The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Guitars for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Folk strumming acoustic tone Condenser Microphones
Old 23rd April 2018
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Folk strumming acoustic tone

Hi all,
I'm a singer/songwriter, searching for a sound similar to the old folk guitarists of the 60s, etc. When I listen to those old recordings, especially early Bob Dylan, the acoustic sounds muted, strings sound like they've been on the guitar for 30 years. I know the guitar itself has a lot to do with it, and I don't think I'll be acquiring a pre-war Martin, Gibson or Guild anytime soon. However, I wonder if there is anything I can do to achieve that kind of understated, muted folk strummy sound - seems like if I could somehow dampen the sustain of the guitar it would respond better to staccato strumming, etc. Is there a certain brand of strings anyone can recommend (I feel like I've tried them all and haven't found it to make a huge difference). Maybe some trick - I remember reading something about Johnny Cash using a playing card to get a more staccato sound, I dunno, I'm open to ideas. And of course, any particular models that can be had under $1000 would be helpful. I currently own:

2016 Martin D-28
1969 Yamaha FG-300

- The Yammy is definitely closer to the "vintage" vibe I'm going for, but I still feel that the strings are too "metallic" sounding, even after having been on the guitar for a few months. The Martin is a fantastic guitar, incredible sustain - which is good for the most part, but when I'm folk strumming it I find it's just too much. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks!
Old 23rd April 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 

This is a pretty cool topic.
I’d probably try one of those kind of flimsy coasters you’d find at a bar. At the nut. Or maybe a piece of decent foam at the bridge.
Maybe both.
Old 23rd April 2018
  #3
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
...The Yammy is definitely closer to the "vintage" vibe I'm going for...
I totally get you. When it comes to string age, there's a middle ground between new and so old your intonation gets weird.

I like Martin Marquis strings. I use them because they don't have nickel in them (I'm allergic) but they aren't terribly zingy even when brand new. If you want something deader than that, try Elixirs.

As for different guitars to try, Waterloo makes theirs with either X-style or ladder-style bracing. I like the ladder-style WL-14 a lot -- it's got a very blue-collar personaiilty, if that makes sense.

Last edited by Brent Hahn; 27th May 2018 at 03:32 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 23rd April 2018
  #4
Gear Addict
 
PrettyGone's Avatar
 

I use Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel Soft Acoustic Strings and found they give a more mellow sound.

Also, try experimenting with different gauges and material plectrums.

Other than that, mic positioning can make a lot of difference when recording
Old 23rd April 2018
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tnevz View Post
This is a pretty cool topic.
I’d probably try one of those kind of flimsy coasters you’d find at a bar. At the nut. Or maybe a piece of decent foam at the bridge.
Maybe both.
Thanks Tnevz,
These ideas are weird enough for me to want to try them I'll do a little experimenting and see if it can help dampen the sustain a bit.
Old 23rd April 2018
  #6
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I totally get you. When it comes to string age, there's a middle ground between new and so old your intonation gets weird.

I like Martin Marquis strings. I use them because they don't have nickel in them (I'm allergic) but they aren't terribly zingy even when brand new. If you want something deader than that, try Elixirs.

As for different guitars to try, Waterloo makes theirs with either X-style or ladder-style bracing. I like the the ladder-style WL-14 a lot -- it's got a very blue-collar personaiilty, if that makes sense.
Thanks Brent,
It's been a while since I've used Marquis, so I'll give them a shot on the D-28, currently have the Martin SPs on it, as recommended by Martin, but seems like the Marquis might be a little more mellow? I tried a pair of Elixirs, they are the kind labeled as "warm and mellow," but still didn't really hear much of a difference - sounded bright and tinny when new like all strings sound to me - although the did mellow out a bit after a couple of weeks, still a very metallic sound to them and they ring out too much - wish I could find something with a faster attack/decay, but again that might be more in the guitar itself.

I'm not familiar with Waterloo, but "blue-collar personality" sounds really close to what I'm looking for - I'll see if I can get my hands on one to try out.

Thanks again!
Old 23rd April 2018
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PrettyGone View Post
I use Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel Soft Acoustic Strings and found they give a more mellow sound.

Also, try experimenting with different gauges and material plectrums.

