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Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

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Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby pano » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:15 pm

I'm really trying to sort my acoustic guitar recording, maximising what I have before deciding what to upgrade.

I've recorded some short clips using 2 guitars: a £350-ish Suzuki solid top (rest of body laminate), and a £2500-ish Fylde (lovely luthier guitar). The Fylde is a more recent addition. I thought my previous poor acoustic sound was due to the quality of the Sazuki (although it's an ok sound, neck lovely to play). I was wrong. Both sound horrible when tracked.


I'm using a Tascam USB interface with built in pres, and a cardioid Red5 RV8. I acknowledge this is budget stuff, but I sould still be able to get a nicer sound than this, surely? Both guitars (new strings) recorded with cardioid around 8-10" in front of 12th fret. Recordings are raw with no db cut or hp roll off from the mic. I' playing with some DIY acoustic treatment behind me, slightly bright floor.


Clip 1: The Sazuki (@24bit). I put on new strings, started recording, and noticed I could hear what sounds like warm clipping/distorting. At no point in the recording chain was there any clipping. I do need the pres turned up high to get a decent signal, a common issue with these cheaper interfaces. I've had this set up for a few years and didn't notice this before. I get it when tracking using different PCs, so it's not a USB power issue from the computer end.

Q: is the clipping my imagination? If not, is it the interface or the mic? I'm wondering if the Tascam is just getting old - either the pres or falling power from the USB.

Clips 2 & 3 are the Suzuki and Fylde @ 16bit. Again, raw audio. You can clearly hear the different tone and the better quality of the Fylde, but the recording is still horrible - boomy, and nothing like the guitar actually sounds.

Q: is this really what I can expect in a raw tracked acoustic guitar before hp, eq, compression etc? i.e. Is this really as good as it gets using the equipment I have? If not, either the equipment isn't performing up to par (mic and interace are both around 5-6 years old), or my technique sucks. I've played around a little with different positions, with audible differences, but nothing I'd say that was sonically pleasant.

Would really appreciate help as am now at hair-pulling stage. I'd like to develop skills that maximise what I have, before blindly buying the next bit of kit in the hope it will sort out problems. Clearly, the Fylde hasn't sorted it.

Thanks!
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:14 pm

Greetings!

Have you looked at this video from SoS?

Recording Acoustic Guitar

I think you need to experiment with mic position to capture the sound you are looking for. Although there are some general rule-of-thumb approaches, with the huge variation in mics, instruments and rooms I have found that sometimes the 'best' sound results from an unconventional approach.

And don't despair. I was expecting something that sounded absolutely appalling, but it's not that bad. I will resist the temptation to give you a quick-fix answer, but do come back if, having experimented as per the video you still can't capture the sound you are looking for.
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby pano » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:39 pm

Thanks DC. Have read quite a bit about recording acoustic, but not this vid, so will take a look.

I've also experimented a bit, but to be honest assumed I'd get a decent sound from a 'standard' approach - i.e. 12th fret etc - I mean, that's why it's a standard approach right?

So started thinking I should be considering stereo mic'ing with pencil condensers etc., or upgrading interface, but just thought I'd be able to at least get a better result with what I already have - especially with a very decent guitar.

Will give the video a run through and come back.

Cheers
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby pano » Tue Dec 27, 2011 7:10 pm

Enjoyed the SOS video, but a shame the sound quality isn't good to hear differences in detail.

Anyway, it really encouraged me to spend a few hours experimenting with mic positions.

I've now uploaded 15 second clips of the best 7. I've now tired ears so would be very interested to hear other opinions on which works best. All played through the cheaper Suzuki (again with philosophy of getting most out of modest equipment).

Which is best:

A: 14 inches in front of neck-body join (=15th fret)
B: 7 inches in front of neck-body join
C: 14 inches in front of 12th fret
D: 7 inches in front of 12th fret
E: mid-way from floor to hole, mic looking up
F: mid-way from floor to neck join, mic looking up
G: behind and over shoulder

Not sure how I can improve further?

Personally I think I prefer (at the moment anyway)the behind and over shoulder position, but perhaps that's because I'm a guitarist and is I'm used to. I suppose a high pass across all of them may reveal a better one? Of course, they all sound much better when I slap on a stereo-widening VST, but that's not the point of this exercise...

What I have learned is that in efforts to limit room ambiance I've probably had mic too near (7-8 inches). I didn't think proximity effect was noticable at that distance on a guitar? Either way, 12-14 inches delivers a more balanced, less boomy tone.

Thanks for listening!
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby DAGGILARR » Tue Dec 27, 2011 7:36 pm

It is a tricky bizniz recording acoustic. It would seem from what I have learnt that mic position is a BIG factor. In order to get this right I would suggest you have a helper and a good set of headphones, you listen and play, while they move the mics around when you get a combo you like make a recording and remember the position (gaffer tape or diagram and notes) also look at the room, is it hard, or is it soft? would a bit of reflection help or is there too much? New strings can add a bit freshness.

I still have not got the sound I am looking for, but will keep trying, just waiting to find a helper. Trying to audition mic position on my own is just not working
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby pano » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:31 pm

Agreed, it's hard alone. I've someone coming armed with supplementary mics (and guitars) in a few weeks, so that should fill a good afternoon. My monitoring headphones are good (HD600s) but open backed so not quite appropriate!

