Using an amp simulator has become one of the simplest parts of the recording process for a lot of people, mostly because the User Interface is spot on with what you’d see in real life. Instead of something like a synthesizer with dozens of controls, you’re not nearly as likely to see something more complex in an amp sim than your standard guitar rig. But for the guitar freaks that are looking to take their sound to the next level, here are a few tweaks and quirks to get you moving in the right direction:
Use Gain Staging to Your Advantage
Have you ever listened to your raw guitar DI and thought “Wow, that sounds like shit”? There’s nothing special about a completely clean guitar running into your DAW. It’s spiky with virtually no compression and can buzz incessantly if you’re recording too hot.
Dial it back. Don’t worry about getting the loudest signal into the DAW, because your amp sim isn’t going to like the incoming clipped guitar anymore than you did. On a live amp, you get to let the amp/effects compress for you. The tubes, distortions, and speakers all ease the signal along in an enjoyable way, and any amp sim worth having is going to take that same approach.
Leave yourself that room to crank the gain to eleven. Following this one technique let’s you treat the “after” signal the same as you would a real amp – making you a better, well-rounded mixer when you’re tracking the real thing.
Create Space with Different Microphones
Just like with drum tones, a lot of your guitar tone can depend on the microphone(s) it’s recorded with. When going straight into the box, too many producers are quick to overlook this step.
Depending on the tone you’re going for, you’ll want to be picky with your microphone selections. An SM57 or dynamic alternative is a great starting point for nearly all guitar tones, but something like a large-diaphragm condenser mic might be just the tool you need to give your tone that extra “sheen” without having to reach for an EQ.
Take a Hybrid Approach
Have you been avoiding recording your guitars in-the-box because you just can’t find the sound you’re looking for? Maybe you’ve got a few pedals that just can’t be matched with the amp sims you’ve tried.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong recording those pedals as part of your guitar chain into your interface.
Especially with effects that create a sense of heavy modulation (chorus, flange, phasers), many guitarists swear by their pedals. As long as you’re comfortable committing to those sounds early on, you can commit to them and use your amp sim for it’s main feature: the amp!
Have Your Own Tweak?
I always love hearing from Toneforge users when they find a cool new way to tweak their guitar tones using our plugins. If you’ve got something you do differently than everyone else, or something you think might help others with their own recordings, shoot me a message or share it with us over on Facebook!