For a long time we’ve been saying we would record Drongo Sealion Magic, which was a band we put together earlier this year. Due to the complexity of the song, we thought it would be best to record the parts at home in our own time. I did, however, really want to use my Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, which is quite a loud valve amp, something which doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with home recording.
So, I needed a way to record it, at relatively low volume, whilst still getting good tone so that it was worth it over using something like Guitar Rig or my Line6 Pod. And I managed it! This is how:
- I found the “sweet spot” – I turned the amp on and cranked the volume with nothing plugged in. The sweet spot is the spot on the speaker that hums the most in this situation. For me (on my Engl vertical 2×12) this was on the very edge of the inner cone of the speaker. I placed the main microphone (a Shure PG57 – an SM57 would have given better results, but this was all I had at hand) about a centimeter or two from the grill with the center of the mic pointing at the sweet spot.
- I built a triangle of duvets and pillows around the cabinet. This stops a lot of the volume coming out, though obviously the bass frequencies still get through quite well. It should, however, keep most neighbours happy in short recording sessions.
- I placed a condenser mic at the apex of the triangle, however didn’t end up using that feed.
Now that the cab was mic’d up, it was just the task of playing it. This is your big chance to make or break the tone. Some people will double track the guitars to beef up the sound (this, obviously, requires you to play pretty much the exact same thing twice, which shouldn’t be too hard if you know the piece well enough). I took this a little step further, by using two different sounds and two different guitars for the tracks. The incentive for this is that a high gain sound will sound massively beefy, but a lower gain sound will give you the tightness. I had the ability to use two guitars, my Maverick Species 7 String and my Ibanez RG1527 7 String, which have very different sounds. The Maverick, being neck-thru and string-thru with higher gain pickups, gives a very high gain, loose sound. The Ibanez on the other hand gives a tighter sound. So, to find middle ground, I used the Maverick with the lower gain, tighter sound, and the Ibanez with the higher gain, looser sound.
The recordings will be available soon, but in it’s current (unmixed, uneq’d, uncompressed, unmastered) form, it sounds fantastic! I can recommend this technique to anyone wishing to record their valve amps at home.