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I want to record my electric guitar for the sake of making covers as well as my own music, however I'm having trouble getting a good tone. I have 3 possible approaches (one of which has worked fairly well)

  1. Plug my guitar into my Scarlett 2i2 and use the amps in Garageband. This has worked decently well for me.
  2. Try to record my amps directly with my microphone. This is what it sounds like. It sounds very... lackluster. I can hear the pick hitting the strings, everything sounds muddy and cheap. For reference, I'm using a Boss GT-6 for effects and a Fender Frontman 25R for the amp.
  3. Plug my Boss GT-6 directly into the interface and record its output directly since it has preamp and speaker simulation built in. Disclaimer: I haven't tried this approach yet.

Option 1 is super easy to set up, I just need my guitar and a cable, and as a bonus I can tweak the sound as much as I want even after having recorded (which is pretty convenient). It's what I currently use and it's not broken by any means, so if that's standard practice then I can keep doing it.

However, I really wanted Option 2 to work though because when practicing you get everything to sound just right to your ears, and it'd be nice to be able to convert that directly to a recording. For instance, I sometimes practice on a mini-amp and I love the lo-fi/garage rock sound, especially when practicing Strokes songs. It sounds perfect to my ears, but I know that if I put the mic to it, it'll sound bad.

Is there a trick I'm missing to recording? Do I need a better quality microphone? How do I get rid of the picking sounds?

Note: I can't really turn the amp up any louder since I have roommates :( so if that's the only solution then I'll just have to stick with the digital methods

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    In your Option 2, it sounds like the mic is out in the room, not right on the speaker grille, where it should be. Sounds really boomy and roomy, not tight and focused. And I'm not hearing any picking sounds, but at 0:11 I do hear what sounds like someone stomping on the footswitch of a pedal. That shouldn't be audible if your mic placement is right. Apr 19 at 22:19
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    Are you certain you had the front of the mic capsule pointed toward the amp and not backwards? If you had things set up correctly, there's no way it should sound like your sample. Apr 19 at 22:54
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    @DataProcessing I looked up the response of the microphone and it's a cardioid, which means even though the microphone looks symmetric, there is indeed a front and a back... oops. I didn't take that into account and just made sure one of the faces was up against the amp. It's entirely possible (and kinda likely) that the mic was facing the wrong way...
    – rcplusplus
    Apr 19 at 23:16
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    The trick to recording is that it’s a skill just as complicated as playing guitar and it takes just as many years of daily practice to learn to do it well. The other trick is that the cheapest gear usually sounds like it’s the cheapest. Apr 20 at 0:36
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    You really do need someone in an isolate booth who can hear what's going on as you change mic positions and so on. Or make notes of several scenarios, record on each, and carefully listen to them all. There's no advice that will replace a great ear and a WHOLE LOT of experimentation. Even experts take HOURS and HOURS setting up mics for a recording session. Apr 20 at 0:45
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Option 2 is the traditional way and would still be considered the “proper” one by many engineers. Obviously though, the Frontman isn't exactly a boutique amp, so you shouldn't be surprised if this doesn't give results that are as good as what you hear on professional records. To go the amp route you should

  • Have an amp whose sound you really like. Typically that would mean all-tube with a nice cabinet, what exactly depends of course on the genre.
  • Run it without digital pre-simulation. If you use a digital multi-FX, make sure that it simulates only stuff that could also be done with analogue stompboxes, but in particular no cabinet emulation.
  • Use a room with good acoustics. Actually this isn't so critical for guitar amp as it is for other situations, but it's important that the room doesn't have weird resonant reflections. What tends to work well is acoustically “dead” rooms, for example a crammed guest bedroom in the attic. Reverb can be added later on.
  • Turn it up loud. Practice volume is no use here, you want a master volume near the amp's limit to both get the right sound and reduce parasitic noise.
    Note that it isn't so much the absolute volume that matters but the local volume at the mic'd speaker, and the fact that all parts of the amp are actually driven to near-saturation, to unfold its full sound complexity. That's why very small all-tube amps make a lot of sense for recording.
  • Mic it well. There's no single right way to do this, but certainly pointing a cardoid mic in the wrong direction is rather questionable...

If you can't achieve all of this, then you're nowadays likely to get better results by digital emulation. That doesn't mean the amp is worthless, but it should be understood as just a monitor to get the playing right with no latency issues. But what you actually record should be the direct guitar signal before amp. You could record through the Boss with cabinet emulation, but I wouldn't recommend it – modern amp-sim DAW plugins are generally better and you have more flexibility tweaking the sound during mixing instead of tracking. So better just split off the signal before the amp with a DI box (make sure it's a high-impedance active one) and record that. Then use amp simulation in the computer to get the final sound.

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All 3 at once.

  • Mic'd amp because you know how it sounds and what you record is what you get
  • DI'd signal so you have something to re-amp if you don't like #1
  • GT-6 because why not?

Then at mix time you can work with a blend of the 3 to achieve whatever you want.

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  • out of curiosity, is this a common tactic with home recording and/or studio recording? Also, how do I get the signal to go across multiple routes like that? Do I just looks for a signal splitter device?
    – rcplusplus
    Apr 20 at 17:31
  • I have an interface (stealth pedal) that has two mono instrument inputs. The chain could be: guitar > Y-splitter > one branch off Y to one input on interface; 2nd Y branch to amp with mic > (preamp) > 2nd interface input. Two separate tracks: arm DI on one; arm mic on the other. Hit record.
    – Yorik
    Apr 20 at 20:38
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There is no such thing as the 'true' sound of an electric guitar. You've described three valid methods of recording yours.

Direct connection plus Garageband effects gives a pleasing result? Good.

A cheap microphone that looks designed to flatter close-miced vocals was less successful. OK. Maybe it overloaded. Maybe you should point it at a different part of of the speaker cone, from a different distance. Maybe you had it pointing the wrong way! Maybe it's just the wrong mic. A SM57 is traditional for this job. Carry on experimenting.

There's a third option that you haven't tried yet. Exciting!

Obviously if you CAN get a useful result without deafening the neighbours, that's a plus! I don't know if there's much point in miking a guitar amp unless it's working pretty hard.

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