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Hi-end classical guitar recording Condenser Microphones
Old 30th June 2018
  #1
Gear Maniac
Hi-end classical guitar recording

This is my first post on the forum, but I've been visiting for years and greatly appreciate the input from this community.

Looking at high-end classical guitar recording setups on the Internet (and being a Berta Rojas fan), I am intrigued with the selection for her felicidade studio sessions. Two Royer ribbon microphones in front (right/left) and two condensors (set at 90 degrees in the center), I think. An image should be attached to this post, or you can watch the video (search for 'Mis noches sin ti - Berta Rojas feat. Gilberto Gil' OR 'Recuerdos de Ypacarai - Berta Rojas feat. Toquinho')

What exactly is going on here? What do you think about this microphone selection - would you have done the same (given the similar repertoire)? If not, what would be your solution? What are its advantages and constraints? What is this setup likely to lead to in the mix down?

I'm assuming four channels in; but with what likely sends/balance/tweaking on the way out? I'm assuming preamp going in; but have no idea what was used.

Given the desire to execute similar notions, is there another set of microphones you would recommend I consider/study/view?

Many thanks for your thoughts.

Ray H.
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Old 30th June 2018
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
Looks to me like a fail safe micing technique. The royer ribbon mics should have a warm sound and the mid/side kondensator mics should add dimension. What makes the final mix is unknown
YouTube

AKG 414 are the condenser mics and maybe set in Figure 8. They are much brighter than the royers.
Fail safe??

Only if you get the phase relationships right.

That mic setup looks like a potential phase nightmare to me!

One Neumann KM84 or KM 86 in the right place is all you need to get a good classical guitar sound.
Old 30th June 2018
  #3
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Those are two micing techniques used so there are two separate options at mix time. Not to be used together. It's pretty clear for that due to how they are placed (and mic choices.) The 414 are either in fig-8 or cardioid mode; so blumlein or x-y stereo setup.

The other standard option is two SDC cards (3-1 positioning/over shoulder) and 1 omni for the room (distant)

Depends on how wide a stereo image you want (and the room)
Old 30th June 2018
  #4
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post
One Neumann KM84 or KM 86 in the right place is all you need to get a good classical guitar sound.
Thanks, Anthony. I do see a lot of recording advice (and many players) splitting the bridge from fretboard via two microphones . . .usually a matched set of one thing or another. But to your point, I've also heard remarkable performances effectively captured with a single mic. BTW, Love your website!


Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
In this case if you click on the link you can hear the results. I don't hear phase being a problem which suggests that maybe they only used the royers or the akg's for the mix. To me sounds like the 414's were prominent.
Thanks, mappee. I liked all of your comments and especially the notion (quoted above) that the 414s seemed prominent. I honestly couldn't have started to guess. The second tune (same configuration, but I suspect a different studio) was perhaps a better example that I should have linked first: Recuerdos de Ypacarai




Quote:
Originally Posted by pentagon View Post
Those are two micing techniques used so there are two separate options at mix time. Not to be used together. It's pretty clear for that due to how they are placed (and mic choices.) The 414 are either in fig-8 or cardioid mode; so blumlein or x-y stereo setup.

The other standard option is two SDC cards (3-1 positioning/over shoulder) and 1 omni for the room (distant)

Depends on how wide a stereo image you want (and the room)
Thanks pentagon. Very helpful comments for me. Much appreciated. I believe you each are right in pointing out that this is an either/or situation. And it seems consistent across studios for Berta's felicidade recordings.

* Thanks also Anthony and mappee for mention of specific hardware alternatives.

I've been actually thinking about a pair of Scheops as a potential solution for me. However, it seems the strongest advice I hear is go for high-end ribbons. I could yet back out and go for ribbons or something like a pair of Neumann TLM 170 R mics, or your mentions above. All very different directions; but, to date, I think Scheops is more 'me' Maybe I am a bad person.

Thanks so much for the replies! I'll keep learning.

