It's a myth that you must play lightning fast on guitar in order to create guitar solos that grab the interest of others. Fact is, you can play totally killer guitar solos without being able to play shred guitar techniques of any kind.
In order to do this, you will need to create guitar phrases that surprise your listeners by presenting them with unexpected musical ideas. Don't worry this is not as difficult as it may seem and there are tons of creative approaches that you can use to do this in your guitar solos. For the rest of this article, I will show you an effective step by step approach to creating attention-grabbing guitar solos.
Step Number One:Begin by writing a guitar phrase in common time (4/4) that uses one of the following choices: a group of eighth notes or a group of sixteenth notes. The phrase should be a repeating pattern that can be easily played over and over (starting over every 8 or 16 notes), so it's important to use the same note values here. After making your selection, play the phrase you created over a backing track. Here is a 4/4 percussion backing track that I have provided for your convenience. Play your melody over this track now.
Step Number Two:Play the short guitar phrase you created over the 4/4 percussion backing track and repeat it many times. This step is important because:
A. Repeating the guitar phrase several times creates a reoccurring pattern. This has the effect of establishing a strong expectation in the mind of your listeners that the pattern will "keep going".
B. It helps make the next step even more surprising and powerful.
Step Number Three:Now you are going to surprise the listener with a totally unexpected twist to your guitar phrase. You are going to create a "three against four" feel as I explained and played for you in the video I linked you to at the beginning of this article. A very basic method for doing this is changing your phrase by removing some notes so it can fit into a time signature with three beats to a measure. At the same time you will continue repeating it over the 4/4 backing track. Compare the tablature below to the one above to see an example of how this can be done:
Pay close attention to the fact that the rhythm of the notes remains unchanged (as you noticed in the video). By following this example, the music will play in 4/4 while your shorter guitar phrase will play against it – beginning again on a different pulse than the music itself. This creates a sense of strong musical tension that will be unavoidable to anyone who listens to your guitar solo. This will absolutely DEMAND their attention!
Step Number Four:After enough repetitions, your shorter guitar phrase will match up with the downbeat of the 4/4 backing track (since you didn't change the note rhythms). Next you can choose to do any of the following:
A. Maintain the three against four feeling by playing the shorter guitar phrase again.
B. Start over by playing your original guitar phrase from step one.
C. Start over by creating a new guitar solo phrase.
Notice: Although playing guitar in this manner will certainly create unexpected results for your listeners (in a good way), if you play the same idea over many times it will create new expectations for them. In other words, you must "balance" the process of introducing new ideas and "developing" them in order to keep your playing interesting for your audience. The longer you repeat an idea, the less "novel" it feels to the listener (even if it is a really cool idea).
Also, you are not limited to using the idea of three against four only in lead guitar phrasing situations. You can also go through the steps above to use this idea for creating new rhythm guitar riffs. There are countless ways to creatively integrate this idea into your music and many more basic examples than I can get into in a single article.
Now that you have learned the unique guitar phrasing approach discussed in this article, apply it into your guitar solos to unlock endless musical possibilities for your guitar playing!
What are arpeggios?
Arpeggios are the notes of a chord played one at a time. I think of them as 'liquid chords' (or chords could be 'frozen arpeggios'). When you practice an arpeggio you would usually start with playing the notes in order, for example, Root note, 3rd, 5th, 7th for a Major 7th Arpeggio.
Most arpeggios are just 4 notes each, it is possible to play 9th, 11th and 13 arpeggios but they are a lot less common and there are other easier ways to use the 4 note type that gives you all the notes
When put into use you do not need to play the notes in order, they can be jumbled up much like the way you would use notes in a scale and in many ways they are similar... but:.
• When we learn scales we learn a bunch of notes that fit over the chords in a certain key.
• When we learn an arpeggio we learn a bunch of notes that fit over a chord.
How are arpeggios used?
Arpeggios are used over specific chords, and you would change arpeggio every time a chord changes. Yes you heard that right. I still clearly remember sitting on the floor about 15 years old with my jam buddy Andy, and we were trying to play the Miles Davis song Freddy Freeloader. We both knew our arpeggio shapes but were really struggling to change with the chords. When I realised later that the fast be-bop jazz players were changing arpeggio every bar at 240 beats per minute, I almost gave up...
But it doesn't have to be like that. They can be used very easily in basic melody playing and in blues, they are not only for use in Jazz, but if you want to play jazz you MUST learn all your arpeggios and how to use them.
Examining a 12 Bar Blues is a good introduction. When you start learning to play blues you will most likely be playing a minor pentatonic over the whole sequence, maybe you learn some licks and stuff, but for the most part you will be playing the one scale over a group of chords.
At some point you will probably want to start thinking more chordally and playing notes that are related to the chord being played and this is where arpeggios come into action!
Because arpeggios are liquid chords, they can also outline the harmony without having to play chords. Huh? If somebody is using arpeggios well they can out lien the chord progression and it almost sounds like the chords are being played, but they are not - the are just being suggested by the arpeggios!
There are often times that in a song all the chords belong to a key, except for one!! When this happens you would use an arpeggio over the chord that does not fit the scale. In the following example the chord G, C and Amin are all in the key of G, but in the key of G, chord VI would be E minor, and because the chord here is E7 we would use the arpeggio just over that chord, and stick with the scale for the rest of the improvisation!
Chord: G C E7 Amin Note choice: ----------- G Major Scale ------------ E7 Arpeggio G major Scale
It is also worth noting that if you use the chord tones to play your solo it will sound cool. And you don't have to use them just for chords that are not in a key. You can use them for every chord, in fact I would recommend that you do. Using scales is fine, but once you start playing from the chords you playing will really move up a few gears.
