Some guitar micing/recording questions
July 14, 2006 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Metafilter music has re-invigorated me to get some stuff recorded (thanks matt!) and I am going to need some help. Mostly I have questions about getting ideal guitar sounds recorded.

I am recording at home, with minimal space but a decent amount of equipment and a small budget to expand that if I need to.

I recently actually sold my big/loud fender blues deville and replaced it with 2 different low-wattage tube amps, most notably the fender blues jr and the epiphone valve junior head (15w and 5w respectively). I built 2 modest 12" cabinets that I can use singly (at 8 ohms) or together in series (at 16 ohms). I wired them in series because the valve junior has 4, 8 or 16 ohm outputs but my marshall power brake attenuator just has 8 and 16. Lowering the wattage has helped, although 15w and 5w are still too loud. The valve junior, through one 12" cab is still pretty loud. Even in the closet it's pretty loud. With an attenuator I can bring it down considerably though.

OK, so that's my current setup. I am almost always playing through the 5w valve junior, into the power brake, into the 12" cab, which I'm micing with one or two sm57s, one close and one far, one close and one behind, or sometimes just one. I am fairly happy with the sound I'm getting, or at least, close enough that I think I can get there.

But it's still too loud. I have a 6mo old son, and my wife is home all the time, and it's hard for me to rock out just during the hour a day when the baby is not asleep and the wife won't be bothered by noise.

Some things I'd like to try, that I'd like suggestions, advice on:

* Using a Reamp, which is basically something that can take signal from a tape deck or computer or what not, and convert it to high-impedance, suitable for inputting into an amp. This would be nice for recording a decent DI input and amping it later, and also REALLY nice for looping a nice dry signal, adjusting the mics etc while it's playing, to get a good sound, without having to go back and forth all the time.
It's kind of expensive though ($200) -- is there something cheaper, or some other way to fudge it?

* Building an isolation cabinet - basically a big box that I could put one of the12" cabs inside. The cabs themselves are about 16x16x8" - how big would the iso cabinet need to be? Any links regarding info on them, how to build them, how to use them? I am super handy, my other hobby is woodworking. I actually made an iso cabinet a few years ago but it was too small, used a speaker that was too small, and the mic I was using was really terrible, so I'd like to give it another go.

* Making my closet more sound proof. I'm renting so lots of modification is not an option. What would a good insulation material be?

* I'm currently using a tascam usb2 audio interface, which I like, except it only has 2 inputs. Sometimes I want to record more than that, like maybe from my preamp, DI box after the amp, and 2 mics after the amp, and I'd like make decisions about how to mix them later. I know tascam and some others make multiple interface USB2 and firewire devices, that can record multiple tracks simultaneously into seperate tracks in cubase and whatnot. Are these worth it? Am I worrying about nothing, should I just try to get a good mix beforehand and not spend so much time trying to tweak afterwards?

As a little background, I'm mostly recording blues and jazz, with minimal effects and processing, and I'm trying to get a nice range of clean and distorted/overdriven sounds. Before the amp I use a compressor sometimes, an overdrive pedal sometimes, a wah sometimes, and EQ most of the time, and that's about it. Post-amp I use EQ and some compression when called for. My old amp had decentish spring-reverb, new ones don't, I probably will add digital reverb in post-processing where called for.

Gah. Sorry this is so long but I thought it would be better to be specific. Oh, and if there is anyone in the austin area who is into this stuff, I'd love to hang out with you, get some help/ideas from you.
posted by RustyBrooks to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and my music budget is mostly going to come from the money I "made" selling the blues deville. After buying the other 2 amps I have about $400, although I could probably spend a few hundred more, if it was worthwhile.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:49 PM on July 14, 2006

Mostly I have questions about getting ideal guitar sounds recorded.

I couldn't resist answering this. "Ideal guitar sounds" is very subjective, I assume you're got something definite in mind. Recording these sounds once you've finally created them presents completely different problems than creating them in the first place. So, I'm assuming you've already got your sound going and just need to record it?

I have never recorded anything using a computer, but I gather it's standard operating procedure at this point in time. I would start as simply as possible. In the old days things were recorded as dry as possible and any effects were added later. That allowed for the texture of the player, the instrument and the room to come through.

And it sounds like you may be playing a bit loud. You'll have much more control if the sound coming out of the amp is quieter, (you don't have to turn it up to eleven).

You might try and do some research online or in the archives or guitar magazines, about the equipment your favorite players used and the techniques they employed when they were in the studio.

