Recording distorted guitar

ofwolf

New member
I've been trying to get a good distortion sound in my recordings but it usually just sounds buzzy, fuzzy or meh. A lot of the time I manage to get a distortion that sounds great in certain ranges but not generally enough to be of much use.

If it makes any sense, I want a "clean" distortion i.e. a distortion with loads of weight without completely throwing away the ability to distinguish notes from each other (sometimes power chords just all sound pretty much the same which isn't very good). I know I'm not going to achieve professional grade sounds on home recording equipment but if there are any tricks to getting a full, heavy distortion (Heavy metal grade if possible) that doesn't make all the notes sound the same then I'd appreciate it.

I record directly onto a Boss BR-600 some times using a Boss MT-2 distortion pedal (though I can't make much good of it), I usually use presets on the BR-600 and I know that's not a good way to go about it.

P.S. Sorry if this is in the wrong section, wasn't sure if it went here or in the guitar/bass section or the newbie section (me being a newbie and all). In fact, what with me being a newbie, feel free to talk down to me seeing I probably won't understand a lot of the "lingo" straight away.
 

Seafroggys

Well-known member
Several tips you may want to try.

Pull back on the bass, get your mids up, and turn back the gain.

The last one is the big part, somehow that badass distorted tone you get coming out of your amp becomes a fizzy mess when you record it. Turn it down and it'll be much, much better. The other two may not always help, but they usually do.
 

matttheaxe

New member
If you put your ear right up to the amp, even a good tone will sound nasty.
But when you back up, it sounds better. I like to use a condenser mic and set it back about 2 feet and keep the amp volume down.

Sticking an sm57 right up to an amp might be ok for live but never seemed to work for me. Not only that, but the tone changes drastically when placed in the many different spots on the speaker and the angle at which it may be set.

Give my way a try. Good luck.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
Although I love my BR-600, it's distortion guitar f/x are marginal. Mic an amp, if you can. If you must use DI, get some software. I use the Line 6 Guitarport interface, and both PodFarm and Gearbox sounds.
When recording guitar distortion: LESS is more.
 

ofwolf

New member
I'm pretty tight budget at the moment but if there's something I think is worth the money I may splurge a little.

Micing an amp isn't much of a solution seeing as I only have a low grade practice amp and an o.k. mic.

I've managed to get it sounding pretty good by layering multiple tracks on top of each other with different settings (i.e. one with higher bass at a lower volume another with low bass at higher volume etc) with low gain (thank you Seafroggys) they add up to an alright sound. Is this done alot? If so are there any tricks I can apply to improve the sound?
 

matttheaxe

New member
If you tweak & tweak it, you can get a decent tone from software, but a good ear will catch it every time. I'm amazed on how some people can listen to a track and know it was not a real mic'd amp.

Cheap gear will always result in cheap sounds.
Get a decent condenser ( I love the Blue "Bluebird) and a good amp. You can get good tones from cheaper amps like the Vox Roland & Line 6.
 

Kingofpain678

Returned from the dead
Ok, let me help you out bud...

First of all, those great distorted tones that you hear on albums aren't actually all that distorted. Start off with your gain at about 12 o'clock. What you should notice is that you're getting the tone of your amp, a good amount of distortion and you'll retain the clarity of your notes. The reason you can't distinguish one note from another when playing at super high gain levels is because distortion is just another form of compression. The term "overdrive" comes from driving an amp past it's limits... When you send a signal into an amp that exceeds it's input level it "clips" off the top of the transients of your guitar signal and when that happens the amp starts to distort. The more you overdrive the input signal the more compression (clipping off the tops and bottoms of your transients) and distortion (input being driven past it's limits) you get. So, yes distortion is good but you also want to keep the sound of your amps tone and your guitar too, so compromise some of that gain and meet halfway in the middle. Now, guitars are midrange instruments... There's no getting around that. Alot of people who want distorted guitars like to "scoop" (or turn down) their mids on their amp. You DO NOT want to do this, because seeing as how guitars are midrange instruments you're essentially cutting out the fundamental frequencies of your guitar. Not only that but it will be hard as hell to get it to sound good in a mix if you have a scooped sound. Ok, so what we have so far is keep the gain down and keep the mids up, eq high's and lows to taste. Now for the speakers... Tube amps sound great when you push them to their limits (hence the invention of the distorted guitar sound) so turn your master volume up! You want to get your power amp tubes cooking and you want to get some speaker excursion (Speaker movement) from your cab/combo. Also, work on your playing chops... playing lightly will give you a weaker output from your guitar which will give you a slightly less distorted sound from your amp and playing hard will give you more distortion, It's worth looking into. And last, mic placement: Different mic placements will give you certain emphasis on certain frequencies, for instance; placing a mic at 90degrees right at the center of the cone will give you defined high's and very little lows... and placing the mic at a 90 degree angle at the edge of the speaker will give you lows but less highs. And as mentioned before, if you pull a mic back about a foot in front of the speaker you will achieve a somewhat balanced representation of all your frequencies. Try experimenting with different mic placements and start out at only 90 degree angles until you get an idea of what you're hearing and then start to experiment with different angles. Also, if you're listening to a 4x12 cab or any configuration of multiple speakers, crank your amp up, play a tune and get down and stick your ear up to your speakers. It might not be pleasant but what you'll get is an idea of how each speaker sounds... Listen for the best sounding speaker to you and mic that one up. I've noticed in my 4x12, I have a speaker that sounds incredibly fizzy and one that sounds chunky and etc. etc.
I found one speaker that I liked the highs on and so I miked up the edge of the cone on that speaker and I found a speaker that I liked the lows on so I miked up the rim of that speaker. Try doing that and try other different mic positions such as a mic 1 ft. away from the speaker and different room mics and try mixing them together until you get a good representation of what your guitar/amp sounds like that you approve of.