Chord: G C Emin Amin Note choice: -------------------------------- G Major Scale -------------------------------- or: G Maj Arpeggio C Maj Arpeggio E min Arpeggio A min Arpeggio
It seems to me that most of the great guitar players think about chords more scales, and if you examine the note choices of your favorite players you are bound to find that they are mostly playing arpeggio tones. You will even find that many of the great old skool blues guitar players like BB King are using arpeggio tones. Yep. I'm pretty sure those old blues guys don't know the theory of what they are doing, but their ears do! And even if they are playing minor pentatonic they tend to pick notes that relate to the chord they are playing over!
A great exercise would be to take a great solo by someone you like (Sultans Of Swing would be a good one if you are stuck for choice) and look at every note played, and what chord it is played over. When I was doing this a lot, I usually transcribed a solo in tab and notation and wrote the chords above the notes (or you could use a bought tab book) and then I wrote in red pen under the notes, what the relationship was between the note and the chord it was played over (like 2, b3, 5, b7, 5 #5, 6, etc). When you do this type of harmonic analysis you will grow as a player, because you will start to examine note choice more constructively and fill your head with cool concepts that you can extract and use in your own playing. Bit off track but very useful if you can see how great players use arpeggios!
Recording acoustic guitar can be quite tricky to get a great sound. Getting an ok sound can be easy, but to get a really nice sound you need to experiment. What I want to share with you in this article is some of the things I have learnt about recording acoustic guitars, I'm not a mix engineer but I have been recording (and watching other people record my guitar) for a long time, so I think I have a few tips to share! The first thing to think about is the source, getting your sound right out of the guitar is the first and most important step. The best mics in the world are not going to make a bad guitar sound good!
Choose the right type of guitar...
There are a few styles of guitar and choosing the right one for the track you are recording is very important. Large body acoustics (like a Gibson J200) are great for big strumming patterns (think Oasis or Rolling Stones), Dreadnaught style guitars (like my Maton Messiah or a Martin D12) have a rich sound for more intricate acoustic pick or finger work (think Neil Young) and smaller bodies acoustics (like my Maton 808 series Jester, or Taylor GC series) are generally better for fingerstyle playing (think Tommy Emmanuel). 12 String acoustics have a very rich and full sound that is very distinctive and work great on both rhythm and lead parts (think John Butler Trio). So the style of track you are working on will help you choose your acoustic, if you have a choice of instrument.
The thickness of strings will also impact on the tone you will get. Very think strings tend to have a thinner sound, but are easier to play. Thicker strings have more body and a better defined bottom end. Very thick strings can be muddy and loose harmoic overtones so there is a limit. I use 12 gauge on my Maton Jester which I use mostly for fingerstyle parts and 13 gauge on my Maton Messiah which I use more for strumming. I use 11 gauge on my Maton Mini which I use for tracking an existing part, although that guitar is often left in Nashville tuning for a 12 string effect.
I will usually re-string my guitar right before recording so I get a nice bright sound. Dead old strings will sound dead and old which occasionally will be the sound you want, but I would advise generally to change your strings at least a few hours before you record so the strings have time to settle in, they sometimes sound a little rattley immediately after you have put them on.
Thinner picks will get more click as you play the strings, thicker picks will give more definition to single notes so are therefor usually better for playing lead lines and intricate parts. I usually use a very thin pick for strumming because I like the percussive effect of the pick click anda thicker pick for anything where I am playing single lines or picking out individual notes. It is a mater of preference of course and just depends on the sound you want on your track.
Get in tune...
Before you start recording, tune your guitar carefully. After a few takes, re-tune. Tune up every time you are suspect about a note at all. Playing a perfect take but not being able to use it because of a tuning problem is very frustrating. I think strobe tuners generally give a much more accurate tuning than regular electronic tuners, but are more expensive. Whatever you use, just make sure it is perfectly in tune before you hit the red record button!
As much as it is nice to move around when you are feeling the groove and playing, it can cause big problems if you have just spent ages getting your microphones placed just right. If you tap your foot, get a pillow (or jumper) to tap on because you probably don't want to hear your foot tapping. And while I am on noice, make sure you don't have a belt buckle or necklace that can tap on the guitar because that can ruin a take too.
The sound of the room will also have a big effect on the sound of your guitar. I usually prefer to record in a dead soiunding room with a carpeted floor (or use a rug), but it is sometimes better to get a bit of top end life into the sound which can be helped by putting some wood on the floor beneather the microphone and player. The more "live" reflective surfaces in the room, the more that will effect the room sound.
Often the area of the room will play a part too, so sometimes it is worth walking around the room while playing to see if there is better area of the room to record in. In my old flat I found the bedroom had a better sound than the living room where I had the studio so I had long leads running from the studio and eventually we bashed a hole in the wall so we could run mic leads and headphone cables through into the next room! But that technique is not recommended unless you own your own home (or are happy to pay someone to fix the hole when you move out).
Many acoustic guitars have an electric "piezo" or transducer pickups built in. There are great for playing live but you will get a much better sound by using a microphone, even a basic one. For a rough demo or something like that it will be fine to use the built in pickups, but they sound very thin and generally wil not sound good in a mix. My advice is leave the pickup for the stage, and use a microphone to record them for demos or records.
That said it can be fun to record the direct pickup as well as a microphone and blend it in a little, sometimes it give the sound a little zing that the mic might not have. I have also likes putting effect on the pick up signal and leaving the mic signal dry and close without effects. Remember that experimenting is a great thing to do!
Start with your ears
The most important thing that you can doto start with is use your ears to find the "sweet spot" to record from. This obviously requires a second person but can make a big difference to your sound, so it is worth doing. Try and get a friend to sit and play your guitar, cover up one ear, and then move your other ear around the body of the guitar and listen to how different the guitar sounds depending on where you are. You will find that it is very different, and that is why the microphone placement is so important.
