So, you’ve decided you’d like to try recording a live amp? These days, a lot more people are familiar with the recording process compared to 20 or so years ago. The funny thing is, a lot of us (myself included) started off recording on digital amp processors/stomp boxes, rather than simply micing a guitar cabinet. While throwing a mic in front of a speaker seems like a fairly simple task, there is a bit more to it than meets the eye (or the ear….).

So today, I’m going to go over a few small tips that can help you when you’re first starting off micing a guitar cabinet!

1. Microphone Choice

Microphone choice is crucial to the overall sound that you’ll end up with. There are three main categories of microphones:

Dynamic: Dynamic microphones are by far the most popular choice of microphone for a guitar cabinet. A simple explanation for this is that dynamic microphones just aren’t overly sensitive. The most popular microphone in this category is the Shure SM57. It could be mostly out of old habit that big name producers still use these, but a massive benefit of the SM57 is that it does some of the EQ for you! It has a nice roll off around 200hz to cut out airy booming from the cabinet, which makes room for the kick drum and bass guitar. It also has some other small cuts that take out a lot of muddiness in a guitar. On top of these features, the SM57 is also extremely affordable (~$100). This is why it’s the most popular guitar microphone out there.

Condenser: This type is less popular, but still used plenty! The biggest issue with a condenser is how sensitive the microphone is. A guitar cabinet is often too loud for the microphone to handle. There are ways around this (one of which we will discuss later) and some producers prefer the sound of a condenser to a dynamic mic.

Because of the extra sensitivity of a condenser, some producers will actually use it as a secondary mic to the dynamic one and place it further back from the cab. This can help pick up some extra little nuances that the dynamic mic doesn’t grab.

Nice condensers can get really expensive, one of the most famous being the Nuemann U87, which can run you upwards of $3200. There are many affordable options on the market though!

Ribbon: Ribbon mics are most popular for multi-cab setups. They have the ability to pick up sound that is directly in front of them (or directly behind), but ignore everything on the sides. Ribbon mics are sometimes considered some of the ‘smoothest’ sounding mics for guitar, probably due to the fact that their construction usually avoids high frequency noises. Overall, ribbon mics are probably the least used of the 3, but are still a very viable option. Many massive producers swear by them.

One of the most popular of these is the Beyer M160, which will run you about $700.

2. Placement is Key

Mic placement is going to be one of those things that you will have to practice and painfully tweak until you find a sound that works for you. There are definitely some small guidelines you can use to help get the sound you want though!

  • Pointing the microphone directly at the center of the speaker will generally give you a brighter sound.
  • Angling the microphone towards the speaker rather than straight on will be on the warmer side.
  • The closer you put the mic to the speaker, the less of the cabinet’s sound and room sound you will hear. Simply put, if you put it close enough, you will remove any natural resonance. The farther you put it, the more resonance and natural room sound you’ll get. There’s no “correct” distance, but try at about 6-10 inches for a good starting point, and then adjust to your liking.

3. Extra Padding

This is particularly handy if you are using a condenser mic.

Some condensers and many interfaces have a ‘Pad’ button or switch. A pad is essentially an attenuator that lowers the gain by about 10dBs. This is handy if the sound levels are just too much for the microphone and it’s coming through too noisy or distorted. Try this out to help clean up your signal if it becomes overbearing.

4. Speakers

One of the most underrated factors of guitar tone is speaker choice. I don’t know why, but I have heard so many guitarists say “I don’t really know”, when asked about the speakers in their cabinet.

There are many options out there and they all have their own special tonal characteristics.

Some producers will actually have cabinets built (or modified) with different combinations of speakers so that they have more options for micing. Not only do different speakers make a difference, but sometimes speaker location might make a difference too. In a 4×12 cabinet, the top speakers often sound slightly different from the bottom ones. I’d definitely urge you to not skip this step and instead experiment to find what you like best.

5. Play Pretend

Like I said before, many of us (including myself) have started in the digital world of recording before even touching a microphone. If you fall into this category, I would definitely recommend grabbing an amp simulator that allows you to adjust microphones, cabinets, and even mic placement.

(Amplitube is a really great option for this.)

Amplitube 3

You can use this to try many different kinds of mics, speakers, and methods of placement without the struggle of having to purchase the microphones and then having to physically set everything up. Obviously, this isn’t perfect, but it’s a really great way to practice and do some testing before going out and spending a bunch on a microphone without having a clue what to do!

Once you have learned to mic a cabinet properly and aren’t sure where to go from there, be sure to check out our 5 Tips for Guitar Mixing and learn some extra tips that can help make your guitar tracks sound even better!

Hopefully this was helpful, or at least interesting! If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some more. We upload articles, review, guides, and more every day!

This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.

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