I usually hear about doing a record with guitar amp and FX modeling plug-ins is the wrong way to a poor, fluffy and flat sound, without harmonics. But it´s not true!
First thing we have to do is to forget about adding a VST Plug-in and pretend to have the job done. It’s much more laborious.
This particular subject is extensive and involves many variables and if we work and develop each of these variables we can achieve completely different results.
It’s important to consider what kind of sound chain we will develop and also be clear about what sound changes each of these steps does.
First of all, we have to record the guitar line with a great quality. For this job is very important what kind of preamp are we going to use. I recommend recording a “dry” line, without any fx. This process is frequently done with the API 512c (a preamp designed to provide a low noise), but I personally use the Focusritte Isa One with great results. It’s true that if we are going to use 100% of amp modeling and FX plug-ins the quality of the dry line we record through the preamp is crucial and determines the depth, dynamics and harmonics that can be achieved using the VST.
Why, recording the dry line of the guitar, is so important?
If we are looking for a complete and great sound, it’s necessary to use the re-amplification technique. What is this technique about? This process allows recording the guitar through a wide number of pedals, amps and cabinets but without having to play the guitar for each take. The reamplification consist on sending the same recorded take to different process and then unite them in parallel. If I record 2 or more times the same guitar idea or riff, I’ll be creating a chorus feeling. This happened because it’s not the same wave shape; the different takes will have different tuning, timing and dynamics. This will make it sound bigger, but also messy.
But I’m not looking for a chorus feeling. What I want is a solo guitar with strong and big sound and we will be achieving this though the parallel process of the same sound source (guitar take).
This is the main topic of this recording technique. We have to be able to recognize the difference between the parallel audio signal process and the serial. Working the audio signal in a serial way (through inserts), makes it change and transforms it in a way that the original sound is no longer available. In this process the sequence of the inserts is very important. For example, if I do a guitar recording and then I first apply a reverb and then a distortion, I’ll be distorting the reverb and this will give us an unnatural sound, because it’s usually used in the other way (first the distortion and then the reverb).
But if I work the audio signal in a parallel way I could send the signal to different tracks and apply different FX to each track, but the sound source will be the same guitar take. Then I will have the same number of sends I’d done, summing the audio signal at the end of the sound chain. Each process will be affecting the original audio signal without affecting each other. For example, I could send a clean guitar take to 3 different channels : 1) with a reverb, 2) with a chorus and 3) with a Delay. And I will hear the 4 sounds summing into 1 sound. (just like the flute and the oboe does on the orchestra).
A guitar amplification sound chain has:
- The dry guitar recording/take.
Now, if we ramify the signal, we can get a lot of pedals, amps and cabinets sounding at the same time with the same guitar take, creating a wall of sound.
This technique is commonly used in rock, hard rock and heavy metal productions.
Now that we have discussed the basics of the reamplification technique, we can go to practice.
If you need professional VST plugins, check here GTR3 – Guitar Amp Bundle VST Plugins by Waves
Also read How To Record Electric Guitar (by Alan Steward)