Best regards - Ray H.
Old 1st July 2018
  #5
MA Recordings has some fabulous nylon string CD's.

Welcome to MA Recordings Online
Old 2nd July 2018
  #6
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
This is one microphone a u87. Huge stage...
YouTube

Could it be the player and not so much the microphone? ?? ??? Or is it each being
respectively pro.
Thanks, mappee - I quite enjoyed that!

Berta Rojas has indeed used a single mic (AKG, Neumann, others) on several such live/amplified gigs on YouTube. Beyond her stunning sense of musical art, I love her sound on the Intimate Barrios, Cielo Abierto, and Facilidade studio recordings - which each strike me quite differently.

The entire Intimate Barrios album sounds like a single mic to me. The studio recording is beautiful and Ca’azapa is another wonderful selection from that perfect album. I do wonder if she used the same Neumann in studio?

However, when she gets to Cielo Abierto, the sound seems much more complex (a solid 10 on a scale of 1 to 10). I at least believe I hear multiple mics - not just reverb and effects. Parita, Si No Me Toca El Corazon, and Renacer being elegant representations.

Facilidade is certainly multiple mics as we have seen. Again, the sound is more complex and even a bit better (11 on a scale of 1 to 10) to my ears - though I’m not certain Berta's mic configuration was far different than Cielo Abierto. With respect to Recuerdos De Ypacarai, I’m wondering if the 414s were used for the her intro, and the ribbons used for accompaniment under Toquinho’s vocals? Berta Rojas' sparkling but warm intro is a more than 50 seconds on the album; yet it is maybe only 5 seconds on YouTube.

Tatyana Ryzhkova is another example of multiple mics - using a couple Neumann KM 184 MTs - with dramatically different but very satisfying results.



Sound Pure demos a setup with 4 mics - 2 Schoeps CMC 6 w/Mk 2 H omnidirectional mics and 2 Neumann TLM 107 as cardioid mics. When I previously mentioned Schoeps, this was not close to what I intend (note: which is in no way a criticism of the demo). There is a bit too much player noise picked up on the demo, but then I wouldn’t want to follow Berta Rojas or Tatyana Ryzhkova to demo anything remotely related to classical guitar.



It would be great to have a database of top classical guitar recordings - including instrument model/year, string details, location, room and microphone configuration, etc. Don’t know if anyone has started on this.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post
a database of top classical guitar recordings - including instrument model/year, string details, location, room and microphone configuration, etc. Don’t know if anyone has started on this.
Why? Have you actually thought about the application of such a “database”? It’s virtually useless. Are you trying to clone a recording? You might as well tie in temperature, humidity, and time of year.

A technique for pickup is useful info. Outside of that, a recording engineer needs to use their ears. Outside of a “perfect” closed system, there are too many variables that can’t be catalogued in a database. If the player is great and it sounds good in the room, a good engineer will be able to capture it. Recording isn’t an equation or recipe where you have to provide all the ingredients.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #8
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i'm almost always using an ldc (u67 or tlm170) at very short distance (30-50cm) and a pair of (either cardioid schoeps cmxy 4v or a pair of b&k 4007 in wide a/b) sdc's for ambient pickup (at a distance of 150-250cm) on acoustic guitars.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #9
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I am in agreement with deedeeyeah's primary mic located 12 to 20 inches from the instrument. All acoustical instruments, particularly guitars, benefit greatly from providing enough space between the instrument and the mic chosen for capture to allow the vibes to meld together sonically.
My preference is within the U47,67 or C12 tube reproductions in card pattern to reduce the room's influence. I am not a fan of ambient spacing of mics @ 5 to 10 ft. or omni settings for the same reason.
Over the 50 years I have worked in Bluegrass and acoustic Americana genres I have not had an opportunity to work with many nylon strung guitars. However the primary fundamentals with steel strung flat top guitars, where I have spent thousands of hours recording, are very similar if not identical. Too this end a lead guitar that is sonically thin may benefit from stereo micing to create some size and space. However with singers playing the vintage instruments I work with in live performance, a Flea47 next placed between the vocal and guitar apx 1 ft away is a bullet proof protocol, but they are session ready studio performers.
Bottom line is, as previously mentioned, multiple mics are generally more of a phase problem than sonically beneficial.
Hugh
Old 2nd July 2018
  #10
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by pentagon View Post
Why? Have you actually thought about the application of such a “database”? It’s virtually useless. Are you trying to clone a recording? You might as well tie in temperature, humidity, and time of year.

