Recording Acoustic Fingerpick Guitar on a tight budget

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by S-L-A-C-K-E-R, Feb 18, 2009.


  1. S-L-A-C-K-E-R

    S-L-A-C-K-E-R Member

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    I layed down a guitar track the other day with my current setup. It's a quiet fingerpicking song and it's coming out pretty crappy. The bass notes are way too loud and you can barely hear the treble. Anything I play on the low e string is booming. My equipment is pretty low budget and I pretty inexperienced. Here is what I have:

    MXL 990 Large Diafram condenser mic > Audiobuddy Preamp > Tascam US-224

    I tried to EQ the track to get rid of the booming bass but I can't seem to tame the bass without destroying the tone of the whole track. Maybe I'm doing something wrong or is this just bad form altogether?

    I've been thinking of getting an instrument mic and seeing if that would work better. I would like to spend under $150 for something. Any recommendations? I've also thought about splurging a bit and getting one of those fishman aura acoustic modelers and just going direct. I've heard that you can get somewhat decent acoustic recordings from that method. Considering I'm doing the minimalistic approach, I wonder what would sound better, a cheap instrument mic or the aura ..... or possibly something else that I haven't thought of? Could I pull this off with decent results with the equipment I have (differrent mic placement or something)? This is for a CD I'm putting together for my wife so it doesn't need to be professional quality but since I'm a bit anal I want it to sound as good as possible without spending a boat load of money.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    EDIT: After doing some research, I just realized that the highest amount of bass sound comes from the sound hole area of the guitar. I was recording right in front of the sound hole. I'm going to try to record right near the 12th fret like it says and see how that turns out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  2. blueguitar322

    blueguitar322 Member

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    Yeah, my first thought (which you edited in) was mic position. It makes a HUGE difference on acoustic...easily as much as the mic you choose.
     
  3. chickenbackside

    chickenbackside Member

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    Don't waste your money and time with the acoustic modeling stuff. It won't sound better than your condenser mic.

    Try moving your mic nearer to the 12th fret while pointing to the direction of the sound hole. That should cut out some unnecessary bass. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a decent sound out of your setup.
     
  4. S-L-A-C-K-E-R

    S-L-A-C-K-E-R Member

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    Cool thanks guys! I'm glad I can just save my money and get my current setup to work. I really appreciate the help. I'm going to give this a try tonight.
     
  5. buddaman71

    buddaman71 Student of Life Silver Supporting Member

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    Large diaphragm condensers have pretty strong proximity effect, meaning that they greatly enhance bass response when close to the source (think Howard Stern's radio voice)

    Around the 12th fret pointed a bit towards the bridge works great. I literally put on the headphones, hit a chord and slowly move the guitar's position until it sounds best.
     
  6. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    That particular MXL model leaves a lot to be desired.I would use a V67.You can pick one up for less than 100$.Mic Placement sould be aound the 12th fret.
     
  7. greggorypeccary

    greggorypeccary Member

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    I have an MXL 603 SDC that sounds great, for the price. The KEL HM1 is pretty nice too. Both are under 150. The KEL sounds great on guitar cabs too. Check the tunes on my Myspace to hear what I did with them. I use a Tasco USB interface -> Macbook w/Garageband.

    But I'll second the suggestion of playing around with placement before spending more on something else. Any condenser should give decent results if placed right. A tiny shift in mic position can have a big effect. Once you learn how to get decent placement, you'll then get the most out of a better/more appropriate mic.

    One problem though, once I got better at micing my acoustic I realized that it really didn't sound all that great and I had to get a better sounding one!
     
  8. jbltwin1

    jbltwin1 Member

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    I usually try to use two mics, one at 12th and pointing backwards and one at the bridge facing forwards. Even if they are both 57s, I get great results(to me). I DO however record both mics to separate tracks so that I can mix them in as I want. Stereo isn't as important as pan so you can juggle them how you want. Just my opinion, of course. By the way, I DO use 57's for guitar a lot.
     
  9. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    I'd guess you put the mic right in front of the soundhole, right? Don't do that. Nothing but boom there. Don't let your eyes decide where the sound comes from!

    There's nothing wrong with your gear... heck, I recently recorded some guitar with the MXL 991 (sibling to the 990, same capsule) and was amazed at how good it sounded. And the Audio Buddy preamp is fine, too. Did you get the two-mic kit from Guitar Center? Use the small one rather than the big one, if you have both. The big one is good, but the small one is actually excellent.

    Here's what I'd do to start... place the mic out about a foot away from the 9th fret, aimed back at the neck-body joint. That may not be the best possible position, but I guarantee it'll be GOOD and give you a usable sound. Try recording that and see if you get a pretty good balance. If not, the problems aren't with the mic and placement, but rather elsewhere in the chain.

    Assuming your balance is good, you can start experimenting with mic placement. One that works for me sometimes is over the bridge, aimed between the bridge and the end of the guitar. Another is over your right shoulder (assuming you're right handed), as close to your ear as you can comfortably manage, aimed down at the bridge.

    Make sure you aren't overdriving your mic preamp or the Tascam's inputs, either. Don't record "hot"... you don't want anything anywhere NEAR clipping! Acoustic guitars have a huge dynamic range and you may not see the clipping on the meters, but you'll hear it on the recording. And record in 24 bit mode, which gives you a lot of downward dynamic range.

    You can make great recordings with the gear you've got. It just takes some practice and learning!
     
  10. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    Almost forgot... if your room sounds pretty decent, a less obvious mic techique is setting the mic a few inches away from the wall, pointing at the wall. This gives you reflections rather than direct sound. In some contexts, it can sound really nice.
     
  11. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

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    Another thing to consider.........be very wary of your playing technique. If you want a smooth dynamic to your recording it's really important that you fingerpick that way as well. Pay close attention to your right hand as your performing the part and balance out the dynamics. Get your high strings consistently louder and be careful on the low strings.
     
  12. rockitcity

    rockitcity Member

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    Maybe in a concert hall as an accent mic, but for intimate fingerpicking I wouldn't bother. All you'll get is room, and it won't be pretty.

    I second the idea that you can get decent results from something as low-brow as an SM 57. I was doing some comparisons between an SM 58 and a Beta 58, and was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of sound. I wouldn't normally do this, preferring to use a small diaphragm condensor like an AKG C-451 or Shure SM 81, but many mics can give good results.

    It really is about placement. Wear good headphones and move mic/guitar relationship until you find what works.

    Also, don't rule out the Fishman Aura pedal. I will often use one in conjunction with mics to help even out the sound. It is particularly effective if your guitar is not up to concert quality! Use some of the direct pedal down the center with 2 mics spread wide on separate tracks and you have a lot of options in the mix.

    Bob
     
  13. Loni Specter

    Loni Specter Member

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    Perhaps try moving the mic away about 8" from the hole as others have stated. Try positioning the mic around the 14th fret at an angle so the blast from the soundhole does not hit the mic straight on. That's the key really.
    I have better luck with smaller bodied guitars than D or Jumbo sized instruments. Sometimes an inexpensive guitar works best. I never record my old Guild D-50 just too boomy. My Tacoma Pm-20 or Cort Parlour get the job done.
     
  14. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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    I tried this and got a very good result. :BEER
     

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