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Recording acoustic guitar advice.

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Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby Uberatmos » Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:41 pm

Hi all, I'm wondering if I can get some advice from people who are more experienced at this type of thing than me.

A friend of mine has asked me to record his acoustic side project which is just him on the guitar and vocals and it sounds like a lot of fun but I'm just a touch unsure of just how to approach it. I mainly record rock and metal bands and I'm wondering if I should differ in some of my techniques for this project.

For example, would it be wise to record two rhythm tracks and pan them left and right or do most acoustic recordings have 1 guitar track but with a little stereo widening on them.

Also what mic techniques would you recommend? I was going to use two condensers with one pointed at the spot between the hole and the neck and one just off centre of the soundhole but I've heard having one near the soundhole and one far up on the neck is good also.

I know I could get these answers by experimenting with mic placement but we won't have much time for anything bar a set-up and warmup so I'd rather get some advice now.

I'll definitely be setting the recording to a click track as drums and synths may be added later and I've advised my friend to clean his fretboard and change his strings the night before while breaking them in slightly with clean washed hands.

That's about all I can think of to do at the actual recording stage but if anyone has any other advice then please let me know, I'd really like to get a good sound at the source and use my other instincts for post production and things that have an 'undo' button.

It'll be a home recording done in a carpeted living room.

Signal chain will be

acoustic guitar-> Condenser x2 -> M-audio Projectmix ->Cubase 5
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby Wonks » Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:05 pm

I'll leave miking to others - though what you've said is all reasonable.

Just check there's nothing rattly on the guitar - loose tuners etc. If so tape them up. If he's sitting down to play, then make sure the chair isn't squeaky when he moves. No belt buckle to knock the back of the guitar. No shirt buttons knocking the guitar either. And try and stop him from tapping his feet (if he does). Angle the mics to minimise the pickup of breathing noise.
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby RegressiveRock » Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:12 pm

Uberatmos wrote:For example, would it be wise to record two rhythm tracks and pan them left and right or do most acoustic recordings have 1 guitar track but with a little stereo widening on them.

Also what mic techniques would you recommend? I was going to use two condensers with one pointed at the spot between the hole and the neck and one just off centre of the soundhole but I've heard having one near the soundhole and one far up on the neck is good also.



To point 1 both techniques are used. Close miking in your case may be better if the room quality is not sufficient. (However as long as you have the room and the distance for your miking configuration and the musicians can naturally adjust levels with each other the latter can produce a more natural feel).

To point 2, if you go close, I would not go for 4 mikes (2x2) unless you are very confident in your technique, two individual tracks are typically easier to work with and easier to mix (somewhat obviously).

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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby Uberatmos » Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:56 pm

Wonks wrote:I'll leave miking to others - though what you've said is all reasonable.

Just check there's nothing rattly on the guitar - loose tuners etc. If so tape them up. If he's sitting down to play, then make sure the chair isn't squeaky when he moves. No belt buckle to knock the back of the guitar. No shirt buttons knocking the guitar either. And try and stop him from tapping his feet (if he does). Angle the mics to minimise the pickup of breathing noise.

Thanks for the info, I wouldn't even have thought of things like buttons and belt buckles causing unwanted sound but it's so obvious.

I'll be using a max of 2 mics, those examples were of 2 sets of two mic setups not altogether at the same time.

Great information thanks. I like a broad stereo field so I'll probably double track it and pan. Seems instinctive to me. maybe a backup track to run quietly down the middle.

I feel much more confident now. Thanks all.
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby The Elf » Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:01 pm

I would record in stereo and not use any widening techniques at all. I like the one mic at the 12th fret and one over the player's shoulder, but this assumes you're not tracking vocals at the same time.

Did you try a few searches on SOS? There's a great article you'd do well to read HERE
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby MarkNZ » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:20 pm

Great stuff so far. My only additional point is to watch the volume of the click in the headphones. It's very easy to have it bleed into the mics - especially on the quieter passages.
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:27 pm

MarkNZ wrote:Great stuff so far. My only additional point is to watch the volume of the click in the headphones. It's very easy to have it bleed into the mics - especially on the quieter passages.

