Distortion pedal effect on guitar in home recordings

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Dr.J.of.LH
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Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:12 am

Distortion pedal effect on guitar in home recordings

Post by Dr.J.of.LH »

Hello.

I play guitar for a band and we've been doing some experimenting with home recordings. I have an effect pedal that produces virtually any effect I could ever need for both studio and live sound.

The way I record the guitar for our home recordings is run a cable from the output on my effect pedal to the mic input on my sound card. I'm half-and-half on the results that I get...

My "clean guitar" (ie: no distortion pedal) recordings turn out superb - couldn't be happier with the sound. The distortion effect sounds great on individual notes, however, whenever I play full-on chords with the distortion effect on, some of the notes become recorded semi-inaudibly. That is, not all of the notes being played in the chord come through as clear as if I turned the distortion effect off and left everything clean.

My first question: Is there some kind of remedy (perhaps an effect, etc.) in Goldwave that I may apply to the distorted guitar recordings?

My second question: Would introducing a hardware mixer between the effect pedals and my soundcard improve or superceed the quality of my current recordings? If so, why?

DougDbug
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Post by DougDbug »

Just so I'm clear.... The effects sound OK on your amp, but they are not getting recorded accurately?

In that case, you may be recording a too-high of a level and you may be getting clipping (additional unwanted distortion). Guitars typically have higher voltage-output than microphones, and the output from the pedal may be even higher.

The level is probably too-low for the computer's line-input, but you may want to give it a try.

I usually check for clipping by running Effect -> volume -> Maximize. This will report the maximul level before you actually run the maximize function. If it reports 0dB before maximizing, your file is most-likely digitally clipped. (There also might be a possibility that you are overdriving/clipping your soundcard's analog-input stage. In this case, you might get clipping, even with the recording volume turned-down, and without hitting the 0dB digital level.)

If there is a volume control on your pedal, try turning it down. Or yes, if you have a mixer, you could use it to control the level, and you could then use the line-input to your computer, instead of the microphone input.

Or, just try turning-down the volume on the guitar (if that doesn't mess-up the "character" of the pedal-effects).

And, some people like to record the sound of the guitar amplifier with a microphone... Although this can get more complicated with the sound of the "room" coming into play, and the possibility of picking-up background noise. (And, you need a reasonably-good microphone and preamp.)
My first question: Is there some kind of remedy (perhaps an effect, etc.) in Goldwave that I may apply to the distorted guitar recordings?
In general, you cannot un-do distortion, so you will have to figure-out how to prevent the problem and re-record. There are "de-clipping" tools (GoldWave does not have this tool), but they don't work perfectly because it's impossible to know what the waveform is supposed to "look like".

Dr.J.of.LH
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:12 am

Post by Dr.J.of.LH »

Yes, the distortion pedal effect comes through quite favorably through my guitar amplifier but when I connect my effect pedal to my microphone jack, some of the notes don't come through as clear as the rest.

I've tried adjusting the volume levels on both my pedal and the windows volume recording control. The recorded sound wave doesn't appear to be clipped, in fact, the amplitude seems to be about 50% away from being clipped.

I have been doing these kind of recordings for 4 years with both the microphone and line-in jacks with many computers and my only remedy is to re-record the not-so-clear notes and mix them in with the original recording, which of course can get tedious, depending on how complicated the riff is.

Recording by microphone may be the way for me to go next. When I can afford great quality mics I may do some experimenting with the acoustics of the rooms in my home.

All-in-all, your reply was very informative and has me thinking about different directions that I can go from here. Thanks a lot!

DougDbug
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Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Silicon Valley

Post by DougDbug »

I don't have any other ideas... I can't think of anything other than clipping that would cause severe distortion... You should be able to get a good "direct box" recording with the computer... The sound quality depends on the soundcard/soundchip (not the software). And, the biggest difference between good soundcards and cheap soundcards is the noise level...
The recorded sound wave doesn't appear to be clipped, in fact, the amplitude seems to be about 50% away from being clipped.
Again, it might be possible to clip at 50% if you overdrive the analog stage, and then reduce the already-clipped waveform with the Windows recording-volume control... But, I could be totally on the wrong track with this clipping stuff.... :?
Recording by microphone may be the way for me to go next. When I can afford great quality mics
IMHO, you don't need a "great" mic. I wouldn't recommend using a $10 mic, but something like a Shure SM57, or anything your band uses on stage, should be good enough for "semi-professional" recording.

Dr.J.of.LH
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:12 am

Post by Dr.J.of.LH »

DougDbug wrote:Again, it might be possible to clip at 50% if you overdrive the analog stage, and then reduce the already-clipped waveform with the Windows recording-volume control... But, I could be totally on the wrong track with this clipping stuff.... :?
Food for thought. If that's the case, I may just try turning my pedal volume down to 1% and digitally increase the volume with Goldwave until the desired levels have been reached.
DougDbug wrote:IMHO, you don't need a "great" mic. I wouldn't recommend using a $10 mic, but something like a Shure SM57, or anything your band uses on stage, should be good enough for "semi-professional" recording.
We don't currently have any live sound gear (as far as vocals go, anyway). We have a cheapy Walmart microphone (around $6) that we use for "decent" vocals. We never expected our demo to sound studio-polished. We're working between somewhat of a tight budget. Not sure if the Walmart microphone would be worth experimenting with for guitar. Hopefully sometime in the not-so-distant future we will be playing shows and preparing accordingly for such.

Again, very informative.

GoldWave Inc.
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Post by GoldWave Inc. »

Dr.J.of.LH wrote:The recorded sound wave doesn't appear to be clipped, in fact, the amplitude seems to be about 50% away from being clipped.
In most cases the "50% problem" can be traced back to the sound driver. Uninstalling and re-installing the drive may help. Also some sound cards have advanced settings for boosting or attenuating the microphone input. Those settings may need to be changed depending on the kind of microphone plugged in. You'll need to use the Windows Volume Control accessory to change them (or the custom configuration software included with the sound card).

Chris

Stiiv
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Location: Fallentown, PA

Post by Stiiv »

If your effect pedal has a stereo out (for headphones, perhaps), try connecting that to the line-in on the computer. Recording anything but a cheap-o mic via the mic jack is NEVER a good idea, pal. Line-in is the way to go with "consumer" sound cards or the dreaded mobo sound chips.

If the pedal has no stereo out, here's another option - if you have a 4-track cassette recorder, HD recorder, or something similar that accepts guitar level input, try connecting the stereo outs from that to the computer's line-in. I use this method with my POD, & it works quite well.

Hope this info helps.
Stiiv

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