New Song: mic-ing a cab

Mic-ing a guitar amp with additional inside-cab.

Mic-ing a guitar amp with additional inside-cab.

So I started recording a new tune called ‘Damage’ that’s long overdue and I mic’d the cab up with two condensers, one in front slightly to the edge of the cone (to avoid some of the sharp spikes of the treble at the centre) and one inside the cab – a cardiod-pattern  condenser mic pointed at the back of the cone. Cardiod is the name of the pattern of the area of noise response of the microphone – in this case a heart shape – see a good explanation here –

I mean, why would you not just use every mic you can to record a sound? – then you can blend or bin the sounds as required? With sound recording there are not many people who would deny that it’s better to have more than you need than less!

You can see that I ‘mounted’ the inside cab mic with a sock and tape (so as not to get too much vibration from the cab as opposed to the speaker). In every situation I try to maximise the amount of sound I want going in to the mic and minimise the noise I don’t want. This is a good general rule but sometimes you might get a random effect (the room you’re in/ a loose string on your guitar) that you didn’t want, but actually sounds brilliant! So you never know: every time you record you might get something different. It’s amazing how the tiniest little things make such a difference. Even right down to your mood and how you strum the strings – the recording will pick it up!

The way I am recording now, I have a 2 channel USB interface so one mic goes in the left and one in the right (mic and line inputs are generally, if not exclusively mono).

So when I record on to Reaper (free pro-tools-like software) I have one stereo track to separate like so:

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Step 1.Duplicate the track so I have two exact copies of the stereo take on two separate tracks.

Track 1

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Track 2

L (mic 1)  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

2. Pan one track 100% left and one 100% track right (doesn’t matter which).

Track 1

L (mic 1) 100%  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

R (mic 2) 0%     —————————————–   

Track 2

L (mic 1)  0%  —————————————–   

R (mic 2) 100% \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

3. Make each track mono with the program tools (if it was a stereo track with both L and R signals centred, it would combine the two signals  into one mono track, but in this case there is only one either L or R signal so that becomes the only mono track).

Track 1 (mono) (mic 2)/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Track 2 (mono) (mic 1) /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

So now you have two separate mono tracks from the same take from two different mics which you can edit separately as two takes. You can blend them back together later which is what I would do because originally they are exactly the same take.

I would say that check what the default signal input setting is on your recording program because it may be mono, left, right or stereo and if you are sending a stereo signal (two mics for eg), only one mic’s signal will record if your recording software is not set up to receive a stereo signal i.e. it will only record the left signal input if you’re default is a left input (like Reaper is!).

There is another trick I use to thicken up guitar lines which is to play exactly the same guitar line over itself with a new take, because of the fallibility or humankind, no-one could play the line exactly – no, not even Joe Satriani or whoever your guitar hero is! That’s one of the interesting things about sound. It sounds good because it’s not perfect. So you get a chorus-effect, depending on how closely you copy your line. I know that Elliott Smith did this a lot and it’s really useful with acoustic stuff to flesh out a solo acoustic sound without doing overdubs of different lines and harmonies etc – so it still sounds authentically like one man/ woman and a guitar. It can work well with an extreme left-right pan too. I also do this with vocals but it isn’t always the sound you want and can produce a sound that is expansive but lacks focus.

So I have recorded the parts of the song – a few different takes so I can pick the best – I recorded this one to a 115bpm click track. I wouldn’t always record with a click track (‘Carolina’ acoustic song here was tempo-free and P.S. I need to bring the levels up a bit on that one…) but with ‘Damage’ I will probably put drums on it. This tune should be fairly easy to do because I spant a lot of time with the song and know how I want it to go: not always the case!

I am thinking future posts may involve discussions on the pros and cons of compression and software vs hardware (I have only experience of software!), plus updates on my recording. Laters…

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