Recording guitar is possibly the second most common use for an audio interface, behind recording vocals. So, following our recent vocal recording guide, here’s how to get started recording guitar with a Universal Audio Volt interface.
There are many different ways to approach recording guitar, but we’ll be focusing on two of the most popular approaches: recording acoustic guitar with a microphone, and recording electric guitar direct using software amp emulation.
Many acoustic guitars have a pickup built in so you can simply plug them into a Volt interface and record direct. Unfortunately, this usually sounds pretty bad as these types of pickups usually don’t do a great job of capturing the natural sound of an acoustic guitar. They’re very convenient, especially for a live performance, but definitely not the best option for recording.
The easiest way to achieve a natural recorded acoustic guitar sound is to simply place a microphone in front of it. A popular choice is a large-diaphragm condenser mic, just like you’d use to record vocals. Some prefer the sound of a small diaphragm condenser mic but this really comes down to personal preference. If you already own a condenser mic for recording vocals, chances are this will work just fine for acoustic guitar as well.
Keep in mind that condenser microphones do require phantom power, so make sure 48v phantom power is engaged on your Volt’s mic preamp when using this type of mic.
If you happen to own a variety of microphones, you might like to experiment with stereo recording using multiple mics, although you do need to be careful about phase in these situations. Check out Universal Audio’s article on phase if stereo mic recording is something you’re interested in. https://www.uaudio.com/blog/understanding-audio-phase
When it comes to microphone placement, there’s plenty of room for experimentation so just find a position that sounds good to you. Typically the mic will be about a foot from the guitar, in line with the neck and sound hole. Pointing the mic towards the sound hole can achieve a fuller, warmer sound, or a more detailed sound can be achieved by pointing the mic towards the neck.
The further away from the guitar, your mic is, the more of the room you’ll hear. If you’re in a really nice sounding room with natural reverb, this can be a good thing. Or keep the mic closer to the guitar for a more dry, direct sound.
Vintage preamp mode can really help achieve that classic studio sound and more often than not, acoustic guitars will benefit from this bit of extra character. There are a lot of variables however like the guitar being used, the type of strings, playing style etc. which can all affect the overall sound, so it’s impossible to say whether or not Vintage Preamp mode will not always be the best option.
Part of what makes an acoustic guitar so effective is the jumps in volume of when the pick hits the strings. These spikes in level are called transients and can really add to the rhythm and momentum of the song. The level does drop pretty quickly after these transients though so it’s easy for the sound to get lost in the mix.
Volt’s guitar compressor preset has a slower attack time so the compression doesn’t kick in immediately. This helps bring out the quieter parts of the sound, without ruining the louder parts, so it’s almost always your best choice for recording acoustic guitars.
With experience, you may be able to decide ahead of time which compressor preset will be most effective for any given situation, but with acoustic guitars, it’s hard to go wrong this the guitar preset.
As mentioned in our vocal recording article, direct monitoring is helpful to avoid latency while recording. Check out that article to learn how to use Volt’s different Direct Monitor modes: https://noisegate.com.au/recording-vocals-with-uas-volt-audio-interface/
Unlike acoustic guitars, electric guitars are designed to plug into a guitar amp. The amp is largely responsible for shaping the sound, and the best way to record the sound of an amp is to put a microphone in front of the speaker. Sounds simple enough, but one of the biggest challenges is volume. Guitar amps usually sound best when they’re turned up loud, so unless you have very understanding neighbours or housemates, this isn’t always practical.
Fortunately, software amp simulation is extremely effective these days so you’ll more than likely be happy with the results achieved from recording electric guitar direct, with no microphone required. Just switch your Volt’s input to instrument mode, and plug your guitar straight in.
You’ll also want to disable direct monitoring when using software amp simulation and monitor via your DAW, otherwise, you’ll hear the dry sound of the guitar mixed in with the amp sound. Again be sure to check out our previous video on vocal recording to learn more about software monitoring and ways to minimize latency. https://noisegate.com.au/recording-vocals-with-uas-volt-audio-interface/
The included Marshall Plexi amp by Softube sounds great for anything from bright clear tones, to crunchy leads, to heavy riffing. And you can really spice things up using the effect plugins from the Time and Tone bundle, such as Tube Delay and Saturation.
The effect of Vintage Preamp Mode is going to be pretty subtle when using amp simulation, but definitely worth experimenting with, especially for cleaner parts.
The same goes for compression. The higher gain your amp sound, the more compression will naturally occur, but for cleaner tones, compression can really help shape the sound. The guitar compressor preset with its slower attach time can add a lot of punch and weight to your sound, which will also help the guitar to cut through the mix.