When I started experimenting with microphone placement I did not have anyone else around to help me so I did it a slightly different way, that worked but was a little harder. I started with the headphones on, so I was listening to the microphone signal and then slowly moved myself (and the guitar of course) around and listened to the effect of the movements and tried to find a sweet spot. Once I had a rough idea I hit the record button and played a couple of bars and then spoke to the microphone to say where I was and then tried the next placement. This way when I listened back I could hear which placements sounded best and use that for the recording. Takes a bit of mucking around, but it is worth spending some time on this, because once you know the sweet spots of your guitar you can use them all the time!
There are many ways to record an acoustic guitar and many different microphones you can use. After experimenting with your ears to find the right place to place your microphone you might like to know about some of the options. One thing that you should be careful about is trying to place the microphone right in front of the soundhole, this will usually give a very boomy sound with a muddy bottom end.
You also need to consider the distance from the guitar, as a very close mic will often sound to boomy, and a distance mic will capture more of the room sound, which will be good or bad depending on how good your room sounds! A good starting point should be 6-8 inches from the guitar.
I have up until a month ago used a two mic set up, but we started using just one mic and it's been the best acoustic sound I have recorded. I think it's a combination of two things: We are using a very nice old Neumann KM86 (no longer made), through a Neve 1073 pre-amp, and I am sure using high quality gear makes a difference. But a major contributor too is having Cesar (my producer and a superb mix engineer) there to place the microphone to exactly the right place to get a great sound. I am sure you will be able to get a very solid sound with any descent condenser microphone if you spend time on getting your placement good. A single mic in front of the soundhole, 8-10 inches away and pointing a toward the part of the guitar where the neck meets the body is a good place to start.
Two Mic Set Up (Stereo Images)
This technique is probably the most common way of recording acoustic guitar which I have been using most of my life and see others doing the same most of the time. It involves using a large diaphram condenser microphone (like a Neumann U87 or TLM104) pointing roughly between the soundhole and the neck, this would be the "body" mic. Another small diaphram pencil mic (like a Neumann KM184) is placed pointing at the neck, up around where you fingers are on the fingerboard. This mic picks up the the bright sound that comes of the guitar neck which when blended into the sound of the "body" mic can give a very accurate sound, you can also play around with panning and put one left and one right and get a cool stereo effect.
Another option is to use two microphones over the 12th fret, one pointing at the body, one at the neck, at a 90 degree angle to each other (this is called a coincident pair or XY mic technique). Panning one left and one right will usually give a lovely stereo image. In my experience it works best with a matching pair of pencil mics (like the KM184). Again the position of the pair is important and it is worth playing around with this until you get the sound you are looking for.
A common variation is the spaced pair where one mic is placed near the neck and the other at the bridge.
There are many other variations on these two techniques that you might like to experiment with, like putting one mic near the ground pointing up - or one from the players ear, there are no rules that can't be broken if it sounds good..
If you use two microphones you will sometimes get what is called phase cancellation. I'm not sure how to describe it, other than some of the notes sounding suddenly thin or wobbly! Most mixing desks or DAW systems will have a phase reversal button, which looks like a circle with a line through it. Try hitting that if you think you might have some phase problems.
The choice of microphone will depend on budget and choice of placement technique. You will generally want to use a condenser mic over a dynamic mic because the capture the high end better and seem to record the air in a way that suits acoustic guitars.
I record a lot of solo acoustic guitar for which I prefer using a medium to large diphram condenser, but in a full band situation you may prefer the sound of a small diphram mic, which carry less bottom end. In a band you will probably get rid of most of the low end in the EQ anyway.
If you only have one mic you will probably use a Medium to Large Diaphram condenser. My personal favorite is the Neumann KM86 but I don't won one and have to borrow one when I can. The are quite expensive (around £1000) and hard to find. I also like the Neumann TLM103 a lot as well. Rode also make some great large diaphram mics for those on a budget and I got some great results with their cheapest model, and NT2. AKG 414 is another popular choice.
Small and medium condensers can also sound great. I was amazed at the depth of bottom end in the Neumann KM184. Rode also make one called an NT2 which has a similar sound at a quarter of the price.
Recording the same part twice and panning them left and right is a very common and effective way of making the guitar sound bigger. Even if you don't get it exactly the same both times it will usually sound interesting and well worth experimenting with. Often I will double rack an acoustic guitar just for the choruses of a song to fatten it up a bit!
I often wondered if recording at different sample rates makes much of a difference. Well it does. It is subtle but it is there. I had the please to record in a great studio a few years ago where they had the new Pro Tools HD system with a 192 interface. Just to test it, we recorded some acoustic guitar at 44.1, 96 and 192 sample rate. There was significant jumps in the clarity of the top end with each step up, but the 192 option significantly reduced the track count available. These days I record at 96k if at all possible, I do think it sounds better than 44.1.
EQ and compression for the mix
Using light compression on the way in is generally a good idea and will stop any accidental peaks in volume. I usually start with a 3:1 compression ratio, 250-300ms release time and 5-10ms attack setting and go from there. If I have the choice I will go for an 1176 or LA2 compressors. Overly compressing the signal on the way in is a very bad idea because it can't be changed later, so start small and then add more compression at the mixing stage if you need to.
Same with EQ - I tend to leave that until after recording rather than doing stuff on the way in. Always better to use mic placement rather than EQ to fix the sound.
If the guitar is solo then you will just EQ it to suit the sound you are looking for. The big rule here is to use your ears, the following are just some suggestions to try out, but make sure you listen because that will tell you the truth!
Many guitar have a "boom" at around 110Hz, so it might be worth cutting that a little to see if it helps clarify the bottom end.
