Direct Electric Guitar Recording and Audio Post Production at Home

 

So you play guitar and would like to record your own tunes.

There is a plenty of articles around the web on the home guitar recording topic, some

suggest to use guitar cabinet, high quality condenser microphone, audio workstation and so on

It's actually a very good method of guitar recording but for most beginners would be difficult to implement.

First a good cabinet or powerful amplifier and high quality microphone are quite

expensive.

Second obstacle here is that the amplifier should be turned on to 60% of a volume or even

more for good guitar recording. You would need to get a private house not to drive neighbors wild.


But if you can afford all these things it's better to stick with the old classical guitar recording method

of combination of amp and mic. Just seach the net for how to record electric guitar with mic key phrase

and you'll get a ton of helpful information. Note that this article cover a lot of useful tips to get started with

electric guitar recording and will be useful to read anyway.


Recording guitar directly by connecting pedal or multi-effect-processor to computer sound card  or

audio recording interface without some tricks will produce flat, artificial sounding.


The alternative way to record  guitar at home


easy and with impressive results is to use


virtual guitar amp withing a DAW (digital audio


workstation) software, and follow audio post


production tips below in this tutorial

 

Computer Based Home Studio


What you'll need

Sound card

At least SB Live or Audigy

Much better to get external audio recording interface that connects to the computer by USB or FireWire cable

These devices are designed for sound production and usually have low latency, direct monitoring and

other advantages. For example Edirol UA-1EX sound card.

 


 

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

(Cakewalk Sonar, Cakewalk home studio, Cubase, Ableton Live, Acid, Adobe Audition etc...)


Guitar virtual amp-modeler plugin.

(GT player, Guitar Rig, AmpliTube ... )


majority of the virtual amps are VST plugins, some are DirectX (DX).

Before buying any software I'd recommend to download trial versions of

them and test compatibility OS, DAW, Virtual Amps, comfortability of usage...

There are also freeware stuffs in this range:


MU.LAB  virtual music studio free edition

limitation of MU.LAB Free: has a 6 track limit, can only mixdown in 16 Bit

and only supports 1 mono out for ReWired devices.

 

MU.LAB's main features:


• Audio/MIDI Recording & Playback


• Composition & Sequence Editing


• Effect & Instrument VST Plugins

support


• Powerful Audio Mixing Desk

MU.LAB - Virtual Music Studio (Free Edition)


System Requirements: Windows: Me, NT, 2K, XP, Vista + ASIO driver. Apple: OSX 10.4 or higher

Powerful CPU, Graphics resolution 1024 x 768 or more




You might also find useful AUDACITY - The Free, Cross-Platform Sound Editor to polish your tunes.

 

Audacity's main features:


• Record/Import audio (CEdit Ogg Vorbis,

MP3, WAV or AIFF).


• Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.


• Change the speed or pitch of a recording.


• Add effects, normalize, generate tones.

Audacity - Tool For Recording And Editing Sound Files

 

 


 

Your favorite guitar pedal (optionally)


One of the cheep solution to get the whole package is to buy M-Audio Fast Track USB recording

interface (about 130$), beside the external audio sound card this package contains Ableton Live

Lite DAW, that lets to record up to 4 audio tracks such as guitar, vocal, live instruments and up to

4 midi tracks for virtual instruments such as drums, bass machine, synths etc...

The quantity of usage of any VST plugins in the same time are limited up to two in lite version of

the program, but for most home guitar recordings these limitations aren't a problem. Some time

ago people had 4-track-recorders and it did not stop them to do things.

The package also contains GT Player Express software - virtual guitar pedals, that can be useful not

just in home guitar recording (VST version for DAWs) but also as a stand-along virtual guitar effect

processor.

If you don't understand how to connect GT Player VST Plug-In to Ableton Live read the article

how to connect VST effects and instruments to Ableton Live DAW

 

 


 

Audio Monitors

Audio monitor is a high quality self-powered loudspeaker for ultra-precise direct sound, via audio

monitor you'll here real thing you record and not equalized changed shades that arrive with home

stereo systems. If you don't have extra money to buy studio monitors you can use amp and speakers

of high quality stereo system WITHOUT using any EQ on it, only direct sound.





Guitar Recording

Fire up your DAW and connect virtual amp to it.

Take a few test recordings to check the recording volume.

The guitar can be connected directly to the sound card and all the effects will be added virtually by

the computer or you might connect your guitar to your favorite pedal and after generate the lacking

effects and amps virtually. Experiment with different chains of effects to find a good sound for you.

The sound should not be overloaded but still strong.

Increasing the volume of a weak signal digitally usually causes poor quality recordings.

Do not record solo and rhythm guitar using the same presets, change level of EQ, virtual amp etc...

Because it will dramatically simplify the audio post production process later on.

Actually by means of EQ you can change guitar mood, for example if you need powerful heavy sounding for rhythm guitar, lift low and high sliders and pull down mids.

EQ setup for heavy guitar sounding

 

When you need more calm classic sound for solo guitar lift the mids and pull down the low and high sliders.

EQ setup for smooth solo guitar sounding

 

 

Audio post production

After the recording optimize track's volumes if one track mutes another. It's not necessary to do it very

correctly at this stage, because we will additionally edit the sound.

Edit panorama (pan) of the tracks, in order to prevent disturbances between the tracks and to get

interesting stereo effects. For example drums and bass go in the center, one rhythm guitar sounds 70%

in the right channel second rhythm guitar 70% in the left channel.

The solo guitar might slowly shift the panorama from left to right within a solo to create illusion of motion.

 

Panorama's Motion

 

Or the rhythm guitar might alternate panorama on each chord within

a bridge of a composition in order to create more dramatic mood.

 

Panorama's Leaps


The most useful balancing tool is EQ. Play around EQ-effect's sliders in order to decrease conflicts

in frequencies between the tracks and achieve necessary shaping.

This thing acquires via experimentations and practice. The main goal is to achieve balance within

the tracks and eliminate vying for space.


I'd recommend you to avoid using lots of tracks in your tunes without real reason for it.

The more tracks are inside the DAW you use the more complicated and cluttered audio post production becomes.

 

 

 

Now we will enlarge the guitar sound.

First you might apply some reverberation to the solo guitar tracks. In most cases it gives more spacious feeling.

As a trick for reaching more thickness you might apply Artificial Double Tracking (ADT)

Create a copy of the guitar track and change the panorama of the original track 100% to the left and the copy

track 100% to the right. Click zoom in the track big time and pull the copy track about 14 – 100 ms forward

on the time line. So now the same guitar part sounds with a micro delay in one of the stereo channels.

 

1

Guitar Post Production Trick

 

2

 

3 Applying zoom in

 

4 Moving duplicated track forward for about 100ms


Now normalize the tracks volumes throughly. The master track should have maximum volume,

but never be overloaded. Lots of sound editors have built in function maximalize volume by pick level.

Sometimes applying compressor effect to master track gives more volume balance to composition.

The basic function of a compressor effect is to amplify weak signal and reduce strong signal.

Play around compressor's knobs to find perfect proportion.

and the creation is ready!

Use export option in your DAW to save file as mp3 file.