Paul Diamond Blow's Rock Musician Resources

Recording Tips: How to Record the Electric Guitar...
...and Get that Big Wall of Guitar Sound!

by Paul Diamond Blow

Nothing says ROCK like the Wall of Guitar sound!

I've always been a fan of big sounding guitar rock. I really love a well done dual guitar assault, especially when they are playing sledgehammer power chord rock. Having a big guitar sound is crucial if you play hard rock, metal, hardcore punk - ANYTHING with power chords. Recording electric guitars is easy: basically you just set an SM-57 a couple inches in front of one of your speakers (you can play around with the placement to find the "sweet spot"), and crank up your amp! But if you want a huge stereo WALL OF GUITAR sound, here are a few tricks I've learned and used with great results, and these tricks work well in both home and professional recording studios...

Twin guitar tracks
The easiest and best sounding way to record the WALL OF GUITAR stereo sound is to record two separate but identical guitar performances on two separate tracks. When mixing down, pan each track L_R as you like to get a great stereo effect. I usually pan each guitar track at about 95 degrees right or left at equal volumes. Nothing beats the twin guitar attack!

Wall of Guitar with one guitar
If you don't want to or are unable to overdub the guitar track, there are several ways to get a great stereo WALL OF GUITAR sound out of one guitar. One method is to use two mics on the amp: an SM-57 two inches from the speaker, and an omni mic (picks up sound from all around) placed 10 to 15 feet away from the amplifier to pick up a slightly delayed guitar with some room sound. Record these on two separate tracks at equal levels (you'll have to crank up the trim on the room mic), and pan them hard left and right in the mix down. It sounds awesome, especially if you record this in a large, live room with good natural reverb. A similar technique I've used is to used is to use a bi-directional mic (AKG 414's are what I've used), and set that mic 15 feet or so from the guitar amp, but with the mic placed NOT facing the amp to pick up the room's sound and reject the amp sound. When recorded in a large open room, this gives a great reverb sound, especially when the two tracks are panned hard left and right.

If you've got an extra track, you can also set up a spaced pair of distant mics recorded on two tracks (mixed l and r) with a close mic up the middle. This will give you a huge sound.

If leakage is a problem, and you can't use a distant mic, you can always place two mics up close on the cabinet speakers. It works best if you use two different sounding mics. Record on two separate tracks, and when mixing down equalize the tracks differently and pan left and right. This method works okay, but the results are not quite as dramatic as the other techniques.

Get WALL OF SOUND from a single guitar track
Here's a cool trick I learned in recording school, and all you need is an effects processor with delay. If you have a single guitar track, patch it into the effects processor with a delay setting of about 20-30 milliseconds. Run the delay output into a separate channel on your mixing board, and pan the original guitar track hard left, and the delay hard right. Turn up the delay effect to match the volume of the original guitar. This will give you a slightly delayed, identical second guitar track. This sounds AWESOME when done right! It even sounds good with an acoustic guitar track.

One more tip: If you're recording a Marshall amp, or something similar, it will sound best to TURN IT UP, yeah, crank that baby!! To record a good guitar sound, the amp must PUSH AIR - you'll get a much beefier sound this way. So screw the neighbors - If they complain, give 'em a set of earplugs! So, crank it up, and try some of these methods...