If the acoustic is playing with a whole band including bass and electric guitars it will usually help you mix to remove all the bass frequencies from the guitar, say from 100Hz and down (a high pass filter).
Adding a little boost at 700Hz-1k can a dd a little body to the sound.
To get extra brightness and air you might want to add a littlew 10-18k which is pretty common and usually sounds good - but can also accentualte finger noice if you are not careful.
Hope that helps you get your acoustic tracks sounding sweet. Back with more studio tips soon!
As well as an Audio Interface you will also need to buy a microphone. It is possible to plug in an electric or acoustic guitar right into an Audio Interface but it generally sounds rubbish and should avoided.
Dynamic vs Condenser
There are two main types of microphone: dynamic and condenser. And you will probably end up needing one or more of each type, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Condenser Microphones
Condenser mics are the most common type of studio microphone. They capture a wider frequency response than dynamic mics, and have a better transient response (the ability to capture faster moving sound waves). They generally require Phantom Power (+48v) to be supplied by the mixing desk, audio interface or microphone pre-amp. Condenser microphones are considerably more expensive than dymanics, and cheap ones generally do not sound good and are best avoided. Wiki has some infor on how condenser mics work
They come in two types: Large Diaphram and Small Diaphram. Large Diaphram (Neumann U87, AKG 414, Rode NT2) are used for vocals, drum overheads and guitar bodies and can have a big or fat deep sound. They are sensitive to volume change and not suitable to record loud sounds (like electric guitar) and you will need to use a pop shield to stop bursts of air (plosives, like "p" and sibilence like "sh") causing distortion. Small Diaphram (Neumann KM184, Rode NT5) or "pencil mics" are better for guitar necks, close micing strings, drums and more, they have a better transient response and are often used in pairs to create a stereo spread.
My favorite mic for acoustic guitar is a medium diaphram: a Neumann KM86
, which is an old mic that is no longer made, but to my ears it sounds FAR better than any other mic or combination of mics on acoustic guitar and is worth searching out if you are wanting the best acoustic guitar sound possible, but they are not cheap (£1000+).
The classic vocal condenser microphone is the Neumann U87
, which sound great, but are quite expensive (£2000, $3500). You don't have to spend that but there is a certain clarity that you find in Neumann mics that others just can't seem to capture. I used a Rode NT2-A
and got some great results, in general I have found the Rode brand to make excellent quality microphones that are very good value (actually I just had the NT-2, the older version)...
Valve condenser mics are also available at considerable extra cost, and add a real warmth to the sound.
When choosing a vocal mic it is important to try out a whole heap, because sometimes the most expensive won't sound the best for you. You need to borrow as many as you can from a store and then try them all out - or go book a studio for a few hours and try all their vocal mics) and see which one suits you. Don't miss out that step - try out loads and find the one that works FOR YOU!!
There is not a massive difference between medium and very expensive mics. The more expensive mics will certainly sound a little better, have better definition - but is it worth it for you? The Neumann KM184
and Rode NT5
are essentially the same model but the Neumann is more than 4 times the cost. The Neumann is better IMHO, but if you are starting out you would be crazy to spend so much more for such little improvement in sound, they are VERY similar. Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic mics require no "phantom power" to be sent from the Audio Interface and the most common type of microphone for live use. They are generally tougher and suited to live use and have very few parts. Wikipaedia has quite a lot on how dynamic microphones
Probably the most common is the Shure SM57
, a fantastic microphone for electric guitars, drums and many other applications and is not expensive (£60, $90). You will probably find many of these mics in pretty much any pro studio, and it's unlikely you will ever see a live show that doesn't use at least one. Some people even use them for vocals if they want a little bit of a crunchy sound (Mick Jagger likes them apparently).
The Shure SM58
is another common model - mostly used for live vocals, not so much in the studio. There are many hundreds of other dynamic mics, but the SM57 is the standard, just get one!! Ribbon Microphones
Just as a side note there is also a type of microphone that I like a lot for guitar called a ribbon mic. They seem to take sharp edges off sounds, and I loved the Royer 121
for recording electric guitar. Took nasty sounds away and made it sing. I have T-Bone cheap ribbon mic too - which I have used a few times, but it's not the same league as the Royer.
Imprtant note: DO NOT USE PHANTOM POWER WITH RIBBON MICS - you will probably cause them a lot of harm, especially if they are vintage.
So what mic should you get?
So your choice will come down to budget. Ideally I think you will need one dynamic and one condenser at least. You can probably find cheaper if you look around, but you'll probably want to improve your sound after not too long - and I always think... buy cheap, buy twice.
Look second had too,you can save a lot and ofetn old stuff sounds better!! Also check out Madooma
(great vintage mics and excellent customer service IMO).
So here is my rough guide, but it is very subjective - lots of people like different things, so it's your call, ask around your friends and try some out if you can and see what works for you and how much money you have to spend. Cheap as possible
Large (Behringer C-1) + Dynamic (M-Audio Souncheck Dynamic) Cheap but useable for a while...
Large (Rode NT1) + Dynamic (Shure 57) Medium price
Large (Rode NT2 or Neumann TLM103) + Dynamic (Shure SM57) Expensive
Large (Neumann U87) + Dynamic (Shure SM57) + Pencil (Rode NT5 or Neumann KM184) I've got too much money...
Large (Vintage Neumann U87) + Medium (Vintage Neumann KM86) + Small (Neumann KM184) + Dynamic (Shure SM7) + Ribbon (Royer 121).
One of the first things you need to think about buying is an Audio Interface (AI) which is how you are going to get sound into the computer. Some computers have a built in soundcard (and Mac's have an audio input) but they generally don't sound too good, and you can't normally plug in a "proper" microphone (or use a condenser mic).
The descision about which software you will run and which interface you will use will probably be co-dependant and will influence each other. Lets look at some of the basic units and explain a bit about the features you need to look for.
