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Session Notes: Recording An Acoustic Guitar Duo

The Practical Craft of Recording
Published August 2018
By Mike Senior

Session NotesPhoto: Daniel Plappert

Recording an acoustic guitar duo in two separate rooms means great separation, but a lot of work to make the different spaces sound alike!

Back in SOS January 2016, I wrote about helping guitarists Christian Bolz (www.christianbolz.de) and Tobias Knecht (www.tobiasknecht.de) record high‑quality demos for themselves in their basement rehearsal room. On the face of it, helping musicians create their own recordings might appear like career suicide for a jobbing audio engineer such as myself, but most musicians I know hate techy chores, so even if they can record themselves, they’re usually thrilled to delegate at the first available opportunity! And in that event, of course, their second question after “How much can we afford?” is almost invariably “Who do we know?”, so if you’ve already planted in their minds that you’re (a) fairly competent and (b) not trying to rip them off, then you may suddenly find yourself top of their shortlist.

Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what happened in this case, because they subsequently asked me to record their full‑length debut album. However, for that record they wanted to aim for a more modern and ‘produced’ sound, in recognition of their move into increasingly complex and percussive fingerstyle arrangements, so we had to change our tactics substantially. In the first instance, it was quickly agreed that we should acoustically isolate the two players to make best use of session time (we only had a couple of days to record 26 bits of music!), so we could comp freely between takes during editing, and independently process each instrument at mixdown. With this in mind, I suggested that we use the nearby Mastermix Studios, because its glazed isolation booth would maintain a sightline between the players, and we’d be able to take advantage of its great collection of mics and preamps into the bargain.

When In Doubt, Cheat!

During our pre‑session discussions, the guys played me some commercial records that had inspired their new direction, and in particular a track called ‘Boogie Shred’ by renowned virtuoso Mike Dawes. I’d previously mixed a record for another fingerstyle wizard called David Youngs (http://davidyoungs.net), so I already had plenty of ideas about how to approach the project...

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Published August 2018