Acoustic Imaging Plug-in
When it comes to recording acoustic instruments you've got two choices: pickup or microphone. Recent hardware developments have set out to overcome the shortcomings of piezo pickups by using DSP to impose the 'acoustic image' of a particular guitar (essentially a multi-thousand-band EQ filter setting) on the output of an undersaddle pickup.
The filter setting is developed by simultaneously recording the outputs of a pickup and a microphone and analysing the result to create the filter that can be applied, using DSP, to the output of the pickup to make it sound like the output from the microphone. Since the output of the microphone is delayed with reference to that of the pickup (by virtue of the fact that it takes soundwaves approximately one millisecond to travel one foot from instrument to microphone) the process comes with its own, built-in processing time.
BodiLizer puts similar ideas into VST plug-in form for the PC. Unlike other incarnations of this technology, it covers acoustic jazz, steel- and nylon-strung guitars, a mandolin, a violin and a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, thus giving you a fair palette of images (stereo or mono) to use with your chosen instrument. Although several of the chosen steel-strung guitars are not exactly the greatest-sounding guitars in the universe, they do have very distinctive characters, and the level of control that BodiLizer gives you more than makes up for their sonic shortcomings.
The rather charming control panel, as well as enabling you to select the image you want, also carries eight virtual rotary controls that allow you to precisely tailor BodiLizer's effect on the track. Width increases the apparent width of the signal; Low allows you to emphasise lower frequencies; Size gives the impression of an increase in body size by moving the filter resonances towards lower frequencies; Tilt simply tilts the frequency spectrum upwards to give a brighter overall sound; Hole and Body set the level of the chosen instrument's soundhole and body resonances respectively; Dyn determines how much filtering is applied overall and, finally, Gain controls the overall gain in BodiLizer. There's also a Mono switch that is used when only a mono input is present.
In use, I loved it! The amount of tweaking that you can do and the range of available images means that you can get really creative — for example, just try applying the Hardanger fiddle image to a DI'd acoustic guitar... great fun. If you record your acoustic guitar with a pickup, buying this plug-in is pretty much a no-brainer, and there's even a demo download available on the IJData website if you want to try before you buy.
In an ideal world I'd really want BodiLizer to allow me to make images of my own instruments, because no-one, apart from me, is going to want an image of a 1920's B&M Lyrachord banjo-mandolin. Sadly, due to current levels of software piracy, it seems unlikely that IJData (being a one-man company) will be able to justify the investment in time and money needed to develop BodiLizer further. That, my friends, is a real shame — all the more so given that the 40 Euro download price hardly breaks the bank. Bob Thomas
BodiLizer is a surprisingly effective VST plug-in for Windows that uses filters to make an acoustic instrument recorded with a pickup sound like an acoustic instrument recorded with a mic. It's easy to use and very cost-effective. Thoroughly recommended. www.ijdata.com
If your guitar is set up and strung correctly and you still have tuning problems (particularly on a model fitted with a vibrato unit) friction at the nut and string saddles is the most likely cause.
Of course, there are plenty of commercial products out there, especially in the US, that can be used to address this problem, and I've also discussed some DIY versions in these pages in the past (SOS March 2007). I've recently discovered a better recipe — and for a few pounds you can make enough lube to last you and your friends a lifetime. The ingredients are Vaseline (available from any pharmacist) fine graphite powder (which is sold for lock lubrication — I found several suppliers on eBay) and PTFE spray lubricant (which you can get from most machine supply companies, including Screwfix in the UK).
The exact ratio of the ingredients doesn't seem to be vital, and if you start with a small jar of Vaseline and a heaped teaspoonful of graphite powder you won't go far wrong. Stir these together in a suitable container and then spray in a teaspoonful or so of the PTFE spray and keep stirring until you get a creamy consistency. It is important that you put the graphite in before the PTFE because the PTFE spray and the Vaseline prove very difficult to mix on their own. The resulting black goo can be put in a jar, ready for manual application, or you can store it in one of those syringes used for filling inkjet cartridges (without the needle).
You only need the tiniest amount of this lubricant to fix most string-friction problems, so having wiped it onto the bridge saddles using a cotton bud, you then wipe most of it off again. You can also apply it to nut slots using small cocktail sticks, although disposable tooth-flossing gizmos (available from your local pharmacist) are better, because they will let you work the lubricant right down into the nut slots before fitting the strings. Again, wipe off any excess with a tissue or rag before fitting the strings and you're done. Not only does lubricating the friction points on your guitar reduce tuning problems but — importantly — it also helps reduce string breakage. Paul White