There are as many Guitar-Miking techniques as there are guitarists, and yet, finding the right mic placement when recording guitar through an amp can be tricky. Many elements come into play, such as room acoustics, mic type, and, of course, the musical style of the player.
But whatever type of music you’re recording, I’ve found the best starting point is to walk around the environment where the guitarist is playing. You’ll want to take note of how the amp sounds at different places around the room, and be ready to move the amp if you’re not digging the tone. Evaluate the sound quality close to the speakers, a bit further back from the cabinet, and way out into the room. Once you’ve determined the sweet spots for capturing the best sound, you can try these techniques of mine as starting points. Again, don’t be afraid to adapt and amend. The goal is great sound, and, sometimes, the strangest, most “wrong” techniques can produce the tones you love most.
IN YER FACE RHYTHM
Source Sound: Gibson Les Paul, Marshall plexi head, Marshall 4x12 cab.
The Recipe: Place one microphone directly in front the cone of one of the l2" speakers (Fig. 1). I used a SE Voodoo VR1 ribbon mic for an organic sound. Position a large-diaphragm condenser (I selected an AKG C414) six feet in front of the cabinet, and pointed dead center. Record each mic on its own track, and pan the close mic at 11 o’clock, and the far mic at 2 o’clock.
The Result: The close mic should capture the articulation and punch, while the far—or room—mic will bring in a natural ambience.
CLEAN SHEEN WITH ATTITUDE
Source Sound: Gibson ES-335, Fender Super Reverb.
The Recipe: Position a dynamic mic (my choice was a Sennheiser e609) right against the grille cloth, and in front of one of the speakers. Now, put a ribbon mic (mine was a Beyer-dynamic M160) at the rear of the open-back cabinet at a distance of eight inches, and angled off center to one of the speakers (Fig. 2). At the mixer, flip the phase of the dynamic mic at the front of the amp. Record the mics to separate tracks, and you will be able to mix the dynamic mic’s defined and brilliant tone with the ribbon’s darker timbre.
The Result: You get a choice of two different clean tones to adjust. Go darker in the verses, and brighter in the choruses, or flip them around, or simply dial in an awesome sound for the entire song. Options are good!
Source Sound: Gibson Les Paul Custom, Mesa/Boogie Mark IIB, Carvin Legacy 4x12 cabinet.
The Recipe: Point a dynamic mic directly at the center of the speaker cone (I used a Shure SM57). Place a second dynamic mic (mine was a Sennheiser MD 421) at a 45-degree angle to the SM57, but also pointing at the speaker cone (Fig. 3). On the mixer channel for the “straight-on” dynamic, flip the phase switch. Record each mic on its own track.
The Result: For this technique to work, you do need a brighter mic for the straight position, and a mic with a chunkier midrange for the angled position—which is why I choose the mics I did. Get it right, and you’ll have the opportunity to blend a nice treble sound with a stout midrange timbre to achieve a warm and beautiful singing tone.