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Thread: Your acoustic recording setup

  1. #1
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    Your acoustic recording setup

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    I am looking to get a decent placement for recording plain acoustic guitar. I am running digital tape recorders (Tascam), which I mix through a Yamaha board. Up til now, everything I have worked on sounded at the very least, decent, with minimal noise. I've mostly been recording electric jazz guitar, electric bass, vocals, and some percussion. However, my primary focus is acoustic, but right now my condenser/mic pre combo isn't cuttin it. I can't find any decent placement using an MXL 990, 991, 604 or a stereo pair of Rode NT3s, combined with the Yamaha's onboard pres.

    Since I want to upgrade to a better overall condenser for acoustic and vocals anyway, I purchased a Rode K2, and am waiting on that. I am also going to be purchasing a new single mic pre soon, either the Rane MS-1B or the True Systems P-Solo Channel... haven't decided whether I want to wait another month and pick up the better pre, or try out the Rane first and go from there (I've heard very good things, so I think I might just go for the Rane first!). Either way, I am curious...

    When you go about recording acoustic guitar, do you mostly open-mic the thing and just use that signal, or do you apply a lot of effects and processing to it (EQ, compression, effects processors, etc)? I am finding that I like the open-mic'd method best, but at my current setup I can't apply enough gain to get a clear sound, so I end up blending the mic'd guitar with a DI'd signal from my acoustic's onboard pre. However, I end up mixing in more of the DI than the mic, due to lack of mic sound quality, and it ends up very sterile-sounding.

    Just interested in how people go about getting a good acoustic sound they personally prefer, and what mics/pres they are using.

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    http://www.humbuckermusic.com/acguitrectec.html

    Those stereo techniques should get you in the ballpark. You can also use a single mic at any of those positions and get a decent sound - although you have to tweak the mic placement for best results. A single mic at the 12-14th fret, about 12" away is generally a good starting point.

    Keep in mind that a good sounding guitar in a good sounding room are prerequisites for a good acoustic recording. Mics and preamps will help, but if the source sucks, it's hard to cover that up.

    Generally, I use the MXL 603s, Shure SM81, Behringer ECM8000, Naiant MSH-1, or CAD M179 for acoustic. With proper placement, all can yield very good results. I generally use the DMP3 preamp for acoustic, as it just seems to work well for that application.

    I alternate between mono and stereo miking, depending on the song. For a sparse acoustic arrangement, I'll usually stereo mic for a "wider" sound. For an acoustic in a dense mix, I think mono generally works better.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by cusebassman
    When you go about recording acoustic guitar, do you mostly open-mic the thing and just use that signal, or do you apply a lot of effects and processing to it (EQ, compression, effects processors, etc)?
    As with almost any acoustic instrument, the three-step key when wanting to get the best natural sound possible is

    1.) Make sure the instrument is the best and/or in top condition. If you don't have a top-shelf guitar, at least make sure the strings are fresh and stretched, the frets are clean, and the guitar is perfectly tuned.

    2.) Good mic placement is key. You should be able to get a decent document of it's sound just by placing a decent quality LDC, SDC, LDD or ribbon just about 6" off of the 12th fret. An alternate is the "over the shoulder" technique of placing such a mic near your left ear and pointing down at an angle. This pleases many guitar players who don't really know how guitars sound unless they are in their own laps . There are an infinite number of other placements that can work for mono or stereo.

    3.) Use the best gear and keep the signal chain as short as possible. This means two things:

    First, the better the mic, the better the sound. Period. Preamp too, but that's secondary to the mic. Those MXLs are probably the biggest bottleneck you have; anything short of a V69 is going to pretty drastically comprimise the sound of a good acoustic instrument. And then if those are MG-series Yammie pres you're running them through, that'll choke it even a bit more. I haven't tried NT3s on an acoustic, but I'll bet when you upgrade to a better preamp, they'll sound much better.

    Second, keep the signal chain short, like mic-->pre-->recorder. No compression, no EQ, no nothin'. If you want to add some effects in post, fine. But to slap any of that stuff onto an acoustic guitar on the way in is like grinding up filet mignon meat into hamburger before you cook it.

