Login / Register
 
Stephen Stills Acoustic Guitar sound
New Reply
Subscribe
Lance Lawson
Thread Starter
#1
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Lance Lawson's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 509

Thread Starter
Lance Lawson is offline
Stephen Stills Acoustic Guitar sound

The reason I became deeply involved with acoustic guitars as both a player and builder is directly tied to the sound that Stephen Stills got out of his D-28 on the early CSN and CSNY records. For instance Suite Judy Blue Eyes, You Don't Have To Cry and Helplessly Hoping have a unique sound and one that's not been heard since.

As a guitar builder I know how to build towards a desired sound and I know what's possible in the way of guitar voicing. However those on CSN/CSNY recordings the guitar is a processed sound. So has anybody any idea how Stills got that sound. It is IMO the Holy Grail of recorded acoustic guitar sound.
__________________
You can't think and mix at the same time!
#2
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #2
Gear nut
 
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 89

miksirhc is offline
I don't know about helplessly hoping, but on Judy, the tuning may be an important factor (EBEEEE). In addition, I think some engineer said somewhere that they used a LA2A in limit mode on these guitars...I'll look for the article.
#3
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #3
Gear Guru
 
theblue1's Avatar
 
Joined: Mar 2005
Location: Long Beach, CA
Posts: 21,130

theblue1 is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by miksirhc View Post
I don't know about helplessly hoping, but on Judy, the tuning may be an important factor (EBEEEE). In addition, I think some engineer said somewhere that they used a LA2A in limit mode on these guitars...I'll look for the article.
So it was like a big Appalachian dulcimer?

I've used an EBEEBE tuning before (with the two "middle" E's being tuned to the same note, which gives some interesting possibilities when you fret them separately. (Actually, the tuning I used was key-tuned down from E to Db but you get the idea. Same relationships.)

I found it to be a surprisingly useful (if a bit droney) tuning.

But then I finally discovered the peculiar joys of DADGAD (late to the table, there, particularly since I've always been a big fan of the 60s English folk acts) I've found myself there most of the time. DADGAD is its own world, though. You find yourself busting your backside to figure out how to play things and then realize you already had a conventional tuning arrangement that had the same basic lines.


BTW, totally agreed about the intoxicating sound of the guitars on CSN(&Y) stuff (like Buffalo Springfield before, to some extent).

But, you know, it wasn't just Stills. I was, coincidentally, just listening to David Crosby's "Orleans" and the guitars and vocals (all Crosby) just shimmer. Really beautiful stuff. Crosby may have had his embarrassing moments but something like "Orleans" really makes it all worthwhile.
#4
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Old Goat's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2007
Location: Eastern Ozarks
Posts: 4,788

Old Goat is online now
Stills called that Bruce Palmer Modal tuning. Drove me nuts in the early 70's trying to figure out how to play S:JBE.
__________________
singer/songwriter
Soundclick Cdbaby
No Outlaws Anymore New album!

Better a crust in peace than a banquet in a house of contention

"Be careful chasing Unicorns..." -tINY
#5
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #5
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
 
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 6,389

vernier is offline
Don't know what they used, but there are clues in magazine interviews, etc.

I think Bob Olhsson mentioned the U87 ..and producer Stephen Barncard, who at the time was second engineer on Deja Vu mentioned the AKG C-60 with omni capsule, which he used on Crosby's solo album and Grateful Dead's American Beauty.

Also, pictures from Heiders around that time shows four bluestripe 1176 in the rack, and no other compressors. Eq probably played a role and Heider was passive at the time.
#6
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Tube World's Avatar
 
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Franklin TN
Posts: 2,407

Tube World is offline
First off you have to have a similar Martin guitar for starters.
#7
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Audio Hombre's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,901

Audio Hombre is offline
I think the op's observation about the processed sound is accurate.that does not sound like a d28 does naturally and the guitars sound like they've had a wack of low mids sucked out of them and some substantial compression. i love them though. it's just such a damn unique sound and the face of that song.
#8
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #8
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2002
Location: Suffern, NY
Posts: 10,481

Fletcher is offline
I always thought the "effect" sounded like a Cooper Time Cube... which I believe would indeed be "period appropriate".
__________________

CN Fletcher

Professional Affiliation:

R/E/P Professional Recording Engineer and Producer forums


mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid

Roscoe Ambel once said:
Pro-Tools is to audio what fluorescent is to light
#9
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #9
Lives for gear
 
rogerbrain's Avatar
 
Joined: May 2009
Location: atlanta
Posts: 2,048

rogerbrain is online now
bump ..would love to know
#10
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #10
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,747
My Studio

doorknocker is offline
I guess there's definitely a lot of compression happening on Stills guitar - that's also true for the earlier Buffalo Springfield and later solo stuff - 'Black Queen' is amazing. I wonder what kind of comps were used? RCA?

