Electric Guitar Microphone Techniques

Understanding electric guitar microphone techniques is crucial to helping you get the best recording possible.  A poor guitar sound on a recording will make the entire mix sound awful as the guitar fills much of the substance typically.  In a previous article, we discussed the best budget microphones, and recommended the SM57 for guitars.  Using the Shure SM57 BETA with your electric guitar microphone techniques will help gain a full sound.  Before just throwing an SM57 on a guitar cab, let's first go over the positioning of the microphone on the speaker.

Electric Guitar Microphone Positioning

I would suggest before even getting a microphone in a position, that you, as the producer, should stand approximately 5 to 10 feet away from the amp (depending on how big and loud the amp is).  Listen to the sound of the amp as the guitarist is playing.  Do you think that it needs a brighter sound, more mellow, more or less low-end?  There are four primary positions of a microphone on a speaker that have very different results.  Once positioning a microphone in one of these four locations around the speaker, it is wise to use very subtle movements as the sound will be greatly effected.

Bright Tone Position

Bright Guitar Mic Position

position your microphone in the center of the speaker.  The closer to the center, the brighter the guitar tone.

Mellow Tone Position

Dark Mellow Guitar Mic Position

Position your microphone towards the outside of the speaker cone.  The further away from the center of the speaker, the darker the guitar tone will be.

More/Less Bass Position

More Less Bass Guitar Mic Position

The closer the microphone is to the speaker, the more bass that will be picked up by the microphone.

Electric Guitar Microphone Techniques And The Mics to Use

Now that you know how the positioning of the microphone can alter the sound, let's add in another microphone.  In most recordings I have done with electric guitar, I have used the Shure SM57 BETA paired with another microphone on the guitar cab.  The SM57 is a great mic used in addition to another. (The following products contain affiliate links.  This means at no cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase)

Sennheiser MD421 II

The Sennheiser MD421 has a wide frequency range, higher and lower, which make it a very useful tool for recording electric guitar.  This is my personal favorite microphone to throw on a guitar amp.  I have also just used the MD421 in combination with the SM57 to add more fullness when necessary.  If you were to pair this mic, I suggest using the MD421 as your primary mic, then figuring out what the SM57 can add to the mix.  The MD421 has a cardioid polar pattern.

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The AKG C414 is a condenser microphone that can almost be used on anything because it is that versatile.  Due to the fact that can you change the pattern and it has a pad on it, you can also use it on your guitar to get many different sounds.  Just like the MD421, the 414 is a great mic paired with the SM57.  This AKG mic has several polar patterns including:  Omnidirectional, Wide Cardioid, Cardioid, Hypercardioid, and Figure-8.

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Sennheiser e 609

The Sennheiser e609 was designed specifically for the purpose of recording electric guitar, and it does this very well.  It is also great for live sound use if you want to truly get your money's worth.  This Sennheiser mic has a supercardioid polar pattern.

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Neumann U87

The Neumann U87 is a very popular electric guitar microphone used in commercial studios as it sounds fantastic.  The only downfall with the U87 is that the price tag isn't exactly what I would call "budget friendly."  This Neumann mic has three polar patterns including:  Cardioid, Omni, and Figure-8.

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Tips For Electric Guitar Microphone Techniques

To help avoid some further frustration that you may encounter, let's discuss some tips for getting the best sound possible for your recordings:

  • Phase Cancellation: If you are going to pair two microphones together, you need to be familiar with this.  Phase cancellation is when 2 microphones are picking up the same frequency but the waves are opposite of each other causing a cancellation.  For more on phase cancellation, check out our article here.
  • Acoustics:  Be sure that the room you are recording in sounds good.  That simple.  You do not want to have any echo.  On a budget, I would suggest to use couch cushions or other furniture to surround the amp to help you achieve the best room sound possible.  For more on acoustics for your studio, we have an article we covered some options here.

Microphone Polarity For Your Guitar Mics

As you are using various microphones on your guitar amp, you will want to make sure that you are using the polarity of each microphone to your advantage to get the best sound possible.  This may sound simple, but the more microphone you add, you will want to make sure that each microphone is adding accurate punch and sound to your mix.  This is part of why it is important to try different mic arrangements and use subtle changes when finding the sound you want to use.

Microphone Polar Patterns

Microphones Vs Amp Modeling Vs Direct

As you may know, there are three different methods of which you can record guitar.  You can set up a microphone in front of the speaker, useAmplitube Mic Positioning guitar amp modulation, or run direct out of the amp.  Using microphones will be the pricier method to use depending on your microphone choice and how many microphones you want to have in your collection.  You will want to have a few different electric guitar microphone techniques that you can use if you choose to do this method.

As long as the guitar amp has a good sound, using microphones is always my first pick of method to capture the sound as it is the most natural way.  However, always consider your budget when setting up your recording studio.  I have made a dumb decision previously by financing music equipment.

Final Thoughts on Electric Guitar Microphone Techniques

If you have any questions about electric guitar microphone techniques, mic positioning, or any recording questions at all, we are always here to help!  We can be contacted through our contact us page found here.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive updates of our latest news!