Recording Acoustic Guitar

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Mike Stranks
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Recording Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:17 pm

Questions about, and problems with, recording acoustic guitar seem to crop up quite frequently in this forum. Therefore, I thought that "anoraks" might be interested in hearing about the SE Electronics GM10 microphone which is designed specifically for recording this instrument.

You get a good quality condenser microphone and a clamp and boom so that you can clamp the mic to the guitar and then position the mic exactly where you want it - the sweet spot - to get the best sound from your instrument. Of course, because it's clamped, if the guitar is moved in any direction then the mic stays in exactly the same relative position.

See http://www.sonicus.net/lit/GM10%20Singl ... -12-07.pdf

The current UK price seems to be around £250-£300. Not cheap I know, but not exhorbitant in the world of condenser mics. SE have a very good reputation and produce quality products used in many major recording studios around the world.

I've seen some very good reviews of this in magazines, but can't find any on the web. However, these reviews have been written by engineers commenting on the idea and the quality of the recorded sound.

But what do guitarists think? Would clamping onto the body affect the tone of your guitar (see the picture in the link to see what the clamp looks like)? Would this arrangement - even if in aluminium - affect the balance of the guitar and make it more difficult to play?

I'm sure you'll have lots of thoughts! :D

Mike

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GORDON
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Postby GORDON » Sun Nov 18, 2007 10:16 am

Hi Mike.

Many thanks for your posting sir.

I can vouch for SE equipment, it's first class and doesn't cost the earth. I know for a fact the the clamp alone can set you back about £80, so the price you quoted isn't at all out of the question, I have even considered going down this road myself with my AKG 414. I did some recording a while back at Paul White's studio, and Paul used a pair of relatively cheap SE mikes and the result were brilliant!

The point you made about puting a clamp onto a guitar is an interesting one, but the advantages I think outweigh the disadvantages in terms of perfect mike placement with no movement.

Like you , I look forward to other folks comments.

Be Well.

G.

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Sue
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Postby Sue » Fri Nov 23, 2007 12:33 pm

I've added a new page

http://www.giltrap.co.uk/index.php?page=news&category=05--Guitar_Anorak-apos-s_Pages&display=1501

which includes a PDF of an article from Audio Media suggested by Mike about the SE G10 microphone, which I'm sure will be of interest.

There is also a link to Allan's site where he has indexed numerous Sound on Sound article pages.

Sue

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clemdallaway
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Postby clemdallaway » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:15 pm

I have been using a Tanglewood TW45-HB fitted with a B-band A5TY EQ System. Now usually I would rather record with a condensor mic but........

After a bit of experimentation, I managed to record with this guitar straight in to the desk and still managed to capture a wonderful sound!

But still, I would still recomend the use of a condensor mic.
Don't Eat The Yellow Snow!!!
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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:17 pm

Hi Clem

This is interesting that you should get a sound you're pleased with by connecting your guitar direct to your desk.

I'm an engineer not a guitarist so am not familiar with your guitar or its EQ. However, I guess this must be some form of active or low-impedance system or the recorded tone would be very thin and lacking in bass if you connect direct.

This just goes to show that ears always come first. The purists in my specialism will tell you never to record by connecting direct and if you must then alwways use a Direct Injection (DI) box.

I agree absolutely that a decent condenser (or pair of) is the best way of capturing all the subtleties and depth of tone of an acoustic, but finding the sweet spot in which to place the mics can be time-consuming if you're not doing it all the time.

At least your method means that any movement of the guitar doesn't matter one jot.

I do far more live sound than recording so in those situations most of the time there is no option but to use internal pickups and DIs.

In summary; if it's right for you then it is right! Incidentally, as long as you're not breaking any copyrights it would be good to hear a sample of the music you recorded using this technique. Could you give us a hyperlink?

Thanks. Mike

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clemdallaway
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Postby clemdallaway » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:22 am

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the reply.

I will sort a link out and post it here. I do agree that I do prefer the sound of the recordings i've done in the past using mics but just as a project recording the guitar sound is amazing, very close sound to what I was looking for.

