Okay, Jacob, here's something that I learned the hard way and I've outlined in several books like The Recording Engineer's Handbook and The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook. Put the pedals on the side and plug your guitar directly into your amp, then crank that sucker. To get a great guitar sound you have to not only move some air, but also turn your amp up enough so that both the input and output stages of the circuitry begin to distort a bit, if you're playing through a tube amp.
This even applies to the inexpensive small modeling amps that have flooded the market. Even though the sound of a solid state (a non-tube amp, without getting too technical) amp is pretty clean before you dial in the overdrive, the sound can benefit a lot from a little of the speaker being overdriven as well.
That said, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Smaller wattage amps work a lot better in the studio, which is why you see a lot of 5 to 20 watt amps now available. A 100 watt Marshall (or hundred watt anything, for that matter), for instance, is altogether too loud for 95% of the studio situations, and you'll get a sound that's just as big from one that 10 watts without everyone having to wear earplugs.
2) With either a tube or solid state amp, make it sound as good as you can with it relatively clean sound before you add any distortion, either from an amp model or a pedal. You'll find that you won't need nearly as much of the crunch and the sound will sit better in the track.
3) Always be judicious with distortion and effects when recording. Usually what sounds good to you in the room is too much for the song, causing the guitar sound to become more of a blur than a distinct element in the mix. It's okay if you record with too little, since you can always add it later, but you can't take it away once it's recorded that way.
4) Don't smash the mic up against the speaker grill. Move it back a foot or so (which is the old school way of doing it) and you'll find that you'll pick up more of the character of the speaker because it has a chance to develop, as well as a bit of the room.
5) Move the mic a bit. Move it across the best sounding speaker in your cabinet to find the best combination of fullness and definition. Closer to the voice coil and you'll get more high end, and more to the outside edge of the cone will give you more body. Usually about halfway provides the best combination, but don't be afraid to experiment. Try this first before you reach for the EQ. You'll be surprised how well it works!
So keep your sound big and muscular instead of tiny and small. Crank the amp up, move some air, and play a bit cleaner than you think you need to. You'll be surprised at how good it will sound.
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