Other than that, mic positioning can make a lot of difference when recording
Thanks PrettyGone,
For some reason I got it in my head that I don't like silk and steels, although I can't quite remember why and they are marketed toward folks like myself searching for a more "mellow" sound. It's been a while, so maybe I'll try putting a pair of the Earthwoods on the Yamaha and see how they sound. I think maybe I didn't like the feel of the silk and steel? I dunno, it's worth a shot. And I hear ya on the mic position - I find that backing off the acoustic gets me closer to the tone I'm looking for - less proximity and a more natural, understated sound - leaves lots of room for a nice upfront vocal. Thanks again!
Old 24th April 2018
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Cardinal_SINE's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
Hi all,
I'm a singer/songwriter, searching for a sound similar to the old folk guitarists of the 60s, etc. When I listen to those old recordings, especially early Bob Dylan, the acoustic sounds muted, strings sound like they've been on the guitar for 30 years. I know the guitar itself has a lot to do with it, and I don't think I'll be acquiring a pre-war Martin, Gibson or Guild anytime soon. However, I wonder if there is anything I can do to achieve that kind of understated, muted folk strummy sound - seems like if I could somehow dampen the sustain of the guitar it would respond better to staccato strumming, etc. Is there a certain brand of strings anyone can recommend (I feel like I've tried them all and haven't found it to make a huge difference). Maybe some trick - I remember reading something about Johnny Cash using a playing card to get a more staccato sound, I dunno, I'm open to ideas. And of course, any particular models that can be had under $1000 would be helpful. I currently own:

2016 Martin D-28
1969 Yamaha FG-300

- The Yammy is definitely closer to the "vintage" vibe I'm going for, but I still feel that the strings are too "metallic" sounding, even after having been on the guitar for a few months. The Martin is a fantastic guitar, incredible sustain - which is good for the most part, but when I'm folk strumming it I find it's just too much. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks!

what are using for mics and converters? cheap converters can sound metallic. Some other things can be done such as strings picks. Lighter picks can smooth things out. Compression is key too.
Old 24th April 2018
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
Thanks Tnevz,
These ideas are weird enough for me to want to try them I'll do a little experimenting and see if it can help dampen the sustain a bit.
Yeah and they’re super easy and don’t cost much if anything. I’ve been meaning to get try something like this too.

Brent Hahn mentioned elixirs.
Those are a bit more thuddy to me.
Old 24th April 2018
  #10
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal_SINE View Post
what are using for mics and converters? cheap converters can sound metallic. Some other things can be done such as strings picks. Lighter picks can smooth things out. Compression is key too.
I haven't heard this before. Interesting because I feel I'm always fighting a metallic/aggressive sound. I'm using rme ff800. I bought this one used because the reviews were very good. Would you consider these cheap converters?
Old 24th April 2018
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Cardinal_SINE's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by blotto View Post
I haven't heard this before. Interesting because I feel I'm always fighting a metallic/aggressive sound. I'm using rme ff800. I bought this one used because the reviews were very good. Would you consider these cheap converters?
I never used a FF but low end stuff like focusrite or Beringer can really enhance the metallic sound of acoustic guitars and cymbals.

I'm sure the FF is good, try using some different strings. Martin "Silk and Steel" strings can be forgiving since the attack is softer than all bronze . Also Nylon Dunlap picks specifically 38mm can really soften the attack and make the metallic attributes less noticeable. The right compressor and maybe playing as light as you can can soften things up. A nice mic mic pre too. API, Neve or similar. Really forgive the sharp transients of Acoustic. A good Mic is and room are #1
Old 24th April 2018
  #12
Second the mic positioning thing. Back off a bit definitely. EQ. Research what mics were used on those original recordings (maybe some ribbons?) And realising they were recorded to tape.

I'm still trying to work out how they got the Nick Drake guitar sound on Pink Moon.
Old 24th April 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal_SINE View Post
I never used a FF but low end stuff like focusrite or Beringer can really enhance the metallic sound of acoustic guitars and cymbals.
Sorry but that is utter nonsense. Unless you are still using a Turtle Beach soundcard from the 1990s, changing your A-D converters will make a vanishingly small difference.

I think the absolute key to this sound is how you play the guitar. I spend years chasing it and getting nowhere. Eventually I realised that it's the sound that comes naturally if you strum lightly with fingers, not with a pick.

Another thing you could try is tuning the guitar down to E flat and using a capo at the first fret to put it into standard tuning. That makes the whole thing sound more damped and less resonant.
Old 24th April 2018
  #14
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Plectrum? Throw the plectrum in the bin and strum with your fingers. And learn where (as in between end of fretboard and saddle) to hit the/which strings with your right hand for each stroke/tone.
Old 24th April 2018
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
Sorry but that is utter nonsense. Unless you are still using a Turtle Beach soundcard from the 1990s, changing your A-D converters will make a vanishingly small difference.

