Prepping the Guitar for Recording


Studio Pass with Joey Sturgis


Lesson Info

Prepping the Guitar for Recording

We're talking about guitar production and the first thing that comes to mind when talking about guitar production is building your guitar production tool kit thes air the things that you're going to need to work with the guitar itself because the guitar instrument has a lot of moving parts, so I always recommend the wire cutters they can cut the strings and changer strings ah rag is always good to have around she can clean the strings off, get lots of finger oils and stuff like that on their, uh, painter's tape is good and I'll show you why in a bit, but it sze mainly to meet certain parts of the guitar that that you don't want to make sound, um, pics of various thickness that, uh, that's a very deep topic that we could talk about for a long time, but, um, basically, if you've got a gun, if you guys could get a shot of this, but if you've got a really thick pick, um it doesn't have a lot of flex flexibility and so the least the the less amount of flexibility there is, the harder it wil...

l pick the string when you when you go like against the string, so having a thinner pick, willa make the string not vibrate as much, and having a thicker pick will make it vibrate more with with less velocity um the reason why you need different thicknesses because there's all different kinds of guitar parts and I can demonstrate it let me just see this for a second so if you're playing a guitar part like, say, a cord that's a across many different strings you can if you if you have to play that chord really fast and you have a thick pick it becomes more difficult to do because the pig has more resistance when it hits the strings so if you have a thinner pick which we don't have here right now but if you did it would have least resistance and it would move across the strings easier but it's nice to have a thick pick for when you're doing single string part because then you get more of a consistent pluck on each string um you want to have a box of nine volt batteries because almost every guitar player will come into your studio with dead batteries in their guitar? Um if they have active pickups no one ever changes their batteries on a regular basis. Uh allen wrenches are nice tohave because you khun do all the various adjustments of the trust rod and various different bridge systems I know this one doesn't have ellen yeah allen wrench goes right there use like a flat okay, so some of them was screwdriver that's actually good suggestion that's not on there but at allen wrenches and flathead screwdriver zor philip said screwdrivers you need usually tinier ones to make the adjustments on the bridge I'm also to uh maybe if you can see this, you can get in on the input jack if you need to and sometimes these ah, these back plates have phillips head screws, so if they there might be an additional back plate here for a battery compartment and sometimes the only way to get into it is with a screwdriver so it's good to have that and then the final part of your toll kit would be the cable tie with velcro do we have one of those somewhere I don't think we do what you can do with that is you can actually slip it up under the strings, and when you do that you can mute certain strings so that when you accidentally hit them with your pick, the strings won't resonate because it'll be muted with the velcro. Um so those are always nice to have around so before you record guitar, you need to prep your instrument because there's so many moving parts on there there's a lot of things that can go out of whack. So you, if you were working with a band who plays their songs and multiple tunings, you might want to map it out so that you can make sure you don't have to straight change your strings more than then you need to so if you're let's say you're working with the band has songs in drop a and and drop b if you're doing one day you're doing a song and drop and then the next day you're doing a song and drop b you have to change the strings especially if it's a much bigger difference like a dropsy versus the drop g you're going to be changing the strings too too often if you're swapping back and forth between those kinds of songs so it makes more sense to ah actually plan it out so that you do all of your g songs that one group and they do like all of your sea songs in a different group um record from least tension to most tension to avoid excessive string changes this is good for the neck because the neck is a piece of wood and wood conflicts and warp so you kind of want to make sure that you're putting the least amount of stress on the on the wood itself over time so that uh if if you go too tight too soon your neck will warp like this and your intonation will get thrown off I do recommend that you probably should intimate the guitar every time you switched tuning uh but sometimes it's just not realistic um perfect point the next point check your intonation um let me demonstrate what that means. So what the deal with the intonation uh you've got on a guitar that has twenty four frets you have two octaves so you've got your open note then you're twelve threat note and into quite forthright such or three octaves now the intonation is the difference between how how far off the difference between this note and this note is as you move up and down the frets so if the intonation is incorrect than this note could be flatter sharpe but it seems like on this guitar it's actually in pretty good shape so if the intonation was off this note would be farther and pitch further off from pitch then than it is when it's open um so there's that I recommend getting your tart guitar set up by someone who doesn't suck I want to mention that there's a lot of people out there who think they can set up the guitar properly, but in reality it's not good and I can't tell you how many times someone has who have worked with has gone to a commercial retailer store and they come into the studio and they're like, oh yeah, I had my guitar set up last night it's going to be great and then I pick it up in the play and it sounds like crap so you just you need to find someone who's good at it and once you find them, make sure you've got their cell phone number uh there's also important to realize that there's no