How to Reamp Guitar
Well, I just played a quick selection of completely reamp guitar amps. These are not individual guitar takes. The guitar player played the song once, live with the drummer, and after the musicians left and went home, I stayed after in the studio and reamp these tracks. I recorded the performance, and line level performance through a DI box, and converted into a guitar amp friendly signal and re-recorded the guitar sounds. This was done completely in post production, it was not done with an amp simulator. It was not done with a Line6 Pod or AmpFarm or any of that.
So no plug-ins were used. In fact, no pedals were used. These were just straight guitar, cable, and amp. But the fact is that you can reamp too. There is some real key advantages to knowing how to reamp your guitar tracks. Obviously the selection of the tone is one. It is great. If you do not know what you are looking for then you can always decide later. You can set up something that is a safe bet for you to play to, for you do just make the music feel good. If you do not always know what tone you want, you can always change it later.
Secondly, if you are in a live situation you can always reamp and get a better tone in the studio in a controlled environment with really good microphones.
Thirdly, if you do not have a guitar amp that you really like, you can reamp later with something better. If you have a friend that you will be seeing two weeks from now and you can ask him to bring his amp. I want to play my tracks through your AC-30 or something. You can actually take your tracks, play them through a better amp owned by someone in your network of friends or whom you have played shows with. You could help each other by using each others gear to reamp your guitar tracks.
Step-by-Step of the Reamp Process
So I am going to walk you through the step-by-step process today and then show you the results that I have achieved through guitar reamping.[Music]
To reamp guitar it starts at the performance level. You have to have at least a signal to be able to manipulate afterwards. Let me at least show you want it looks like at this point in my set up.
OK this is the original guitar. This is the original guitar amp. You could say this is the performance amp. This is just something that the guitar player was using to play his guitar.[Music]
Ok, now that guitar before it hits the amp sounds like this. This is just the guitar sound. This is the signal we need to capture, and I will show you how to set this up in just a moment. But here is what it sounds like. It is the guitar direct input signal.[Music]
OK so you can see that it really just sounds like an underpowered amp of some sort. An amp on one or two. But essentially it is really important that we record these levels at about -20 dB because there is going to be tones of spikes. You do not want to clip these signals.
So let us walk through exactly how to set this up. For this let us go in to the live room.
We are here in the live room, and the guitarist wants to play to this amp. This amp is how he will hear himself. You could also use the Line6 Pod in this case just as a matter of monitoring but ultimately I guess you could keep the sound but that is the whole point of reamping is to get the best sounds possible in the studio after the performance so that you can really play with the tone and mix with tones that you like. So that is our goal. This is for monitoring, and to do this you will need a DI box. This is a Type 85 Countryman DI box. It is active, and it takes a 9 volt battery as well. It just has two jacks on here. The instrument, and the amp. Sometimes it will say through. So really it does not matter what the exact wording is.
But you want to just pay attention to which jack you are putting it in.
The instrument comes from the guitar. The amp is the output jack, going to the amp. So the white cable is going to the be guitar signal, and then that signal goes through the DI box and then strait back out to the amp, which is the red cable. The the red is obviously going into the input of the amp.
So that is a real basic set up. Of coarse, the magic here is that it does not just go through the box, but that we are capturing it. We are recording it at this point right here. So that is were the XLR comes into play. This XLR is what you want to record at -20dB, so make sure you have tones of headroom on this. It is very spikey and pointy in nature. So make sure you have tones of headroom. I get asked a lot about where you should put this DI box.
If you have a pedal that is criticle for the performance for that guitar such as a wha wha pedal, or a delay pedal. Something like that. Then you will want to capture after those pedals, so the DI box goes after the wha wha and delay pedal. But if it is something like an overdrive pedal that you may want to change later but you are not quite sure, or maybe a compression pedal, then put the DIbox before.
So if it is a performance type pedal. Something that the guitarist needs to be able to respond to in his or her performance, then it needs to be included in the signal that the DI box records. That is important to record, because you do not want to have to sit there and manual do a wha wha pedal to get that sound back, you want to make sure that is recorded in the dry guitar signal.
So let us step back into the control room and I will show you what this signal sounds like and then we will go from there on to the reamp process.
So let us check out and see what kind of signal the DI box is getting. And after a while you will get pretty good at learning how the DI signal sound and what is a good signal, as far as the type of guitars. Stratocaster, Tellecaster. Various models have a different type of sound in the direct in kind of thing, so it’s kind of cool to learn the original dry sound of your guitars. Let us see what this sounds like.[Music]
Ok so pretty punchy. There is nothing holding that back. And if you notice here, I am really not peaking this much at all. There is tons of headroom here in this signal. So it is really important to keep the integrity of the signal. And when you reamp, if it is distorted, that distortion will come through on the amp. So now let us go back into the live room and get the reamp side of things set up.
Ok so we are here in the live room, and we are on the reamp side of things. And what we have done is taken a line level signal, this is the signal, the soloed signal from our DAW that is that DI direct sound. Even though this is a XLR connector it does not mean that it is a microphone signal. It is just the connector. It is just the flavor of what I am using here. I use an adapter. It is a line level signal.