Common Features Inputs and Outputs
This is the first thing you need to check for, how many channels in and out can you have. If you are starting out you probably don't need more than two channels out (they just go to your speakers). And you probably don't need more than 2 inputs either (unless you want to record drums and are prepared to buy a load of microphones too!). So what you are looking for is propably something with 2 ins and 2 outs, preferably with the two inputs being microphone inputs. Most units have sockets that can take both a microphone lead (XLR) or a guitar jack lead. Sample rate and bit rate
The Sample Rate is how many times the music is sampled each second. And the bit rate is how many bits of information is recorded with each sample. Big pro studio record at 24 bit, 192k sample rate (yes that is 192 thousand times a second!), but that is way over the top for a project studio. As you record at a higher sample rate the files get bigger too, so it's not a good idea unless you are doing serious recordings and have ample hard drive space. CD's play back at 16 bit, 44.1k so there is not much more point in trying to get better than that unless you are doing serious stuff. But a 24/48k would be great. Bit rate is always 16 or 24 bit, and the sample rate normall has a k or kHz after it. Interface
The main choice here is how you want to connect it to your computer. I would recommend USB or Firewire over the PCI based cards, they are simple to use, portable (you can usually use them with a laptop) and require less mucking around. Phantom Power
Microphones come in two main types, Dynamic and Condenser. Condenser mic's are usually more detailed and much better for vocals than dynamics. But condensers need +48v of power to be sent from the AI down the lead to the mic, and this is called Phantom Power. You probably want this because I would recommend that you get a condenser mic as soon as you can afford to!
There are hundreds of people that make audio interfaces, but there are some of the major players who make good stuff. I may add some more here as time goes by, but I like to speak from experience more than reputation, and these are the brands that I have used! Digidesign (Pro Tools)
Pro Tools is one of the industry standard recording software platforms, and to run it you need to buy hardware (real things) that are compatible. Digidesign make a range of Audio Interfaces that start at simple portable and not too expensive units (M-Box) to more Prosumer units (003) to full professional systems (HD). You don't need an HD rig if you are just starting out, but the M-Box is great and I used one for a long time. It's both Mac and PC compatible, connects by USB cable and means that you can run Pro Tools LE (Light Edition) software. I think the Digidesgn stuff sounds great for audio but not so good for people using loops and stuff, so might not be best for the beginner recordist. If you buy Digidesign hardware you can still run Logic software through it, so it's great to buy if you want to use both Logic and Pro Tools too! See the Digidesign Web Site
for more info. MoTu (Mark Of The Unicorn)
Motu make a great range of AI , I used the 828mkII model for many years. It has many great features and is dead easy to use, sounds great and is moderately priced. They have cheaper units than that one, but it is a great unit for someone starting out that has a little more for the budget! Pro Tools will not sun with this unit, but Logic will and Motu also has thier own software that come with it, but I have never used it or even seen anyone using it, so I can't say anything about it, other than it is not very popular! MoTu Web Site
M-Audio have a huge range of bidget interfaces available, many of which ar "M-Powered" meaning that you can run the Pro Tools LE software with them (I think they are owned by Avid, which also owns Digidesign). They come as PCI cards that you install into your machine, or as USB or Firewire versions. Which one you go for will depend on your budget, the more expensive models add more inputs (how many things you can record at the same time). I have quite a few students with these and they work. Not a good quality of sound to me as the Digidesign units, but considerable cheaper. M-Audio Web Site
These guys make serious high end gear, but have also released a potable little unit called The Duet, that is simple but sounds great. I know loads of guys that rave about this thing, though I have not used it myself. It is designed to run perfectly with Logic, and won't work with Pro Tools. It's not cheap but rave reviews. Apogee Web Site
So what should YOU buy?
Well to be honest, I don't know what you should buy. I would recommend starting off with a medium budget, a unit that you can grow into, not get bored of it's limitations too quickly, but not something so expensive you have to sell your car.
But if you are on a very small budget the M-Audio FastTrack unit looks pretty good, and will work with both ProTools and Logic (I think, please check).
If you decide you like the look of Pro Tools - then pick the digidesign unit that fits your budget! The 003 is excellent medium price unit.
Don't by Pro Tools HD if you are just starting out - it will be a waste of money! Learn using Pro Tools LE.
If you like the look of Logic (which is really great for starting off with) then check out the MoTu 828 or pro tools units that will fun with ProTools.
Hello all, good old Justin asked me to briefly write down a few ways to mic up a guitar amp for all those interested in recording electric guitar, which giving the nature of this website I imagine that will be a lot of you!
There are many ways to record an electric guitar, and every engineer finds his/her own way to do it. I have purposely kept this overview brief so there is little room for confusion, all the techniques below are just the way I
normally record guitar, and should serve as a good starting point for those of you that are new to the world of recording. Remember, the methods below are not rules, just guidelines, you should try to develop your own style once you feel more comfortable with the subject. Don’t forget there is no right or wrong, and I would encourage you all to experiment as much as you can, since you might find your very own techniques, which for you, may work better than anything else. Finally, as my intention is to keep this article as brief as possible I am not going to explain any of the technical terminology like Phase, Compression, EQ, etc, or the characteristics of different types of mics. There is plenty of free, easy to find information online about all of these subjects should you require it.
The guitar and amplifier
used obviously play a major role on achieving a good sound. In a professional environment different amps and guitars are normally used to obtain different sounds, but as a home recordist I understand that this might not be possible, so just use whatever is available to you. If you are about to spend any money on equipment and your budget is limited, I recommend that you invest in good quality instruments rather than expensive recording gear. A crappy sounding guitar is always going to sound crappy regardless of whatever expensive recording equipment you might be using!
used to record is also something to keep in mind, try to place the amp in a relatively dead room and put the amp on a rug, which will take care of the more immediate reflections coming from the floor.
used are also an important factor, the ones I mention below are my usual choices, but take this just as a reference, as I understand that some of them might be out of budget for most of you. Don’t worry though, you can still achieve a good sound with less expensive microphones.