I think the absolute key to this sound is how you play the guitar. I spend years chasing it and getting nowhere. Eventually I realised that it's the sound that comes naturally if you strum lightly with fingers, not with a pick.

Another thing you could try is tuning the guitar down to E flat and using a capo at the first fret to put it into standard tuning. That makes the whole thing sound more damped and less resonant.
Good idea about tuning down and using a capo, that could help dampen the sustain. I agree about the way you play, to a certain extent - I've been refining my style, technique, pick thickness (contrary to what others have said, I think a thicker pick and lighter playing is the key to getting good tone, depends on what you're playing I guess) - I have been doing more fingerpicking and strumming with my fingers. Still, I'm pretty sure Dylan and a lot of those folkies played with a pick when strumming, and you can see that they strum fairly aggressively. There are adjustments I can make to get closer to that sound, such as strumming closer to the bridge to get a more percussive feel, but I'm still getting waaaaay too much metallic harshness and sustain, which is a feature of the guitar itself (I have an inkling that some of those old blues guitars those guys were playing were built to be more percussive and less sustained). Anyway, the capo trick sounds worth trying, I'll check it out, thanks!

P.S. also agree about the converters - I have a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8, already went down a thread asking if the converters could be causing an issue and was thoroughly scolded To be clear, I'm keeping recording out of the equation here, just looking for a "duller," more percussive sound with what I have. Thanks all!
Old 24th April 2018
  #16
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal_SINE View Post
I never used a FF but low end stuff like focusrite or Beringer can really enhance the metallic sound of acoustic guitars and cymbals.

I'm sure the FF is good, try using some different strings. Martin "Silk and Steel" strings can be forgiving since the attack is softer than all bronze . Also Nylon Dunlap picks specifically 38mm can really soften the attack and make the metallic attributes less noticeable. The right compressor and maybe playing as light as you can can soften things up. A nice mic mic pre too. API, Neve or similar. Really forgive the sharp transients of Acoustic. A good Mic is and room are #1
Thanks Cardinal,
To be clear, although I am recording, I'm trying to keep that out of the equation here - I'm just looking to get a less bright/metallic and more percussive sound with the 2 acoustics I have - I think the Yammy will be the best bet, maybe with different strings and a slightly different technique I can get closer - I'll try the silk and steels on it. As for picks - I'm in the .81mm range and going upward. I used to favor very thin picks because I strummed hard and fast, but I didn't realize that my technique was **** and I was losing a lot of tone by using a thin pick. Anyway, I don't think changing the pick is going to change the metallic, unpleasant ringing I'm getting - it's more the strings and sustain of the guitar itself. Changing picks, the way I strum, etc. only makes the metallic louder or less loud, but it doesn't go away. I dunno, was hoping someone would know of some secret strings or something haha.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I'm recording with:
Sennheiser MD441 (vocs)
Shure SM81 (guitar)
UA solo 610 pre
Wave Audio WA-2A Compressor
Room treated with Rockwool acoustic panels
Old 24th April 2018
  #17
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Plectrum? Throw the plectrum in the bin and strum with your fingers. And learn where (as in between end of fretboard and saddle) to hit the/which strings with your right hand for each stroke/tone.
I don't think Dylan or very many folk strummers were strumming with their fingers. Maybe when fingerpicking, but not doing the heavy folk/blues/country strumming - that will tear your finger up, especially if you start picking closer to the bridge as you suggest. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong, but I hear a pick on all those early Dylan records, save the ones he's fingerpicking on. Thanks!
Old 24th April 2018
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Second the mic positioning thing. Back off a bit definitely. EQ. Research what mics were used on those original recordings (maybe some ribbons?) And realising they were recorded to tape.

