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Tips for Very Quiet Acoustic Guitar
Old 27th July 2005
  #1
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largeunit's Avatar
 

Question Tips for Very Quiet Acoustic Guitar

Any tips for recording acoustic guitar that is VERY quiet and delicate and going to stand on its own? I'm getting a great sound but more NOISE than I would like.
Old 27th July 2005
  #2
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XHipHop's Avatar
have you tried pumping up the volume with something like sony inflator?
Old 27th July 2005
  #3
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syra's Avatar
Fist you need very low ambient noise in your tracking space.

Once thats covered, mics with low self noise, low-noise preamps and good 24 bit converters will get you there.
Old 27th July 2005
  #4


Is the noise comming from the mic, the pre-amp, or something else in the chain?



-tINY

Old 27th July 2005
  #5
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Jeff A. Roberts's Avatar
 

At the risk of stating the obvious, can the guitar be played any louder?

In a previous life when I worked for guitarist Leo Kottke, I learned that it's not just the guitar, it's how the guitar is played.

I have measured 12-20 db difference in level on the same guitar/room/strings etc, depending on the picker.

In the studio, I have great difficulty recording "pussy pickers". All string noise and no "note". It takes a little muscle and a ton of finesse to get those wooden boxes to sound good. But it sure is worth it.

There is no direct relationship between guitar size, and sound level. Between size and bass yes, but not size and level. If the guitar is really quiet, it must be seriously overbuilt. Strong and over-braced with super thick plywood does not make for good tone or level.

Good luck.
Old 27th July 2005
  #6
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by largeunit
Any tips for recording acoustic guitar that is VERY quiet and delicate and going to stand on its own? I'm getting a great sound but more NOISE than I would like.
Make the reflections work for you. I sometimes had luck with a 'gobo' in the shape of a door being opened and used as a reflective surface. Also don't forget the floor, a piece of plywood put underneath the player can make a big difference.

Jeff's comments above are spot-on but I don't think that a recording session is the right time for changing a player's technique. That could be a total mood- and creativity killer. You want to make the player as comfortable as possible.

I would also say that volume and projection are 2 totally different things. I see more acoustic guitarists failing to project because of using too much force and volume than vice-versa. I know it took me a long time to grasp the concept for myself.

Andi

www.doorknocker.ch
Old 27th July 2005
  #7
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Yes, go for the quietest track enviorment you can find. I've been doing a lot of sound checks with my D-18 lately since getting the new V-69 mic. Using a sensitive mic, picks up all kinds of things you normaly wouldn't notice, and amplifies them....so eliminate the noise as much as possible, THEN...if you're working on a computer......

This may sound a bit tedious depending on your music, but it indeed works great....edit out any unwanted noise, using a noise reduction program, or by adding silence to the quiet sections of your track. Both these operations I can do in Adobe's Audition 1.5 editing program, and can make a really pro sounding recording, if you put some effort into it, and it'll really clean up your tracks, once you get into the habit of it.

I got this tip from Roger McGuinn's training dvd on Home Computer Recording, available at his website. So thank Roger for this. He's got lot's of great tips on this dvd, and I highly recommend it.
Old 28th July 2005
  #8
I am sorry - I just had this MAD image spring to mind..

The "cellophane recording suit"

The worlds NOSEYEST recording attire...

"Each body movement 100% guaranteed to be louder than the instrument played, or your money back"

Sorry .... it's late...
Old 28th July 2005
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Having a quiet room is really important as others said. When I record softer passages that require a light touch, I will usually use Elixer strings to keep string noise to a minimum. I tend to use a LD condenser with a high sensitivty like a TLM 103 placed fairly close to the guitar, that way I can use less gain from the mic pre to keep down noise.

Don't forget a HP filter and a shockmount for the mic.


And don't tap your feet.

And put the cue mix in the left side of the headphones only(away from the mic).

And don't breath!
Old 28th July 2005
  #10
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I don't need a cellophane suit, these damn Chinese mics pic up everything.....God help you if an ant walks across the floor.

I was setting up today to do a quiet recording, put the mics in the living room to avoid computer fan noise, got everthing as quiet as possible, had the headphones, on and mics cranked up, and guess what...the phone rings...scared the hell out me !!!!!
Old 28th July 2005
  #11
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and don't lick your lips or swallow......