As for mic preamps,
use what you have and try to get the best sound that you can with it!EQ and compression
are also a factor to keep in mind, sometimes adding or subtracting a bit of EQ can solve a problem. Personally I try not to rely on it too much, do your best to get a good sound with your amp and the techniques below. As for compression, sometimes I use it when a part is very dynamic, so I can keep better control over it, but be careful with over compressing as it will kill the dynamic of your guitar.
Recording with one microphone
In a home recording situation many of you probably won’t have a wide choice of microphones, preamps etc. This is nothing to worry about, since it is still possible to achieve a good sound with just one microphone. There are two obvious choices to mic up a guitar amp; close micing or distant micing.
A Dynamic mic is a good starting point, for electric guitars. The most popular microphone is the Shure SM57, this is a very versatile and inexpensive mic. In my opinion, every home recordist should own one of them, however if you are not ready to invest in one don’t worry, just use any (semi-decent) dynamic that you might have. You can also try a ribbon microphone, but please be careful, putting it in front of a hi SPL source (SPL is short for sound pressure level, in other words, volume) might damage it, especially old ribbon mics. Modern ribbons such as Royer, Shure, etc are built to take high SPL and should be ok.
The first step is to find the center of the cone, if you can’t see it due to the grill cloth put a bright torch right against the cloth, this usually helps you seeing the cone and therefore placing the mic correctly. A good starting point is to place your dynamic microphone pointing perpendicularly on a 90º at the very center of the cone, about 1” to 2” from the grill, this will give you the brightest sound.
Start moving the mic to the side, off-center, you will find that the sound will become less bright and with more body, just keep moving the mic until you get the right sound.
Sometimes moving the mic off center might get rid of those aggressive hi-mid frequencies but at the same time make the sound a little dull. In this case try pointing the mic at the center of the cone, between 20º to a 45º angle. This should help loosing that harshness on the sound yet retain the right brightness. This is not an exact science and you will have to experiment with all the techniques explained until you get the sound you want.
If using a ribbon put it a bit further away from the cone than you would do with a dynamic, about 4” to 5”, and tilt it slightly so it is on an angle. By doing this you will minimize the effect of air movement from the speaker hitting the ribbon and (in the long term) damaging it.
Sometimes, for clean (not overdriven) sounds you might want to try a condenser mic, since the amp will generally not be very loud and a dynamic mic might not collect a sound as bright as you might want it to be. Just put a condenser mic in front of the amp and exercise any of the above techniques.
This technique can provide an interesting sound. Mic up the amp further away, this includes micing from several inches to several meters, I recommend a condenser mic like a Neumann U87 or cheaper equivalent, since you will be losing a lot of top end as you move the mic away from the amp (but by all means do try any other type of mic you fancy). As a starting point I put the mic about a foot away from the amp, pointing at the center of the cone on an angle (maybe 20º to 30º), this should give you a pretty direct and bright sound with a decent amount of body. As you move the mic away it will start sounding roomier and duller, which can create a very interesting sound. To increase roominess you can point the mic away from the amp, you could also change the pattern to omnidirectional and even stick a compressor on. There is a lot of room to experiment, so feel free to have fun with it. You can also combine a distant mic with a close one, getting a very detailed sound with a nice roominess to it.
Recording with two microphones
This is the technique that I normally use, you can choose different combinations of mics as explained below.
Boost both signals on your preamps so they are roughly the same level, making sure that both mics are on phase, otherwise the resulting sound could be very thin and not very desirable (unless that is what you are looking for). There is a quick and easy way to roughly test the phase. Once you have placed your mics play something through the amp and press the phase reverse switch on one of your preamps, if the sound suddenly thins out considerably it means that the positioning of the mics, in relation to each other, is right. Finally, I generally mix both sounds before going to tape (or computer, via a mixer) so I end up with just one track. If you prefer you can record both signals and play with the levels in more depth at the mixing stage, however, making that kind of decision at an earlier stage will make your job easier at the mix.
- Two Dynamic microphones
- If using two dynamics, my usual choice would be a Shure SM57 and a Senheisser MD421. There are several ways to mic up a cab; I would start by pointing both mics perpendicularly to the speaker, about 1” to 2” from the grill, having the 57 pointing at the very center of the speaker and the 421 off-center. The 57 will collect higher frequencies or “bite” while the 421 will be picking up more body.
Another way worth trying is to put one of the microphones on an angle, for instance, having the 57 pointing to the speaker on a 90º angle and the 421 on a 45º, this time both pointing at the very center of the cone, with the result of having a brighter output from the 421 without loss of the body.
Finally, you can have both mics pointing at the center on a 45º to the speaker (so they are on a 90º to each other), this is a good way to smooth the sound out when what is coming out of the amp is too harsh (ear piercing!). I would normally start by trying to change the sound on the actual amp, but sometimes if you do that you loose too much of the tone you had, so is better to tweak the mic positioning.
- One Dynamic and one Ribbon Mic
This combination has been my favourite for the last year, I normally use a 57 and a Royer121, both pointing at the very center of the cone about 2” to 4” from the grill, again both at a 90º to the cone and as close to each other as possible. The 57 will collect the “bite” of the sound while the 121, being a ribbon, and therefore “thicker” and smoother sounding, will add the body.
