Recording Trouble

Hey guys! Lately I’ve been really getting frustrated over recording, and I’d love to hear some tips.

So for some background: I haven’t really recorded anything seriously, besides just messing around in Reaper. I want to start getting some covers/originals out there, so I’m really just starting to delve into home studio work. In terms of setup, I got an SM57 mic’d up to a 4x12 with v30s in it. The mic is then going to a Scarlett 2i2, and then finally to my PC/Reaper.

Yet, the sound is awful.

And by awful, I mean really awful.

That’s what’s so frustrating for me. I hear my playing with my own ears, and I love the tone. I put it on video, and nothing sounds wrong. Yet, once I start recording on Reaper, everything falls apart. It’s like I lose all of my skills and sound like a beginner playing through a Mustang IV clean channel with excessive overdrive.

For you recording veterans out there, did you ever have the same issue early on? What are some tips on improving my sound in a DAW? Whether it’s mic placement, an EQ issue, or even taking into account the fact that mistakes are a LOT more noticeable on the recording.

I really want to keep building my recording skills, and I’d appreciate all kinds of feedback/tips from you guys. Thanks!

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Do you mean physically falling apart, as if you lose your technical skills?

It might just be a case of red light syndrome. You get over it by getting in front of it so to speak. I used to have that really bad, so then I just kept my phone camera running as often as I could, and if that wasn’t possible, I left my DAW open and recorded everything. The added benefit was having the ability to go back and listen to what worked and what didn’t.


I don’t have experience in recording with real gear (I only use amp simulators) - but I am aware that miking up a cabinet is nontrivial business!

For example, the sound of “an amp in a room” - which is what reaches your ears when you practice, is completely different from the sound recorded through a mic placed in front of the speaker.

I am told Glenn Fricker has some tutorials on this on youtube, and also Kristian Kohle Kohlmannslehner has a great channel on rock/metal recording techniques. I am not sure all their stuff is free but worth having a look!

EDIT: another interesting possibility is to ditch your cabinet and instead use Impulse Responses (IRs). You’d need a device like a Suhr load box to send the output of your amp head into your PC. Then the last stage of the amping process (the cabinet + mic part) is done virtually in your DAW with an impulse response loader. Nowadays the results you can get are amazing, many developers make impulse responses that are pretty much indistinguishable from the real thing.

EDIT: I think @Peter_C uses the latter technique and may be able to advise further :slight_smile:


In general, are you talking about playing mistakes while recording or just the recorded guitar tone? Do you have other instruments in the mix?

You could test by recording both video and audio at the same time and comparing.

Mic placement and processing in the DAW is a big one, but it’s hard to judge things like that without hearing. Can you post some clips?

In my experience, technique mistakes will be more prevalent on a recording (which is why recording yourself can be great for learning!), and also, sometimes getting the guitar tone to sound great in a mix might need you to select a mix-oriented tone from your amp, one that doesn’t necessarily sound optimal when you’re playing alone.


Thanks Tommo :slight_smile:

OP, what you want to do may seem complicated but it really isn’t.

First things first, I’m not much of a believer in “cutting through the mix” as I am in “sitting in the mix.” A semantic difference perhaps, but it has very real implications in sound later down the chain. I dislike the surgical approach of making instruments overly stand out via exaggerrated EQ, either to achieve this purpose, or to reverse a badly EQ’d instrument to make the track sound cohesive.

In fact, even in guitar-dominated technical music I go for ensemble and cohension between all the instruments. In the worst case scenario it has the added benefit of masking any mistakes :slight_smile:. A lot of my fav albums were done this way so I may be biased.

As a result of this I believe in committing to tape. Get the best sound you can wring out of the instrument, and leave the rest up to your own ears or a separate trusted pair of ears to specialize in the post-recording process. You only need to do what you do best.

Don’t give the mixing engineer (be it you, or someone else) a sub-par version of your sound because of what you may believe a good eq’d track is. Often times thinning it down later works better than trying to fatten things up with noisy compression in the end. Start with full bandwith and all that.

Get a good big sound first. Play through it. Record with it. Get used to the sound before the whole EQ/compression business. Fundamentals are important. Don’t worry about the mix when you’re just trying to play and get your sound. And when it does come down to mixdown-

-Mixing is not just about eq as it is about proximity and space. Using this concept allows one to even make room for fat guitars. Then it allows to mesh with bass and kick drums better, leading to cohesion rather than a thinner sounding surgical approach.

And on that note, the loss in self confidence from the daw-dominated approach is really down to proximity effect more than anything. Even in an amp- reactive load- daw setup, what you get is a sound akin to pressing you ear against the speaker, without the added benefit of volume. That is unflattering for anyone. Listen to EJ or YJM live post-90s with the changing FOH soundscape. Even those guys have trouble with proximity/early reflections all the same.

The problem is exacerbated in a headphone setup all the more.

A quick and effective fix is to add a 40-50% mix stereo room reverb to get that cab in a room sound which is how a guitar should sound anyway. It is analogous to listening to a great vocalist; you are hearing just as much space as you are the original source. Without that and to hear just your ear pressed against the singer’s mouth is a little disappointing, even for the very best.

