Recording an EP: electric guitar

This is where the fun really started for me. I’ve been a massive fan of electric guitars since before my teens. When I heard Guns N Roses’ seminal debut album Appetite for Destruction it changed my life. The combination of an electric guitar and an amplifier can produce mind-blowing sounds. Those sounds captivated me as a boy and I’ve been addicted ever since.

The lion’s share of the recording was done using my Gretsch Duo Jet, similar to the iconic guitar used by George Harrison extensively with The Beatles in the early 1960s. I bought the guitar second hand from a store in Hobart (Tasmania) during the 6-months I spent living out there. Keeping with the 1960s theme, most of the lead guitar parts were recorded with a 1967 Fender Stratocaster replica. We ran the electric guitar simultaneously into a couple of different amplifiers, both based on Fender amps designed during the 1950s (“Tweed“) and 1960s (“Blackface“). It’s pretty crazy to think that the electric guitars and amplifiers we used are essentially the same as bands were using in the 1960s!

Matt recording with his 1967 replica Fender Stratocaster electric guitar
Matt recording with his replica ’67 Fender Stratocaster

Why did you use two amplifiers? It’s fairly common practice these days to use a couple of different amplifiers when recording electric guitar. The idea is that two can combine to give a fuller sound than using a single amplifier, and you also have more options when it comes to mixing (one amplifier might sound better in the context of the other music going on). It was a lot of fun to play through two amps and the sound in the room was MASSIVE! For each amp, we used both a dynamic and a condenser microphone close to the speaker, with a final condenser mic further back to capture the room sound from both amps.

One thing to be aware of when using microphones at different distances from a sound source is the potential for phasing issues. Basically, problems can arise due to small differences in the timing at which the sound hits each microphone – something to be aware of if you’re recording with more than one mic. [sad anecdote: in a previous band, three days in a recording studio were ruined because the “engineer” hadn’t been careful enough with drum mic placement. The final sound was severely compromised when we had to drop out the drum overhead microphones].

What are your highlights from the electric guitar sessions? There’s a few things on the record I’m really proud of. One examples is the wah-pedal lead guitar part on The Flood, which turns into some cool feedback during the last section the song. I love the sound of slide (a.k.a. “bottleneck”) guitar and it was great to get some of that style of playing down for the middle section of Politic Blues. I was really pleased with the electric guitar tone we got for Chasing Butterflies and the interplay between the electric and acoustic parts is definitely a highlight. That song also features some of my most expressive lead playing, inspired by John Mayer and Chris Buck in particular.

Peavey Classic 20 guitar amplifier (left) and Beer MP20H guitar amplifier (right) both with Zilla custom made speaker cabinets
Peavey Classic 20 “Tweed” amplifier (left) and Beer MP-20RH “Blackface” amplifier (right) both with Zilla custom made speaker cabinets. And a lot of microphones!

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