Professional Sound - Indepth

Recording Electric Guitar Feedback by George Kourounis

The sound of a piercing, overdriven guitar on the brink of feeding back into a chaotic, sonic assault is music to many people’s ears. To some, it means early eviction from their apartment and disturbing the peace charges. Nevertheless, recording electric guitar feedback can be a challenging endeavour due to the unique nature of the sound source.

The usual method of obtaining feedback from an electric guitar is to position the player in close proximity to their amplifier and turn it up to 11. The sound from the amp is loud enough to enter the guitar and gets amplified again, exiting the amp’s speakers and cousing a feedback loop. It is often difficult for the guitarist to control the feedback because he/she has to find the exact spot to aim the guitar in order to get a rich,, useable feedback tone without causing screeching howling. It is this unpredictable tendency that makes feedback tricky to record.

One thing that you might want to try is riding your level to tape. If you are manually riding your record levels, then you have the option of fading the feedback in and out, thus eliminating extraneous thuds, squeaks and ringing open strings which tend to pollute your tracks and are nearly impossible to scrub out later. It also allows you to vary the quitar’s levels to suit the mood of the song. This all might sound obvious, but it’s the little things that separate the good recordings from the great ones.

Also, in order to get the guitar to feed back properly, the amplifier must be set to rather high volume. Now, because the guitarist needs tobe close to the amp, his/her headphones need to be loud enough in order for them to actually hear the song that they’re playing to. You could just crank up the headphone feed and hope you don’t kill anyone, or you could give them a pair of earplugs to wear. The earplugs will bring the volume down to a bearable level so that your player doesn’t go deaf while recording those feedback-soaked solos.

George Kourounis, Studio Instructor, Trebas Institute.

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About Andrew King
Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.
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