A technique for pickup is useful info. Outside of that, a recording engineer needs to use their ears. Outside of a “perfect” closed system, there are too many variables that can’t be catalogued in a database. If the player is great and it sounds good in the room, a good engineer will be able to capture it. Recording isn’t an equation or recipe where you have to provide all the ingredients.
Apologies, pentagon. My notions here should have gone on a completely different thread. As to what I take to be the primary core of your query - 'Are you trying to clone a recording?': No, absolutely not. I won't argue other points here, so as not to further pollute the thread.

Again, I truly appreciate your thoughts and feedback. It may not be the reward you would prefer, but here is another fun (Classical Guitar recording) link that plays on your points:



Cheers and many thanks - Ray H.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #11
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
i'm almost always using an ldc (u67 or tlm170) at very short distance (30-50cm) and a pair of (either cardioid schoeps cmxy 4v or a pair of b&k 4007 in wide a/b) sdc's for ambient pickup (at a distance of 150-250cm) on acoustic guitars.
Thanks, deedeeyea!

I am now personally leaning toward a kit with both TLM 170 and Schoeps pairs.

The TLM 170 seems to have a good reputation for layering multiple tracks without accumulating to much of its color - very appealing characteristic for me in an ldc.

I was thrilled that you provided both hardware and placement. This is very helpful to me.

Best - Ray H.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #12
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In the Sound Pure vid, although their room is nice, for me the distance of the omnis still allowed too much "splanky" early reflections in. Adding the room mics didn't help either. I would like to hear the Schoeps in cardioid, and a foot closer.

FWIW, Ralph Towner is quoted in an interview describing the setup at a session for ECM in a concert hall - a pair of Schoeps and a pair of (I think) Sony C800s placed down right and up left. No phase issues. Heh. $25000 bucks worth of mics. But his playing deserves it!
Old 2nd July 2018
  #13
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GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
In the Sound Pure vid, although their room is nice, for me the distance of the omnis still allowed too much "splanky" early reflections in. Adding the room mics didn't help either. I would like to hear the Schoeps in cardioid, and a foot closer.

FWIW, Ralph Towner is quoted in an interview describing the setup at a session for ECM in a concert hall - a pair of Schoeps and a pair of (I think) Sony C800s placed down right and up left. No phase issues. Heh. $25000 bucks worth of mics. But his playing deserves it!
And if one can’t afford that set up for some reason, AKG 451s actually sound pretty damn good on classical gtrs.
Old 2nd July 2018
  #14
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
I am in agreement with deedeeyeah's primary mic located 12 to 20 inches from the instrument. All acoustical instruments, particularly guitars, benefit greatly from providing enough space between the instrument and the mic chosen for capture to allow the vibes to meld together sonically.
My preference is within the U47,67 or C12 tube reproductions in card pattern to reduce the room's influence. I am not a fan of ambient spacing of mics @ 5 to 10 ft. or omni settings for the same reason.
Over the 50 years I have worked in Bluegrass and acoustic Americana genres I have not had an opportunity to work with many nylon strung guitars. However the primary fundamentals with steel strung flat top guitars, where I have spent thousands of hours recording, are very similar if not identical. Too this end a lead guitar that is sonically thin may benefit from stereo micing to create some size and space. However with singers playing the vintage instruments I work with in live performance, a Flea47 next placed between the vocal and guitar apx 1 ft away is a bullet proof protocol, but they are session ready studio performers.
Bottom line is, as previously mentioned, multiple mics are generally more of a phase problem than sonically beneficial.
Hugh
Wow, Hugh - thanks for the confirming detail on your practices/preferences and associated background! Very useful!

