Usually it’s kind of hard to capture a single electric guitar sound with a reasonable stereo width. Of course you can always double track it or stack multiple takes on top of each other during mixing, but it’s an entirely different beast. And a different sound as well. So how do you tackle recording stereo electric guitar? We are going to look into it now.
Recording the electric – in stereo
Stereo amplifiers: The most obvious way to capture stereo guitar is to use a stereo sound source. The problem with that is, there are only a handful of stereo guitar amps. But if you have one, just mic the two speakers. Then make sure you’ve set up a different tone for each channels, and hit record. You can make it even more stereo with using a stereo guitar, like a Gibson ES-345 or the likes, with the two pickups wired to two separate outputs. Guitars built with both magnetic and piezo pickups also work in this situation. You can even use a single, mono electric guitar and plug it into a stereo effect, like a wide reverb or some modulation (chorus, flanger or phaser), before sending it into the stereo amp.
Two separate amplifiers: It’s probably the most used technique. All you need to do is use a device that creates two routes for the signal, to go into the two amps from your single guitar. While a Y-cable can be used, it’s not ideal. But a pedal like the BOSS LS-2 works perfectly for this. Then you just have to set the amps to two distinctly different sounds and put a microphone in front of each. Ideally equidistantly, so you don’t have to fight phase problems during mixing. Nudging tracks can get tedious.
Single amplifier with stereo microphone techniques: It might be the hardest way to get a passable stereo electric sound, but it’s probably the most fun, too. If you are not quite sure what you’re aiming for, it’s tough to achieve an audible width. But if you are, you’ll be awarded with a nice, natural sound.
You can use a mic in front of the amp and one behind it. You’ll probably have to flip polarity on one of the tracks once during the process, so they are in phase, especially if it’s an open back cabinet. You might still need to nudge tracks later on. One at the front and one at the side can work well, too.
Horizontally you won’t get much difference between two front mics on a single cab, but you can always place them vertically. XY works quite good this way, since one of the mics will pick up a different reflected sound (floor) and a bit more bottom end.
The joy of two microphones
Also, you can always play around with two mics around the amp, testing them live using headphones, to make sure you get two distinctly different sounds from each sides. Using two different mics (for example dynamic with condenser) will further emphasize the differences.