It doesn’t always happen that we have both a fun time in the studio and a productive time in the studio, although the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Case in point would be last night’s recording session. We were recording guitars and aside from a headache I got from laughing so much, I think we’ve locked in a great new method for recording massive guitar tone.
Colin has named it “The Triple Hog.” It’s really a hybrid of two recording techniques.
The first technique is one I discovered while watching Zach Wylde’s DVD of behind the scenes while recording Black Label Society’s The Order Of The Black. He does multi-layering of guitar tracks using multiple microphones on each layer, then he blends the layers together.
The second technique was a guitar recording tip Colin read in Mix magazine. Record two tracks of guitar, pan them right/left then a third clean track up the middle and barely audible.
Here’s what you get when you put them all together:
How to Record Massive Guitar Tone Using Jagged Spiral’s “Triple Hog” Method
First, get your guitar tone set up in the room the way you want it. Then mic one cone of the amp with at least two different microphone. Microphone selection and placement is an art form in itself and everyone has their preferences, but I used a Shure SM-57 and a MXL 990 (which you can get packaged with a 991 for dirt cheap.) The 990 is a vocal mic, but it has a nice, clear sound which mixed with the SM-57 well, not to mention it was the only other mic I had in the studio at the time. Mix and match. Try and listen. You might need to play with EQ, levels and placement of the microphones to get something you like. Just make sure to mic the same speaker cone with all the mics you use.
Now, record Guitar Take 1. You’ll end up with one track from each microphone. Pan all these tracks hard left.
Then record Guitar Take 2. Don’t change any settings and don’t move the mics. Have the guitarist play the take the same way they just did. Try to keep the second take tight as you can to the first take. Pan all these tracks hard right.
Now, turn off all distortion and effects in the guitar chain. Then record a third “clean” take. It will sound awful. You won’t like it. That’s OK, because you really won’t hear it when you’re done. You can probably use a single mic to record this clean track, but we used both. Either way, you get one more track for each microphone you’re using. Keep these tracks panned in the center.
When you’re done, the guitarist will be happy because half your project is made up of guitar tracks. You’re drummer will be pissed because there’s more guitar tracks for one guitar than were used to record the entire drum set. Its a good idea to have something on hand to calm everyone’s nerves. We used Newcastle.
Now it’s time to tame the hog.
The secret’s in the mix
Fade the clean tracks until they get lost beneath the left and right tracks, then bring them back up just enough to ‘glue’ the left and right tracks together. Mute and Unmute the clean tracks to hear the difference. You should hear a pulling together of the left and right tracks.
Bam, you’re a superstar! Make sure to double-check your finished product in mono.
You can try to cheat this method by cloning the guitar tracks and using effects like phasing or small delays on one side to get a wider sound. While this works, I think it sounds more processed and less organic than playing separate takes. The sound we get from the Triple Hog method sounds big, bright, and punchy, but not overprocessed.
You can use variations of this method. We previously recorded the left and right tracks as shown above, but panned them about 75% to each side, leaving some overlap, and we did not record a clean center track. This method gave us a nice sound, but we all agree the Triple Hog sounds better. I’ve heard of using an acoustic guitar as the clean track, never tried it, but who knows? You could even use a synth or other instrument as the glue to pull the left and right tracks together. Whatever works, right? If you have ideas or suggestions, drop them in the comments below.
Bonus Recording Tip:
Six guitar tracks is a lot for a single guitar sound. Leveling and adjusting all those tracks can be a real time-suck. If you can do signal routing with your recording setup, I find it helps to move all the guitar tracks to output to a single bus, then send that bus to the master output. Then you can adjust effects, level, mute, solo, etc on that bus like it was a single guitar track.