Lesson 43

Recording Electric Guitar and Bass Guitar

There’s basically 2 ways of recording an electric guitar or a bass. You can plug it in, which is called “DI” and stands for direct injection, or you can mike the cab.
1- miking the cab 

Miking the cab is both simple and complicated at the same time. It’s simple once you have it dialed in, you just stick the mic in front of it and that’s it. I really like using the iSK TDM 1 for this, because it’s really simple, just stick it in front off the cab and you’re done, and it sounds great.

Miking the cab is complicated however to dial in the perfect tone. Room acoustics play a big role, as does microphone type and placement. Clean tones are easy to capture with authenticity, but heavy distortion is challenging, and the wrong microphone or bad positioning can ruin the sound. 
For bass guitar, miking the cab is not as difficult. I recommend using a microphone that is optimized for low frequencies, like the iSK BDM-1. It’s not rocket science, just place the mic in front of the speaker, pointed directly at it. The middle will be more bassy, and the sides will have more of the mid range tone.

It’s quite common that electric guitar players will want to mic their cab, because that’s their sound and any other sound will certainly cause the end of the world. So we need to make them happy, and mic the cab.

2- plugging in DI

Recording the guitar di gives a cleaner recording and more flexibility in editing. You then have the option of using amp emulation software, or re-amping. When the player uses pedals, I like to use the pedals for the recording, and record the signal exactly how the amp would receive it. Keep in mind though, less pedals is better, so remove or hardwire bypass any pedals that are not crucial. Do not simply use the bypass option on the pedal, because the signal will still pass through some of the electronics.

Using amp emulation software is very convenient, and you can get a plethora of different tones. The downside is, for those purists out there, it doesn’t quite sound as good as the real thing, especially with heavy distortion tones. 

The other option is to re-amp. In this method, you will record the guitar DI, and then play that recorded track out through a re-amp device that converts the signal from line level to high impedance, then plug it into the amp and mic the cab. This gives the best of both worlds where you have the original clean signal, and you can mic the cab. This is a very convenient technique because you can just plug in and record the guitar in a relaxed environment, and then afterwards experiment with multiple different tones, and even layer them together if you want.
I also like this technique for recording bass guitar, where the player insists on having the tone from his amp. I will blend the low frequencies from the clean signal, with a low pass filter around 100 hz, with the re-amped signal that has a high pass filter around 100 hz.
My preferred method for bass guitar though is to simply use the DI recording, and use amp emulation software if required. Often, it’s not even required, and I’ll just use the signal from the bass guitar as it is. 

Bass guitar players on the other hand are usually more open minded, and will probably let you plug them in direct. You will get a cleaner sound plugging in DI, especially for the lowest bass parts. If they really want to mic their cab, I recommend still recording them DI, and then re-amp to mic their cab. Then in the mix, use both tracks. Put a low pass filter around 100 hz on the DI track, and a high pass filter around 100 hz on the miles cab track. That way you get the cleanest sound quality for the lows, and you still get their tone.

When plugging in direct, amp emulation plugins can be used to mimic the sound of miking a cab. They do a pretty good job of cleaner tones, but not such a great job of really heavy distortion.