+1

Also, consider placing the 'body' mic behind the saddle about knee height, pointing up to the guitar. This was done with my guitar at BBC Manchester. I was suspicious of this at first but it resulted in a much warmer midrange that sat better in a mix than a more bassy sound that I might have got around the soundhole.

I now incorporate this with a neck mic as you've already described but tend not to spread them out much so as to keep the overall mix tight.
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:48 pm

Unless he's playing fingerstyle make sure there's a decent plectrum selection available. Sometimes I find changing the plectrum can be virtually as noticable as changing the guitar. Personally I find those which are the most comfortable to play with aren't always the ones that record the best. Also using closed back headphones when tracking tends to make unwanted external noises more noticable.

Getting two strummed acoustic guitar tracks to sit comfortably when panned wide also means the playing has to be as tight as two coats of paint. I have more success playing to a simple drum pattern, rather than a click, even though it won't be used in the final mix.

Finger-picked tracks however tend to be a little more forgiving. Good luck
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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby MarkNZ » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:15 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:Unless he's playing fingerstyle make sure there's a decent plectrum selection available. Sometimes I find changing the plectrum can be virtually as noticable as changing the guitar.

Finger-picked tracks however tend to be a little more forgiving. Good luck


Yes, definitely.

And this may be obvious, but new strings (maybe played in for a few hours).

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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:41 am

And it's worth have a few guitars to choose from. We guitarists have favourite guitars that we go to, but just because we like them best doesn't mean they sound best.

And sometimes a guitar that sounds great in the room doesn't sound quite so good to the mics, whereas a guitar that doesn't sound so good can often record very well. So it's worth making a few test recordings with different guitars and inviting your friend to do a blind listening test to see which he prefers.

One thing you did mention is that you will be recording in a carpeted living room. In those circumstances it's often worth putting a sheet of hardboard or ply on the floor at the guitarist's feet, the reflected sound often contributes to a better recording.

But above all, don't be afraid to take as long as it takes to get a sound you are both happy with before getting down to serious tracking. Better to spend an extra half day getting the source right, than to spend an extra week trying to mix and still being dissatisfied.

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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:42 am

I would suggest getting hold of at least 1 x AT4033 if possible this used to be my "go to" mic for an acoustic guitar. I mainly recorded direct to stereo and if it was a solo player/vocalist I placed 2 mics on the guitar and one on the vocal. I would pan the mics to taste.

Nothing complicated about how I mic'd them really just 2 mics one near the body, near the end of the body 8-10 inches away and 1 at neck meets body, for both mics. (usually an SDC at the neck/body position) I often used a Beyer M201 or Senn MD441 on the vocals (nice and tight pick up) with a very good pop shield as they can pop a bit.

I think you should do some experimental recordings one day and you will be more confident when you actually record.

cheers

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Re: Recording acoustic guitar advice.

Postby tacitus » Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:53 am

I find click tracks are less likely to be audible on the recording if you use a single earbud - one with a selection of soft plastic buds so you get a good fit in the ear. For me , a single bud gives plenty of click and I can still hear everything else, mainly through the other ear but a bit through the one with the ear bud. Of course, some people can't cope with any other noise once they've got an ear bud in, so it's a case of trying it to see.

+1 on the buttons and belts - it's amazing what an audio obstacle course exists in apparently normal clothing, and of course it's amplified whenever the guitar clunks against something. Polo shirt and unbelted trousers, I'd say - and loose ones at that, if possible.Don't forget to confiscate all the keys, loose change, ipods, phones and other pocket detritus.

You can do your placement tests on your own - you don't have to strum more than a chord or two to have some comparison between different mic positions and/or acoustic treatments.

Double-check with your guitarist on the string situation - often a single string replaced takes some time to settle down, so if you have a whole new set on, the possibility exists that the whole lot will go flat as you record, so frequent checks while you're recording would be wise (this is one area I'd definitely use a tuning meter). I don't have a lot to do with guitars now, but years ago some players seemed to be able to change strings and carry on while others had no end of tuning problems while the new string(s) bedded in. It'd be a shame to get to the end of a long session and find the later takes are flatter than the first ones.
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