Hi, you're in the studio with Luke from GuitarIQ.com. Welcome to Guitar iQ&A, where you send in your burning guitar questions and I do my best to answer them! Today's question comes in from Blake, who writes:
"Hi Luke, I own two of your books, both of which have been very helpful. I just watched one of your YouTube videos on recording guitars and would like to know if you can share the equipment and software you use? If you are willing, please let me know."
Well Blake, I'm more than happy to walk you through how I record guitars! Because the way I record is quite specific to my own setup, I thought it might me best to answer your question in 3 parts. First, I'll show you a few of my old favourites in terms of guitar software. Then, I'll tell you what I'd look at right now if I wanted to purchase an amp simulator in 2018. And lastly, I'll walk you through how I personally record guitars. So, let's jump into the computer and check it out!
Okay, so here we are inside of Logic Pro X. If you're familiar with Logic or GarageBand you'll know that they come with their own inbuilt guitar software. Personally though, I preferred to use a few 3rd party options for doing things like demos, backing tracks, and audio examples for my books. First up, this is CLA Guitars by Waves. It’s really simple to use. You just plug your guitar directly into your interface and you can choose from 3 amp settings: clean, crunch, and heavy. You then can easily adjust the eq, compression, reverb, delay, and chorus settings from there. There's no searching through menus, you don't need to spend hours tweaking settings, and best of all—given that Waves always seem to have some kind of sale going on—you can usually pick this up pretty cheap. I've seen it as low as $29 in the past, so for that kind of money you can't really go wrong!
Next up, we have a few options from Softube. On the left is their Vintage Amp Room and on the right is their Metal Amp Room. While these are a little more involved than the plugin from Waves, they're still very simple and intuitive to use. Vintage Amp Room gives you 3 different Amp options for vintage Marshall, Fender, and Vox-style sounds. While Metal Amp Room offers a few options for more modern high-gain sounding tones. I like that what you see is kind of what you get here and that you don't need to spend hours tweaking to get a tone you like. But you are limited to just these amps and microphones and there are no additional effects like delay, modulation, or reverb. So, again, if you can find these on sale, they're definitely worth checking out. At full price, however, you're in the realm of some other alternatives that might give you a bit more bang for your buck.
So having looked at some of my go-to options in the past, if I was needing new amp software right now in early 2018, what would I get? Well, I'd probably narrow it down to 2 options. On the left we have the Helix Native plugin by Line 6 and on the right we have the Bias Amp 2 plugin by Positive Grid. Now, it must be said that I don't currently own or use either of these products. However, based on what's recently been released, the reviews I've seen, and the sound clips I've heard, these would probably be the two options I'd be looking at right now. Admittedly, Helix Native is very pricey but it does give you access to the same ecosystem that's in their hardware units—without actually having to buy one of their hardware units. Bias Amp 2 on the other hand is an entirely different beast. It allows you to completely customize different elements of your guitar amp like the tubes, the transformers, the speakers, and so on. You can tweak until your heart’s content! Given that Bias Amp 2 is cheaper and that it offers a few different pricing tiers, that makes it pretty hard to beat. Don't take my word for it! Both of these currently offer a free trial period. So download them, do your own comparison, and see which one you like!
Now having covered all of that, I want to briefly explain my personal approach to recording guitars. I don't use an amp simulator but I do use a combination of software and hardware to capture my guitar tones. My main amp is a Mesa TA-15 head which I run into a Suhr Reactive Load. This transforms my amps signal into something that my audio interface can understand. The only thing I'm simulating digitally when recording is the guitar cabinet. There are a number of companies that produce high-quality impulse responses that allow you to do this very effectively. I can't speak highly enough of this method for recording guitars. Like amp sims, you can record at any volume. You don't have to muck around with setting up microphones or deal with the problem of having a blaring guitar cabinet in the same space you're trying to record in. But unlike a digital simulation, you get the real sound a feel of your own guitar amp. And the results are fantastic!
So, given this is my current preference, why did I cover various other options for recording guitars in this video? Well, compared to using an amp simulator, this is a more complicated and expensive way to capture your guitar tones. It assumes that you have a nice sounding guitar amp to begin with. It also requires that you purchase a loadbox, preferably a reactive loadbox, in order to make this work. So if you only record casually, you may not want to go to all of that trouble. However, if you're really serious about recording guitars this method is definitely something that I'd recommend looking at.
Well, that's it from me. If you found this video helpful, please like and subscribe. I know that I only briefly covered my approach to recording guitars, so if you're interested let me know in the comments and I'll do a more in depth video on how it all works. If you'd like to check out my guitar books, be sure to head over to the website, GuitarIQ.com. And last of all, if you have a question that you'd like answered just leave it in the comments or head over to the Q&A tab on our website and you might find your question featured in a video! All the best in the practice room this week. Chat soon!