I'm just getting into home recording (Line 6 UX1 and garageband) and I'm finding it difficult to know where to begin with getting the tone right for records. A lot of the time I'm approaching a song without a set idea of what sort of sound I'd like, so I'm just midlessly flicking through the options, and I'm not really sure how to begin.

My problem is that I start with a guitar, then I'll choose an amp head and EQ it, but then if I want to try a different cab it'll completely change the sound of the guitar, but every cab has a completely different sound to it. Then once you've found a nice cab, you might realise that another head sounds better with that cab, so then you're happy with that, and you mess with mic placement and realise that actually, with mic placement you could get a better sound off a better cab, so you switch the cab, and think well I might as well switch the head then.

This is before compression, stompboxes, visual eq settings etc. I'm getting a little overwhelmed because it's not like I'm finding the best rig for a head or a guitar, it's that I'm finding a little change makes a massive massive difference to the same equipment. For example a Plexi modeller sounds like a 70's JMP style thing through one cab, but sounds like a modern metal amp through another. Every setting completely changes the sound and I just don't know what to do to make it work.

Is there a guideline of where to begin with recording? I've spent some time just trying everything for myself, but every time I get about 5 tones that all work really really well but are for completely seperate things. I'm baffled.
You're on the right path, experiment, experiment, experiment. Every time you get a great tone, write down how you made it so you'll eventually have a bank of great tones.
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Recording is a lot like learning to play the guitar. You won't learn how to do it over night and it'll take a lot of trial and error to get it right. The advice Artemis gave to experiment is spot on. If you can afford a beginners guide to recording, that will also be a help. I have one here and it's a good read. Lots of good advice and tips.
Best advice I can give: Use less gain than you think you need. Use a Tubescreamer for a tighter gain tone and preamp gain for a "looser" gain tone.
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
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Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
In reality, you just choose the one you like best...
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
...It's the last place I was seen before I lost myself

Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
Sounds like your heading in the right direction. Another thing to keep in mind besides experimenting is get the other instruments going in whatever track you're working on. You may find if you're just listening to guitar and working on tone it may not work when you start mixing it in with everything else.
Thanks for the advice everyone. I'd got a few basic recordings down and then someone introduced me to all the modifiers and suddenly I realised I could change it round more than I'd originally thought but as I mention it's a bit overwhelming since they all seem to completely change it rather than lightly tweak it.

I thought the answer might be experiment, but I wondered if there was an advisable way to start. I'll just play with it then and see what happens. =D
Do a lot of reading on this forum and others online. I've been doing it for almost 2 years and it's still a big learning curve. You can use the Crit My Mix thread to get advice from other members. From my experience everyone seems to be pretty honest and constructive. Really haven't seen any "your stuff sucks bro" or anything like that on here. One thing I've learned is that a single guitar tone may not sound good by itself, but it sits well with the mix. My biggest problem is I usually have a lot of low end in my guitar when jamming or playing live. But you want to cut that out and let the bass do it's job. Good luck, cheers!
i think the first step is to actually have some idea what you want your song to sound like. otherwise you will sort of keep doing what you are now to some extent. experimenting will let you find some awesome tones, but you need to know what to go back to. even if you end up changing what you think you want to sound like, you should at least have some ideas to start.
I highly recommend this and have had other people talk about this too. Too much choice limits creativity. Get to know say 5 combinations really well, what they can do can't do etc. Just use those 5 mainly. But also record a dry signal for reamping (If you don't know what that it look it up on youtube it will be explained much better than i can) so that if find another tone to use you can choose that one. Personally for my music I only use as a around 7 different amps. This is because I have my bases covered with these, and I know straight away if I want a specific tone just where to look and exactly how each of these models work. And of course by also recording a dry guitar you can reamp to your hearts content