- One Dynamic and one Condenser mic
You can apply same techniques used with two dynamic mics, the difference being and you should keep this in mind, that the condenser mic will have a better response on the higher frequencies. I would stick to the SM57 for the dynamic and maybe try a Neumann U87, U47 or an AKG414 (shown below) for the condenser. If the volume coming out of the amp is distorting the condenser, just flick the level pad switch on the microphone (if it has one…hopefully) to either -10 or -20 as needed.
There is one more trick, which can come handy in some occasions. If you feel like you can’t get enough low end with any of the techniques described above, micing up the back of your cab can be the solution. This should be combined with any of the other techniques above (except for the distant micing), and can only be done with an open back cab. Just point the mic (any type, although I would personally use a dynamic) at the back of the cone at the same distance that the one at the front. So if your front mic is 2” from the cone, the mic at the back should also be 2” from the back of the cone. Then use the phase reverse switch on your preamp/desk and combine it with the signal of de other mic/mics. This should give you the body that you are missing, but before you do this please keep in mind that while it might sound great when you are listening to the guitar by itself, an over bodied guitar can be more of a nuisance once you are trying to mix it with the rest of the instruments and you might have to end up filtering that low end out. Just try to think ahead!
Remember, all that all of the techniques explained above are MY
preferred way to record electric guitars, they are all tried and tested and work well, but experiment, make it work for yourself and try to have lots of fun on the way!
One of the most important decisions you can make at the early stages is which software you want to use. There are two main choices, that I can speak of from personal experience, and if you want to get advice on recording from me and my freinds, you will need to pick one of these. Pretty much every studio I have ever seen or worked in has one of these two software packages, and usually both, because they both have strengths and weaknesses. There is an addition I will mention - Garage Band. There are other options I will discuss more a little later but these are your main choices. Logic Express
Logic Express is the baby version of Logic with a lot less features than Logic Studio, but has the massive advantage of being a whole lot less expensive. This would be the software I would recommend for a beginner that wants to get into recording. It has far to many features to ever get bored with, it comes with LOADS of loops and cool plug-ins and is very easy to going with. For a beginner it is really great - a fairly smooth transition if you are familiar with Garage Band (the free Apple recording software). Apple computers come with audio in and out so it is kinda possible to use and Apple computer as your audio interface, but it is in little mini-jack leads, there is no mic input or phantom power... But Logic rocks for beginners, so make sure you check it out. Logic is not so fussy about which units you can use with it - but you need to check the interface specifications to be sure. Check out Logic Express at the Apple Web Site
. Logic Studio
Logic Studio is the real professional program, and it's considerably more expensive. It really is awesome and all the guys I know that do lots of programming, or work with film as well, pretty much all use this. It is not as good for audio (in my opinion) as Pro Tools, but has many more features, plug ins and the Midi editing is the bomb. I was very happy using this for manyyears, and switched to using PT early this year because I no longer do much programming, I am just recording audio, and all the studios I record in all use PT. Check out Logic Studio at the Apple web site
. Pro Tools LE
Pro Tools LE is the "Light Edition" and has less effects plug-ins and a lower track count. That said I know lots of guys making great recordings using LE. The main disadvantage with PT (vs Logic) is that the midi editing is pretty rubbish, it had got a lot better with the release of PT8, but it's still not a scratch on Logic. It also does not have built in loops, and the effects that you get for free are very limited. If you think you want to move to making real high quality stuff at some point, then you probably should get to know PT because it is the industry standard professional recording software. Check out Pro Tools LE on the Digidesign web site
. Pro Tools HD
HD stands for "High Definition" and the quality of audio in HD is really awesome. But it's expensive, you are looking at at least £5000 to get a basic HD rig. You have to buy the Digidesign hardware (Audio Interface) to use it. The great thing about PT is the stability of the system (very few crashes) and the simplicity of the audio editing. After using Logic for nearly 10 years, when I switched to Pro Tools at the strat of this year I just could not beleive how easy it was to edit the audio, and the quality of the sound running the system at 24bit 96khz is amazing (I noticed it especially on acoustic guitar), SO much better than when I was using Logic Studio and a MoTU 828 interface. Not recommended for someone getting into recording uless you just fancy blowing loads of cash on something you won't know how to use properly (Those that bought a Ferrari as your first car!). Check out Pro Tools HD on the Digidesign web site
. Garage Band
Garage Band, owned by Apple, comes installed on Apple computers, but is not a professional product. It's a great bit of software for getting a very basic understanding of recording, but is very, very basic. It is dead easy to play with loops and set up drums and bass and keyboard lines, but you have very little control over the editing and sound manipulation. You have to buy an apple computer to get into it (which I recommend anyhow, I don't get on with PC's at all), and most people will get bored with it pretty quickly if they want to do proper recording. Check out GarageBand at Apple Web Site
This is one great article I've recently read on ultimate guitar website about effects pedals. Have a read and you will have great insights on pedals.
Having witnessed many a member submit articles on effect pedals, multi effects, and other tone-enhancing gadgets, I decided to submit my own article with my two-bits on the subject. First I have to note that I've studied this subject intensely and I am planning to open my own small home-based modding shop sometime soon. Many hours spent reading books on these things and many hours spent taking them apart to see how they work.
When it comes to buying effects, there are no static unconditional laws. I've heard many people say (friends, a few in music stores), for example, that Digitech X-series pedals are garbage. That's a lie right there, because what it all comes down to is: it's a matter of opinion, your other equipment (guitar, amplifier, pickups, other effects) and most importantly: your ear and what your "tone", to you, should sound like. Some people like organic and smooth sounding liquid phasing because it has personallity and it's pleasing to hear, I don't, that's because I prefer a "meaner" tone so a metallic overpowering phase is what I root for. That little anecdote right there proves that some generic guy that says "Oh, digital effects sound like as warm as a dead polar bear so therefore don't buy them" just doesn't know what your talking about.