Aside from the general question and thirst to learn, I am considering these initially for recording a high-end Yamaha GC-82S classical guitar - varying between high tension carbon, gut and (on rare occasions) nylon strings.

There are very many excellent luthiers building vastly different sounding instruments now. Since the late 60s many players had gone away from spruce to cedar for high-end Classical Guitars (non-Bach/non-Renaissance repertoire), over the past several years it seems double top lattice top (often cedar for the top layer) models are the thing. String material/brand selection also - for me - makes a stunning impact on what I can get out a given instrument - way before any thought of microphone options.

I'm also an old-timer, who has performed a significant amount of bluegrass, country, etc., - but from the performance side (not engineering). I remember well scratching up my Jerry Reed (an all-time hero) albums to learn from his nylon-string techniques. And I’ve loved Willie Nelson’s trigger(s) - buzzes and all. Both Baldwin Prismatone pickup guys (I think) which is not so relevant to a high-end mic discussion. But Jerry Reed’s nylon was at least occasionally also mic’d. Not certain what he did in studio or later recordings. And nowadays almost everybody loves Tommy Emmanuel, who has picked up nylon or two.

Who possibly can't love this?:



I do think the the double top lattice top with carbon strings and a bright mic could be a great direction for Country music as well. Somebody needs to get rich trying it.

Still, my immediate target is original composition jazz and romantic (non-classical) with a style somewhere between Kenny Burrell, Berta Rojas and Xuefei Yang.

In my search for mic techniques, I've pursued numerous YouTube videos with different Classical Guitar models and players as a first cut followed by purchase if the initial contact is promising.

There are also several between sites like the Guitar Salon and Siccas guitars, but the quality of recording is very inconsistent. Though for most non concert performances they seem to use a single mic. Their uploads to YouTube are not always focused on great encoding parameters. Nevertheless, they expose a lot of great talent and prompt ideas. Here is one from Yenne Lee:




Again, Yenne Lee’s Amazon download audio is dramatically superior to the YouTube version. Not certain if it was cut in studio with a different mic(s).

Enjoy! - Ray H.

Last edited by RayHeath; 2nd July 2018 at 10:42 PM.. Reason: spelling/gramar
Old 2nd July 2018
  #15
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robert82's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post

There are also several between sites like the Guitar Salon and Siccas guitars, but the quality of recording is very inconsistent. Though for most non concert performances they seem to use a single mic. Their uploads to YouTube are not always focused on great encoding parameters.
I spend a fair amount of time on both those sites, constantly amazed at the new talent, many of whom are young women. But I have to agree - the recording quality is spotty. I think most of the in-house recordings are done with stereo mics, at least that's how it sounds to me. I wish they would pan back and show the mic arrays! It seems they are torn between giving no-cosmetics representations of the various guitars on one hand, and more euphonic recordings with slight additional ambience on the other.

[edit] Listening to the Yenne Lee clip, one mic is visible, but it sure sounds like stereo . . .

Here is a resource you may know of. . . he shares a lot of info on his micing and recording techniques.
Guitarise.com | Classical guitar learning platform
Old 3rd July 2018
  #16
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vernier's Avatar
Much nicer watching pretty women playing classical guitar ...never realized it before.
Old 3rd July 2018
  #17
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Ray Heath, You are absolutely right about the luthier quality of hand made guitars today. I have had a very close relationship with Wayne Henderson since 1982, he built #85 & #383 for me. I talked Tom Theil out of some 1932 Brazillion Rose Wood sides and backs and john Arnold's inventory of App. Red Spruce was used for the top and bracing on #383 (1936 D28 reproduction with forward bracing & 1 3/4 inch wide fingerboard) and my third Henderson will be an OM (#750) to be started this fall. Many apologies to the casual reader of this thread however once we nerd pickers get into the guitar weeds it is hard to "keep it simple".

