like this one, because frankly, it sounds great, and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Okay, let’s move on. We can try a condenser next. Great, so here we have my trusty Pro Junior. This is a great amp. I use it a lot. It’s just simple, it’s got a volume control, and a tone control on it.
What we’re going to do is just put a pencil condenser on it. It’s pointed towards the middle on the cone. It’s a pretty bright amp, so it’s going to be fairly bright, but that’s why I like this amp, and that gives us a lot of variations.
Bridge pickup on this rock and roll relics guitar, which sounds fantastic, it’s got the David Allen pickups in it, which I love.
Anyway, let’s have a listen to it.
[guitar, condenser mic]
It’s great the way the amp just kind of folds into itself at pretty low volumes. You know, if you can have a couple of amp variations, try it, and also, when you’re trying to get various tones, don’t be afraid to try different mics. I mean, this mic is really inexpensive. This pencil condenser. But it will give you a totally different sound to a 57 or any other standard dynamic, and it might be that difference where you want a biting tone over your rhythm.
[guitar, condenser mic]
Let’s just say you’ve got kind of a line to go over the top of your rhythm.
So maybe you have a guitar lying like that, just going over…
[electric guitar, no amp]
You know, a rhythm part. Trying a small amplifier which has got more top and more mid-range honk to it with a condenser might just make all of the difference, and then you’re not having to do a lot of EQ, a lot of compression, just the amp and the mic itself will make all of the difference, you know?
So just having two microphones, just having a dynamic and a pencil condenser used in the right way will really kind of help you in your mixing, because ultimately, if you print the tone that’s really close to what you want, you know, it’s just going to come up the way you need it, as opposed to sort of fixing it in the mix.
Anyway, there’s one other thing we can try. We’ll use a large diaphragm condenser, and we’ll pull it back here to get kind of a bigger tone. We’re throwing the big guns on this. We’ve got an AKG C12 A. Okay, it’s not an inexpensive microphone, it’s quite an expensive microphone, but it’s a tube 414, if you’d like.
It actually has a C12 capsule, so it’s quite an expensive capsule, but it’s a great sounding mic. It’s just the condenser I had to have, but it will illustrate, you know, just how wide and fat condensers can be, plus all of the, you know, added kind of top end detail that they pick up.
Also, I’ve changed up the guitar here. We’ve got something with humbuckers. It’s obviously a Gibson 335, and we’re going to try little sort of bluesy stuff, and we’ll see how it feels.
[electric guitar, AKG C12 A]
So great sounding mic. Great sounding amp, great delay combination. Personally, this is kind of a favorite if I want something organic sounding, you know, I’m not afraid about getting too much ambience in the room. Not that this is a huge room, so there’s not a huge amount of ambience, but this will give me kind of a natural sound. If it was just a single guitar, bass, and drums, and maybe piano or something in kind of a bluesy situation, this is a nice place for me. Just put a large diaphragm condenser and just pull it back a little bit.
You know, with a 57 close on the front, especially on the rockier tones, that’s really good if you want those huge guitar tones.
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