Ok so what this reamp box does, it is about one hundred dollars, it is the price of an sm57 but you can convert this signal to any of your gear. This includes stomp boxes that you have on hand.
You could also convert anything such as vocal. Ok think about this. You could do vocal through a stomp box. You could do vocal through an amplifier. In this case we are doing a guitar signal, a line level signal. So this means that anything in our DAW goes through this reamp box and comes out the other end into guitar equipment.
So it connects up through the XLR and then a quarter inch cable on the other end of the reamp box. And we are pretty much ready to go.
No from here we are going to want to go back in and hit play on the signal and very slowly turn up the gain from the DAW, come back in here and slowly turn up this gain and make sure I do not blow up anything. But it is really quite simple. And like I said this overdrive effect is not a performance related effect so this would be a great time to experiment during your reamp with various pedal settings and things like that.
Now if you do not have a DI box you could reamp with a passive direct box. I have not had any luck using an active direct box to reamp. But a passive direct box, it is really just wires and a connection and a transformer. So there is nothing to get in the way of shooting a signal backwards through it. The problem is that this transformer is not really designed to go that direction and you have to run it at something like -30 at least before it distorts. And then on top of that it just does not sound like it is getting enough signal to the amp. You can try it but there is a good change that it is just not going to work. That is really all there is to it. It is super easy to set this up.
Now I am going to set up seven amps and record the signal through this vintage MD-421. I want to show you what seven of my amps sound like after the reamp process.
Ok so I recorded several different takes, and let us see just what kind of sounds I am getting.[Music]
Ok, not bad. But right away I am seeing a pitfall in this process. The fact that the guitarist is not actually performing to these amp sound and settings so he has no way of interacting with these settings. It is just something to consider. And regardless, if you are using amp simulators or you are going to reamp this pitfall is the same in either case. So it is just something to consider and it will reflect on how you choose the amp as far as the monitoring amp for the guitar player. So, just something to consider.
Here is another one. A 1965 Gibson Scout.[Music]
Ok, so that one has a total different character with real amps you have huge sweeps of character and sounds and sonics. This is really the cool part about the reamp process, it is almost identical to the amp simulator plug ins like Ampfarm and Line6 Pods, but these are real amps. We are getting access in post production to the sound of our amp tones. It is incredible.
Let us try the next one. It is a 1950s Danelectro[Music]
Ok, moving on. This is a kit build. It is kind of a knock off the Danelectro. It is called the Dinelectro. It is just a kit build.[Music]
Ok, once again a totally different sound. Let us keep going. Here is a Little Dawg 1959 style tweed guitar amplifier.[Music]
So that one is totally different. Very clean. It almost just does not want to break up during the reamp.
Here is another one. 1965 Princeton Reverb, a Blackface.[Music]
Ok so, the tremolo is a unique thing as well. If you reamp because you did not get the gain setting right, maybe you wanted more overdrive or less overdrive that is a great reason for this process. If you decide later you want tremolo during the reamp, this original monitoring guitar amp happened to be the 1965 Princeton. Here is the original guitar take.[Music]
In fact you can hear it in drum track. This was tracked live so it really does not negate your ability to substitute out the amp. You can hear it a little bit in the drum track.[Music]
Ok, so it is there. But if you decide later and really wish you put the tremolo on.[Music]
So another great reason to reamp.
Finally the last one that I did for today was the 1996 Pro Jr.[Music]
So the EL84 Tubes of the Pro Jr really broke up kind of nicely. That is one of my favorite amps, along with the 1965 Gibson Scout.
To wrap this up, when you reamp it is just a really cool tool. If you have just a hundred dollar reamp box, you can be exposed into any sort of guitar effects that any body would bring into your studio. You can also borrow guitar amps from your friends and borrow effects pedals that you do not have now but maybe you could borrow one or something and reamp into them.
So it just opens up the possibilities of all the effects that you can do.
Of coarse you can send anything in there. You can reamp drum tracks into a guitar amp, you can send vocal into a guitar amp.
A few episodes ago I did a episode on purely sending a vocal into a reverb of a princeton reverb so it had a great lush reverb and I want to tap into that. So I used the reamp box to get into that amp.
In general, if you can, be tapping into that direct signal after your performance based pedals. After the specific delay pedal, after any sort of wha wha pedals or anything that is very much attached to the guitar players foot when he is playing that guitar you wanna keep in dry signal. You really should be recording this as much as possible. Unless the DI Box is degrading the signal. Always do an A to B check to make sure that it is not doing something wierd, but if it sounds the same then go for it. Go ahead a track that dry signal and track the amp with a microphone. And hopefully you will be able to keep that original guitar amp because if you can get tones that you like at the beginning when you are in the moment of the song creatively and in that headspace then awesome. You will be able to make decisions that are good for that song. But if you are just confused. If the session is fast paced. You get flustered and you are not sure of your guitar tones and your decisions. Then go ahead and track that direct signal and it can really save your butt in the future.
Next episode I am going to be breaking down some of the basics of guitar amp recording. I will go through all my steps of how I typically approach a guitar amp. I realized I have skipped over quite a bit of this as far as the basics of guitar amps, so that will be next week.
I hope you have a lot of fun with reamp possibilities.