So you've set up your favourite pedals, you've tuned your guitar and now you're ready to lay down some music for future generations.
But where to begin? Well, there are two methods of recording with guitar pedals:
'Printing' a track refers to the act of committing your recording to tape (or more likely, a track within your DAW). This includes any time or modulation effects such as delay or tremolo.
If you're confident about how your guitar tone sounds and how the track will sit in the overall mix, then there's nothing wrong with doing it this way. People have been achieving great results like this for decades!
Re-amping is a more time-consuming, technical but ultimately more flexible way of recording with guitar pedals, allowing you to tweak amp and pedal settings after the initial track has been recorded.
Say you want to alter the delay time, or turn the gain down a notch - you can do that!
Firstly you'll need a re-amp box. Radial are one of the most popular brands out there, but Palmer also make one that we can recommend.
The idea is that you record a clean guitar track (either with an amp set very clean or with a DI straight into your mixer/audio interface). This signal can then be used to retrospectively feed through your rig. The beauty of this is that it gives you the ability to tweak settings on the fly, or even try out completely different pedalboards or amps using the same signal!
What is a re-amp box?
Your audio interface pumps out low-impedance, balanced line-level signals that are pretty hot (+4dBu), but your pedals and/or amp will be expecting a high-impedance, unbalanced, instrument-level signal from a guitar pickup, which is a lot weaker (‑18dBu).
A re-amp box acts as the medium between these differing signal types, allowing you to turn that hot signal back into a pedal-and-amp-friendly signal. It also isolates the grounds with a transformer, which helps to remove any ground‑loop hum issues that may arise. Some provide additional gain knobs to allow you to dial in levels.
You can get away without one, but chances are your pedals and amp will not be anywhere near their best and you may pick up a lot of hum.
To record using re-amping, your signal path will look something like this:
Guitar -> Audio interface channel input 1 DI -> Audio interface line out -> Re-amp box -> Pedalboard -> Amp -> Mic -> Audio interface channel input 2 -> DAW
Other more complex variations are possible too.
One technique we are fond of at Boost Guitar Pedals HQ is printing one track with your dirt pedals in front of your amp, while re-amping the signal on a separate track through your time and modulation chain and back into your DAW in real time.
This allows you to commit to a core tone you like, but tweak the delay, reverb, chorus etc at a later date so it sits better in the mix. You could even use this re-amped track for monitoring purposes.
This signal path will look something like this:
Guitar -> Dirt pedals -> Amp -> Mic ->Audio interface channel input 1 -> DAW
Audio interface line out -> Re-amp box -> Time / Modulation effects -> Audio interface channel input 2 -> DAW
Re-amping not only makes recording with guitar pedals a lot more flexible, adjusting settings on the fly, but it allows you to introduce amp and effect plugins within your DAW too, combining the best of in-the-box software and real hardware.
Try experimenting to see what you sounds you can achieve. A cool way to get started is to experiment with adjusting delay settings in real time for a trippy intro or breakdown.