Recording Guitars on “Mexico” by Club of Suns

I’ve always been pretty cautious when it comes to recording. I reckoned that it’s the smart way to work when re-recording parts is rarely an option. So, I’ve pretty much always chosen to avoid adding too much tone, too soon, by recording vocals dry and guitars DI (I could always put a mic on it later). But that changed when it came to recording Mexico.
When Matt came in to lay down the guitars on Mexico, I decided to mic his amp instead of recording a DI. I thought “he already has the tone he wants dialled in, so let me just mic it now and save myself a lot of time.” This decision marked a turning point in my life as a producer. I was confident enough in my skills and my vision to commit to tone at the recording stage . . . well, mostly.
By miking the amp, I was committing to keeping the effects that Matt was using. I wouldn’t be able to remove any reverbs or delays he was running and I wouldn’t be able to dial in less overdrive. The old me would have added all of that when I started mixing, but the new me knew that it would be okay to commit to those things. But the new me still wasn’t ready to commit to any crazy mic techniques that I wouldn’t be able reverse later. For example, I didn’t want to mic the amp from a distance because I wouldn’t be able to make it sound like it was close-miked later. I could, however, make a close-miked amp sound like a distant-miked amp in the mix.
I know what you’re thinking. You think I should’ve just set up a few mics so that I would have many tonal options to work with in the mix. You’re right, I will try that next time. The reason I used just one mic is that I only have one premium pre-amp that I want everything to go through. But, of course, I can always run the track through that later. I guess I’m still a little cautious.
The moral of the story? Experiment if you have time. Get the tone as close to what you want as possible at the recording stage. Also, always get a mic into the mix when working with guitars. Maybe you don’t have an amp so you have to record a DI and use an amp plug-in. Cool, do that. Then, once you have the tone you want using the plug-in, play it out through a studio speaker and get a mic in front of it. Magic.