Recording guitars to an album, is it right time for a change, part 1

In this (and especially the following) post I will discuss how I've recorded guitars on STUD's upcoming new album. However, I will also go through what I did with our previous two albums "Out Of The Darkness" and "Rust On The Rose". Although difficult to admit, I've made some elementary mistakes along the way. Listening back to all three albums, I feel that the overall sound has evolved album by album, and that goes for the guitar sound as well. With each album I was quite satisfied with my guitar sound, but by the time we started to record the next album I felt that some changes must be done. I quess it's learning by doing.

When we made our first two albums, we booked a studio for few days and recorded drums, bass and rhythm guitars together playing live. Once we got a good take for drums, we did fixes to bass and guitar tracks if necessary. Guitar was always doubled and panned to left and right. Clean guitars were always recorded separately. Some guitar harmonies were added also whenever needed. The whole session was done super fast, so the days were really long.

For guitar I brought my rack gear with two 4x12 cabs. Both cabinets were miked with three mics: Shure SM57s, Sennheiser MD421s and some tube mics that I can't remember what they were. The cabs were in separate room from where we played, so, the sound I was hearing came from the earphones, which are really not the best option, at least for me. At some point I moved my rack to the control room, where I could hear the sound coming out of the studio monitors. Soundwise that was much better, but I was not able to see the other guys, which was of course a downside.

When it was time to record the solos, there were two option. Either to carry the recording gear to our rehearsal room each time I wanted to add solos or other guitar parts, or to take a completely different route and explore the possibility to record direct at home. I preferred the latter option. I had recently bought Vox Tonelab SE pedalboard to do the solos for the demos and felt that I was getting very good and consistent sound, with no latency. Plus, I could do the solos whenever wanted or felt inspired. So, I ended up using the Tonelab on the albums. The solo sound had some delay, reverb and a touch of chorus, and I recorded it in stereo. I'm still very pleased with the solo sound on those albums.

Using several mics and two cabinets to record a guitar track is a hassle and can lead to a nightmare. I've always thought that I'd need just one perfect sound and a knob that goes from loud to louder. With all those mics there's too many options to choose from, and adding eq (and other choice of plugins) on your signal just makes it even more complicated. As I already said, I made some mistakes when trying to get "that" sound, the biggest one being trying to make the guitar sound great by itself. Yes, I've heard it many times that the guitar must have it's own place in the mix, and that you should cut out the lower frequencies, but it took me some time to really understand it.

I'm finishing off this post by giving these examples from our two first albums, so that you can hear the progress we've made, especially in the overall sound. Lovers In The Night is a song from our first album while Raise Your Fist is from the second one. In the next post I will go through recording guitars on our new album.

-Mika

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