Recording acoustic guitar... the pain!

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by tonefreak, Oct 13, 2005.


  1. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    Okay... I've got a modest studio going and desided to finally track acoustic guitar for about 4 songs. By the end of the evening, I realized why I waited so long...

    I used only one mic, which was able to do a decent job in capturing the performance. I should have used at least a couple of mics, and I'll probably do that next time around.

    But the whole process got me thinking of how cool it would be to have the new Taylor T5 and go direct to board without any mics.

    In the end... the acoustic guitar really brought the mix to the next level, so I'm happy with the results. I just want an easier way to get a good acoustic tone on 'tape'.
     
  2. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Have you listened to what that sounds like? I've played those guitars through several different acoustic amps and listened to direct clips online and don't think it sounds very close to an acoustic.

    I've found that a stereo pair of small diaphragm condensors does the best job of capturing the sound of the guitar. I completely agree with you that it can be a pain. I was working on a recording last night that at times was a duet for guitar and car alarm.

    Bryan
     
  3. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    T5 is on my list to try... but I'll approach cautiously. Very expensive!

    Stereo pair of small diaphram condensors... I need to get a couple!

    I just bought the L.R. Baggs M1 Active acoustic pickup. Has gotten a lot a great reviews... could be an additional source to add to the mix along with a mic.
     
  4. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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  5. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    What's so difficult about using a mic?
     
  6. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Actually, I find miking an acoustic guitar very hit or miss. It's very easy to get this wrong. Moving the mic an inch or two can have a dramatic affect on the tone. Playing technique also plays a big role, as does the type of guitar (obviously), the room, even the kind of pick used.

    In my recording environment, which is extremely controlled and consistent (consistent meaning that I usually play, always in the same room, one of only two guitars, one or two different types of mics), it's still very difficult to sound consistent. And it's not the lack of skills - our engineers who typically record me are gold record and grammy owners. Top level guys. The mics are fantastic. Maybe I suck.

    But I'd never suggest that miking an acoustic to get a *great* tone is easy.

    All of this (longwindedness) being said, play with the mic position. Two mics aren't entirely necessary, but I'd suggest a small condensor (you can't go wrong with a Neumann KM184. There are other great ones as well) pointed at the 14th fret where the neck meets the body, aimed at a 15 or 30 degree angle at about a foot away from the guitar. Start there - move it around, always listening to the new position.
     
  7. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    I agree with elambo that miking an acoustic is not as easy as it seems. I would start with one mic and take a DI of the guitar also. Two mics can sound great BUT is much more complicated with phasing and technique. I don't even think of using two mics unless I have the time and quality of mics to make it worth it. And I engineer for a living.

    Elambo nailed it when he said to move the mic around. Listen to it in your cans as you play, move it again, play and so on until you like the sound. Every guitar and player calls for little adjustments.

    Good luck:)

    Chris
     
  8. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    I record in a terrible bedroom with no acoustic treatments, so my environment isn't the best.

    One mic and the Baggs unit... I think that would do it for me!
     
  9. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    Yep, I would try that and go from there. Also another trick I do sometimes is if you have a mic that you can put in omni, you can put the mic extremely close with little to no proximity effect (bass bump) in the recording. Experimentation is the key.:dude
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    The only problem being that if you're in a mediocre acoustic space, as many of us are in home studios, the omni will probably capture it in all its glory.

    IMHO a good cardioid properly positioned takes a little trial and error to get right. But if you take good notes, with a little practice it should be a no-brainer to recreate your setup in minutes. Me, I don't think I would ever blend an acoustic pickup with a mic on a recording. But to each his own.
     
  11. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    I agree with the omni in a not so good room but sometimes you can suprise yourself. But that is what experimentation is for. As the same with the direct and the mic. I will say that I think we all come from the position of there are rules but if it sounds good to break them sometimes that is not neccessarily a bad thing.
     
  12. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    I really detest the sound of acoustic guitar recorded direct. To me it sounds thin, harsh, and incredibly one-dimensional. Personal preference though.

    I've found a fairly easy way to record acoustic guitar by myself. Since I primarily close-mic, the room doesn't enter into as much. I got myself one of those "Gracie" stands that let you mount an acoustic guitar for playing on stage. I run the stand down as far as it'll go, mount the acoustic, then mic it up. Record a little, move the mic a little, etc. til I get the right sound.

    Then the guitar doesn't move, the mic doesn't move, and I get the sounds I'm looking for. Simple solution :)

    --chiba
     
  13. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    Here's my technique, as it were...

    Someone else playing:

    I put on headphones and move the mic around in the recording booth, stand and all, until I find the sweet spot. Simple.

    When I'm playing:

    I set the mic up and move myself, the guitar, and the mic around until I find the sweet spot.

    You'll know the sweet spot when you find it; it's like a lens suddenly snapping into focus.

    I have never gotten what I'd consider to be a bad sounding acoustic guitar recording with these techniques, no matter which condenser mic I use, from Neumanns to Blues to cheap Russian mics*. In fact, the most important factors seem to be the instrument, the player, and a little bit of patience.

    Incidentally, I never would use an omni for this purpose unless the room sounded really nice...

    * I actually have a lot of fun with cheap Russian mics, which sometimes sound very nice on the right source.
     
  14. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    I received the LR Baggs M1 and it sounds good to me. Yeah, it has the peizo quarkiness, but for what I do, it's perfect.
     

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