Here at Sig Sound, several of us have been experimenting with a guitar recording technique called “re-amping,” and we thought we’d share our experience with you.
What is re-amping? To explain it best, we have to take a look at how electric guitar sound is traditionally recorded.
Rock, metal, punk, and a whole plethora of other genres rely heavily on the use of amp distortion. Overdriven, crunchy, destructive-sounding guitars that ring out from the depths of hell are what we know and love. The question we’ve been asking ourselves is, “How do we get the grungiest, deadliest, most apocalyptic, best sound we can?” Usually, the answer is simple; mic the amp. An SM57 or equally rugged dynamic microphone should do the trick. But what if you decide later that you don’t like the sound of your amp? Aside from EQing, there’s not a whole lot you can do once it’s been recorded. We’ve stumbled upon the solution. Re-amping.
First, you’ll need to record the raw guitar sound straight into the mixing board. You’ll be taking the sound directly from the guitar pickups. That way, you won’t have to worry about having your guitarist replay all of those tracks through a different amp if you decide you don’t like his amp; the recording becomes the instrument. Instruments like guitars and keyboards operate at different impedances than microphones and outboard gear. Because of this, you’ll need a DI (direct injection) box to convert the high-impedance, unbalanced guitar signal into the low-impedance, balanced signal that the mixer board normally takes from mic inputs. Once all of your guitar parts are recorded, you’ll need to take the output signal from the board and change it back to instrument levels so it can be used by the amp. This can be accomplished either by purchasing a “reverse DI” (recommended) or by taking the low-impedance output from the board directly into the amp (cheaper). The problem with the latter is that it can, in rare instances, overdrive the amp and lead to feedback. In some cases, people have blown out their equipment because they didn’t match voltage/impedance. Whichever way you decide, all you have to do now is mic the amp and hit record.
It’s a pretty simple concept, right? But you’re not limited to just guitars; signal is signal. The amp doesn’t care what’s going through it. Try sending a vocal, drum, or synth track through the amp using this technique. Experiment with different sounds and play around with different amps and settings. You’d be surprised with what you can create.