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Sometimes, as we record our musical ideas, we are the only ones that can hear the ending result in our heads. As we play it to our friends, it may sound dull and lifeless, but not to our ears! We hear it in all of its' finished glory.
With this power in mind, lets discuss a couple of different ways that we can record our instruments. We can record a guitar and an amp using a microphone just in front of the amp.This works fine if we know the tone and the effects that the song needs. If we are not totally sure, however, we can record the instrument directly out of the output jack, or by using a "DI" (direct in) technique.
The DI technique is when the track you are recording is straight out of the instrument, and is then plugged "directly in" to the recording machine. After it is recorded, we can then route the tracks' output into any amp and room combination that we want, and then record that newly amped sound onto a new track. This allows us to audition as many amps, in as many situations, as we have the money and the space for. They also make bunches of DI boxes that sound or act like tube amps, but this is all for another blog entry to come.
This fore mentioned technique is called re-amping, and it is a rather common practice. If I had access to a guitar player for only one day, and he did not bring any amps with him, well, you can see where this is going. A trick that producers and engineers like to do is to duplicate the original DI guitar track, and then re-amp it out to several different amps, in different size rooms, and then mix them all together for a complicated (but good) sound. See the links at the bottom of this entry for more great information on both re-amping, and effects loops.
If you are budget minded (my excuse for being a budget restricted recording enthusiast) like myself, than this may never happen in your studio. Instead, we often choose the "finished as we record it" technique. This is where we close our eyes in order to meditate, and "hear" our unfinished song, finished. The tone of our guitars and bass can be heard, well, close enough to the finished state. We know if it needs delay or reverb, clean or dirty, and things like that. Before we record it we can audition effects and tones as we rehearse. Getting the sound of our instruments as close to the "end result sound" works for myself and my recording habits. This technique fits me just fine. Why?
Well, with all things in my life I like to put things off until the very last minute. I try not to do this with my music, however. Re-amping guitars and basses is perfect for the bigger studios with the larger productions. It makes perfect sense if your band mate is jet setting all over the globe and cant stay too long in order to try out amp and speaker combos, for the best sound on a particular song on a record. At home, I have the time to get the sound very close, and then record it.
I do like to play with duplicating tracks and using different amps on them, and then mixing it all together. I am not against experimenting with my music. However my budget only allows for so many amp/speaker combinations. I love to take a "duped" track and offset its' timing by a nano second. This acts like a delay effect and gives the track a rich thick feel. I use this on vocals allot. I am getting off the topic a little, so lets' get back.
Getting your tone as close to the end result as possible, and then recording it, is how I like to do things. It leaves no room for alteration though. Re-amping is all about alteration, and playing around with different sounds until you get the sound that you like. This is a different reason to choose to (or to choose not to) re-amp.
If you are recording someone else's band, and you are not too sure of the exact direction of their sound in mind, than perhaps re-amping is the answer! You can always go back later, after all of the instruments are recorded, and try different amp/room combinations. This would be impossible if you did not record a DI track, but instead recorded the track "wet" or dialed in as you think it should sound.
The best argument for re-amping is the fact that you can always go back and change the sound. What I am getting at here is that by using a DI track, as you record an instrument, is that you can fix tones easier. You have to re-record the entire track if you do things the other way. I wish I had a hit song for every time that I had to go back and re-do a guitar or bass track in order to better dial in a delays' tempo. I also wish that I had a hit song.
I hope that this helps give birth to some new ideas with your musical adventures. This is very much like using send/return loops for use with effects. I wrote about effect loops recently in the blog "Its a loopy world" , if you feel like checking that out!
Here are some links that I have found on this same type of loop and re-amping topic.
Keep writing!!! The world needs all of the uniqueness that it can get, and that means you and your idea of what music is!