Thus even with a mic in front of the amp, the goal should be to mic the amp and not just the speaker. This is one reason why I still prefer actual mics which allows me to blend close and room mics so I keep the clutter down to a minimum, but a stereo reverb (in any daw) is extremely effective in this process. Key is early reflections and diffusion.

I use my amps, suhr RL, torpedo WoS stereo IRs, and use apple logic x for the stereo reverb. I like the tone and flexibility this setup provides and it’s for me, the next best thing to stereo micing loud amps (of course, I am still able to crank the amps this way).

The downside of this is that should your daw not have this plug-in, it becomes very difficult to find in pedal format, if convenience is the goal and utmost priority. The only exception is the boss rv-5 which I believe has roland sde-2000/3000 algorithms that allow for this neat stereo widening phasing trick. There are of course strymon stuff which are great at this aspect as well, but bigger than true stompbox formats I’d say. The most cumbersome, but all the more exciting are old lexicon gear, which can do this stuff on a dime. The point is that a reverb pedal in front of the amp won’t really do it, so the idea is to rely on post-fx for your goal.

Hope this helps.


It may be red light syndrome, as people supposed. It’s not always just makes you to make mistakes but also influence your tone. I sometimes play less agressive whne recording, which results in a poor tone. So, it’s just a matter of practice.

Another solution - which is simple but works surprisingly well - is to add reverb effect after you recorded a track. Since mic is very close to a speaker it doesn’t catch all that aftersounds as your ears do.

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Honestly, I’m not 100%. I think it could be a combination of both. Like other people have said, I think I might just be getting nervous while recording (red light syndrome). On top of that, mistakes are a lot more noticeable on a recording (not giving myself any excuses, but the tone is really unforgivable). As for the instruments/tracks in the mix, I just have the guitar on one track and the backing track on another.

I was actually planning on posting some! I’ll record some riffs/licks in Reaper and get it on video to let you guys compare the two.

Really interesting observation… never really thought about that. I’ll have to keep experimenting with different dials to see if it improves the sound any better.

Anyway, really good tips! Sorry I couldn’t respond earlier, got outta work late.

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I’ll try keeping Reaper open more often when I play! This really could be a lot of my issues in terms of excessive mistakes; I make a lot more stupid f***-ups when I hit record, lol

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Oh man, if only I had known that before becoming a guitarist… should have just taken up saxophone lmao.

Seriously though, I love learning about amp recording techniques/tips; especially considering how it’s so new to me. I love Glenn’s channel, and I’ll definitely take a look at Kohlekeller Studio.

I’ve never heard about these, seems like it could be an interesting route for recording. Gonna have to check it out.

So true. The reason I stopped using BIAS is that is sounds awesome when you just playing around alone, but once you try to put it into a mix… disaster

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Me too!

Sorry for a slight off-topic. I’m not a BIAS fan, but there’s one thing it’s still good at: clean strumming on electric, lol. I occasionally record local highschool bands in their songwriting courses, and they sometimes do acoustic-style cowboy chord strumming parts on electrics.

We record everything straight to DI, no amp micing. In rock/metal I trust NeuralDSP’s amp sims with my life, but here they didn’t work out. Although fitting for high-precision arpeggiated parts etc, they were too clangy and unpleasant for campfire chord brushing. If you’re not controlling dynamics extra well while tracking these kinds of parts, they can respond the wrong way, and that happened easily with the beginning guitarists I was working with.

I was able to help the players a bit more with BIAS. It has tons of settings and they helped me get the dynamic response, clipping, saturation amount and compression right so that the strums sound like the players originally intended. Was happy to get some more use out of BIAS.

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Off-Topic2: The sequel…
Well, I guess many programs could be set up for your needs, so if I spent some time with BIAS I might end up with the satisfiyng results. But as an old Revalver user I found it easier just to stick with it. It has some flaws, and it sounds not so impressive but I’m kinda get used to it. And one thing that I really like in Revalver is that you can stick any VST plugin in you effects board, so I don’t need additional VST host.
P.S. …and it has that interesting but useless feature )) of tweakin up your virtual amp. Stuff like tube type, voltage, resistors and capacitors values, type of transformer etc.

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Hey guys, OP here again… thanks a lot of the tips above!

So I finally got around to recording something to show you guys the difference. I just did the intro to the song “Sea of Lies” by Symphony X (great band and album btw) with a little lick at the end. Keep in mind, both are from the same take; I had the camera rolling when I hit “record” on Reaper.

First, here’s my straight phone audio/video. It’s a little quiet, but I still feel like I got a more badass reverb sound from the room (as Peter C put it, how a guitar should sound):

Next, here’s the same clip — but through Reaper:

As for my actual amp/ pedal setup, I’m just using a TS9 tubescreamer going straight to the amp. I don’t know if this matters, but I’m using the bridge pickup only. I got pictures of the settings/mic placement right here:

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my playing wasn’t even close to perfect. But is clinical error really the cause of my dogs*** tone, or can I tweak my setup in a way to get the most out of it? Would love to hear what you guys think!

