Guitarists are an interesting breed. We spend all of our hard earned pennies, nickels and dimes on gear that will give us the perfect tone. Yet, the vast majority of guitarists don’t have a clue when it comes to which mic to use or where to place it when micing their amp.
Consequently, that killer tone you have worked so hard to capture is at the mercy of the studio of FOH engineer who may be a tonal genius, or may just be some clueless dude making minimum wage.
I’ll be the first to admit that prior to working in a studio I didn’t have a clue, and even after starting in the studio I spent a lot of time/sessions being the “clueless dude making minimum wage”. Even at that, I still knew more than many of the guitarists who came through.
So, if we put so much time, effort and moolah into our playing and sound, why do many of us allow someone else to determine how we sound on stage or in the studio?
I have read several amazing articles about Jimmy Page and his micing techniques in the studio. Much of Led Zeppelin’s in-your-face ahead-of-their-time sound can be directly attributed to all of the years Jimmy had spent working in the studio.
After learning the basics of amp micing, I purchased and SM-57 (a must-have in all studios) that I kept in my Les Paul case for those times when I showed up to a gig and the FOH engineer didn’t have a clue. This relatively inexpensive mic has been a lifesaver, ummm tone-saver on many occasions.
Enough with my ramblings, my Live2Play Brotha’ Jake put together a great video that covers the basics of micing an amp. From beginner to seasoned veteran, this video provides great tips and tricks that will help you maximize your killer tone, live or in the studio:
As Jake demonstrated, dynamic mic are generally used within a few inches of the speakers cone. For a darker sound place the mic facing straight on near the edge of the cone.
As you move the mic towards the center of the cone, the sound with get brighter. You can also place the mic near the edge of the cone but angle it towards the dust cap. This will create a more balanced sound between the highs and lows.
Dynamic mics are fantastic for home studios, recording with multiple musicians in the same room, or onstage because they significantly reduce bleed (unwanted noise) from other instruments, musicians, and/or the audience.
Large diaphragm condensers are also a great option for micing amps. The can be placed a few feet in front of the amp and will pick up room ambience/tone as well as the amps sound.
While condensers give you a great full sound, condensers will pick up other sounds/bleed in the room, especially if they have a cardioid or omni polar pattern.
There is always the option of combining the two methods, and mixing them together. This is my preference, assuming you have a quiet recording space. If outside noise is unavoidable, a close dynamic can’t be beat.
Until next time, “GuitarGuy” Tim
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