Tips for Recording Guitar – Commit That Sound

Recording electric guitar is probably the easiest thing to do.

Just plug it into an £80 device and bob’s young uncle…

Or is it?

Much like anything on this site there is no right or wrong answer.

My background and taste in music veers from well produced to dank muddy lo-fi.

Guitar sound is down to personal taste.

I have my own set of rules and tips which may be of use to you.


Commit: With the developement of VST guitar fx it is now possible to process guitar after recording.

This is for some a brilliant Idea, your actual recorded sound is kept in it’s clean/natural state and you can monitor it with a desired effect whilst recording without making a commitment.

This allows you to audition other sounds afterwards.

There are lot’s of high end guitar fx software packages out there,

Native Instruments Guitar Rig and IK Multimedias Amplitube 2 are probably the big 2.

There are also lot’s of free VST guitar effects knocking about and you can find some of them here on this site.

With the advent of guitar based USB and Firewire audio interfaces, getting guitar into your DAW is a peice of cake.

But there is a problem.

Even though the idea of being able to change a guitars sound after the fact does appeal at first, it also introduces more tinkering.

Time wasted trying to find the ‘right’ sound afterwards is time that could be spent elsewhere.

Commiting a sound from the word go solves this – and ok you’ll get some who will balk at that, but let’s leave them to it shalll we.

I have a Behringer V-Amp Pro rack effects unit, it does exactly what I need and sounds great.

It’s probably half the price of something exactly the same with a more highly regarded label.

Now I do connect to my sound card through a mixing desk and M-Audio sound card, so it is a more expansive and expensive setup.

I’m not saying you have to connect up your equipment like this, before now I’ve gone from the headphone socket of a Digitech RP90 straight into the line in on a laptop.

It’s about getting the sound chosen and recorded, taking away the chance to prevaricate.

Your guitar sound is your signature, the same as a vocalist – get your identity and use it.

Think about your favourite guitarists and their sound – how many times have you wanted to replicate that?

The Edge from U2 considers himself a sound processor rather than a guitarist – and he’s right but at the same time his sound is still distinctive to him.

If you have an album of 10 songs 10 completely different guitar sounds can be messy.

Get one guitar sound to work from and use that as your base sound.

I have 3 different guitar sounds I like and I use them all the time.

1. A very slightly Overdriven/Burnt sounding – ‘Clean’

2. Full on Distorted and Compressed

3. Tremelo w/ Overdrive

These three sounds are the basis of anything else I want to get to.

I don’t over process – Distortion + Delay or Overdrive + Tremelo – Too many effects muddy the ears.

I only use delay when absoulutely necessary to the sound and almost never use reverb.

Again these are my rules, and I stick to them 95% of the time.

I try not to over process because,

1. It can kill a guitar sound.

2. Too many effects muddy up the mix.

Guitarists love toys, they do, they just love to process but stop a minute and think about it.

Add a flanger and distortion to one guitar, then record repeat but change the phaser for a flanger pan left and right.

Does it work?

It might do – It might not.

Remember you’re the producer, it’s ultimately your choice.


Commiting sound saves time, it’s not a new technique but it’s a good one.

Dialling in a guitar effect from the get go will save you a lot of arseache but make sure you’re happy with it from the start.

I tend to mix as I go, that way I only add stuff that will fit within the mix – when I’ve veered off from that I’ve ended up spending more time on a recording than I should.

I have a song at the moment that I’ve remixed over 100 times, I’ve had other songs where the mix was there as soon as I finished recording the last note.

Gotta say I prefer it that way.

Apart from a few tweaks with eq I touch nothing on a guitar sound once recorded, (remember I mix a s I go) – I pan left and right and leave them where they stand. Sometimes on a verse I pan 50% left and 50% right then into the chorus pan hard left(100%) and hard right(100%)

Commiting or printing your guitar sound, if you’re like me is the best option in the end.

Remember these are ideas, tips not gospel – I use these in my own recordings but I’m not an expert.

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