I'm still trying to work out how they got the Nick Drake guitar sound on Pink Moon.
Thanks Hermetech,
There is a kid on Youtube who is an amazing fingerpicker who has researched intensively the Nick Drake sound and teaches the nuances of it, you should look him up

I agree about the mics, but that's not what I'm getting at here - I'm recording with dynamics right now because I'm in a 1/2 treated room and found LDC's too bright for the sound I'm looking for. I agree that a ribbon could give a less harsh/bright sound, but still - I have seen old home recordings (no fancy room, no fancy mic) of guys playing back then, and those guitars just sound nice and flat, no metallic twinge to them at all. I think it's safe to keep the recording/EQ out of the equation and try to tackle it as: How can I get the sound of a 1930s Martin/Gibson that was vintage in the 1960s, built for old blues guys strumming and the "dark" sound they were after --- how can I get that in a brand new Martin or 1969 Yamaha? I realize that I can't necessarily get there exactly, just hoping someone would know of a dampening trick or some strings that are built for this sound. Thanks again!
Old 24th April 2018
  #19
Lives for gear
 
KevWind's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
Thanks Cardinal,
To be clear, although I am recording, I'm trying to keep that out of the equation here - I'm just looking to get a less bright/metallic and more percussive sound with the 2 acoustics I have - I think the Yammy will be the best bet, maybe with different strings and a slightly different technique I can get closer - I'll try the silk and steels on it. As for picks - I'm in the .81mm range and going upward. I used to favor very thin picks because I strummed hard and fast, but I didn't realize that my technique was **** and I was losing a lot of tone by using a thin pick. Anyway, I don't think changing the pick is going to change the metallic, unpleasant ringing I'm getting - it's more the strings and sustain of the guitar itself. Changing picks, the way I strum, etc. only makes the metallic louder or less loud, but it doesn't go away. I dunno, was hoping someone would know of some secret strings or something haha.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I'm recording with:
Sennheiser MD441 (vocs)
Shure SM81 (guitar)
UA solo 610 pre
Wave Audio WA-2A Compressor
Room treated with Rockwool acoustic panels
Na it is not your equipment ....... couple of thoughts . Some folk performers and recording artists in the 60's would push a soft cloth under the strings between the nut and the tuners . Also I have not tried them but you might try the C.F. Martin Retro "Monel" nickel based strings ....from their add info " these strings quickly mellow to a warm vintage tone that brings out the unique, woody sounds in your acoustic guitar."

And as others have suggested mic technique, try the 81 pointed at the guitar body below the lower part of the bridge about 12" - 18" inches out ... Or like many folk recordings of the early 60's "one mic one take" guitar and vocal at the same time. Try the MD 441 out about 18" to 30" find the best level balance spot vertically, between the top of the guitar and your mouth.

Lastly either try using the side of your thumb or try heavier pic with a lighter strum pressure at least 1.20 and up.
Old 24th April 2018
  #20
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
I don't think Dylan or very many folk strummers were strumming with their fingers. Maybe when fingerpicking, but not doing the heavy folk/blues/country strumming - that will tear your finger up, especially if you start picking closer to the bridge as you suggest. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong, but I hear a pick on all those early Dylan records, save the ones he's fingerpicking on. Thanks!
Dylan probably also used a mic that handles the pick softly, as opposed to the sm81. And a guitar and string combo that doesn't sound metallic to start. Also, the type of pick does make a pretty big difference, as does how you hold/play it as in which parts of your arm/wrist you make loose and which stiff.
Old 24th April 2018
  #21
Lives for gear
 
KevWind's Avatar
(Dyllan did both also sometimes strummed with his thumb it depended on the situation)

Here Dylan is using a pic but note the mic/s placement

Old 24th April 2018
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

The room, the mic setup and the mic's all matter.

I recently recorded a strumming acoustic guitarist (playing a wonderful Collins) for a class I teach on basic recording, we did two set-ups, a spaced pair, and an X/Y configuration. I used a pair of KM184's

First pass was with 25 students in the live room; second pass, everyone leaves.

Students were astounded in the difference in sound - in an empty room, the spaced pair recording was quite a bit more ambient, but the X/Y was only a bit more trebly - but everyone loved the sound of the first pass, the full room, where all the bodies, clothes and randomness of where everyone stood "warmed up" the sound. I then showed them the concept of the gobo and how furniture can be used for the same effect.

For the home recordist, try different mic setups and placing yourself in different parts of the room - got a couch? It makes for a terrific absorber, warmer. Try to stay farther away from walls behind you. If the room is less than optimal - cardioid is a safe bet. For mic's, LDC's or small condensors will sound different; got a ribbon? It might make a difference by softening the edges (though its figure 8 can be a problem in a bad room).

One of the biggest differences I've found for strumming is simply the pick - I like really light (thin) picks when I want the sound of the strum, and heavier picks when I want more body from the guitar.