Then again, check out this 1970 interview feature and realize it's all in his hands. What a friggin' great player! ('Who do you love' from 2:13 on is particularly cool!)

__________________
Welcome to the ENGLISH GARDEN Almanac http://englishgarden.ch/

http://www.doorknocker.ch/
#11
31st May 2010
Old 31st May 2010
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Oldone's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Posts: 1,668

Oldone is offline
Great video. Yeah, Mr Stills was pretty much my idol in days gone by. I also read, many moons ago, that the sound of his acoustic was colored by some older compressors including the LA2A and early revs of the 1176.
#12
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Daedalus77's Avatar
 
Joined: Aug 2006
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 1,747
My Recordings/Credits

Daedalus77 is offline
I once heard Bill Halverson tell a story that the acoustic sound on SJBE had a lot to do with a couple 1176s. This may be apocryphal, but I think he said the two compressors were used in series—serving both as "preamp" and "compressor." (Bypassing the console preamps.)
__________________
"Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing."
— John Milton (1608-1674)

"The aspiration to truth is more precious than its assured possession."
— Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781)

www.fugitivesounds.org
#13
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #13
3 + infractions, forum membership suspended.
 
Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2005
Location: Cape Cod
Posts: 2,735

Michael_Joly is offline
Yes, two 1176 comps in series.

I wish the following anecdote was more detailed. But in the late '70s I worked at Stars Guitars in San Francisco. This shop was decended from the Gratfeful Dead's Alembic organization, Elliot Mazer was regular client, we worked on the guitars of all the big Bay Area bands etc.

One of the owners of the business (who went on to work as a guitar tech for Neil Young) was working on a project with his band and the engineer on the session had recorded some of Stills' classic tracks. I can't remember his name, sorry, I was in a punk band at the time and was spitting and posturing more than I was sponging (though it was not Leo De Gar Kulka). This engineer made a point of saying to those attending the session "this is how I got the Stills acoustic sound, double compression". He rattled off the settings but I don't recall them now.
#14
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #14
Gear nut
 
GuySonic's Avatar
 
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 134

GuySonic is offline
It might help to start with recording as rich and natural an acoustic guitar sound as possible, then take this into post to add compression and other effects to get the desired result.

Myself and a few others have taken this tack and produced some interesting results. One exclusively used Collings custom made guitars producing a multitrack using a single fixed position stereo mic on a boom, then moved around this producing the tracks using different models of guitar. Then mixed the three stereo tracks 1:1.

One of the mixed tracks (still raw) using three different models of Collings is here: http://74.208.10.48/mp3/cntrdanc.mp3
Collings guitars used for:
Contra Dance (Chedeville)
Pt. 1 = C-10dlx Ma/Ad
Pt. 2 = 000=2HSB
Pt. 3 = DS2HASB


More selections at same session with gear notes at: Sonic Studios MP3 Page 2 with Ambient Stereo-Surround Session and Live Performance Recordings

Here is something I've recorded using same type of stereo mic array. Done as single stereo track of acoustic guitar/vocal with centered (between sound hole/12th fret) single stereo mic with me adding a little compression and some surf sounds in post.
http://74.208.10.48/mp3/four20.mp3

What I'm attempting to say (and what others are saying here), it's possible to get a full very natural sounding guitar sound, then add compression and other effects getting most any kind of end result.

Just have to start with a very good (raw) guitar recording first, and this depends on the mic/method used to capture this for later polishing.
Lance Lawson
Thread Starter
#15
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Lance Lawson's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 509

Thread Starter
Lance Lawson is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tube World View Post
First off you have to have a similar Martin guitar for starters.
Been there done so to speak. I've played through at least 200 assorted Martin D-28's as well as building a number of my own. While the D-28 is a Dreadnaught style guitar the closest thing I've ever come to actually capturing that Stills sound was on a 000 sized body with a body depth as deep as a Dreadnaught.