Another thing I've had to do, is tape a piece of foam onto the pick gaurd of my guitar. My fingernails on my strumming hand were clicking against the pick gaurd, and it sounded like tap dancers were dancing along with my music, on the recording. The foam allows my fingers to still hit the pick gaurd, but without any sound. Some times my pick would also hit the pick gaurd, and this helps out a lot on quiet recordings. I know, I should practice and not be so sloppy, but this works for recording quiet performances.
Old 28th July 2005
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by djwayne
I was setting up today to do a quiet recording, put the mics in the living room to avoid computer fan noise, got everthing as quiet as possible, had the headphones, on and mics cranked up, and guess what...the phone rings...scared the hell out me !!!!!
heh
Old 28th July 2005
  #13
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ewegogetemtiger's Avatar
probably too obvious but I'll hazard the suggestion that you may have to experiment with new mic placement -- namely closer than you might normally like to go and settle for less room ambience than you might like. not the best of scenarios because you might have to use some eq to roll off some of the proximity effect.
Old 28th July 2005
  #14
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For those who are not familiar with a noise reduction program as is found in Adobe's Audition program..... how it works is, you record (capture) a portion of the noise you want to eliminate, such as a computer fan, the program inverts the computer fan noise you recorded, and applies it to your recording somehow, don't ask me the details..... but it wipes out just the fan noise, and leaves the rest of the sound intact....it's not always 100% perfect, but usually a big improvement, and time well spent, learning how to do it.

Here again , your results may vary, according to your editing skills.

Highlighting and inserting silence was the big improvent for me. I had never done that before, and found it to be very useful in cleaning up sound clips. Doing this adds silence to a quiet section, without deleting the time, and messing up the timing of your track. Excellent tip. Thank You Roger !!!!
Old 28th July 2005
  #15
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Jeez Man,

If the ambient sounds in the room are indeed the problem then yeah, listen to these folks,

As far as just playing the part louder, that's rediculous. Who cares if that guy recorded Leo Kotkee, the loudest acoustic guitar player of all time? If that's the volume he prefers because it's hard for him to get a good sound from someone who plays more softly, then that's his problem.

If your guitar sounds good at the volume you're playing it, or whoever you're recording sounds good at the volume they're playing, then that is what must be recorded.

My advice is to look at everything in the signal chain. If you're recording w/ a ribbon mic, you might need to add an extra gain stage after your pre because you'll no doubt be cranking your pre to the point where it's getting too noisy (depends on the pre I guess. If you have something that can put out a million clean dB's then YMMV)
If you add a compressor just for gain afterwards (turning the ratio down to 1:1), then the pre doesn't have to work as hard
Or using a condensor will undoubtedly make it quieter. If you're already using a condensor then you might have to sacrifice some ambience by moving the mic closer.
But you can remedy this by adding ambience w/ reverb, or (my preference, especially w/ acoustic guitar) a speaker miked up in an ambient space.

You probably already know these things but just thought I'd add in because it's taken me awhile to figure out how to record quiet acoustic myself, and the above listed were a couple solutions that have worked for me. It took me awhile to figure out that it was my preamp that was adding all the noise because it was working so hard to amplify the guitar and mic before it that it was reaching the end of it's gain stage where in this case headroom was an issue. It was a UA 2108 by the way. Not a bad preamp at all.

I don't know. Are you using a condensor?
My advice if you're not, is to add an extra gain stage after the preamp. Which is cool. I often prefer not to use a condensor for acoustic because the amount of harsh high end butt-assnes that cheap condensors will give you w/ acoustic guitar can make me want to smash stuff.

If you are, then move the mic closer. If you already have it pretty close then again, try adding an extra gain stage after the pre. If that still doesn't do it, then I don't know what's going on.

But don't listen to rediculous suggestions to play louder.
I don't mean to say that the source isn't the most important thing. It is, but if the acoustic guitar sound is dependent on being quiet for this particular song, then it has to remain. Lot's of acoustic guitars in general sound better when played softly.
Old 28th July 2005
  #16
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"Also don't forget the floor, a piece of plywood put underneath the player can make a big difference."


