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Tips on mixing a singer songwriter
Old 7th September 2011
  #1
185066
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Tips on mixing a singer songwriter

I haven't mixed many sparse recordings. I am going to be recording a friend of mine who does acoustic songs. I just want any tips on how to go about it as i've never done much in way of it before. What are the main type of plugins that would generally be used in acoustic recordings. It will be just his guitar and vocals. What's the best way to get the two blend together and what type of reverbs work well for this? Any help and links would be appreciated. Thank you :D
Old 7th September 2011
  #2
GMK
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I personally love that Ray Lamontagne sort of warm sound, Bon Hiver is sort of similar. Not as much high end as a punchy rock song, I think really shiny polished acoustic stuff sounds a bit over produced. Just me though. Cut less low end out of the guitars. You have to sue those 2 instruments to stretch accross the whole spectrum. Try some really natural verbs, convolution ones work well, but even contrary to that, a good plate can give a lovely warm thick sound. Try to use the same verb for both instruments to keep it really natural too.
that's just my 2 or 3 cents!
Old 7th September 2011
  #3
185066
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GMK View Post
I personally love that Ray Lamontagne sort of warm sound, Bon Hiver is sort of similar. Not as much high end as a punchy rock song, I think really shiny polished acoustic stuff sounds a bit over produced. Just me though. Cut less low end out of the guitars. You have to sue those 2 instruments to stretch accross the whole spectrum. Try some really natural verbs, convolution ones work well, but even contrary to that, a good plate can give a lovely warm thick sound. Try to use the same verb for both instruments to keep it really natural too.
that's just my 2 or 3 cents!
Thanks for your reply. I was thinking convolution reverb myself. I understand that you need to have the 2 instruments span the entire spectrum. How best to make the vocals stand out without taking away from the natural sound of the guitar? Also i'd be hesitant to add compression to an acoustic but would a tiny amount help? I think it could make it sound unnatural. I assume i can use it as normal on the vocals? Anything to be aware of when using it in this set up? I know it's subjective and depends on the piece of music but is there anything else other than reverb, eq and compression that could be used or any tips and tricks on getting the best result, either in tracking or mixing. Thanks again
Old 7th September 2011
  #4
GMK
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Get a good room if you can and use some ambient mics, can sound great(check phase to see if it's cancelling out too much though, can happen smaller rooms in particular) Compression is a good thing to use as long as you keep it in check, try to keep the attack and release working so it's keep the overall volume in check but not messing with the transients too much (unless they sound unnatural after being close miked in which case compression may make sound more natural)The vocal shouldn't have too much bother fitting in. You may find you end up with a lot of low-lowmids in your close miked acoustic due to the instrument itself, the proximity effect, being to close to the hole or the room itself, That's probably where you''ll encounter muddiness that will distract from the vocal so keep that in mind in both tracking and mixing, if you're tracking both at the same time, try using figure 8 mics and pointing their very effective nulls at the other instrument, i.e. point vocal mic at the mouth with the null facing the guitar. great separation. try double tracking the acoustic aswell and panning em left and right (room for vocal in the middle) and really get down with your ear and listen to the acoustic where you plan on miking it. (or with isolation headphones).
Old 7th September 2011
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Where will you be recording? can you tell us about the room, its size, natural reverb?

Here is my absolute best advice for getting a result that will astound you:

1) Ask your friend to buy new strings for the guitar and make sure it is in top playing condition. You don't want the strings put on at the last minute because they might give you tuning problems. You want them broken in just enough to stay in tune but sound amazing. Maybe have the guitar looked at by someone who is excellent for setting them up (this is not my area of expertise, but I do now there are many considerations). Any guitarists in here who can give advise on this side of things?

2) Only record the singer/songwriter after the song has settled. This means not a day or two, or even a few weeks after the song was written. Record stuff that has been performed live, that the artist has lived with and is intimate with. You want all their focus to me on the communication of the song, with no thought about technicalities or remembering lyrics. Definitely, no lead sheet or lyrics on paper. If they need this they are not ready to record.

3) Spend as much time as you need moving mics around to get the sound you want with no processing. Use multiple mics. I like to use a small diaphragm condensor pointed at the fingerboard to get details of fingers against string. I like to hear the shifting, the grinding of the string against the fingerboard, everything. I generally use a LDC to capture a more general sound of the guitar, but the placement will make a huge difference - it even will function as a sort of EQ.

4) record in 24 bit so you don't have to worry about setting the gain dangerously high out of noise floor concerns. Leave PLENTY of headroom. Seriously, you can record pretty darn soft and still be fine, but you don't want to compress this on the way in and you want magical takes, so don't risk clipping - there is simply no need to.

5) Make sure in all your engineering activities you remember to set a mood for the artist that makes him/her feel confident and relaxed. Tell them how great it is sounding, etc.

6) Coax the best performance out that you can by getting the changes you need without making them feel like they are screwing it up. You must not allow them to feel like they can't do it, or that they don't play well enough. Try to get a complete take. At least try to get complete takes of song sections, like choruses and verses. But if you at all can manage it, get the whole song in a single, continuous, wonderfully coherent take.

If you can do all of this then when you go to mix you'll be tempted to set some levels and leave the processing off. That is a GREAT place to start.
Old 8th September 2011
  #6
Gear Head
 

I disagree with suggestion 2). It depends on the artist. Sometimes communication is strongest on day 1. Bob Dylan and Neil Young are singer/songwriters who record a lot of stuff on day 1 or 2. Even if you don't have that kind of talent, newer is often fresher.

If a new song doesn't work move on to something else.

Additional suggestion 1: Record as much as possible - leave the mics on. Record everything you can. Edit out the silence/between song drivel while your client takes a break.

Additional suggestion 2: Don't edit or delete takes due to bad sonics or mistakes until a later date. You might get a performance that's worth keeping despite the reduced sound quality.
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