Cheers,

Clem
Don't Eat The Yellow Snow!!!

www.myspace.com/clemdallawayguitarist

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Postby clemdallaway » Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:49 pm

Hi Mike,

I've finaly had a bit of time to record a sample of the Tanglewood, here it is, you will have to right click and choose "save target as". For some reason it won't open up any other way.

http://www.geocities.com/fatsquiduk/tanglewood_sample.mp3

It has no effects and the playing is a bit out of time as I have a trapped nerve in my neck! lol, thats my excuse and i'm sticking to it!

I have demonstrated different techniques from fingerpicking, finger tapping to plectrum strumming.

Take care,

Clem
Don't Eat The Yellow Snow!!!

www.myspace.com/clemdallawayguitarist

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:52 pm

Thanks for posting that Clem.

Yes; it's a good full-range recording and demonstrates both the guitar and your technique very well.

I can certainly hear no mismatch artefacts in the sample you've supplied - even at the fairly modest MP3 sampling rate you've used.

I know that you recognise how much more a recording with a good condenser microphone adds to the sound. It just seems to sit the guitar nicely in an acoustic space and gives the sound some 'air'. One also seems to hear all of the elements of the instrument working together to give that glorious acoustic guitar sound. Of course you don't get that with a direct recording which, consequently, does seem quite 'closed'. However, for getting an assessment of sound and technique it's a good starter.

I'd be interested to hear what others think. What recordings have you made guys? Any thoughts on the direct vs microphone approaches?

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Russ Gannicott
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Postby Russ Gannicott » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:07 pm

Hi Mike,
I think one of the problems faced by anyone setting out to record acoustic guitar is that there are so many variables and very few constants. If you are a studio engineer, you will know your room and your equipment, but probably not the guitar or the guitarist. If you are working at home, you will know what your guitar sounds like to you (sitting above and behind it) but be less familiar to what it sounds like to everyone else. In both cases, recording from an on-board or factory fitted pick up system is a good starting point. However, I would never use just the pick up. I guess it depends on how many tracks you have at you disposal, but I like to use a minimum of three: the pick up, a large diaphram condenser and a small pencil condenser or a dynamic.
As is always said, a well positioned cheap mic is worth ten times more than a badly positioned expensive one, so keep experimenting with positioning. As a general rule I will position the Large condenser about 18" in front of the sound hole and the pencil around six inches from the twelfth fret angled at about 45 degrees towards the body. Oh yes, depending on the guitar, I will place the guitarist about four feet from the wall (facing towards it) either where it's hard or where there are some absorbtion tiles. Sometimes I'll move the pencil up towards the body and use the large diaphram to mic up the wall rather than the guitar. All three tracks are then recorded and there is usually enough variation to allow for some pretty creative eq and FX use in the mix which should get the guitar however you want it. All this of course depends on the guitar style, as a Richie Havens type player will need a totally different approach than a baroque guitarist playing a parlour guitar. The best aproach is to listen to as many recordings as possible and then experiment to find ways to acheive similar results. As I said, with a couple of mics and the on-board pick up in your arsenal, anything should be possible. And once again, don't believe all the microphone snobbery that you hear - you can buy a pair of condenser mics (one large and one small) and still get change from £100. Use them well and you will get a sound pretty damn close to that obtained by using a pair costing over ten times as much.
One last note regarding the on-board pick up; the thing that lets down most guitars is the total rubbish that is fitted as a 'pre-amp'. If possible unplug the piezo from it and plug straight into the desk, or preferably via a mic pre-amp 'channel strip'. If this isn't possible, always set the pre-amp eq to it's 'flat point' and adjust any eq on the desk or later in the mix. Above all else, trust your ears - what you hear will not be what you are used to. If you play at home you will be used to the sound of the back of your guitar, if you play small live venues you will be used to hearing squashed un-dynamic sounding guitars with far too much mid and no top end at all. This should not be your bench mark - listen to what Gordon's guitars sound like on 'On a summer's night' to hear what a live guitar should sound like, and if you can get somewher near to that in the studio or at home you would have done well!
Good luck! (reckon I've earned about 85 out of 100 anorak points for this one!)

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:10 pm

Great stuff Russ!