Question for "Door Knocker"........ I'm curious, what exactly does this do ?? Isolate noise or something ?? How big of a piece of plywood ?? Thickness ?? Under the mic stand too ??
Old 28th July 2005
  #17
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by djwayne
"Also don't forget the floor, a piece of plywood put underneath the player can make a big difference."
Question for "Door Knocker"........ I'm curious, what exactly does this do ?? Isolate noise or something ?? How big of a piece of plywood ?? Thickness ?? Under the mic stand too ??
djwayne,

please check out this thread:https://www.gearslutz.com/board/showthrea...hlight=plywood

I suggested the piece of plywood for a situation where you would be forced to record in a carpeted room or a similar hostile sonic enviroment.

What's often overlooked is how much the floor reflections can contribute of take away from the sound.

When faced with a 'too soft'-sounding source, folks might want to put the mic closer and raise the level of the preamp. Now this might work in some situation (I became a big fan of using a single SM57 put very close to the strumming/picking hand for certain sounds/players) but more often than not you'll just end up with boom due to proximity-effect, stuff you'll have to EQ-out evenutally.

The idea is to get a good mix between the direct sound and the reflections.
I sometimes had good luck with a simple technique like using the (opened) wood door in my living room as a 'gobo'.

I'm a big believer in mono acoustic guitars though, phase cancellation with multi-mic setups are another common source for 'wimpy' guitar sounds.

Another simple but maybe overlooked thing is using a different pick if appliable.
Again, you don't want to make the player uncomfortable but even two pick with the same density but made out of different material,etc might sound totally different and therefore yield very different sounds.

Andi

www.doorknocker.ch
Old 28th July 2005
  #18
Moderator
 
toolskid's Avatar
 

I've just done an album earlier this year with a succession of really quiet guitarists (well two actually). Probably the most effective couple of tips to minimize noise are to put the pre right next to the player thus running at line level back through the ties to the CR and also to experiment with mic position, mic type choice and LF roll off

These are just ballpark ideas, if you could post more info on your chain that would be great!!
Old 28th July 2005
  #19
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Ruudman's Avatar
 

DPA mics thumbsup

ruudman
Old 28th July 2005
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker
djwayne,

please check out this thread:https://www.gearslutz.com/board/showthrea...hlight=plywood

I suggested the piece of plywood for a situation where you would be forced to record in a carpeted room or a similar hostile sonic enviroment.

What's often overlooked is how much the floor reflections can contribute of take away from the sound.

When faced with a 'too soft'-sounding source, folks might want to put the mic closer and raise the level of the preamp. Now this might work in some situation (I became a big fan of using a single SM57 put very close to the strumming/picking hand for certain sounds/players) but more often than not you'll just end up with boom due to proximity-effect, stuff you'll have to EQ-out evenutally.

The idea is to get a good mix between the direct sound and the reflections.
I sometimes had good luck with a simple technique like using the (opened) wood door in my living room as a 'gobo'.

I'm a big believer in mono acoustic guitars though, phase cancellation with multi-mic setups are another common source for 'wimpy' guitar sounds.

Another simple but maybe overlooked thing is using a different pick if appliable.
Again, you don't want to make the player uncomfortable but even two pick with the same density but made out of different material,etc might sound totally different and therefore yield very different sounds.

Andi

www.doorknocker.ch

Andy, Thanks for the info, I'll have to try it, I have a 48" x 48" x 3/4" piece I can experiment with. Right now though I'm concentrating on getting a quiet room enviorment in my living room, and making progress.....eliminating computer fan noise, has been my biggest goal, and moving my mics out to the living room helped dramatically.....hanging some quilts in the V-shaped design as talked about may also be an upcoming project for me........

Just moving the mics into the living room made a huge positive difference, and eliminated about 90% of the background noise I was dealing with.....still have a tiny bit, but it's a major improvement.
Old 28th July 2005
  #21
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Jeff A. Roberts's Avatar
 

Jonk,

If you're trying to rip someone in a public forum, you might come off more forcefully if you learn to spell first.

There is no "e" in ridiculous.

Leo Kottke does not spell his name with 2 "e's".

Clearly I was wrong to share my empirical and subjective experience in recording acoustic guitar when such an expert as yourself is available.

I won't ask if you're off your meds.