A guitar player that has a sound in their head that they are looking for should make a serious effort to head phone audit a lot of playing time into different mics with various placements to isolate the best protocol for their particular instrument and playing style. I have found that this is the preferred method of developing a session ready skill that is the musical signature of the best pickers I have worked with, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Steve Lewis and JD Crowe.
I shared a Table with Chet Adkins at a T. Rice gig shortly before his death back in the 80s and he told me that Jerry Reed would drive around Nashville playing Tony Rice tracks in his car very loud.

Way back in my college years (1959/63) I loved the Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Tom Jobim Bossa Nova sound featured in their "Desafinado" hit recording that took the Grammy awards by storm in 1965. Man that is some great music, featuring classical guitar, that most young'uns today have no clue about.
Hugh
Old 3rd July 2018
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

I like Willie Nelson, but his fart-box guitar sound hardly belongs in a discussion about high-end guitar recording techniques.
Old 3rd July 2018
  #19
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
In the Sound Pure vid, although their room is nice, for me the distance of the omnis still allowed too much "splanky" early reflections in. Adding the room mics didn't help either. I would like to hear the Schoeps in cardioid, and a foot closer.

FWIW, Ralph Towner is quoted in an interview describing the setup at a session for ECM in a concert hall - a pair of Schoeps and a pair of (I think) Sony C800s placed down right and up left. No phase issues. Heh. $25000 bucks worth of mics. But his playing deserves it!

Robert, thanks for all of your thoughtful comments - not just those quoted above. Very useful info! Points++

I've been wondering if anyone was using the C800s for classical guitar. Please let me know if associated recordings that turn up. I considered one C800 but need more portability and less maintenance.

'Where is the Cadillac? The Caddy! [. . .] A microphone? Ok, I can see that.' - Never get tired of that joke, or Taj Mahal's 'She Caught the Katy'.

Strings By Mail is another valuable site with examples like this amazing performance of the Chaconne from Raphaella Smits (via two mics that I see biased toward the tail and fretboard):



Again, the audio was from a live concert, not studio - which for me is never a fair fight . . .and it is hard to tell how much was lost on YouTube without the master or CD.

Best regards - Ray H.

Last edited by RayHeath; 3rd July 2018 at 05:23 AM.. Reason: spelling/gramar
Old 3rd July 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
... primary mic located 12 to 20 inches from the instrument..

...i am not a fan of ambient spacing of mics @ 5 to 10 ft. or omni settings...

...multiple mics are generally more of a phase problem than sonically beneficial.
hi hugh

i should have mentioned that for remote, studio recording and mixing, i borrow some live sound equipment to deal with phase cancellation/comb filtering that always occurs when using multiple mics: i've been successfully inserting lake processors for time and phase alignment in multiple frequency ranges between the tracks of my main mic (acoustic guitar) and the stereo ambient pair and use smaart to analyze!

i'm also doing this with main mics on ensembles/orchestras and room mics in the back of the hall or on snare and overhead mics, sometimes (if i get enough time) even on the way in...

certainly not everyone's twist and often overkill but really helpfull if it's worth capturing the natural ambient/room sound: i then often end up using around 70-85% of the close mic and the rest from the ambient mics without using further efx.
if not using ambient mics, my quantec will get me what i need - and then there are times when i decide on not aligning ambient mics at all but use them plus additional efx devices...

cheers,
didier
Old 3rd July 2018
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post
Strings By Mail is another valuable site with examples like this amazing performance of the Chaconne from Raphaella Smits (via two mics that I see biased toward the tail and fretboard):



Best regards - Ray H.
This thread worth reading for this one link. Wonderful performance of a musical masterpiece on an exquisite instrument. Many thanks to you and Raphaella.
Old 4th July 2018
  #22
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robert82's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
This thread worth reading for this one link. Wonderful performance of a musical masterpiece on an exquisite instrument. Many thanks to you and Raphaella.
Oh, to have just an hour with that instrument!!
Old 4th July 2018
  #23
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
This thread worth reading for this one link. Wonderful performance of a musical masterpiece on an exquisite instrument. Many thanks to you and Raphaella.
For those perhaps not familiar with the Partita for Violin No. 2 (Bach), Wikipedia reports:
Violinist Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect."
Raphaella Smits' interpretation and execution are stunningly good!