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That was hardly dogshit tone at all man. Your playing sounds good.

Maybe too thin is what you mean? It could sound beefier, but I’m not sure what to say beyond that.

I would ask @Drew, @element0s, @BillHoudini

I’m not very knowledgeable about modern metal tones and they have helped me in the past. We do have a recording thread here.

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Thanks man, I get what you’re saying about the gain level tho.I’ll try pushing it a litle higher next time I’m in Reaper to see if it gives me any improvement.

I guess what I’m trying to say overall is that the recording has a sort of “dirtiness” to it. Like I’m hearing it over an Xbox mic.

I watch these dudes on YouTube, and their tones sound so clean and soaring. Like you hear the distorted guitar — but it sounds clean-cut (sorry if I’m being confusing). Same thing with Mike Romeo’s tone on late 90s Symphony X albums, and a lot of well-produced prog metal out there.

Perhaps it’s a lack of any reverb, or maybe noise gate? I’m playing Laiho-style, aka bridge pickup with ZERO reverb/effects.

From my experience I may say that it’s 80% of correct muting technique and 20% of gear. As for reverb… Usnig reverb usually makes sound ‘smoother’, especially for solo.


Since I was tagged in this thread (thanks for the vote of confidence, @guitarenthusiast) I’ll throw a couple pennies into the ring here.

Couple important things:

The way the sound hits your ear when you’re standing about 6 feet from the cab with the speaker aimed at your legs is totally different than the sound of a speaker cone two inches from your ear. This is probably the thing that freaks guitarists out the most when they hear their amp mic’d up for the first time.

A great recorded guitar sound involves very tight playing, a well-maintained and properly tuned instrument with multiple takes panned across the stereo field (ie, double or even quad tracking) and also BASS GUITAR. All recorded guitar tone sounds like anemic garbage without bass guitar.

With those disclaimers in mind, here’s some advice:

The biggest impact you can make on your sound with the rig you have purely on the recording level is going to be mic placement. Here’s a really quick n dirty rundown of how mic placement with an SM57 affects your tone. I suggest doing all these moves with the tube screamer turned on and your amp’s settings in relatively neutral positions.

Closer to the speaker = more low end. SM57s have what’s called “Proximity Effect”. The closer the mic is to the source, the more low end you get.

Further away = more definition from the speaker. You can get more “character” from a speaker as you go further out, but your recording environment starts to affect the tone more. Room reflections etc. etc.

Closer to the speaker cap (the centre of the speaker) = more high end. In an SM57, getting too close to the centre can result in “fizz” or “harshness”

Closer to the speak edge = darker tone with more emphasis on midrange. Midrange is the body and soul of rock guitar, but if you go too far your tone can sound “honky” or maybe not aggressive enough.

The speaker cap will have a seam that connects it to the rest of the cone. This is often considered the “sweet spot” of a speaker mic’d with an SM57. This is a solid starting point.

You can also adjust the tone of the mic by adjusting the angle. A common move is to place the mic in the “sweet spot” described above, but with the mic tilted roughly at a 45 degree angle. This can produce a lot of desirable effects such as fine tuning proximity effect and dialing out harshness without losing aggression.

Also, these mics were made to take loud sounds. Generally speaking, your speakers will sound best when they’re actually pushing air and getting the wood from the cab to resonate. Don’t be afraid to push the volume if you haven’t already. And listen to each speaker–some will sound better than others.

Once you find a mic position you like, you can build a tent with a moving blanket around the cab and microphone to help isolate the sound and cut down on possible nasty room reflections. Although I personally don’t think this will be a huge issue unless you’re pulling the mic farther away from the speaker.

When you’ve found the best speaker on your rig and found the mic position that has the highest amount of “good stuff” and the lowest amount of “annoying shit” then it’s time to start messing with the tone stack of your amp. At this point, you should be MOST of the way to having a tone you like. Flick the various EQ and gain knobs back and forth from one extreme setting to the next rapidly. Don’t give your ears time to adjust to the tonal differences. Crank the presence up until it hurts, then turn in back down until it sounds weak. Repeat the process, gradually zeroing in on your ideal settings. Work fast and trust your gut. You’ll gradually learn how each knob affects the tone stack and how the knobs interact with one another. But you gotta systematically push everything to extremes so you can hear what too much of something sounds like. Again, your instincts will be your best friend here. Don’t overthink it.

Repeat this process for five to ten years. The only way to learn is to try this shit out for yourself and listen.


Thank you @guitarenthusiast for the shoutout, but @element0s gave a fantastic response, I have absolutely nothing to add that could make the thread better.

I’m a complete noob in real life mic placement techniques, so I prefer using IRs and cab sims. My neighbors would kill me if I tried the traditional approach haha.

Also good luck to the OP regarding Michael Romeo songs. He’s a fantastic guitarist and has quite an arsenal of tricks.


Wow man… now this was the exact kind of answer I was looking for.

Really good tips, I’ll definitely have to try experimenting with mic placement.


Thanks! Love Mike Romeo, one of my all-time favorite guitar heros