I’m asked this question a lot, and I mean a LOT! Everyone thinks I’m recording my amp (which is a Mesa Boogie DC-3 by the way) with a mic or something like that, which is possible of course, but I don’t.
Should I record my amp I would use the good old and trusted Shure SM57 microphone. It is perfect for recording electric guitar and why pay $500-$2000 for a mic when you can use one that works just as well for a fraction of the price(it is less than $100).
As I said I don’t record my amp, in fact it is just sitting there in the corner of the room collecting dust until the next gig. So what then?
I plug my guitar straight into my audio interface, the RME fireface 800 (there are many cheaper options available) and send that signal to my Mac Pro (sorry guys, no PC vs Mac comments please). Now you can’t just use it like that, you need a DAW (digital audio workstation) to record the signal and add the desired effects. For that I use Logic Pro X, but Cubase or ProTools work just as well and are available for PC too.
In Logic Pro X I add an effect to the signal called Guitar Rig 5, but there are other great guitar effects plugins on the market like “Studio Devil Virtual Guitar and Bass Amp Bundle”, Waves GTR, IK multimedia Amplitube, and Peavey Revalver. Some of those might actually yield better results than Guitar Rig but as I have bought the “Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate” plugins bundle I already have a plugin for guitar so…
Now the RME is a studio quality interface so I have a great audio signal to work with. All I need to do now is find the right settings in Guitar Rig to create the desired sound. For the ’80’s rock songs I usually start with the preset “002 ’80’s solo”, for the stuff with more gain I start out with “001 1993 Hot Solo Rig” or “004 94 Rock Solo”. There’s so many settings and options that I usually start with browsing the templates until I find a sound that is close enough to start tweaking.
I’m sure the knowledgeable GR5 users will build from scratch and they know what they are doing. I am just trying to come close enough so it is ok for my tutorials.
The most important things are always your guitar and how well you play the song. Sure a good interface helps and sure a good DAW + plugin helps, but it is the guitar and guitarist first an foremost.
So to sum it up, what do you need:
- Audio Interface ( RME, MOTU, Focusrite, etc are all good but be honest about what you need. A Fireface 800 is overkill in most cases)
- DAW (Logic Pro X, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc are all good. LPX is Mac only!)
- Amp modelling plugin (Guitar Rig, Amplitube, Waves, Peavy Revalver, Studio Devil, are all good, pick the one you like.)
Note: Now before you go all crazy and buy expensive gear, be smart and think about what you actually need. Are you a beginner at home recording then you don’t need the most expensive gear, get something that fits your budget. (actually that is always a good idea) For the ones who are more serious about their recording it is smart to invest in one thing at a time if you are on a tight budget. I bought my RME a long time ago and it is still a fantastic interface. These things have been built to last so if you’re serious about audio see what would be best for you and you’ll enjoy it for a long time to come.