perfect instrument so it's it's you're basically trying to find a balance of of what you're dealing with maybe you have a guitar that's kind of pitchy and intonation is not so great but the guitar players really comfortable with playing it so that ends up being the instrument that you have to use so you have to deal with the pitch problems but at least the guitar player can play the parts right or maybe you end up with um a guitar that has perfect pitch but the tone's not so great so you're going to spend a lot of time working on the tone but uh you're not gonna have to tune anything okay before you start recording guitar you want to look at a bunch of different things on the guitar itself before you decide to use it so this is the guitar check up on what to look for not grooves so let me show you this if you could see this uh so there's a space in the nut here and from the left side to the right side is the groove and if that groove is too wide for your strength and your string is going to slide around inside of the groove and it will cause all kinds of problems you'll have intonation problems you have pitch problems and the string will probably have the tendency to buzz um so you wantto check that first umbrage type so if we look at this guitar, we've got a string through system with a fixed bridge. This is ah, great bridge to use for metal core music, because since the bridges is fixed and doesn't move around, you're gonna have a lot more easier time playing palm utes and controlling the dynamics if you've got if you've got a, uh, like a floyd rose, for example, if you push down with your palm on a floyd rose system, your entire guitar will go sharp. So, um, it's, nice to use a fixed bridge for especially for rhythm parts. Bridge stability doesn't move, so is the bridge itself actually loose? Sometimes with the guitars that are on tour, you can get a couple things that it can wear out. The screws can get loose, the you know, just gets out of whack and you want to make sure that it is performing properly on the neck condition is it worked? Is the rod busted? I've seen some guitars where there's a rod that goes from here all the way down some metal rod that allows you to adjust the shape of the neck. If that rot gets busted, then you no longer have control over the tension of the wood, and it can cause the it can cause severe warping, which you will not be able to correct so make sure that the neck is in good shape fred condition um sometimes these actual threats these metal threats here become loose and they can slip out of place um that's never good and also frets themselves can get little pits and if if you get a pit in there and you tryto um move the string, it'll get caught on the pit and prevent the string for moving and so that can cause a lot of problems as well. Strain gauge versus pick thickness we talked about that a little bit, but basically if you're using thicker strings this but like with this, this isn't drop g sharp, right? This isn't drop g sharp, so it has really thick strings so you want to be using a little bit of a thinker pick but it depends on how hard you play if you're going to play really hard, you might want to use the thinner pick because then the pick will have less of a tendency to knock the string out of tune, so you know if you can hear that, but if I pluck that string really hard it actually goes sharp in pitch first and then comes back down so having a thicker pick and picking it really hard is a bad combination you also want to look at thea bridge and neck muting and actually want to demonstrate that let's plug this in okay, all I wanted to do is like play in open court and then mute it with your left hand immediately afterwards they're fast okay? Do you hear that sound that comes from this dude again? Yeah. So now if I put my son here it goes away a little bit, but now we have this this's ringing out do it again. Well, if you can hear that, so now if I put my hand on that, okay, so that's the what? That's what we mean when we say the bridge in the neck meeting, we're talking about this area here in this area here and that's that's the, uh the two points after the string is actually touching a surface so the string touches the nut surface and the bridge and then there's no touching in between those two points so after that you get an additional vibration on both sides that occurs after the uh uh occurs outside of the two points where the string has tension. So those are the noises that you don't want to hear um when you're recording the guitar part and then the last thing I want to talk about a spring meeting now this this guitar doesn't have any springs because it has a fixed bridge, but if you're dealing with a guitar that has like a floyd rose bridge or maybe an ever tuned system or or some variation of that kind of system there will be springs inside the ghetto tar and those springs will actually vibrate when you start playing the guitar and you start muting it's and stopping the springs continue to vibrate after you stopped so a lot of times you have to turn the guitar over, take off the back plate and put like a some kind of felt or tape or sponge or something to stop it from resonating when you don't want it to also you want to look at the input jack and the electronics in general I know this this thing gets bumped on so many gets bumped all the time and so it is you know when when it's getting bumped and in this jack is getting a lot of ah abuse it can cause the input jack to become messed up and often times they a lot of guitars that they have really bad in projects like uh sounds like a short circuit or something. Okay, let's talk about actually preparing the guitar to record, so the first thing I want to do is mute the bridge. I'm actually do that right now, so I'm gonna go grab this tape right here and I like to use painter's tape because it won't damage the finish on the guitar and if you're dealing with like a four thousand dollar instrument you probably don't want to take the paint off of it, so just always use painter tape and you won't have anybody yelling at you now when I when I tape it up, I kind of like to have a little bit of a gap in between the two in between the strings like as I go along, I'm gonna push it up against the string and then and then push it down into the groove a little bit, and I try and do that for each one I find that it, uh, it'll stay on better if you do it like that, and I'm trying to actually wrap around the string and actually have the tape bond around the stringing and kind of grab it, so it'll, uh, effectively muted. