Worship guitar players spend untold sums on their rigs in their quest for the ever-elusive perfect tone. With the help of the sound team, ideally with each passing Sunday we move a step closer to capturing that tone in the framework of a worship service. Capturing that sound in the recording studio is an entirely different journey, and that is what this article is all about.
Earlier this week I got a somewhat frantic call from a guitar-playing buddy whose worship team was headed into their Music Pastor’s home studio to record. Like so many of us, my friend has invested a lot of time and money building a rig that works well at his church. Making the jump from filling the room with that sound at church and reproducing that sound in the studio was something he was excited about doing, but just didn’t know where to start. Once you’ve started the “for real” recording process is a bad time to discover you don’t like your sound as much as you thought you did. Here are some suggested steps for getting guitar tracks that sound just as good as they feel!
Even if it is just on your smart phone, running through your parts from start to finish with a metronome / click track will do a lot to get you ready to play your parts. That said, this mission is about more than just nailing your parts in the studio. As I mentioned above, the studio is a bad place to discover your tone isn’t quite as cool as you thought it was.
The Reamp is a device a lot of studios use to take a “raw” guitar performance captured directly into a DAW (digital audio workstation) and run that signal back out into an amp or modeling device. This approach allows you fine tune the guitar sound for each song over the course of a project, much like you have crafted your tone around the sound of your team. That said, learning how to capture your sound in the privacy of your own home will do a lot to take your recording project to the next level.
To capture the sound of your guitar into your computer you’re going to need an audio interface. Generally speaking, you can break audio interfaces down into the kind of connection you’ll be using with your computer: Thunderbolt, FireWire, USB and PCI. Unlike formats like Thunderbolt, USB is platform independent and is a great place to start. The first step in my research journey almost always starts with a search at Sweetwater.com where you can sort the results by what is most popular. This approach is exactly what lead me to suggest the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 to my friend. I have a higher end Focusrite mic pre that has become an integral part of my studio, so for me this is a trusted brand. What makes this particular interface even more exciting is that it comes bundled with an entry level version of Pro Tools, and for $149.99, this combination is pretty hard to beat! If you’re using a device like an HD500X (from Line 6) you’ll be ready to start recording right away. If you’re using an amp, you’ll need a mic.
Chances are you church owns an SM57 that you might be able to borrow between services. Regardless, this is the mic I’d suggest starting with if you’re looking to capture your live sound in the studio. Start by placing the mic an inch or less away from your cabinet at a 90-degree angle, focusing it at the edge of the circular dust cap in the center of your speaker. This is a great place to start, and you can move the mic around until you find that sweet spot that sounds most like what you’re hearing in the room. Don’t forget that the mic hears what is actually coming out of your amp at speaker level, which is why elevating your amp can be a big help.
The Direct-Sound EX-29 Isolating Headphones are perfect for recording guitar in your home studio. The isolation is key to eliminating bleed from the room into your headphones as you fine-tune your mic placement. This isolation also prevents your click track from bleeding out of your phones into your mic or acoustic guitar tracks.
Hope this gives you some good food for though – happy tracking!