Best regards - Ray H.

Last edited by RayHeath; 4th July 2018 at 02:14 AM.. Reason: grammar
Old 4th July 2018
  #24
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chrischoir's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post



Again, the audio was from a live concert, not studio - which for me is never a fair fight . . .and it is hard to tell how much was lost on YouTube without the master or CD.

Best regards - Ray H.
This is not a very good recording even for live. IMO there is no excuse for something like this,
Old 4th July 2018
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
This is not a very good recording even for live. IMO there is no excuse for something like this,
As ever, the contrarian. Your avatar was well chosen. Whichever thread you pop up in, you're always angry Al Pacino!

Last edited by robert82; 4th July 2018 at 02:42 AM..
Old 4th July 2018
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
As ever, the contrarian. Your avatar was well chosen.
It's not about about being contrarian, that recording is very boxy and harsh sounding.
Old 4th July 2018
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
It's not about about being contrarian, that recording is very boxy and harsh sounding.
I have to agree that its boxy, and there is comb filtering all over it.
Old 4th July 2018
  #28
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenNeedle View Post
I have to agree that its boxy, and there is comb filtering all over it.
GreenNeedle and chrishoir - no worries.

As previously alluded to, I knew there were audio encoding issues on the upload, and likely capture & processing issues on the original recording.

This thread started with a specific set of questions that arose from videos related to a set of Berta Rojas sessions, which necessarily took us to more general practices and guidelines. . .and other examples, as I continue to prompt the community for thoughts on high-end solutions. Please forgive my limitations.

In this case, there is a quite different microphone configuration. I am trying to learn - ignoring YouTube encoding issues - what about this sample could/should have been done better for a high-end recording? What chain of hardware in what configurations, what professional techniques and practices would have maximized the result from your experience?

If the thread continues, I will have questions about a number of other samples that (I suspect) may be far less acceptable to the community, but about which discussion will truly help me (and hopefully others) better learn the craft at the high-end.

Great music has, I think, eternal value. So, I deeply treasure that this breathtaking performance was recorded at all - high fidelity or not. I thought it a good case study.

The value of this community's responses are (to me) already priceless . . .and very much appreciated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenNeedle View Post
And if one can’t afford that set up for some reason, AKG 451s actually sound pretty damn good on classical gtrs.
BTW, Did I say thank you? [I know I haven't yet; but. . .] I meant to say thank you for the reference to the AKG 451. I’ve got it on my list to try.

Ray H.

Last edited by RayHeath; 4th July 2018 at 04:25 AM.. Reason: Remove duplicate notion
Old 4th July 2018
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
It's not about about being contrarian, that recording is very boxy and harsh sounding.
I don't hear it here as anything like "very boxy and harsh". It is a beautiful resonant instrument.
homepage rsmits.com
Old 4th July 2018
  #30
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
[. . .] a beautiful resonant instrument.
For reference, David Jaggs recorded a number of wonderful interviews with Miles Roberts on the tone and character of Classical Guitars from various builders. These videos have been quite valuable to me in considering what I may want to capture in a some particular recording effort. . .perhaps even a precursor to location and music composition/selection.

The nature of a specific instrument - that looks very much the same as 'any other Classical Guitar' - can be surprisingly and distinctly unique. The search for how to best compose and capture music relevant to that instrument is, for me, somewhat akin to a novelist searching for the most appropriate phrase. . .such as 'the night was sultry' [Throw Mama From the Train].

Comparison of classical guitars, Spain V England V France


Antigoni Goni meets Hauser (for the first time!)


And all of these instruments are very different, of course, from what Craig Ogden would require to go up against The Commander-In-Chief with Paganini's Caprice 24


- Ray H.
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