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“I can spend all evening goofing around in my studio, getting the right sound. Then the next day, I go in and nail it. If you’re of that mind, if you want to do it yourself, I think it’s a good idea to have your own studio.”- Michael Hedges

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Sticky Situations Part 2 - Electrics
Cool tricks for getting unusual electric pickup sounds...
By Ray Legnini

Almost anything goes when recording electric guitars. But have you tried this technique yet? A variation on the direct pickup idea for acoustic guitar is to use a contact microphone on the body of the electric guitar. Adding the crystal clear sound of an acoustic pick to the electric guitar works well in many situations, from pop to R&B.

Suction please, nurse

You can try the suction cup pickups designed for acoustic guitar, small lavalier microphones, or acoustic guitar transducers to get this type of sound. The idea is to blend a super clean tone in with the amp sound or signal from a direct box. The contact pickup sound works nicely with effects like chorus, phasers, and flangers. Of course a bit of delay will help spread the sound out.

To get this sound with a suction cup pickup or transducer, locate a resonant spot on the guitar. On a solid body like a Strat or Les Paul, try somewhere near the bridge. Patch the pickup into a direct box and bring the acoustic pickup track into the mix with the regular guitar sound. Squash, eq, effect, and otherwise manhandle the sound as needed. After all, it’s guitar, right?

Lavalier

The technique for using a lavalier mic is similar. You can use double-stick tape to connect the mic to the guitar. Use the edge of the pickguard if you’re afraid of marring the surface of the guitar. Or, try the quick-release tape used by artists that leaves no glue residue. It’s similar to the Post-It paper we’ve all become familiar with.

Since the mic will pick up other live sounds, isolation will be an issue. Use baffles or an isolation area as required. You need to position the mic on the guitar so that it will record the acoustic performance of the guitar as well as some of the sympathetic vibrations of the body of the instrument that will transfer through the mic itself. Since it’s a mic, you’ll need to run the signal to a microphone preamp.

If you have the extra tracks available, record the two sounds on separate audio tracks to leave open the option to add effects or blend th e two guitar sounds in context with the final tracks at mixdown time.

Ray Legnini is a writer living near Philadelphia. He barely has time to play any of the guitars he already owns, but somehow feels the need to keep buying more guitars. Sound familiar?

(Part 2 of this article deals with acoustic guitars and can be found in the acoustic guitar subcategory! -Ed.)

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