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Author Topic: Recording Acoustic Guitar  (Read 1929 times)

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Offline Glenn

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Recording Acoustic Guitar
« on: June 12, 2011, 03:57:02 AM »
Hey all,

So you're wanting to record an acoustic guitar track, and you don't have thousands of dollars for studio mics, and your guitar isn't a 'classic' state of the art instrument.

So I thought I'd jot down a few points about recording an acoustic guitar, working with what you have.

These are just general pointers, and may act as a starting point to get you going in the direction of better quality recording using what you have to record with.

- The first most important factor IMO is not the instrument, it's not the strings, or the mic, ... the crucial factor is : the performance.  I've said many times that I'd much rather listen to a mediocre recording of an 'awesome' performance, rather than an awesome recording of a mediocre performance! The performance is 'the thing' and is what sticks to the memories of those who hear it.  So practice, practice practice, then when you feel you have it down in your sleep, rest up, then 'record' the performance - the added time of practice will make a huge difference to the end product.  Another saying is 'if you polish a turd, it's still a 'turd' - just a pretty looking one...lol.

- The other factors come into play in no specific order, and may depend on your 'resources' of equipment available.  You can decide which of the following may apply to your situation, and try the various suggestions to see if there are improved results.

- Working with what you have, even if it's a cheapo guitar, (I have a few of those) there are some things you can do to improve or optimize it's sound and quality.

- New strings.  String up a new set, tune em and leave them for a couple of days, playing the instrument periodically to 'work and settle the strings into the instrument'.  It may take 2 or 3 days for the 'brighteness to tone down a bit' or for the 'scratchiness' to soften...something that may be too dominant in the sound when first playing with brand new strings.  Waiting a couple of days before recording with new strings will also help the tuning to be a bit more stable, as the strings get stretched from playing, the tuning will tend to stabilize.

- Speaking of tuning, Be dead on accurate with your tuning - a well tuned guitar will create harmonics and overtones that ring true to the ears and is much more pleasing to listen to.

- Pick type, and thickness, or guage, can bring out the attack of the strings, and can really add definition to the overall sound of the guitar. Where you strum or pick also affects the tone of the guitar, weather you're strumming nearer the neck, or strumming nearer the bridge, the sound will vary drastically..and you can choose where to play depending on the sound you want. Try various positions as you test record and you'll hear a vast difference on any guitar.

- Mic - ahh, the all important mic.  The mic you use will greatly affect the overall sound of the recording, as it's the mic that 'hears' not only the guitar, and the picking, but also the background or surrounding ambience of the 'room'.  This plays an important role in the finished 'sound' of the performance.  The further away the mic from the guitar, the more 'ambience' or room sound you will hear.  In a poorly designed acoustic space, the ambient room sound can detract from the sound of the recording, while a recording that uses and  incorporates the 'room sound' into the mix can sound much more pleasing to the ear, much fuller, with harmonics blending as the room ambience mixes the sounds and harmonics your guitar produces.
Ideally, a condenser mic is often more capable of reproducing an all round good acoustic guitar sound. Some condensers are better than others of course, and if you are in a position to choose the type of mic, a 'larger' diaphram on a mic produces a deeper fuller sounding acoustic guitar sound, whereas a smaller diaphramed mic will produce less bottom (less bass sound) than a wide diaphram will.  A dynamic mic can produce some nice sounds as well, but usually not with the same 'brightness' and crispness that a condenser can when one compares the two side by side in A B testing.

Mic Position, - besides having the right mic, the position of the mic is one of the single most crucial 'elements' that one should pay attention to. It's the mic position and angle that affects what the audience will hear.  Try various mic positions while recording a passage, then adjust the mic according to what you feel sounds better as you go.  A general place to start would be - placing the mic somewhere between the neck side of the sound hole and the 11th or 12th fret of the neck, about 4 to 7 inches away from the guitar.  Starting with one position while recording and wearing headphones, listen as you move the mic, or have someone move it while you play, and listen to the 'nuances' that come into play as the mic is moved an inch this way, an inch that way, in inch closer to the neck, an inch or two further from the neck, a bit closer to the sound hole, a bit further from the guitar itself to introduce more ambience, closer to subtract room ambience... you'll be amazed and impressed with the various results from the same mic and guitar you are now using and comparing it to what you've produced in the past.

Speaking of mics, you may want to try using 2 mics to record in stereo.  If you have a matched pair of mics you could try XY micing - that can add an amazing stereo image that is not only full sounding, but wide too - spanning the entire stereo image field. 