Allright, so to the meat of the subject. In this article, I will try to explain to you, the reader, what these effects do and what they don't do, how they affect the sound, and how the "marry", or go together in a chain. Sometimes, I will have to bluntly state my opinion, even though thats not what I'm wrting this article about (my opinion that is), thats because I have extensively tried the pedal and have either found a great flaw or because that effect has something that makes it for one reason or another, stand out, and when I mean stand out I mean it has, say, a feauture that most other effects of it's category don't have. In Pt.1, I will discuss the most basic and important effects, such as distortion, compression, and delay. Enough! I'll start with what these mysterious little boxes do to the sound.
Distortion Distortion works by making the sound wave more jagged and linear. Sound waves and your end tone are very close together, as a smooth round wave (called a sine wave) is synonimous to a clean sound and a jagged more square-looking one is synonimous to a distorted signal. Even though I do believe most people on UG have basic knowledge of what distortion does and what it sounds like, as I also beleive most people on UG have an IQ of at least 75...you never really know. So in case you don't (pat on the back and props to the noobs, I'm kidding about the IQ thing), it's what you hear in most punk songs and metal riffs and solos, even most practice amps have built-in distortion.
Overdrive Very similar to distortion in many ways. First of all it can be obtained with some of the same electronic components and also it sounds very similar. Overdrive though, is the result of a "smoothed out", usually lightly distorted signal, so it souds less "in your face" and bluesier. Judas Priest, ZZ Top, and thousands of other musitians frequently use it, and since overdrive was first discovered by forcing an overwhelming signal through a Tube Amp, it's heard often since it's been around for so long. It's got "crunch" but not really "growl", even though you can get it to sound very mean if your equipment isn't limiting you.
Compression This is probably one of those effects that many people know by name but many also don't have a good idea on what it does. Compressors should be thought of as tools more than as effects as it applies more to the dynamics and the nuance of your actual playing as it does to the tone. I've also seen many writers try to describe what it does but not making it clear at all. So here's what it does: it basically makes things that are loud softer and things that are soft louder, but it does this in a very controlled and mathematical manner. So it can be very helpfull in some situations, say if youre playing a solo where you do a lot of tapping or where you need sustain (off the top of my head, One by Metallica or Eruption by Van Halen), it will help you because when you're tapping, the notes aren't as loud as they are when they're strummed with a pick, so therefore the effect will make the tapped not-so-loud notes more audible.
Another use of a compressor could be to "keep yourself in threshold", say your're playing rythm guitar, you want to be clearly heard but you want your overall volume to crowd the rest of the band or the lead guitar. If you're using a compressor, your volume will never go over a certain level, and this level you define by a knob on the pedal itself. One downside is that if your equipment is generating any noise or hiss, the compressor will pick it up and make that noise louder. Result: louder noise. I use an Electro-Harmonix Black Finger and even though it cost me my first born son and my soul it's, as allways in my opinion, "the" compact-size compressor, there are better ones for sure but they're more expensive and usually rack-mount effects, and whats the fun in a rack-mount, eh?
Reverb Plain and simple, reverb simulates a three-dimensional real-time environment. Even though you can make a reverb pedal with almost anything metallic from an old spring to an empty beer keg, most compact pedals use digital circuitry to simulate halls, rooms, and other enviroments. What defines the virtual boundaries and physics on this enviroment are defined with the pedals knobs. The "type" of reverb, like say hall reverb or large room reverb is just a combination of how long the effect lets the note trail off, how abruptly it cuts off that note, how loud that note is, etcetera. Very usefull effect, it's also used on vocals, drums, keyboards...hell, just about any instrument can benefit from it's spaciousness and added dimension.
Delay This effect is my holy grail and my vulgar display of power, I almost allways use light delay for my clean sounds and also for my solos. All this pedal does is digitally record what youre playing then simultaniously playing it back while recording the next sample. In other words, lossless perfect echo. It's not the kind of echo you would get, for example, by screaming into a big lake and then hearing your voice come back at you, because the recording is digital, therefore there is no loss and what you hear played back is exactly what you played into the pedal. An outstanding Delay pedal is the Boss DD-6, which on top of being virtually noise-free, offers the best variety of irregular delay effects, like reverse playback amongst others. If you set a delay pedal to a very short (say 70 milliseconds) time, then boost the feedback/repeat rate, you get a double-track effect, something very good to have if you're a lead guitarist.
Start with your first finger on the fifth fret of first string. Strike note with a downstroke. Next, place second finger on sixth fret of second string, and play note with an upstroke. Then, place first finger on fifth fret of second string, and play note with a downstroke. Lastly, use your second finger to hold down sixth fret of first string, and play with an upstroke. Begin this cycle again, for at least 30 seconds, taking care to play all notes evenly, and at equal volumes.
Once you've played the first step of this exercise for a reasonable length of time, try moving smoothly to this second pattern. Using the same fingers (one and two), play the same frets as above, except on the first and third strings. Take care not to vary your alternate picking pattern. Play this one for at least 30 seconds as well.
Keep moving up the strings. Play this same pattern on all the strings. For the final stage in the first phase of this technical exercise, play notes on the first and sixth strings. Again, pay careful attention to your technique, and make sure it remains flawless. Play for at least 30 seconds. At this point, you can either begin playing the above exercises in reverse, or move on two phase two of this technical drill.
If you want to become a guitar god then a very important thing is to know how to tune the guitar properly. A guitar that is out of tune will sound absonant no matter how good the guitar player is. Always try to buy an acoustic guitar with a built in tuner. If you are playing an electric guitar then keep a tuner in your stomp box. Its very important to check the tuner whenever it sounds absonant or a little off tune. These are couple of links that can be very handy to learn how to tune if you dont have a tuner available. http://www.howtotuneaguitar.org/