If you’ve been unable to avoid the deluge of Paul McCartney in the media for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed one Rusty Anderson — Paul’s lead guitarist — who is also one of the most in-demand session players of the last 15 years. Anderson recently added “producer” to his credentials, so EQ thought it a great idea to catch up with him and quickly discuss a few of his favorite guitar miking tactics.
EQ: Share with us a typical miking configuration that you find yourself using regularly.
Rusty Anderson: Well, I really like putting a large diaphragm condenser where the cone meets the center diaphragm. . . .
EQ: On-axis? Off-axis?
RA: Concerning axis: I was once told that sometimes you don’t really want to have a mic that’s exactly on-axis, so there’s two parallel planes. I don’t know if that makes sense. . . .
EQ: Well, the reason for putting a mic off-axis is to get off-axis rejection of the higher frequencies, meaning, the further you turn it from parallel, the fewer high frequencies you are going to get. And so sometimes, if you have the mic directly facing a speaker, the more you are going to pick up those high frequencies, which is something that is usually desirable.
RA: At times, I like miking on-axis because of that — on-axis, right on the edge. Like a SM57, people always like 57s, but I don’t think a 57 will work without a Royer or a 414, which are both really good for picking up the low end. But you have to make sure that the phase is correct. In a way, probably the no-brainer thing to do is pair a 414, or any large diaphragm condenser, with a lower level guitar sound. Too much volume will kinda freak out mics; and the lower the amp volume, the more you can open up the mic pres.
EQ: Which is why I don’t like to record 4x12s as much, and when I do record them, I tend to put the mics a couple of feet off the cabinet — it’s a different sound. You get the room and you don’t get that “immediacy” when you do that, although you certainly can close-mic them, but you might as well use a smaller amp if you are just miking one speaker. . . .
RA: I’ve heard a lot of great recordings that have ambient-miked guitars. But I’ve never been really able to really pull it off, which is weird. You know what the trick is? With ambient-miking, you just have to spend a lot of time really listening. The most successful ambient miking I’ve done is when I’ve taken a close mic and a far mic, put the far mic really far away — turn it backwards facing the wall, maybe flip it out of phase.
EQ: What I do sometimes is put a mic or two directly on the speaker and then put a ribbon a few feet back. I’ll have my second engineer move the ribbon mic back and forth slowly, so you can hear the phasing build up constructive interference on certain frequencies. You hear “oh, now it’s building up at 100Hz“ or “now it’s building up at 300Hz,” and it sounds phased slightly, but you can really fatten guitars up that way.
RA: You can get kind of a quirky sound doing that, not unlike some REM records that have these nice ambient guitar sounds, which are really cool because they add personality. But a lot of times, I just don’t even care to mess with ambient miking. I’ll just go in, close mic the cabinet, and be done with it. Most of my favorite pop recordings of guitar are close-miked, so if I’m trying to recreate some of those tones I don’t particularly feel the need to even mess around with ambient miking.