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to mute the string. So now as I pluck these, they don't make any, they don't resonate, they don't make any sound anymore. It's a lot better than that. Do the nut. I'm going to show this slide here first, so you can see this is one of my guitars that I have at home. We actually had to do quite a bit of taping, because even with the area behind the nut taped up it still is resonating because if you look back here on the guitar you have all this distance that you have to cover so you might you might meet this section, but this might still bring a little bit someone go ahead and take that now I'd like to wrap it around there because it really stop it for making noise. Okay, so let's, turn this on and let's have you hit a couple of chords and muted and see if it improved now a million times better so let's look at this I want to show you um when I was talking earlier about having your nut groups being too wide, you can see here on this slide um on my guitar we had some pretty wide groove, so what we did to fix it is stick little pieces of paper and they're wrapping around the string and what that does is it just kind of takes up space on both sides of the string so that better fills out out the groove and that will prevent the string from sliding around within the group itself. Do you have any questions so far about this? Does that putting the paper and they're like dull the tone at all? Are you from my experience? I haven't really noticed that it would change the tone at all and the reason why is because this nut is one of only two points where the string hits a surface other than your finger so when you you can modify that that point because it will always be touching there now if you were to do something that was extending passed one of the sides of the nut then it would technically be touching and more than one point so it tends not to really affect it. We do have some questions sorry going yeah, any any other questions? You guys that a bunch of questions like about pickups and trust rod adjustments so when when would you need to adjust the trust rod? If you're like looking at a guitar right? So if the if the trust rod's too tight yeah, your guitar is going to be like a banana, right? And if it's too loose it is possible for it actually go the other way. Okay? So adjusting that rod is all about trying to get it straight and flat and I find that just unplug it real quick. The best way to really find out what you need to do is hold the guitar kind like this at your eye level and you just look across the guitar and if you angle the guitar to the to a point where you can actually see this this point and this point are like basically touching in a perspective line away from your face you'll see how much of a dip there is and you can once you look at that, you could be like, okay, I'm gonna try to quarter turns and you'll turn it two times and then take another look and see if you've gone too far. Um, and the goal is to get it to b flat. Basically, you wanted to be perfectly level at least that's how I do it. Any other questions? How does the tape factor into tuning? Do you have to take it off every often? Not every time you tune so you can still move the strings, okay? Like you can still move the tuner it's it's microscopically moving so it's not like it's a big deal. Now, if you had to go from, like, drop d toe like each standard, then maybe you'd have to take the tape off or if you had to make a really drastic tuning move, but otherwise in general, you don't have tio readjusted or anything. Now, of course, if you change the strings, you're probably gonna have to redo the taping because you're going to physically take the whole string off the guitar, but yeah, yeah, awesome, cool, so let's talk about bridges real quick, um, you need to understand a couple things about how bridges work ah, fixed bridge with string through is much easier to work with that's what we have here so you can see how string through means the string starts at the back right here goes through this hole and that comes through the body of the guitar and then comes around to the front, over the bridge and then to the nut so this's a lot easier to work with because this is going to be really stable and it's going to hold your tone in your pitch. Now, if you've got a floyd rose, those that works on, uh, like a like this, so it this part right here holds all the strings, and then you have a bar attached to him. When you move the bar, you khun basically moved the whole bridge like this, which will cause the strings to tighten or loosen based on how far you move the bar. Um now, the thing you have to understand about that bridge system is that you could bend a string and it'll pull the whole bridge. So if you're bending a string really far, you're pulling the whole bridge and then affecting the tuning of all the other strings that are that are standing there, um, it's a much more difficult system to play because you have to not only do you have to control you're picking very carefully but you also have to control your left hand and and make sure that you're keeping everything in pitch you have more control over the pitch but that also allows you to have more pitch mistakes in the other bridge system that I like to talk about is the, uh ever tuned system they take a lot of work to set up because it's a very intricate system but it's the type of system that you set up one time and it will you'll never need to tune again you only tune it one time and it has it has like a pulley system that holds each string individually independently from from all the other strings which allows it to maintain constant string tension so even if you bend a string like this it won't it'll it'll give so that the strings stays in tune so as you've been the string it gives and it stays in tune or if you let go it goes back so you have to know what you're working with if you're working with the ever tuned system though you're probably not doing a lot of maintenance on the guitar because they just set up one time and