If you have two mics that are not matched you can try various positions using both of them, making sure that both mics are NOT equi-distant from the guitar and from each other, as phasing issues could be introduced unwitingly. 
The 3 to 1 rule - generally when using 2 mics to record a source, one mic should be placed 3 times the distance from the source to avoid phase issues, so if one mic is 6 inches away from the guitar, the second mic should be placed no closer than 18 inches from the guitar. 
This 3:1 ratio rule is tied to the "6 dB Rule" which works with the 'inverse square Law" ... an essential law to work with when recording anything. Further reading will reveal a fascinating subject on how we humans hear, and how sound acts as it falls and dies away from it's source.

The above is just a guideline, to act as a place to start, and experimenting with your setup and equipment can yield some very good results, in comparison to what you may have started out with.

I hope this helps.  If it has, let us know, we'd like to hear your feedback.

Of course, these are NOT the only things that come into play in getting a better acoustic guitar recording, there are other factors as well....

If you have some further suggestions, additional info etc, please feel free to add to this post, as we'd like to hear what you've done to improve your acoustic guitar recordings.

CHears
Happy Recording
Glenn  :)
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 04:03:22 AM by Glenn »
Old Eastern saying "Man who run in front of car, - get tired .... man who run behind car, get exhausted"
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Offline Joom

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 05:54:47 AM »
Very nice 'getting started' tutorial, Glenn.  Great tips, and good solid information.

Couple of additional things I used to do was use both a large and small diaphragm condenser, place the large diaphragm on the neck side and the small diaphragm just slightly behind and above the bridge, then pan them both slightly to either side.  As you said, you can play with placement and panning to suit, but it's another way to get a good stereo effect - depending as always on room acoustics.

You'll also be able to tell the difference in ambient sound in a room with a carpeted floor compared to a wooden floor, as well as other combinations of room materials.

Almost everyone plays the guitar in a slightly different way, and most guitars will have a slightly different sound and produce a different type of acoustic, so as you say there is no exact mic placement or single configuration that will work for everyone.  You've set up a great starting point, though...
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Offline Jennae

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2011, 10:07:37 AM »

So I thought I'd jot down a few points about recording an acoustic guitar

 ;D just a few...lol.. helpful stuff

Offline Old Goat

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2011, 02:59:55 PM »
I generally use an LDC and an SDC in M/S configuration for finger playing. Strumming, I have had good results with the LDC about 18" in front and the SDC over my left shoulder pointing down at the guitar. Those are for guitar only. If I'm singing also I have the LDC in front of my face, and SDC at the 12th fret.
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Offline Glenn

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2013, 10:38:29 PM »
This quezzy just came up at another site, so I thought I'd refresh the topic here!
 8)
 
Hey Old Goat, - I gotta say, I do like your acoustic sound and set up.
 
good stuff!
 :)
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 04:02:44 PM by Glenn »
Old Eastern saying "Man who run in front of car, - get tired .... man who run behind car, get exhausted"
I like to ride IN cars, it's less tiring and less exhausting :)

Offline neilmac

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2013, 12:55:04 AM »
 :o  I was just looking for something like that.... ;)


Seriously though Glenn, that's exactly the kind of "why not try THIS" advice I was looking for :)


Prior to coming on here I did try mic'ing the guitar...just for the hell of it and I was astounded by how much better it sounded than I remember...
I'm wondering if I actually tried it with the mic and pre amp when I got them last year....I'm sure I did...
Of course it could also be that it just seems better compared to the transducer.... the same effect you get by turning an effect all the way on and all the way off, then picking the "sweet spot" somewhere in the middle (if that makes sense??)


More experimentation is required...watch out for some scottish stuff this weekend :P

Offline Glenn

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Re: Recording Acoustic Guitar
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2013, 01:05:09 AM »
:o  I was just looking for something like that.... ;)


Seriously though Glenn, that's exactly the kind of "why not try THIS" advice I was looking for :)


Prior to coming on here I did try mic'ing the guitar...just for the hell of it and I was astounded by how much better it sounded than I remember...
I'm wondering if I actually tried it with the mic and pre amp when I got them last year....I'm sure I did...
Of course it could also be that it just seems better compared to the transducer.... the same effect you get by turning an effect all the way on and all the way off, then picking the "sweet spot" somewhere in the middle (if that makes sense??)


More experimentation is required...watch out for some scottish stuff this weekend :P

yep, you got it... finding that 'happy medium' that works! ... the 'sweet spot' . 
 
and we're very much looking forward to hearing some more of your tunes!
 
good luck with the recording.  (if ya need some help or feedbac.. holler. )
 
 8)
 
Old Eastern saying "Man who run in front of car, - get tired .... man who run behind car, get exhausted"
I like to ride IN cars, it's less tiring and less exhausting :)