Heavy Metal Power

A blog about Heavy Metal Music!

Recording

Rules for Recording Heavy Metal Guitars

These are my general rules for recording guitars.   I try to stick to a classic metal sound modeled after classic two guitar bands of the early eighties and late seventies like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy,  Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest.  So here we go:

Rule #1: Use two tracks for rhythm guitars. I don’t mean two as opposed to one; I mean two as oppometalearssed to three, four, five, six, etc.  More does not equal better.  Layering six rhythm guitar tracks will mask the character of your playing.  Two is nice, one for each ear.  Oh but more is heavier you say?  I disagree.  Heaviness comes from the structure of your riffs, the dynamics and arrangement of the song, and the attitude of the playing.  More and more guitars fills up the sonic spectrum and may initially seem heavier but ultimately it just masks nuances of your playing and drowns out the bass.  More about bass in rule #2

When to break this rule:  When you have more than 2 different guitar parts.

Rule #2: The guitar is not the bass. Guitar belongs in the mid and high range of the spectrum, the bass goes in the low range.  Make room for the bass.  8 string guitars will not help you hear the bass guitar. Now a 5 string bass… that may work.

When to break this rule:  When you’re bass player quit one day before entering the studio and you’re incapable of laying down bass tracks yourself.

Rule #3: Never ever ever cut and paste. Pro Tools is great but abusing Pro Tools is not great.  craftDigital recording systems allow us to cut and paste parts we’ve recorded just like a word processor.  Does that mean we should do it?  Fuck no!  Doing this will make you sound like a robot.  Be a human, play the whole fucking song.

When to break this rule:  When you’re mixing and a file gets corrupted and all your guitars have burned up in a fire.

Rule #4: Don’t edit the shit out of everything. Again, don’t abuse the power of digital editing.  You do not need to remove every little scrape, squeal, and stray noise on your guitar tracks.  These noises are part of your guitar playing personality.  Sometimes your fingers make noise when sliding on the strings – it’s OK.  Sometimes the pick makes a noise when you hit a note – it’s OK.  Sometimes there’s stray noise when you stop a note – it’s OK.  Some digital editing is so painfully obvious it ends up sounding like crap.ekgflatline

When to break this rule:  Never.

Rule #5: Don’t use pitch correction. This should be obvious.  If you can’t bend a string to the correct pitch (or “close enough for rock and roll” as my guitar teacher used to say) then go practice some more.  Pitch correction will suck the life out of your playing.

When to break this rule:  When you are hopeless.

In summary, don’t be lazy and don’t abuse the tools.  Practice, practice practice still applies.  Your playing should have it’s own voice, don’t lose it with poor studio techniques.  Don’t try to make everything sound perfect, concentrate on sounding like YOU!

3 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Enjoyed this article. May I suggest another acceptable use of cutting and pasting? When you’re recording the instruments seperatley and you need the drummer to do a count in a break. As he may need to miss the last cymbal crash prior to the break to start the count, then I think it’s acceptable to paste a crash cymbal in its place.
    Kieron.

  2. Lundok

    Hey,

    Great site and great set of general rules. I have to say though, that there are times when pitch correction can be a life savior. If you have a REALLY limited budget and you have to correct an under or over bent note (guilty) it can save you a WHOLE lot of cash and let the engineer fix a duff rather than doing a bunch of additional takes trying to recapture an otherwise great take.

  3. Dan

    Lundok,
    Sorry man, i just disagree totally.

    Studio time can be expensive, but if you’re a great player that can adlib solos, it shouldn’t be a big deal to get another good take that you can feel good about. If you’re more comfortable composing solos beforehand, then do that and practice them a lot before hitting the studio. As a last resort, I would rather punch in than pitch correct.

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