Recording can get very complex if you let it. Some people would rather have the recording be as transparent as possible. So my advice would be to start simply, using the least amount of equipment and then after listening, add compression, add reverb (or whatever) if you think it's needed, and you'll eventually get to what you want; rather than piling every sound and effect onto the recording initially and subsequently getting bogged down trying to sort through all the different sounds and effects to find what's working and what you like.
posted by anticlock at 1:39 PM on July 14, 2006

This is completely opposite of the direction you're going above, but have you considered using a POD or similar amp modeling device? This would allow you to record almost completely silently, as long as you can get a sound you like out of it.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:47 PM on July 14, 2006

Best answer: I think in general, for these recording questions, people will get better responses on the messageboards at Have you considered trying a micro room?
posted by jeb at 2:01 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: First, the reason for loudness has to do with how amps, tube amps in particular, react at different amplification levels. In particular there is a sweet spot with a tube amp, often somewhere near it's maximum amplification, where it sounds best, where a low input level will not be significantly distorted, but a higher input level will be. There are other things that can cause a louder level to sound better: speakers react differently when pushed towards their wattage rating, and even below that, there is a natural compression that occurs once a speaker is driven above 1w or so.

I do pretty much have a sound I like, and the problem is, that sound occurs at fairly high volumes. The 5w amp is noticably quieter than my 60w amp was (god that thing was loud) but it's still too loud.

Regarding POD, etc... I have put a lot of time into trying to get a good sound out of Guitar Rig, which is a computer based modeller / guitar effects thing. It's actually pretty good but I don't feel the simulation is quite there for the most part. It does fairly well with clean sounds, and with heavily distorted sounds, and I'm actually using it for some post-processing, minus the amp and speaker modelling.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:06 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: The Micro Room is exactly one of the things I'm looking for, it's essentially an "isolation cabinet" of kinds, if I'm understanding the page you linked to. I'll take a look at that.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:07 PM on July 14, 2006

Run a THD Hotplate in the signal stream between the Valve Jr head and the cabinets.

Use as much gain as you wish, yet attenuate your volume to near nothing.
posted by sourwookie at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: The THD Hotplate is similar to the power brake, which is what I'm using now. Attentuation has it's own problems. I find I can attenuate the signal somewhat and get decent sound, but below -10db or so it starts to sound somewhat thin. It's probably the best compromise I have so far though. I can attenuate the level fairly far, and most of the sound that leaks out of the closet is bass at that point, sort of muffled sounding. You can still hear it from the living room though. I might have to live with that.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2006

That Micro Room is compelling. I recently got a PODxt, and it's quite nice for a lot of things, but when I want a real nice saturated tube distortion sound I feel frustrated that my Fender Deluxe just sits quietly in my apartment.
posted by cortex at 2:21 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: The micro room looks a bit small to me. It's 12" x 12" x 22". I was thinking of something more like 20"x20"x40" although that might not fit easily in my closet. Need to do some measuring... I'm fairly confident that if I can figure out the size to make something like a micro room out of, and the right materials, lining, etc, that I could make one myself.

The tape-op forum looks promising, I'll have to start reading that. They have a section on home-recording and noise management so there should be some stuff in there. I'm going to do some scouring and see if I can find any good info on making isolation cabinets.

I'm really interested in the re-amp thing. I might have to buy one just to see if it's as useful as I think it would be. I am doubtful that I could really use it to record a clean track at night, to "reamp" and record later, because it's hard (for me at least) to "imagine" how it'll sound later when it's amped properly. I think it'll really help to get things set up though, since I can make a CD of example clean tracks and use those to get everything situated. It's hard for me to even tell how loud the amp is in other parts of the house, because I have to be in there playing it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:36 PM on July 14, 2006

Bear in mind that part of the usual sound of electric guitar is feedback- the interaction of the acoustic output of the speakers and the guitar strings and the room. This is more obvious with overdriven/distorted signals than clean ones. Using an isolation cabinet will remove this effect, for better or worse.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: You have a good point, regarding feedback. I don't know how much audio you need in the room where you're playing guitar. If it's not much, then maybe I could get by with my monitors or something. If it's a lot, well, then I'm back where I started, with too much noise.

I actually was poking around the other day and saw some interesting electronic circuits to introduce feedback, which I thought was a cool idea, but they didn't seem all that well received.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:17 PM on July 14, 2006

As far as soundproofing a closet, I've done a lot of research into that in preparation for building my very own vocal booth. The impression I get is the only way to get decent isolation is to build a 'room-within-a-room' and do a very good job mudding all the drywall seams. I'll be doing it this weekend, I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by thedaniel at 5:52 PM on July 14, 2006

I had a Micro Room and thought it a big disappointment. Those links a pretty old, btw; are you sure they’re still available? Demeter once sold something similar...

The demos of the Womanizer sound pretty good to me; might be worth a try.
posted by dpcoffin at 12:40 AM on July 15, 2006

« Older Secure free/cheap video hosting site   |   viagra for plugs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.