Tech Tip:Guitar Miking: Getting a Great Guitar Sound, Part 1
Part 1: Intro / Mic Choices / Shure SM57 / Sennheiser MD421U
What makes a great guitar recording? Start with a good player, the right amp, and a sweet-sounding axe. Engineers can work magic with less, but it's unrealistic to expect a great track from a lame-sounding amp, guitar, or performance. But let's assume that the goods are coming from the speakers. To get that magic on tape (or disk), the recording engineer must combine his knowledge of guitars and amplifiers with an understanding of microphones and miking techniques. The ideal sound is the one that best fits the guitar part, the song, and the genre of production. While there are many excellent options for direct recording available today, we're interested here in the time-honored tradition of miking up amplifiers.
Choosing and positioning microphones are crucial steps in shaping and capturing a guitar sound. The wrong mic, or even the right mic in the wrong place, can sabotage even the best-sounding amp. Conversely, you can use mic placement to enhance the best qualities of an amp's sound. And while there are no hard and fast rules -- you'll need to use your ears to decide what's working -- we can tell you where to begin.
Choosing a Microphone
The Trusty SM57
You'll see engineers push a SM57 right into the grille cloth of an amp cabinet, taking advantage of the proximity effect, which boosts low frequencies when the mic is placed close to a sound source. The SM57 locks in a certain "size" for the electric guitar, maintaining its appropriate place in the mix without additional EQ or compression.