it works perfectly so a lot of the tone a lot of people ask me about guitar tone in general and I mean even if you have my my tone settings it's you're not going to get the exact tone that I get with my guitars and that's basically comes down to two things here, your hands and what? What kind of takes you actually keep so a big part of tone being in the hands is having one guitarist what I mean by this is if you have one guitar player playing the left side guitar parts and then a different guitar player playing the right side guitar parts, they might play some of the riffs slightly differently. One player might pick the strings harder than the other and you'll get this off balance sound of your riff so it makes more sense to just pick one guitarist to perform you know the left and right sides it's it's totally find if you've got a band who has really talented guitar players and one guy does like a couple of rhythm parts for one song and the other guy does the leads like you don't have to make one guitar player played every single guitar part, but when you're trying to match up a left and a right side generally good to have just one guitar player don't hit the strings too hard because when you do, they go sharp now if you're working with the ever tuned system, you don't have to worry about that because you can hit the strings as hard as you want and they'll never go sharp, but on the typical guitar hitting the string really hard makes the note go too sharp uh don't push on the front too hard I can demonstrate this so on this let me, uh get that cable too so with this if you push really hard with your left hand you can actually make this string go sharp and I'll show you ah that note is going up and coming down on you so if you push too hard then your court is going toe be all out of whack so if you want to make sure that you maintain um a balanced amount of hardness on the threats and your hand position matters and I'll demonstrate this to um if you're if you're too close like let's say this is the the threat that you want to play if you're too close to this side it could sound different than being too close to this side so it is just a matter of knowing your guitar, your specific instrument and knowing your parts and what sounds best for what you're trying to perform. Ah, the other thing about hand position is uh like if you're playing a you know a ford if you got all four fingers down on your fretboard and one of them is it applying as much pressure as the other ones it can like you can buzz like this think they can get like nasty sounding noise is, um that just don't sound good uh, listen to what a producer hears this is a little bit more difficult to explain, but basically any time someone's playing a guitar there's a lot of different sounds happening all at once you've got the the percussive sound of the pick hitting the stream you have the vibration of the string and you also have the left hand movements which concerned like this and you also have um the sounds of like, so fight if let's say I have my my left hand right here and I'm like playing a part where I have to mute sounds good that way, but if I was just using one finger every time, rest my finger back on the fretboard and makes the weird sound so get different sounds of different points on the board you have to pay attention to all of those things when you're recording guitar parts and making sure that you're getting exactly the takes that you want to hear kind of one thing that'll happen is the more you do this, you'll listen to people playing guitar and you won't even hear the notes that they're playing. All you'll hear is all those stupid sounds and uh you'll you're basically go crazy until you figure out how to eliminate all of them and that's a lot of guitar production is is just figuring out how to get rid of stupid noises and making the guitar stay in ten the details are what matter so a lot of people are like why do your guitar sounds so huge and wire your guitar so perf it's because the details are what we're paying attention to um everything that goes into the recording session or into the project has been scrutinized and looked over in tuned and made sure that it's exactly every single note that we want to hear and not any of the notes we don't want to hear do everything questions before we go to the next yeah we have a couple questions about strings how often do you change strange when you're recording guitars and bases so um we try to do a fresh set of strings on every song okay um however not everyone has a budget that can do that we also try tio if the guitar is kind of finicky and it seems tto hate new strings then well we might just leave one set on there because it makes more sense to just tune it and let the strings like you know settle on the guitar and you know if you're changing the strings every single song and you're noticing that it takes you a whole day just to record certain parts then maybe you don't want to change the strings because it's counterproductive but I tend to like to do a fresh set of strings because I do like that fresh sound of brand new strings um however if you're recording a different style of music, maybe older strings or better so, you know, it just depends. When's the best time to change strings weren't recording guitars. I think you just answered this question, like between songs not in the middle of recording song. Yeah, you want to get through the entire song before you change the string. Now, if you did get into a situation where the guitar player was playing the song and he broke a string in the middle, maybe you just replaced that one string and hope that it doesn't really stick out. Yeah, stick out, but if you notice that it does, I would say it's, just better to change them all and start over because the thing that I want to stress about recording is that you're you're literally making history because a song like will last forever because long as you put the song out into the world, it's going to be there forever so that that piece of media that you're creating needs to be really awesome because it has to withstand the tests of time. I mean, if you listen to a song like by queen, for example, it still sounds great and that's because they really paid attention to every single little detail of the recording when they were making it.

