How can I capture LOW, LOW, LOW volume guitar tones accurately?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Deaj, May 28, 2005.


  1. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Hello all,

    I am discovering some incredible guitar tones using my amp, heavy attenuation with a HotPlate, and pedals. I just spent an hour or so playing while my wife and boy sleep and I'm just amazed at a variety of great tones I am able to squeeze out of my rig at volumes too quiet to hear just a few rooms away. The sound I'm getting from my rig at very low volume is rich and organic with great tactile feel. I'd love to use these tones for tracking but attempts in the past to record this have produced lackluster results. I have only a Shure SM57 mic at home and I suspect this is not the ideal mic for this application.

    Any suggestions for how I might go about capturing this quiet signal and capture it accurately?

    The amp is a 1x12 Rivera open back combo. I have the HotPlate set for 16dB attenuation and the master volume on the amp set to 8 (hit the HotPlate too hard and there's an unpleasant edge to the upper-mids). I'm still getting controllable even order harmonic feedback and alot of tactile control. I'd like to be able to capture this.

    Thanks!
     
  2. onemind

    onemind Member

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    I think since you're not dealing with huge pressure levels you'll have a lot of success with a large diaphragm condenser mic. While I'm leary to use an expensive "vocal" mic in front of an amp that's cranked, I find it especially useful in low volume situations. My personal favorites for this application are a Blue Baby Bottle and an AKG 414 B/ULS

    Steve
     
  3. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Thanks for the reply Steve!

    My brother has a Rode NTK. I give that a try in the next couple of days.
     
  4. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    A guy who used to play w/Melissa Etheridge had a really cool article on recording guitar thru a tiny 4" high-compliance stereo speaker, several years ago.

    I think he used a small diaphragm condenser mic almost touching the cone.

    I never tried it, but it sounded like a cool idea.

    Loudboy
     
  5. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    +1 on the condenser.

    I've gotten satisfactory results with a MXL 990/991 where an SM57 wasn't cutting it.
     
  6. mikeyp123

    mikeyp123 Guest

    Doesn't the hot-plate have some kind of adjustable line-level output? You could record this and use a cabinet + mic simulator, like Native Instruments Guitar Rig... then you're running totally silent!
     
  7. tedm

    tedm Gold Supporting Member

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    Try an MXL 990 with a good mic-pre, experiment with placement using headphones.

     
  8. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    I think a good ribbon mic would do the trick as well - Royer 122 pops to mind.

    --chiba
     
  9. GuitarG

    GuitarG Member

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    If I'm recording a really low volume amp, I've gotten the best results with a quality large diaphram condensor mic about 8-12" away from the grill. I've done some low volume recording using a Landgraff DO into my Blackface VibroChamp with the Vol on 3 or 4, and gotten some fairly strong tones using this mic technique.
    I usually place the amp in a carpeted closet.
     
  10. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Wow - lot's of ideas! Thanks all!

    I hope to be able to get some time to experiment in the next week or two. I'll post a follow up and sound clips if possible.
     
  11. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Well, here's my first attempt.

    Sound clip here

    Here are the specifics:
    Rivera Jake Studio 1x12 combo - clean channel with the MV set to 7.5-8
    THD HotPlate set for -16dB attenuation - rhiostat set to 2 o'clock
    Clay Jones OD - then - Hermida Zendrive - then - Hermida Mosferatu.
    Alder strat, maple/maple neck, Fralin Unbucker bridge is used

    Rode NTK large diaphram tube mic centered on the speaker and 12" away
    M-Audio FastTrack USB audio interface -> laptop w/Sonar 4 Producer.

    I had just a few minutes to set up, play some crap :D (didn't tune up), and put everything away so please ignore the playing. :)

    This was recorded at levels low enough to play in the middle of the night without waking anyone sleeping two rooms away. I didn't bother to get close enough for it but it is possible to get controllable harmonic feedback at this low volume when playing close to the amp. I'll have more time to mess around with this in the next week or two but this quick and dirty test is promising!
     
  12. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    Glad you're enjoying the Jake.

