Few things can be as complicated and rewarding at the same time as sound recording. If you want to record your guitar over an amp, the first step in this is to mic the amp. It is not as simple as putting a mic in front of the amp and it is very much possible that you end up in a situation where your guitar sounds great through the amp but the recorded sound is nowhere close to useable.
Today we will take a look at the various factors that affect the sound that is recorded through a mic over a guitar amp.
Get ready for plenty of experimentation
Every minute thing will affect the quality of the recorded sound. So, you can record perfectly on one day and not change the position of the mic or the amp and still end up with a poor recording the next day. Even atmospheric conditions can have an effect on the quality of sound that is picked up by the microphone.
So, you will need to be very patient and keep adjusting the mic and the amp till you get the perfect sound.
This does not mean that the adjustments you do have to be random in nature. We will help you understand how you can adjust the various aspects of the sound you record.
The microphone you use is very important
You could have the best guitar rig possible, but if your mic is not good enough to pick up all the sound that is being produced by the amplifier, no amount of tinkering can fix the recorded sound. All you can do is make some superficial changes.
If excellent sound quality is your final goal then invest in a nice microphone that has a decent sensitivity and a wide frequency range.
Also, avoid omnidirectional microphones as you will end up with more noise and less clarity in the recordings.
Let us now look into the things with which you can tinker with and what effect it will have on the recorded sound.
1.) The distance between the mic and speaker controls the bass
The closer your mic is to the amp, the more bass or lower frequencies it can capture. So, if you find that bassline in your recordings is lacking in punch, move the microphone closer to the speaker in your amp.
Keep in mind that you have to find the optimum distance as the sound will start to distort if the mic is placed too close to the speaker. It can also muffle the mid-range and the high range as well.
2.) Lateral movement adjusts the mids
Once you have figured out the optimum distance between the microphone and the speaker, move it parallel to the amplifier to adjust the mids. This will also affect the highs to some extent. The closer the mic is to the cone of the speaker, the more pronounced will be the mids and the highs.
So, if you find that the mids are muffled and not in sync with the bass part of the sound, move the mic towards the center of the speaker. If the sound you record has too much of the mid-range, then move the mic towards the edge of the speakers.
3.) The angle of the mic gives you control over the highs
This is another great tool in your arsenal. After you have adjusted the bass and the mids using the above methods and you still find the sound to be a bit too shrill then start angling the microphone at the speaker.
When the mic is pointing straight at the speaker you will be able to record the most amount of high frequencies. Once you start pointing the mic at an angle towards the speaker, the highs will become less pronounced.
How to control the loudness?
So far we have looked at the ways in which you can adjust the tone of the sound you record. Now let us look at the optimum loudness.
Since you will have a way to adjust the volume of the amp, you have to check the corresponding decibel levels that the microphone is picking up.
Most sound recorders will have a monitoring tool where you can see the input levels and if at any point you see that this indicator is getting maxed out, it means that the amp is too loud.
Find that perfect middle ground where even the loudest sections of your performance do not max out the input level and yet the microphone is able to pick up the most restrained parts of the performance as well.
Always remember that you can increase the overall volume later during processing but if the original sound itself is distorted then there is precious little you can do apart from recording again.
Multiple microphones will give better quality but are more complicated
You might be considering multiple microphones if your amp has more than one speaker. This is generally a good idea but setting it up is a lot more complicated than a single mic setup and should only be tried by people who have gained expertise in using a single mic.
For starters, the mics should be picking up sounds having identical characteristics. Mixing the two is another headache.
Overall, unless you are going for stereo effects (which by the way can be added during processing), the overall increase in quality and clarity is not that pronounced and the chances of getting it wrong are higher.
Use a good mic stand
While you will be right in focusing on getting a good mic and amp, you should not ignore the mic stand. You do not need anything fancy but it should be sturdy and heavy enough to not change positions easily once it has been set up.
Also, any mechanism that allows you to adjust its height, angle, and distance from the speaker is a great asset to have by your side.
To sum it all up
It is very important the capture the sound perfectly without any distortion and having a great balance between the bass, mids, and highs. This way you will have plenty of flexibility to tinker around with the sound during processing.