Forgot to clarify: A-G above relate to the 7 15 second clips I've uploaded. Returning to these after a few hours I still have difficulty choosing the best - they're all different and equally bad as each other.

edit: @ Daggilarr - just listened to your Carlos. Some lovely definition, but tone not quite there. a little too harsh/aggressive (but far better than mine!)
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby RegressiveRock » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:55 pm

pano wrote:Agreed, it's hard alone. I've someone coming armed with supplementary mics (and guitars) in a few weeks, so that should fill a good afternoon. My monitoring headphones are good (HD600s) but open backed so not quite appropriate!

Forgot to clarify: A-G above relate to the 7 15 second clips I've uploaded. Returning to these after a few hours I still have difficulty choosing the best - they're all different and equally bad as each other.

It's not that hard. The trick is to move the instrumentalist and not the mike when you are on your own. Maintaining objectivity is the tough bit, particularly if you are the instrumentalist. For that a pair of closed cans with good isolation really helps. You really need to hear what the mike is hearing and not get distracted by what is going outside of your cans.

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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:18 pm

I've not got the chance to listen to the clips yet but there are a few things that strike me from what you write.

When I read or hear people discuss recording acoustic I'm always reassured by the extent to which the best of them experiment. What starts off as a standard setup is soon tweaked to capture the best of the instrument. This is missing in your post.

In my experience the most pleasing sounds I've recorded sometimes sound radically different to how I hear the guitar/mandola/bouzouki acoustically. That doesn't bother me, in fact it can encourage me to play with a different approach to make the most of this unfamiliar character.

Forgive me for jumping in uninformed so to speak. I'll have a listen when I can get to WiFi.
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:40 pm

I'm not at work today, so I can't listen and give any feedback on your recordings directly, but I can tell you that new strings are a disaster for recording guitars. They're way too bright, but in a really nasty, shiny, rattly sort of way. They vibrate oddly against the fret and they clutter the sound with a lot of metallic 'mess'. You need to find the window after they lose all that stuff and before the intonation gets affected by age and corrosion.

The guitars themselves are also a huge factor. In my experience about 7/10 acoustic guitars actively fight against you when trying to record them. In other words they exhibit traits in the sound which you find become undesirably obvious as you go in search of the traits that you do want to hear. The design of the instrument, type of wood and age are all factors. Generally speaking you do not want a resonant, vibrant guitar with lots of projection and extended highs and lows, but rather a dry, middly, tight sound without too much high frequency.

I'll have a listen when I can and see if there's anything to suggest.

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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby Guy Johnson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:08 am

well, of course it depends on the context .. but I like the over the shoulder one the best.

Try sitting on a high stool or stand up; make sure you are away from any walls: I'm guessing you are getting some reflections from adjacent surfaces.
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby pano » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:21 am

Thanks for feedback - appreciated.

shufflebeat wrote:
When I read or hear people discuss recording acoustic I'm always reassured by the extent to which the best of them experiment. What starts off as a standard setup is soon tweaked to capture the best of the instrument. This is missing in your post.

Point well taken. I've experimented over the years a bit, but not substantially because (i) I never had the opportunity to record with a fantastic guitar (until now) and (ii) when I did move the mic around, while the tonal quality certainly changed, it was a hard call to say whether it was for better or worse. so - I spent energy trying to fix in the mix and apply various work-around strategies to hide what i considered to be poor recording (double tracking etc). Now I want to come clean and get a simple, good signal.

Jack Ruston wrote: I can tell you that new strings are a disaster for recording guitars. They're way too bright, but in a really nasty, shiny, rattly sort of way.

The design of the instrument, type of wood and age are all factors. Generally speaking you do not want a resonant, vibrant guitar with lots of projection and extended highs and lows, but rather a dry, middly, tight sound without too much high frequency.

Excellent advice - thanks. I assumed that bright strings would add some zing to what I considered to be muddy, dull recordings. The Fylde, with toned down strings might be just the ticket - it's smaller, projects less, but much tighter.


Guy Johnson wrote: well, of course it depends on the context .. but I like the over the shoulder one the best.

Try sitting on a high stool or stand up; make sure you are away from any walls: I'm guessing you are getting some reflections from adjacent surfaces.

Was mine too, but once you run them through an hp, there's not a huge difference tbh. It seems to me that different positions change the tonal balance, but not so much the quality of the recording - that's a combination of room, guitar and signal chain?

FYI I'm sitting in a corner facing into room, with a corner-shaped 7ft screen covered with 2 duvets behind me. It's a wooden floor so getting some bright reflections there - especially from the shoulder position (this also gives more reflections from other sources given it's facing more into the room).
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Re: Demoralising acoustic guitar issues - Please listen!

Postby DAGGILARR » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:34 am

Jack Ruston wrote: I can tell you that new strings are a disaster for recording guitars. They're way too bright, but in a really nasty, shiny, rattly sort of way. They vibrate oddly against the fret and they clutter the sound with a lot of metallic 'mess'. You need to find the window after they lose all that stuff and before the intonation gets affected by age and corrosion.
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@ Jack. Well I advised differently, but bow to far greater experience.

(especially in the light of the fact I still have not achieved a decent sound myself)

In my researches on this there is some mention of some strings are better than others. I changed strings for this reason and found new D'ads to be an improvement over older Newtones. I will resist the temptation to put a new set on before having another go at recording acoustic
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