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Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

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Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Vmusic » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:17 pm

Hi,
I am having trouble getting what I'll call a soft mandolin sound recording in my simple home studio. I've listed my equipment here, and yes the audio interface is old.

I use Cubase 10.5 which I run on a Windows box.
Neumann KM184 pencil type mic and an Audiotechnica AT 2035 Cardioid Condenser mic
Presonus Audiobox 2x2 USB audio interface

SooOOOoooOO.....the problem is that my mandolin comes out sounding so harsh and percussive. I have a link below to wave file I recorded.

This wav file was recorded with the Neumann about a foot away pointed towards where the neck and body meet. I've tried a couple different picks (Nylon vs. Tortex which I like the feel of). The instrument is an A model Weber (Absaroka) which is a decent mandolin.

I've tried EQing, mostly dropping (subtracting) in the 3K range, but it doesn't seem to help and of course, does nothing for the percussiveness. Every pick hit sounds like I'm attacking the mandolin with a hammer compared to the reference.

Here's a link to the wav file I recorded:
http://irisicom.net/HarshMando/HarshMando.wav

I'm open to ideas. For reference, and yes I realize this is one of THE best, here's an example of beautifully toned mandolin in a live setting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRhyVjcsGFo

One other small note - my concern is the solo notes. In the wav file there are some "chops" where I'm playing full chords, and I'm not really worried about that. It's the individual notes and the lead type parts [0:32, 2:02, 5:17, 6:11]


Is there anything that can reduce the pick percussive sound after the recording?
Maybe different mic placement or different mics all together

Thanks in Advance for Ideas on "Softening" the Mando
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:45 pm

Is that what you meant to post, because it just seems like a lot of silence, a few notes on the mando, then more silence and background noises, then a couple of strummed chords.

What there was sounded OK to me, but there really wasn't much to go on.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:51 pm

I downloaded the file, and the first thing to say is that there are periods of digital glitching, suggestive of a serious clocking or interface buffering problem. There's are bursts around 1:07, 2:06, and 3:00 for example. The fact that it seems to appear every minute or so suggests something is not clocked correctly and the converter and reference clocks are drifting slowly relative to one another, just drifting out of sync range once a minute or so.

As for the 'harshness'... I'm not sure I'd describe what I heard as harsh. It sounds very close-miked with a bright mic, though, which obviously emphasises both the percussive nature of the playing and the overall brightness.

if you want something less percussive and smoother-sounding, I'd suggest moving the mic(s) down towards the tail of the instrument instead of the neck, where you should be able to find a position that gives more body and less 'pluck'. A greater distance between mic and instrument will also help enormously with the percussiveness, but it will also increase the room sound/ambience which you may not want.

If you're open to the idea of different mics, then I'd suggest trying a dynamic mic -- a decent ribbon would be a good option, but even something like the venerable SM57 could deliver a less harsh sound with greatly reduced percussiveness.

I also heard a fair bit of bleed from the click track. Not enough to be an issue within a mix, but you may want to use different headphones with less leakage for more exposed recordings.

Hope that helps.

H
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:54 pm

Wonks wrote:What there was sounded OK to me, but there really wasn't much to go on.

There's 14 and a half minutes of 32-bit floating-point audio there... how much do you want? :lol:
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 27, 2019 7:28 pm

If you're after a quick fix rather than re-recording (which would definitely be best bet as mentioned above) sometimes using a deesser can yield surprisingly effective results in clearing up string instruments.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:02 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Wonks wrote:What there was sounded OK to me, but there really wasn't much to go on.

There's 14 and a half minutes of 32-bit floating-point audio there... how much do you want? :lol:

That's because it's a different (presumably the correct) file now. The original one was a couple of minutes long at most.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:09 pm

In the case of Chris Thile thecnique has a lot to do with it/ And bluegrass players use thick/hard picks, a Tortex would need to me 2mm+ and nylon will never work as it's too flexible. Also they also hold the pick in a particular way with the pick between the first knuckle of the RH and the thumb, often with the other fingers clenched behind the index finger.

Like this :-

Image

Not like this :-

Image

I play mandolin and tone is probably the most difficult aspect of playing the instrument (for a guitar player at least) and the proper grip is something I'm still working on but it does make a huge difference to the tone. FWIW I use Wegen Picks, usually his 3.5mm Twins or Gypsy Jazz Picks or, for a brighter tone his 1.4mm Bluegrass picks (1.4mm seems thin but he uses a very hard material so they are at least as stiff as 2mm Tortex).

I'd also endorse not miking too close, close miking emphasises the sound of one small part of the instrument, moving the mic a couple of feet away allows it to capture a more balanced sound of the whole instrument (in the video CT's mando mic appears to be about a foot away but could be more if the cameraman was using a long lens).

That's a lovely vid BTW, I'm a huge fan CT.

edit, one last thing, are you picking close to the bridge, CT picks over the fingerboard extension (which he has modded, removing the fret and scooping it so his pick doesn't hit it)? FWIW it doesn't sound harsh to me just bright, and you sound like you have good chops and clarity if picking so forgive me if I'm preaching to the choir above.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby CS70 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:53 pm

Moving the mic as Hugh says would allow you a huge range of sounds and so moving your position in the room, especially if it’s not treated.. Also, the 184 is a good mic but it is not flat, and you could try a ribbon instead, I’ve had great results with a nylon stringed guitar that sounded a little too harsh with the 184.

All that said, a trick to sweeten anything in a fairly transparent way is to filter the signal a little bit by mixing it with a slightly delayed version, By playing on the delay time (very short) and the wet/dry mix (almost totally dry) you usually find a sweet spot that mellows the sound beautifully, especially on stringed instruments. YMMV, but if you have the perfect take it may be worth a shot.

You still need to fix the digital recording gremlins of course.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 29, 2019 4:35 am

Vmusic wrote: For reference, and yes I realize this is one of THE best, here's an example of beautifully toned mandolin in a live setting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRhyVjcsGFo

Thanks in Advance for Ideas on "Softening" the Mando

Recently, there was a thread here that talked about how important room is, relative to mic. You used a great mic. So the next thing to look at is room. Look at the room Thile was playing in. I haven't listened to your recording yet, but when I do I'll be listening to the room more than the mic.

https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/view ... 16&t=68961
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:29 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
I also heard a fair bit of bleed from the click track. Not enough to be an issue within a mix, but you may want to use different headphones with less leakage for more exposed recordings.

I have so much of that sort of thing on the tracks I've just done that I'm calling it a feature. And then I went out and bought new headphones with less leakage.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:50 am

No, it wasn't harsh. I heard lots of static. But no harshness. It sounded pretty good, attractively percussive, I thought. Mostly I was listening to the room, too, remember. I thought the vocal sounded good, too. What mic was that? AT 2035?
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 29, 2019 6:25 am

Re the Thile "Raining at Sunset" YT clip, of course a wonderful performance by both players but the production sound as we hear it here? https://youtu.be/wRhyVjcsGFo

This studio performance of the same tune is of course a different arrangement but seems a better example of how Thile's mando is intended to sound. https://youtu.be/HlO1FMb8stY

But in both performances it's a processed sound. At the very least there's compression. I think I can also hear compression on your example.
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Re: Harsh Mandolin Needs Softened

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 29, 2019 6:47 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
This studio performance of the same tune is of course a different arrangement but seems a better example of how Thile's mando is intended to sound. https://youtu.be/HlO1FMb8stY
.

Studio with attractive studio sound.

But this tune is everywhere and just tends to sound great no matter. Here's another live one, plus with an interesting drum sound. Compression?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtjmk7-lnRI

I've posted way too much in this thread. Sorry.
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