Now hit record! :D
I hope this helped... :)
 
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JIMBOdrummer

New member
close micing is ok. its called close micing. if your 57 is getting a bad tone from close up its not the mic or the technique. its one of the most standard ways of doing it.
 

mcmetal

New member
I'm pretty tight budget at the moment but if there's something I think is worth the money I may splurge a little.

Micing an amp isn't much of a solution seeing as I only have a low grade practice amp and an o.k. mic.

I've managed to get it sounding pretty good by layering multiple tracks on top of each other with different settings (i.e. one with higher bass at a lower volume another with low bass at higher volume etc) with low gain (thank you Seafroggys) they add up to an alright sound. Is this done alot? If so are there any tricks I can apply to improve the sound?

If you're just copying tracks and eqing them differently that won't help much.All you're doing is making it louder and why eq two tracks to achieve the same sound you could get by eqing one track.

You should double track the guitars.That is play and record the guitar parts two times.If you normally have your gain at 90 you'll need to turn it down to around 60 /70.Less gain is more when recording.When you layer multiple tracks together you're adding more gain to the overall guitar sound with each track layered.

Since you're on a budget you may want to try micing your amp and using the BR600 and blending the tracks together.
 
There is a 'wetting' knob on all effects which determines the ratio of dry signal to wet (FX-loaded) signal. Try a fairly dry sound to begin with and gradually wet the signal and dry various chords etc until you are happy the ratio works with everything you intend to do with the guitar in that particular session.

For clean distortion, lower the volume and if you have overdrive on your amp, switch it on. Use the gain knob in conjuntion with the volume knob. With distortion, you need to get a balance between gain and volume to make it sound reasonably clean. So - with the volume down faiirly low, while playing some power chords, bring the gain up until you get the amount of distortion you want. Now bring the volume up, until it is of a suitable loudness for playing. If the distortion is too great at this point, lower your gain and also adjust the colour (or tone) of the amp until it sounds alright to your ears.

Keep one eye on the recording input meter, by all means - it's important to avoid clipping as there's not much you can do to an overloaded recording but in the end, always let your ears be the judge. If you've recorded too quiet, you can always boost the recordings when you come to mix and master your piece.

With levels, it helps to write things down while you're feeling your way around the equipment. I simply grabbed a notebook and drew circles and put marks roughly where each knob was set, to help me remember. You could use a temporary wipe off marker pen to mark your favourite positions on the amp itself. It's not rocket science, you just need an approximation.

Try the pick up switch and tone control(s) on your guitar with different amp settings and take note of how each setting sounds.

As others have said, some of the most distorted sounding guitars may not actually be as distorted as you think. Don't record too loud or you'll get saturation. Less is more... you can always boost the recording afterwards, if needs be.

Stay off the pedal for a little while, as you get used to what you amp will do. Then pull back the gain, raise the volume and concentrate on what your pedal will do. Try to combine the amp's distortion and wetness of the pedal in sensible amounts, so they work together - not against each other.

In other words, the key is in experimentation. Having said all this, if the amp is just plain nasty and/or the pedals cheap, there's not much you can do to fix it. Best to get the best amp money will allow.

In time and if you can afford to, you might consider recording into a computer DAW in future. Here you'll be able to play dry or perhaps with just enough distortion to make you sound good while you're recording, then add the more crucial and extreme effects afterwards. This way, you get much more choice in a non-destructive way, which is especially advantageous when you have played your best piece but might have mucked it up with a nasy tone/too much distortion.