    There is really nothing wrong with using the Shure SM57 for that application. Just put the mike close, and use a good mic pre. On a good mic pre you have like 60dB of gain and that is enough to get you a decent signal.

    What mic pre are you using?

    You sure can use a lot of other mikes and get decent results; especially if the mike has amplification onboard. But the big thing for me would be to work with careful mike placement and use a clean mike pre with a good deal of gain. Also you might want to use a short line from the mike to the pre but that is probably not a big issue as long as you are using balanced lines.

    Remember you also have a direct out on the Rivera; you can take that on another channel to augment the miked signal in mix. Just remember you will want to EQ the direct sound some.
     
  13. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    He's got a better line out on the Jake. I run Jake into THD myself some times.
     
  14. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    Sounds like the amplifier in the Rode is taking up the slack for the rest of your signal chain.

    By the way +1 for the Royer 122 suggestion too.
     
  15. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback!

    Could you elaborate on the above comment? I'm not sure I understand. Thanks again!
     
  16. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Here's another quick try at low volume recording. The setup is the same as the last clip but the volume is a bit lower - truly at '2:AM-and-the-family-is-asleep' approved volume. I messed with mic placement a little from the last clip - still about 12" from the grillcloth but off center and slightly off axis. This was played with a CJOD pedal on using the guitars volume knob to control overdrive.

    Low volume test #2

    This is another quick attempt (we're getting our house ready to sell so I've no time to play or record right now). The mix is poor and the playing is nothing to write home about but the overall tone seems pleasing enough.

    Comments?
     
  17. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    A lot of the time, how good a microphone sounds depends on what is the first amplifier that the signal sees. A dynamic like the SM57 has no amplifier in it. So you get whatever the mic pre you were using can do with an SM57 signal that (as opposed to high volume situation) needs lots of amplification.

    As you might suspect, the difference between a lame amplifier that you can sometimes get away with and a high quality amplifier can be what happens if you have to ask the amplifier to really amplify something? As you know from guitar amps, amps do interesting things when you crank them. Well mic pres are just the same, except that some of the "interesting" things are not things you want on your recording. High quality mic pres are expensive, and there is a whole "vintage" mystique set up around old ones. Sound familiar? It's not that much different except for the most part, the magical mic pres are solid state.

    Now when a microphone has an amplifier built in, such as anything that needs phantom power, anything that comes with it's own power supply unit, etc., then the mic pre is not the first amplifier that the signal sees. You're now using a tube microphone, and that "tube" is nothing to do with the actual transduction of the sound waves to electricity - that tube is there as part of an amplifier built into the microphone which amplifies the signal.

    The reason to have the tube amp inside the microphone (and it is a good reason) is that the signal from a condensor mic capsule is not a whole lot of signal, and you don't really want to run it over much wire where noise can get in there before you amplify it.

    But the other point is that the tube amplifier in the microphone cranks that signal way up. The signal coming back from your Rode is probably much larger than that coming back from the SM57 even if you put that SM57 inside a jet engine.

    What this means is that you are no longer needing to find out what kind of tricks your mic pre is getting up to when you ask if to do a bit of heavy lifting; so like a lot of amplifiers that might not sound good cranked up, at least maybe it sounds neutral at low gain.

    There's a pretty good rule of thumb in recording - get the signal big as soon as you can, and as well as you can. Then the rest gets easier. It's mostly an analog rule of thumb, (although there are digital versions of it that don't seem to have filtered through to audio guys yet). This is one reason that the same guys that make you turn down on stage almost never make you turn down in the studio.
     
  18. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    The grind on the tone sounds familiar. How much would you say is the Clay Jones?
     
  19. Deaj

    Deaj Member

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    Ok, I understand. Thanks.

    The Rode mic is running into the mic pre in a M-Audio FastTrack USB audio interface and then to HD via Sonar3. Not much magic in the signal chain :D but it's working so far.

    Thanks again for all of the feedback!
     
  20. riverastoasters

    riverastoasters Member

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    OK That makes a lot of sense. I was sort of guessing something like that. The M-Audio is not a bad thing, but for you, it turns out to be a good thing to "baby" it with big signals. If you are serious about recording, eventually you will want access to good mic pres.
     

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