But I do have one question, did you get your manners from the same person that taught you how to spell?
Old 28th July 2005
  #22
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dach's Avatar
 

I have to chime in here......

Not necessarily directed towards Largeunit but I see quite a few "tips" here that spell disaster in a number of circumstances.

I don't know how Largeunits track will be used or whether it's solo or in a multitrack production but I'll assume SOLO and give some tips. If multitracked in a band situation, you can cut some corners but not the basic audio stuff. This stuff can be applied to multitrack stuff as well as well as other instruments.

The gobo idea is great if you are wanting to block "bad" reflections... however insulation less porous will yeild better results.

If you have a SOLO player that plays a SOLO piece very soft you need a very quiet room... PERIOD. Hopefully this quiet room is a little more "live" than one totally covered with shag carpeting and is more conducive to recording low level signals with some "depth of field". If you hear "hum" or other tonal noise in the room, find another room. Then find the best "sounding" spot in this room.

Your pre's need to be very clean (not noisy) and have a fair amount of gain. Don't crank them to "10" though... try hard to find the "sweet spot" of your pre that delivers the hottest output, the best "sounding" output with the least amount of noise. Yes, it's really there, and shouldn't take you too long to find it.

You will also want to use a mic with a "hotter" output. This will probably be a "nice" condensor mic. Hopefully, the "hotter" mic it will compliment the source material. Most dynamics are out here because you are recording a very low output source. We'll only talk about using 1 mic here to capture your sound for practical purposes. This mic needs to be in a shockmount and the mic stand probably placed on some sort of foam. Use weights, sandbags or whatever to steady it if you dont have a stand with a large base. Even low level vibrations just above DC will eat up headroom. If you don't know which of your mics have hotter output than the others, stop booking sessions until you are familiar with your mics and pre's! The LF rolloff's found on many mics does not always work well on all sources. Excercise caution.

Let's not discuss the use of mic patterns at this time and assume you will use a "cardiod"

Sweet Spot.... Good sound is usually the absence of bad sound. I'm assuming you have experience micing an ac gtr so, once you find your "sweet spot" move the mic either to or away from that spot while maintaining the same angle of capsule to guitar. Listen to find the point where the low end and low mids are the strongest and cleanest.... this spot should also have more "apparent" loudness than the other places along the same plane. There should be no "woof" or "sqwalk" which many consider to be "bad" sound.

This is really the BEST you can probably do as far as getting good level and low noise with one mic on a very soft player. Most of the other tricks and gimmicks are just crap. This is all about listening to what you do and not analyzing what should theoretically work better!

If it's a solo piece and you're adventurous and have another nice mic and pre, try placing this somewhere very close to the guitar... either underneath, in back, etc. You should not have a problem getting loads of gain with this placement... go for the most "even" sound you can with the most dynamics.... This will end up being more mids than anything else. Save this track for later if you even want to use it.

Once you have your recording done, depending on where you placed your mic, you MAY experience some resonant frequency peaks. Don't grab the parametric yet. Try using a comp in sidechain mode or a multiband comp to tame this area first. DON"T let it do anything else to any other part of the sound.

Now you can use very light comp to smooth out dynamics if needed or you can alter the timbre with a "little" EQ. Softer players usually don't have good control of their tone or dynamics so you may also want to "limit" a loud note or two. You may also find some "scratchiness" from poor right hand technique or less than great mic placement. There could be some "harshness" as well. See if the mb comp will work here if necessary. If the player and gtr sound good by themselves, you should be ok. Hopefully, you won't have to do much of any of these things.

If your mic placement was good, this is now your sound. If it's not great it's either the player and guitar or your technique....

If there's a bit of broadband noise or "hiss" use expansion and/or multiband expansion FIRST to reduce this to an acceptable level. Hopefully you won't have any "tonal" noise. DO NOT use Noise Reduction or edit to insert silence on a solo piece. That is just not very good advice at all. If you have enough noise to warrant using NR forget about it.... you are stuck and are attempting to "salvage" the track, try to do your best with expansion (MBE is great) and then a minute amount of NR. If it's in a multitrack production, it's more acceptable to take the easy way out but I would always recommend the other route first.

If it's a solo piece, please don't edit in silence. I should not have to explain that.

