The Same Old Question

It is the same old question, especially now in the age of home recording.

“how can I get my music to sound like “insert artist” at home with my rig”?

The recording industry will have you sold that it must be “this mic pre” or “that compressor” that holds the key to a golden tone that sells millions of records. The truth is that it is never one pieces of gear that creates a certain sound on a record. It is the culmination of many things, starting with a very nice sounding room (can’t get that at Guitar Center) which create the recorded sound. An experienced engineer touches all aspects of the process.

Consider this breakdown when recording guitars in a professional scenario vs. a home rig. This is not in order of importance, just signal flow:

1. The idea must be discussed between the engineer and the artist as to how the guitar should sound.

2. A guitar is selected, not based on affordability or availability, but what is correct for the part ( a professional studio will have options for this…)

3. An amp is selected in the same manner. (many options…)

4. A cabinet is matched to the amp (even more options…)

5. The cabinet is carefully placed in the room for desired ambient effect (or lack of ambient effect).

6. a microphone, or a combination of microphones are placed (too many options to shake a stick at)

7. a microphone preamp is selected, based on the response of the microphone, how the guitar reacts to the amp, and how the part fits within the arrangement of the song.

8. Eq and compression is chosen based upon the sonic effect desired from the mic preamp.

None of these options will make or break the sound of this guitar, but the culmination of these choices, done by an experienced recording engineer will make all of the difference in the world. Am I saying it is all about the gear? NO. I am suggesting that it is all about careful choices based upon experience. amps

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One response to “The Same Old Question

  1. Nice post Shane. I’ll add two more key parts of guitar tone:

    1. Strings/String gauge – Playing the exact same rig with two different sets of strings will sound completely different. Some strings are naturally brighter than others; age of strings effect tone; how much someone sweats effects the tone of strings; and gauge REALLY effects tone. If you have a player who’s bummed about his tone, he probably is starting with too thin of a gauge.

    2. The player – You could bring out all of SRVs gear set up the exact same way he would play it, and play the exact same notes but NObody is going to play that guitar like him. Finger strength, callus size, finger size, and most importantly feel are never going to be the same.

    Basically you’re never going to ever sound exactly like “insert artist,” but it’s fun to try 🙂

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