When recording guitar there are a lot of things to consider in order to get professional sounding recordings.
Here are five tips that will take your guitar recordings to the next level:
1. Tuning to a Specific Chord
When recording guitar tuning can be a nightmare, the guitar is an equal tempered instrument, which sacrifices perfectly tuned chords for playability across the whole fretboard.
When recording we can take advantage of recording guitar parts in sections and tuning the guitar to those specific sections.
For example the G# on the G string in the E Major chord pictured below sounds sharp when a guitar is tuned to 440 Hz with a digital tuner, if you flatten the G string this E major chord will sound far more in tune and pleasant even though the G string will read as flat on the tuner. To get the full benefits of this tuning trick it is best to try and stick to one chord shape for a specific part, otherwise you’ll be recording one chord at a time!
2. Using Different Types of Plectrum
Plectrums come in different shapes and sizes and are often a very personal to each guitar players playing style and taste. Don’t be afraid to try out different plectrum sizes and materials whilst recording different parts.
For example, a thin nylon plectrum works really well on strummed acoustic guitar parts, whereas a thicker plectrum such as the classic Dunlop Jazz III is better for more aggressive parts and lead playing.
3. Taping/Removing Strings
When recording guitar, excessive string noise can make or break a good guitar performance. The best way to tackle it is with good muting technique using your hands, however there may be times where that is not possible due to the part that you are playing, an useful alternative is to tape or even removing strings that you aren’t playing during this part. Doing this will greatly reduce any unwanted sympathetic resonances that are generated whilst the guitar strings are vibrating.
4. Recording String by String
While this may seem excessive, it is more commonly used than you would think.
When playing chords on electric guitar with distortion, the chord definition can become muddy and undefined due to the excess of harmonics produced by the distortion, this is why rock guitar players often only play with perfect 5ths (power chords), octaves and single notes.
If you want to get good chord definition whilst using a distorted sound, the best way is to layer the part string by string, this will keep the guitar chord much more defined.
5. Using Capos to Change the Chord Voicings
Getting guitars to sound big and wide on a recording is more than just the way they are mixed. Part of it is how they are layered and played. An easy way to get some easy variation between two guitar parts is to use a capo, take the same chord progression you’ve already recorded with one guitar and find the same chords on a different part of the fretboard using a capo. The combination of two different voicings for the same progression will add some depth and width to the guitar arrangement in the recording.