guitar distortion hints and how to's

HI I really could use some pro’s advice on how to record and/or mix guitars with the effect of distortion on them(like a pedal not its so loud it clips)I play a fender toronado and have a behringer powered mixer which i run into jack and my sound card.Any hints suggestions or advice would be much appreciated.

Tip #1: don’t use anywhere near as much as you would live. You’ll be surprised at how thin your guitar will sound in a full mix if you use too much distortion. Usually when I record a band (or myself), I’ll get them to set their distortion like they normally would for a show, then turn it down by half. This is especially true when layering the guitars, which leads me to

Tip #2: layer the guitars. Unless you’re quantising the tracks, or are a really super amazing double tracker, don’t go overboard on this, but I would record no less than two tracks of each guitar part, and then pan them almost all the way to make your guitars sound big, while still leaving a nice pocket for vocals (which are generally in the same pitch range, and as such, can compete with guitars) in the center.

Tip #3:If it’s possible, record both a direct line (straight out of the guitar with no FX) as well as your amp/stompbox, on separate tracks. That way, if you change your mind about your guitar sound during the mix (or just want to add something), you can re-amp the clean track without having to perform it again.

Tip #4: Use new strings, even if yours are fairly new. New strings make a guitar track pop, and don’t forget to tune before every take. Yes, every take. You may think that’s a bit overkill, but there’s nothing worse than getting a killer part down, and then realizing it was slightly out of tune when you tracked it, which you often won’t notice until it’s in a mix with other instruments

@stephenthemartyr: Recording guitars is not easy, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a lot of attempts to get it right. Be prepared to throw away a lot of ‘bad takes’ while you find the sound you want, and be methodical, patient and logical about all the changes you make to microphone placement, amp settings etc so that you can learn what effect each is having. So much of it depends on the sound you are looking for and the context in which that sound will sit that it is almost impossible to provide a rule that “just works”.
The context is very important. You can spend days getting a great guitar sound in isolation only to find that when you add it into the mix it might be overpowering or “clutter” the rest of the track.
Personally, I find that using an amp / cab simulator in either hardware (e.g. line6 etc) or a software plugin provides a good alternative, with predictable results - and as suggested by macinnisrr, if you keep the ‘clean’ guitar sound you can re-amp it without doing another take.
I should also declare an interest here since I provide a range of guitar effects plugins which you may or may not find useful -

The distortion ‘pedal’ also includes a speaker simulator - you can connect them together via JACK or use them as plugins in ardour.

Just as macinnisrr said, too much distortion can make a guitar sound “cheap”, record some tests and listen back to the recorded sound, you will notice that distortion is very easy to overdo.

For rhythm guitars, especially with some distortion always double track them (record them twice), do record them and don’t cheat by copying the same sound, then pan one far left and the other far right, this will give your mix a huge sound leaving enough space in the center for the rest, you will have a result as if two guitarists were playing the same, just give it a shot and you’ll see.

I saw you posted that you connect your guitar direct to the soundcard…

You will get better results by using an amp sim if you can’t do real life mic+amp recording, the guitar will sound really crappy without real amp sound. Even a small lillte line6 “bean” pod would help or use some software that will simulate some amps and cabs like Amplitube, amplitube has nice amp simulation with a huge selection of dynamic and condenser mics where you can even fool around with their placements, but the FX don’t really do much for me, there is Amplitube for Mac and Windows, Windows version will run well with wine. Sometimes I do a mix of using my GT-8 just for FX and Amplitube just as an amp-cab sim.

Thanks alot,I have a gt-10 would that work better and do you know where I can download amplitude?,i did a few searched but couldnt find it.And Ill definitely do the double recording of each guitar part,I brought my marshall MG100hdfx plus cab upstairs and I have a shure beta 57a mic so I could try that,any recomendations on recording that?

Thanks so much!

Hy thanks for the advice,I was curious how to get the pedals from working,I downloaded them but I dont know how to unpack them:(Sorry kind of a newguy question but i tried on some other forums and they were not very helpful,thanks much

Somewhere around here is the demo for Amplitube:

Download it and try it, if it works then you can purchase it, if it doesn’t run well for you, you still Have the GT-10 just as I have the GT-8, both are identical in sound and all except for the hardware functionality. So you can’t go wrong at all with the BOSS GT-10, just takes a bit of work to get a nice amp sim with it, but it does work for recording, just remember to set your output select to “Line” and play around with the cabs/speakers and mics.

And if you do have your marshall amp with cab I would for sure try that first, since it’s the real thing, just hope it’s not to big for the room you’re in, because amps sound better when you crank them up (please take care of your ears), your shure mic is a dynamic mic, so you can place it right on front of the amp still at high volumes and it will not distort or get damaged, then just play with the mic placement, for that you have to eq your amp first the way you like to hear it but do it while listening to it at ear-speaker level, don’t do it while standing higher than it or you’ll hear room tonality, so try to listen only to what comes out of the amp, once you have the tone you like place the mic right next to the cab grill exactly on zero (or center) of one of the speakers, line it out to your Ardour to a monitor bus and listen to your guitar, for sure it will sound to bright because mics at center of speaker pickup higher frequencies, so move it off center little by little towards the outside part of speaker until it sounds just about as you like it, then you can play with the distance from the mic to the cab, or even angles, closer will give you more bass, mostly dynamic microphones have an effect called proximity effect which when closer to the source more bass is captured. I still advice on placing the amp on another room completely isolated if it’s possible.

All that is called eq-ing by mic, that way you don’t have to tweak your tone so much on the computer during mixdown because then you will overprocess it, try to always ignore the “I’ll fix it in the mix” idea, once a guitar (or other instrument) is well recorded, all you should really do is just cut or boost certain frequencies by very little db’s for the mix to fit in, but that’s another story…

Good luck!

I record all my guitar-tracks using guitarix:

get a clean signal near but never over 0db to your soundcard and try guitarix. You can also combine it with Rakarrack via Jack in case you need more effects.

This one is far from being ready for prime-time but should suffice as a demo:

about 50 channels, all guitars in the second part recorded with guitarix, no additional processing of the guitar-tracks except some reverb using IR.
Of course made with Ardour2 under Linux…

the CAPS amp sims are also very good. I almost always record the bass dry and run it through CAPS ampVTS, and use a mixture of reamping, my line6 podxt, and the CAPS plugins for guitars.

For my very first album, however (way before I switched to linux), I used the built in amp sims on my behringer mixing board (a eurorack 1212 or something like that). Effect 96 was rad, but the others were not so good. And I once had a behringer amp sim pedal before my line6, with 3 amp models, but I’ve literally never heard a worse pedal in my life ;-).

Anyway though, as I said before (and since you’ve clarified about your equipment), I highly recommend recording dry while you monitor though your boss pedal and marshall cab, and reamp later (even if it’s the exact same setting), just in case.

My two cents: play through your Marshall and mic it! IMO this always sounds better If you’re recording distorted guitar (better than direct options). That’s my opinion, though. I’ve heard som pretty fat guitar done with Line6 POD stuff, but it’s just not organic enough for my taste. And when you mic it, do it loud (take care of your ears). Your noise/volume ratio is better that way and your guitar will be interacting with your amp (feedback, etc.).

…and let us know if you’re having clipping issues. Those are easily fixed once diagnosed.