Microphone Positions: Electric Guitar

Hello home recording enthusiasts! Today I’m going to be demonstrating how powerful mic position is to the tone you achieve in your recordings. I’m going to be focusing on micing a guitar amp, but keep in mind that mic position affects everything you record. This is a concept you probably are aware of, but do you know how to change your mic position to achieve the sound you hear in your mind? Today, I’m going to go through micing techniques for recording electric guitar to help you decide which position will get you as close as possible to the sound you’re going for. This is a video that would better serve you by listening, so check out the video to hear the examples.

Let’s first get us comfortable with some terminology.

Thanks to Resonant Frequency for the image. For educational purposes only.

Thanks to Resonant Frequency for the image. For educational purposes only.

Here is a diagram of a speaker. I’m going to be referring to different places we can visually see including the cone and the dust cap. In order to see these parts on your amp, take your cell phone or a flashlight and shine it through the grill cloth on your guitar amp.

For these sounds, I’m going to be using an SM57, one of the staples in the recording world both for home recordists and for commercial studios. They run for under $100 and for some reason are just really great, particularly on electric guitar.

The first example I’m going to show you is the 57 pointed straight in the center of the cone at the dust cap. Recording nerds like me call this on-axis, because it is pointed straight at the center of the speaker. This will tend to be  a brighter and more aggressive tone than an off-axis position. Depending on what you’re looking for, the pokiness of this position can be annoying or perfect for cutting through the rest of the sounds on the song. Pay attention to the role your guitar part plays in the song, and this should help inform your decision about whether or not pointing the mic here is the right move.

Next, I’ll show you the off-axis position. This is going to be about 1.5’’ off the center, so just about where the dust cap meets the cone. This is a little warmer and takes the bite off of the guitar sound. It is still very full sounding and is one of my favorite areas  to place my mic when I want a clear guitar sound that doesn’t stick out too much.

Lastly, I move the mic to the very edge of the cone. You’ll be able to hear just how dark this is compared to the other two examples. Commonly, engineers like to use a multi-mic technique so that you can blend brighter towns with the nice darker tones of this position, but that’s another conversation for another day.

I also encourage you to play with the distance from the amp. I didn’t give any examples of this in the video, but you’ll hear some differences when you start moving the microphone away from the amp.

If you aren’t getting the tone you’re looking for, be sure to consider the tone you’re hearing in the room. It’s possible that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your mic position, it’s just that there is another variable you should be focusing on to get the result you want, like your pickup or guitar/amp combination.

That’s all for this week! I hope this helps, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.