Hope this helps.

Dr. V
 
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Todzilla

New member
If you put your ear right up to the amp, even a good tone will sound nasty.
But when you back up, it sounds better. I like to use a condenser mic and set it back about 2 feet and keep the amp volume down.

Sticking an sm57 right up to an amp might be ok for live but never seemed to work for me. Not only that, but the tone changes drastically when placed in the many different spots on the speaker and the angle at which it may be set.

Give my way a try. Good luck.

GIve Matt's way a try, but I would caution against keeping the amp volume down. I think every amp has its sweet spot, most are with a healthy amount of cranking. I think the most important point is to back off the distortion. Not necessarily shimmery clean or anything, just half as much as you think you want to hear.
 

Chibi Nappa

New member
Here is the thing: There are 100,000 ways to record a guitar and without hearing the song it's impossible to say how to do it (and even then the person making the suggestion should really be in the room with the guitar).

Can you post a clip of a rough recording?

I've done great guitar recordings with one SM57 touching the cloth, two condencers far away, nice expensive amps, battery powered practice amps that clip to your belt, plugging straight from the guitar into an analog mic preamp and cranking until it clips to a hillarious degree, software, micing the amp from an entirely separate floor of the house, loud amps, soft amps, distortion turned to 11, moderate distortion, clean channels turned up loud enough to distort, and everything in between.

I will say that most guitar tones that are meant to be loud and rockin' in the mix are recorded on obscenely loud amps. Not to say the distortion is always cranked...but the volume usually is. Key word being "usually".

What it comes down to is you have to learn the sound of a recorded guitar. When you know what the sound is, you can set about creating it with confidence.

Sit yourself down in a quiet dark room and just listen to your favorite professional guitar recordings. Use the best 'phones or speakers you have. Spend as much time as you can. Block out the rest of the world and disect that sound.
 

Chibi Nappa

New member
A few more thoughts:

Beginners often need more midrange than they think.

Beginners often need less distortion than they think.

The guitar pickup used is extreemely important.

The guitar itself is even more important. If you have more than one, try swapping them.

Never set the amp tone or place mics without the other recorded tracks playing at a volume that balances with the guitar. You need to hear how it all works with the rest of the song. Don't forget the vocal. Many people record vocals last, so be sure to put down a quick scratch vocal at the very beginning so you can hear your guitar in context with the singing while you set your amp tones.
 

Armistice

Son of Yoda
it usually just sounds buzzy, fuzzy or meh.

Tough to deal with, that whole "meh" thing... buzzy and fuzzy are no problem... :laughings:

What everyone else said... use an amp, less gain, less mid, etc.

Search for Slipperman's post on recording dirty guitar... you won't be able to do any of it with your current gear level but it will give you an idea of how hard it can be to get right..

Good luck!
 

Jerome Allen

New member
For me, a big part of getting a "clean" heavy metal sound (with note differentiation) is to use a Dimarzio Tone Zone pick-up in the bridge position of my guitar. I'd go so far as to say that pick-up choice is probably the most important factor in getting that "clean" distortion sound. I've experimented with many, many pick-ups and found the Tone Zone to be the best for clarity with high gain settings.

As far as sounding "buzzy" or "fuzzy," it sound like you're recording direct to the BR-600 and using the presets in that unit. Your choice of distortion preset may be the biggest problem with that "buzzy" or "fuzzy" sound. Try experimenting with different presets and maybe tweaking some of their parameters. Like others have said, try to avoid using "too much" gain.

Now, I'll be honest with you that it's unlikely you'll be able to get away from that "buzzy" or a "thin" sound completely when using the guitar effects in the BR-600. I've found that most digital guitar effects units suffer from a certain buzzy-ness. Even some high-end digital processors still suffer from this...and it's extremely annoying to hear when your ears are tuned into that buzzing on top of a distorted sound.

If you have a little money to spend, you should check out Line 6's guitar stuff. They offer some somewhat economical solutions to getting a usable metal guitar sounds. I've personally done some tracking with a POD Pro XT and found it to work well...not perfect, but well. I'm assuming that their less expensive units are also capable of getting some decent sounds. You should check them out.
 

Sonixx

New member
For me, a big part of getting a "clean" heavy metal sound (with note differentiation) is to use a Dimarzio Tone Zone pick-up in the bridge position of my guitar. I'd go so far as to say that pick-up choice is probably the most important factor in getting that "clean" distortion sound. I've experimented with many, many pick-ups and found the Tone Zone to be the best for clarity with high gain settings.
I'm up for hearing a sample :)
 
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