As I read the posts (thanks everyone) I do seem to remember a Stills interview where he talks about actually purchasing a particular compressor right from the studio because he was so impressed. Nevertheless the hordes of acoustic knockoff bands that followed in the wake of CSN failed to capture the guitar sound even while emulating many of the stylistic elements of Still's playing. Its still a mystery to me why nobody figured out that sound in spite of everyone loving it and emulating so much of it.
#16
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #16
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
 
Joined: Jul 2006
Location: So Cal
Posts: 15,405

drBill is offline
70% fingers, 20% guitar, 10% gear.

But really, it's mostly about his feel IMO. Otherwise, everybody & his brother could duplicate it. I find it amazing that people don't see this more clearly. How many times have you heard a guitarist with amazing tone, only to have someone else grab the same guitar, and have horrible tone. And vice verca.

Fingers. The gear you can't BUY.
#17
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Oldone's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Posts: 1,668

Oldone is offline
The performance yeah, that's fingers and the tone to some extent but there is a lot of compressor on most of his early acoustic work. Would be interesting to know what those compressor settings were.
#18
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #18
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2002
Location: Songwriter Gulch, Nashville TN
Posts: 13,250

Bob Olhsson is offline
Nash told me their guitar sound was a U-87 on cardiod and set to flat right up against the sound hole and compresed with an 1176 with some eq. added. When I tried this, I thought the low end was way over the top.

They were into tunings using guitars that had the frets, bridge and action set up for specific tunings and string sizes. The guitars sounded incredible in the room but it's very obviously a cost no object sound that is not at all practical for most folks.
__________________
Bob's room 615 562-4346
Georgetown Masters 615 254-3233
Music Industry 2.0
Interview
Artists are the gatekeepers of truth! - Paul Robeson
#19
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #19
Gear maniac
 
Hashbrown's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Joburg, South Africa
Posts: 232

Hashbrown is offline
I too have been utterly amazed at the sounds on those albums.
In particular, Carry On/Questions has the greatest strummed guitar sound ever (IMO)

To me it sounds like a big guitar (dreadnought, i don't feel you can get that sound out of a small body), with light strings (plus down tuning, creating lots of slack), being played with a medium to heavy right hand (hand hitting the strings to create the beat), with his nails, letting the strings go a bit wonky with so much movement (fret buzz on the bottom strings)

Mic sounds like it's really close and compressed, but with a boatload of low mids sucked out (that would be how you could get it so close and have a hand hitting the strings, but no booming sound)

I would have loved to be there, just to sit in the corner and watch these guys create history.

My 0.2 cents (in Rands, so check the current exchange)
#20
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #20
Gear maniac
 
Joined: Aug 2009
Location: london
Posts: 194

jasyr is offline
holy grails tend to blind people. it blocks out context with all that ultimat-ity. just as the experiment itself changes the outcome of what you are measuring.
i used to think as a kid that the beatles used magic chords unknown to any other group. seriously. that their songs came to the world fully formed untouched by anything other than themselves...

i've chased the tone-unicorn myself. its fun to walk in the footprints of the giants. (mine pagey and neil) and play their riffs that sound close to them. but for me it became a case of diminshing returns and just fizzling interest as you can split hairs only so far before you become basically insane and/or broke from buying vintage gear. if people devote their life to it, cool, i've heard files on the les paul forum (years ago when it was much smaller and better) and heard people who claimed to "nail" a particular sound... and yr just like " man they have tin ears".

i've come close enough to my touchstones to learn gain-staging and classic building -blockage for my own trip, and to move on to versatility and "new sounds". you will probably never get stills sound, but you've obviously had a ball trying. personally i dont build guitars... it takes time away from playing them. i think your holy grail question has thoroughly been answered above. the question for me is whether you have material as interesting as the sound you already have.
#21
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #21
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,747
My Studio

doorknocker is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuySonic View Post
It might help to start with recording as rich and natural an acoustic guitar sound as possible, then take this into post to add compression and other effects to get the desired result.

Myself and a few others have taken this tack and produced some interesting results. One exclusively used Collings custom made guitars producing a multitrack using a single fixed position stereo mic on a boom, then moved around this producing the tracks using different models of guitar. Then mixed the three stereo tracks 1:1.