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His style is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in Studio Pass he’ll show you how he produces it.

There is no magic bullet to Joey’s sound. It’s simply the combination of a million little decisions that add up to something incredible. In this class – for the first time ever – Joey will demonstrate his entire process: pre-pro, engineering, mixing and mastering, from A-Z. You’ll learn:

  • Writing and arrangement tips that take a song from good to great
  • Recording, editing, and mixing tips for guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths
  • How to get stuff to sound loud, super clean, and tight

Joey is a hands-on engineer – he’ll talk about how he works with bands to develop their writing and ideas so they are working with the best possible raw material. He’ll show you the specific signal chain he uses for mixing guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths. And he’ll give extra focus to vocal tracking, editing, tuning, compression, and effects.

If you want to transform your recording and engineering process, don’t miss your opportunity to learn from chart-topping metalcore producer, Joey Sturgis.


Adam Train

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the bands Joey records. The only reason I bought this class was because I enjoyed the Periphery one so much. Joey takes modern production techniques to the absolutely extreme. He takes punch-ins and editing to a level where it's not even funny any more. If you're looking for tips on recording and mixing in general, this class is not for you. If you're looking for editing tips to see how far you can possibly push the strive for perfection, this is pretty spot on. If you're a beginner, don't take this class to heart - Joey's workflow is borderline psychopathic - go and get the Periphery session instead. If you've been recording for a while and you're looking to see how far editing can take you, it's worth a look.