    (all applicable stupid Internet abbreviations here)

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    I use a Studio Projects C1, or an AT 3035. The mic doesn't seem to make a lot of difference. I set the mic about 6-10 in. in front, and slightly above the sound hole. The mic is pointed straight toward me. The guitar sound hole is a little below the mic and the guitar is angled upward slightly. So, the sound hole is pointing up toward the mic, but the mic is not pointed directly at the sound hole. I hope that made sense. Anyway, I've never liked pointing the mic toward the 12th fret, or anywhere else around the neck. The sound is too thin to me. But, I can't point the mic right at the sound hole, either. That gets too boomy.

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    MXL 603s' aren't that bad. But then I don't have a really stellar instrument, either. And I have a decent room so I can back the mics off a bit and let the instrument breathe.

    Anyway- I start with the X/Y pair (usually 603's, sometimes C1's) about 2 feet out from the guitar pointed right at the soundhole.

    WHAT!? The SOUNDHOLE? I'm crazy!!!!

    Ahem... then I pivot back and forth listening to the mic with in-ear (plug-type) phones. Not perfect, but it isolates some and I'm used to them. Its a quick way to move the mics around the guitar and hear where the sound is that day.

    Whatever mics(s) I have, I can usually get at least close to the sound I want by moving around the room and moving around the mics. *Somewhere* it will sound good.

    -C

  6. #6
    danny.guitar Guest
    I've heard keeping the mic 2' away from the guitar is the best way to mic an acoustic. But I think you need a really good room for that to work, otherwise, it's going to sound like shit.

    I've never had much luck with the 'over-the-shoulder' technique either, but again, that's probably my room.

    I get the best results mic'ing about 5"-1ft. from the 12th-15th fret. If your guitar is boomy, you may have to move to about the 7th-10th fret.

    I've been able to mic the edge of the soundhole with good results, because my guitar is naturally bright (not much bass), and it gives a nice, deep, balanced tone.

    Close-mic'ing the soundboard can give decent results too, something I tried on my own and it seemed to work.

    Also, for a more clear, detailed sound, I usually record into my closet (with the mic right infront of the clothes). This helps absorb reflections and get rid of room noise. I noticed a big improvement doing this, when a lot of people advised against it.

    I would experient with mic placement. Even after an hour or so you'll know exactly where to put the mic depending on what kind of sound you want, and what kind of mix it's going to be in.

    I experimented for about an hour and I no longer have to think about mic placement. I can usually just setup the mic and hit record and don't need any EQ/FX afterwards.

    If it's a busy mix, though, you may not have any choice but to do some EQ adjustments to give the other instruments their space.

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    Assuming the room, instrument and player are all of sufficient quality, and the song and arrangement are tweaked, just about any good mic and pre will do the job. For mics I generally use: Gefell M300 or M295, Josephson E22s, Brauner Valvet BE, Royer SF12, AEA R84, Fostex M11RP, Beyerdynamic M160, Sennheiser MD441, Neumann TLM103 and several others. For preamps: Crane Song (Spider or Flamingo), Great River ME1NV, Groove Tubes Vipre, FMR RNP, Earthworks 1024... Never use EQ or compression when tracking, rarely in the mix.

    Here's a recent song with fairly prominent acoustic guitar - http://www.adigitalmus.net/Jack/GoneSolo2.mp3 - I can't recall for sure, but it was probably the Valvet into the Spider, double tracked, no processing or effects.
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    All excellent suggestions, guys... I look forward to getting the Rode K2 on Thursday that I ordered recently... and soon I'll be making the call on what mic pre to upgrade to, so hopefully that will offer some better capabilities!

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    You should be able to get a decent sound with the mics and preamp you have. Not all guits record well, and not all rooms sound good. You might even need to try different strings. It would help if you described what you didn't like about the sound you are now getting. Is it boomy, bassy, boxy, tinny, strident, phasey, dull?

    Mic positioning is more important than your equipment (except the guitar). Read that again. Even small adjustments in the position (including the angle) can make major differences in your sound. One good way to learn is to put some headphones on while playing and have someone move a mic around until you can zero in on a sound you like.

    Also remember that different styles of music require different micing techniques. You wouldn't want a big, wide stereo, spacious & verby acou guit in a dense mix--or maybe you would. On the other hand, it will be difficult to achieve that sound if you are single micing only 6" from the 12th fret.

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    Vertical X-Y (SDC's) about 1-1.5' away (around the neck joint) to get the bulk, and maybe a LDC around the lower quarter of the soundboard.

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