One of the mixed tracks (still raw) using three different models of Collings is here: http://74.208.10.48/mp3/cntrdanc.mp3
Collings guitars used for:
Contra Dance (Chedeville)
Pt. 1 = C-10dlx Ma/Ad
Pt. 2 = 000=2HSB
Pt. 3 = DS2HASB


More selections at same session with gear notes at: Sonic Studios MP3 Page 2 with Ambient Stereo-Surround Session and Live Performance Recordings

Here is something I've recorded using same type of stereo mic array. Done as single stereo track of acoustic guitar/vocal with centered (between sound hole/12th fret) single stereo mic with me adding a little compression and some surf sounds in post.
http://74.208.10.48/mp3/four20.mp3

What I'm attempting to say (and what others are saying here), it's possible to get a full very natural sounding guitar sound, then add compression and other effects getting most any kind of end result.

Just have to start with a very good (raw) guitar recording first, and this depends on the mic/method used to capture this for later polishing.
Don't feed the troll!
#22
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 629

Frisbieinstein is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Lawson View Post
The reason I became deeply involved with acoustic guitars as both a player and builder is directly tied to the sound that Stephen Stills got out of his D-28 on the early CSN and CSNY records. For instance Suite Judy Blue Eyes, You Don't Have To Cry and Helplessly Hoping have a unique sound and one that's not been heard since.

As a guitar builder I know how to build towards a desired sound and I know what's possible in the way of guitar voicing. However those on CSN/CSNY recordings the guitar is a processed sound. So has anybody any idea how Stills got that sound. It is IMO the Holy Grail of recorded acoustic guitar sound.
You didn't ask, and may not want to know, but when I heard Eva Cassidy play the guitar I thought "This is the way."
#23
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Barish's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2004
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Posts: 1,928

Barish is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Lawson View Post
The reason I became deeply involved with acoustic guitars as both a player and builder is directly tied to the sound that Stephen Stills got out of his D-28 on the early CSN and CSNY records. For instance Suite Judy Blue Eyes, You Don't Have To Cry and Helplessly Hoping have a unique sound and one that's not been heard since.

As a guitar builder I know how to build towards a desired sound and I know what's possible in the way of guitar voicing. However those on CSN/CSNY recordings the guitar is a processed sound. So has anybody any idea how Stills got that sound. It is IMO the Holy Grail of recorded acoustic guitar sound.
Only if Loudist was still alive, he would have told you all this.

He might have even done it already somewhere, though. Look up for his posts in the time machine.

God rest you, Loudist. You will not be forgotten.

B.
Lance Lawson
Thread Starter
#24
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Lance Lawson's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 509

Thread Starter
Lance Lawson is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbieinstein View Post
You didn't ask, and may not want to know, but when I heard Eva Cassidy play the guitar I thought "This is the way."
Please tell me about Eva Cassidy which tracks I should listen to.
#25
1st June 2010
Old 1st June 2010
  #25
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 1,611

Mike O is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
70% fingers, 20% guitar, 10% gear.

But really, it's mostly about his feel IMO. Otherwise, everybody & his brother could duplicate it. I find it amazing that people don't see this more clearly. How many times have you heard a guitarist with amazing tone, only to have someone else grab the same guitar, and have horrible tone. And vice verca.

Fingers. The gear you can't BUY.
IMO proven by the Stills demo tape 'Just Roll Tape' (an interesting story itself). The songs in their earliest known recorded form; prior to CSN existence. Quickly done session at the end of a Judy Collins session; it's all there; tunes, voice, arrangement, and guitar just waiting for someone to (later) capture it in higher fidelity. Amazing how little these classic tunes changed from this recording to the CSN versions; in all respects.
#26
2nd June 2010
Old 2nd June 2010
  #26
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
 
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 6,389

vernier is offline
"Just Roll Tape" is another example of how Stills sounded great no matter what.
#27
2nd June 2010
Old 2nd June 2010
  #27
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,747
My Studio

doorknocker is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O View Post
IMO proven by the Stills demo tape 'Just Roll Tape' (an interesting story itself). The songs in their earliest known recorded form; prior to CSN existence. Quickly done session at the end of a Judy Collins session; it's all there; tunes, voice, arrangement, and guitar just waiting for someone to (later) capture it in higher fidelity. Amazing how little these classic tunes changed from this recording to the CSN versions; in all respects.
Well, Stills played most instruments on the first CSN album. But Crosby and Nash's harmonies obviously took he whole thing to another dimension still. Don't forget that hearing 'demos' of songs you know by heart in their finished form is not the same as hearing them without that reference. We tend to hear the extra stuff in our head.