Of course, I'm not the guitarist - can't play a note. It was Clem who came in on this thread with comments about recording his guitar straight into his desk. As I said in the earlier post - and as acknowledged by Clem - you'll always get MUCH better results when using a condenser mic - or two. Clem wanted an assessment of his recording using the direct technique so that's what I was trying to give.

I agree with everything you say about the positioning of mics and players and locating people in the room. Your comment about the tonal quality of much live/recorded guitar was also spot on as far I'm concerned.

I'm interested that you use a combination of pickup and mic(s) and then mix to taste. Do you find that you ever get delay/phasing problems using this approach or is the strings to mic distance so short that it means the mic delay as opposed to the pickup is imperceptible?

And finally I agree about gear snobbery. I was actually talking to an old friend who's an experienced studio engineer about this very topic immediately before reading your post. He and I are of the same vintage - 50s/60s - and go by what our ears are telling us, not what the badges say.

Well, I think we've both earned our anoraks over the last few days! :D

Mike

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Russ Gannicott
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Postby Russ Gannicott » Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:44 am

Sorry Mike, of course, my reply was to the thread in general not just to you. As far as phasing problems go...never had any! What it does mean is that by using the pick up as a third source you can move at least one mic further away and exploit some of the room's natural acoustics/reverb. Spacial placement is a whole new 'ball game' I know, but it's worth considering what can be achieved by recording the guitar from different reference points and then 'mixing to suit'. It will make you examine your use of eq in a whole new different way, and even have some benefits in even live use. Probably one of the greatest experts on spacial placement and subtractive eq is Ted Fletcher. I've tried to read as much as I can find written by the man and it has helped me no end to understand what I thought I already knew! We've just got to keep learning!
I guess that's one of the great things about recording; there are probably as many ways to make a recording as there are musicians to record!
All the best,
Russ

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Postby GORDON » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:05 am

Hello friends.

I have read with interest the EXCELLENT postings on recording acoustic guitar.

This is my two pennyworth....

I try to keep it simple and just use the single AKG 414, and place it where I think it sounds right. I record via an SPL GOLD MIKE tube pre-amp the same as Paul White uses(good enough for him, then good enough for me) I try to avoid making things too complicated for myself and don't bother with more than one mike. It works for me, and of course I have the luxury of editing the end results in Paul's studio in Malvern.

With regard to onboard pickup's for recording... The Troubadour album was made using just the early Mike Vanden Mimesis single coil pickup system with the pre-amp as an all in one unit in the jack. These pickups were extraordinary and did the job superbly at a time when I had no budget for recording, this was in the days BEFORE I became the rich and famous rock God that I am today...JOKE JOKE GRIN GRIN :D :lol: :o

Seriously tho, they did a great job for me, obviously you can tell that it was made using pickups, and of course you really can't beat a miked up sound in my opinion.The Mimesis had an onboard mike where you could blend between the two. Fishman now produce these as their Rare Earth models, I have been using them constantly since the mid 90s.

My dear Russ.I was very flattered that you thought my live sound for Summers Night was so good, personally I don't like that under saddle transducer sound, and have yet to find one that suits me, but hey, Martin Simpson and Tommy Emmanuel get a great sound so what do I know, but of course in Tommy's case there is a strong element of mike in there.

I'm still trying to get the ultimate acoustic sound live and in the studio, and I guess it's this quest that keeps us all on our toes and moving forward and creating new sounds.

My thanks to you all for taking SO much time and care over your replies, it means EVER such a lot me.

Be Well all.

G.

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Postby AndrewD » Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:10 am

When I wanted to record my classical guitar I read around the various review sites and also a classical guitar forum I am a member of. I ended up buying a Rode NT 1000, a large capsule condenser mic which I got a good deal on from Sound Control in Birmingham. I am very pleased with the sound quality offered by this and it is very quiet from a noise perspective. A large capsule works well with a nylon strung instrument as the sound level is relatively low so the mic needs to be more sensitive but that means quiet noise gets more noticable. I record directly into the PC by plugging the mic into an EMU 0404 USB 2 Interface. This accepts direct input from 1/4 inch audio jacks and XLR connectors so you can plug microphones and outputs from guitars and effects units and have been very pleased with the results so far.


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