Now, do what ever you want to do as far as modulation and time based effects at this point. If the mix sounds good, you're probably finished.. however....

Remember the other track? Should sound "woody" and pretty decent. If you want, shape it with some eq and dynamics. Send this to your delay and/or "reverb", etc.... and return it "wet". Automate, compress, mangle or do whatever you need to do pre and/or post effect to make this tracks TIMBRE and ENVELOPE make your original track more EXCITING and DYNAMIC. You will probably want to pan the outputs DIFFERENT from the other track. You can actually do this by "auxing, cloning or multing" the original track but this way is nice and works very well if done properly.

Now you can make some good decisions about blending the different ac gtr tracks & effect(s) together (MIXING, CLARITY, IMAGING, etc).....

You still may not have the hottest ac gtr ever recorded but at least it's the best you can do with what you have.
best of luck
dach
Old 28th July 2005
  #23
have you tried using more than one microphone and changing the phase between the two/?.maybe you could cancell out more noise than guitar sound . it would depend on microphone positioning quite obviously. an SDC close up should sort most problems out . runny noses never help .
Old 28th July 2005
  #24
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I'm sorry Jeff.

I was in a bad mood or something. I shouldn't have said that stuff.
I think I've just read one too many threads where somebody pops in w/ an answer that is just not a realistic solution. Like, "Having trouble compressing snare w/ DBX 166. Help!"
And then somebody comes on and says "Just use a distressor" That doesn't help the guy at all.

Not that your answer was like that. I just read too much into it.

My apologies.

As for my spelling, yup, pretty bad. You'll probably find a few poorly spelled words in this post too.
Old 28th July 2005
  #25
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Well Dach, it looks like we have a disagreement on music editing.....true you should eliminate any noise before recording, as much as possible, but to not use any noise reduction is baloney. It can be used to clean up a recording successfully if it is used properly. The same goes with inserting silence. Your milage will vary on YOUR editing skills and efforts. If it's not done properly, yes it can sound very unatural, but it also can eliminate those pesky sounds that crop up from time to time, and is a wonderful tool for some cases.....just like noise gates and limiters, they must be used properly.
Old 28th July 2005
  #26
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Jeff A. Roberts's Avatar
 

Jonk,

Apology read and accepted. Thanks for stepping up to the plate.

Yes kids, it's a game of inches. Move the mics a little closer, play on a wooden surface, get mics with hotter output, play the guitar a little louder (maybe), and maybe, just maybe, find a guitar that's a little louder. Every little bit helps to drag that music out of the guitar and away from the noise floor (and squeaks and string noise). Shock mounts and quiet, stable stands are a must.

Buttons on sleeves are evil. Wrist watches, rings, and necklaces are just waiting to f--k up your takes. And who among us has not heard that fatal rattle, clunk, or jaw grinding squeak at a later session, after that borrowed old Martin or expensive Taylor that you recorded has been returned to it's rightful owner ???
Old 28th July 2005
  #27
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toolskid's Avatar
 

Just as an aside, I found the R-122 really really great for recording one of the quieter guitarists (playing a Fylde). With a reasonable steep angle, the top null of the fig-8 pattern was excellent for rejecting their proportionately loud breathing too!!! I think I was using a Buzz ARC as the pre!
Old 28th July 2005
  #28
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Here's a sample of my V-69 and Superlux CM-H8A mics on a quiet D-18, with a little noise reduction added.....
Old 28th July 2005
  #29
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Since this is a signal to noise ratio issue there are 2 options. Decrease the noise or increase the signal. In this case increasing the signal would probably be the easiest solution. Maybe if the performer was forced to wear earplugs they'd play louder???
Old 28th July 2005
  #30
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Some guitar songs are meant to be played quiet. It'll surprise how good a quietly played guitar can sound, if it's mic'ed right...I'm talking very quiet finger picking, just barely touching the strings. For example, Buddy Guy's song "Hard Times" from the Grammy winning Blues Singer CD, is very quietly played, but when amplified, sounds great....and really brings out the tones of the guitar. Hard plucking a guitar will produce a much different tone. So playing louder is not always the right answer.

It really is a whole different ballgame.

So yes, getting your room noise down, plays a big factor.
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