But anyway, thanks for the reminder to buy 'Just Roll tape' which I wanted to do for a long time but haven't gotten around to.

That first CSN album is such a record! It's too bad that Stills further career was so marred by substance abuse and ego. Though the first Manassas record was great as well. The Neil Young bio 'Shakey' is a great read for learning about that time I think.
#28
2nd June 2010
Old 2nd June 2010
  #28
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,747
My Studio

doorknocker is offline
One more thought: Listen to the guitar sounds on CSN and then compare this to the 'Recording Bible 101' approach that so many folks preach (no compression/distant miking/full bandwith). It has NOTHING to do with that sound and while it certainly is impossible and even unnecessary to copy that sound it still is very inspiring to apply those 'lessons' to your own work.

It reminds me of a thing I just read in the 'Sessions with Sinatra' book I'm re-reading at the moment. Sinatra talked about using the microphone as your instrument. It is what the saxophone is to a horn palyer but yet so many singers -even today- totally ignore that as it messes with their 'vision of purity'. Yeah right, but then don't use amplification.

To me it's the same with acoustic guitars. 'Pure' sounds can be great in the right context but for most pop/rock/etc music, the acoustic guitars are becoming something else: The instrument is just part of the chain which includes the mic, preamp, possible effects and obviously the player.

One last thing: Pete Townshend's great acoustic guitar sound circa 'Who's Next' was also rumoured to be double-compressed with both 1176s and LA-2As. At least I read somewhere that Glyn Johns used to do that sometimes...
#29
2nd June 2010
Old 2nd June 2010
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 629

Frisbieinstein is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Lawson View Post
Please tell me about Eva Cassidy which tracks I should listen to.
Gosh! I'm flattered that you are interested.

Any of them. I heard Songbird last night, that would be a good one. The guitar parts are quite plain. In a sense there is nothing special about them. But somehow they go deep into the soul. In some mysterious way they are of great beauty. I've never heard anything else like it.

Her singing is the same way. There are a thousand singers with as good or better voices and technique. I think the difference is the willingness to expose the deepest self. It takes courage. If people don't like it, there is nowhere to hide.



"I`ve been getting away with it for 20 years but she just makes me want to chuck my guitar in the river and take up golf or something"

Here's the performance that made her famous.

Lance Lawson
Thread Starter
#30
2nd June 2010
Old 2nd June 2010
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Lance Lawson's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 509

Thread Starter
Lance Lawson is offline
After reading the post of Graham Nash's description of a U-87 right up to the sound hole I remembered being in the studio and my engineer putting a U-67 right against the sound hole of the acoustic 12 string I was playing. In fact we close miced EVERYTHING. The recording incidently produced a lovely airy 12 string sound although I have no idea what was done during the mix.

So last night I set up my Rode NT-1A and brought it right up to the soundhole and rolled off all the bass on the board. Lo and behold the result was that same "sense of being inside the guitar" as some of Stills recordings. Part of Still desire for that sound just may have come from his love of the sound you hear when you place your ear directly against the side of the guitar and play. He describes it as being inside a cathedral.

Currently investigating to possibility of building a pair of 1176s

As for the current acoustic guitar micing techniques so often tauted these days I'm not all that impressed with the results. I also cringe when on stage and the sound persons who insist on ramming a SM57 to 1" of the 14th fret. Its like trying to perform while wearing a straight jacket.
New Reply Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook  Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter  Submit Thread to LinkedIn LinkedIn  Submit Thread to Google+ Google+ 
 
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
johnnyrsongs / Work In Progress / Advice Requested / Show & Tell / Artist Showcase / Mix-Offs
6
ttingley / Work In Progress / Advice Requested / Show & Tell / Artist Showcase / Mix-Offs
1
danbronson / So much gear, so little time!
20
salomonander / So many guitars, so little time!
6
noisetree / So much gear, so little time!
5

Forum Jump

SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.