These are details and they all add up - it seems like a lot to keep in mind, but you eventually keep a catalog of notes in your head and will have a good idea of the sound you want at the outset.
Old 24th April 2018
  #23
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

If you want 'old' folk sound, buy a Shure M67 for peanuts on ebay and use that.
Old 24th April 2018
  #24
Lives for gear
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
(Dyllan did both also sometimes strummed with his thumb it depended on the situation)

Here Dylan is using a pic but note the mic/s placement

...Also notice that's its a nylon string guitar he's playing there, as well.
.
Old 24th April 2018
  #25
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
Na it is not your equipment ....... couple of thoughts . Some folk performers and recording artists in the 60's would push a soft cloth under the strings between the nut and the tuners . Also I have not tried them but you might try the C.F. Martin Retro "Monel" nickel based strings ....from their add info " these strings quickly mellow to a warm vintage tone that brings out the unique, woody sounds in your acoustic guitar."

And as others have suggested mic technique, try the 81 pointed at the guitar body below the lower part of the bridge about 12" - 18" inches out ... Or like many folk recordings of the early 60's "one mic one take" guitar and vocal at the same time. Try the MD 441 out about 18" to 30" find the best level balance spot vertically, between the top of the guitar and your mouth.

Lastly either try using the side of your thumb or try heavier pic with a lighter strum pressure at least 1.20 and up.
Thanks Kev,
Solid advice, that's the kind of stuff I was hoping for. I'll give the Monels a try. The mic positions you're recommending are about where I'm at, and I have tried it with just the 441 far out - I love that one mic sound, a bit more limiting and noticeable if I shift around, but like you said, worked fine for a number of folks who came before me. I went from a .60 mm to .81 pick this year, I do plan on moving up even thicker now that I know what I was missing - I'll give a 1.20 a try. Thanks again!
Old 24th April 2018
  #26
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Dylan probably also used a mic that handles the pick softly, as opposed to the sm81. And a guitar and string combo that doesn't sound metallic to start. Also, the type of pick does make a pretty big difference, as does how you hold/play it as in which parts of your arm/wrist you make loose and which stiff.
Thanks Karloff,
I have a SM57 I can put on the guitar. But, to be clear, it's not just the recording, I want to be able to hear that sound when I'm just sitting and playing, and it is very metallic, so just looking to soften that in any way I can. I've been experimenting with picks - got some high quality picks that were supposed to have a more natural feel and sound more mellow. It helped a bit, still refining my technique and that is helping - but still, I think the strings/guitar are going to be the main factors.
Old 24th April 2018
  #27
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieD009 View Post
... I want to be able to hear that sound when I'm just sitting and playing, and it is very metallic...
Maybe you just don't like steel string guitar. Nothing wrong with that. I love great banjo playing but I don't want one in my lap. Or on my knee, for that matter.
Old 24th April 2018
  #28
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
(Dyllan did both also sometimes strummed with his thumb it depended on the situation)

Here Dylan is using a pic but note the mic/s placement

Yeah, exactly, notice how the strings don't sound metallic. I think the smaller guitar (parlor sized?) might have something to do with it - mic placement to some extent, but a mic can only pick up what sounds are coming at it, and you can hear in all those early Dylan recordings live or studio there is not metallic brightness to the guitar. Maybe the pick/technique has something to do with it, but I am pretty convinced that it's the guitar/strings that really seal the deal. Maybe that guitar had those strings on it for 20 years? I dunno, I'll try that trick about dampening the strings at the nut, might help dampen the D-28 a bit.
Old 24th April 2018
  #29
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
...Also notice that's its a nylon string guitar he's playing there, as well.
.
Yeah, looks like it - but you do agree that there are steel strings strung on it, right?
Old 24th April 2018
  #30
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Maybe you just don't like steel string guitar. Nothing wrong with that. I love great banjo playing but I don't want one in my lap. Or on my knee, for that matter.
I've been playing steel string all my life, just trying to get closer to that sound, whether it be through technique, equipment, etc. Seems like we all agree that it is a combination of all these things. I think they used to make acoustics a lot differently back then, and that has a lot to do with it. Check out a young Randy Scruggs playing in this video. Notice how even though the strings are steel and have a bit of brightness to them, they don't ring out with sustain and they don't have a metallic sheen to them - again, maybe it's the guitar, maybe it's the strings, maybe it's the pick he's using, I dunno.

Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump