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Singer-songwriter recording - how hard can it be? Condenser Microphones
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Singer-songwriter recording - how hard can it be?

When I record myself (I'm singing and playing the acoustic guitar) with two cardioid mics at the same time I ALWAYS get phasing issues, especially when I sing loudly and too much of the vocal gets into the guitar mic. I know that using figure 8 mics is an option but in my small room it sounds far too roomy (I started another thread because of that issue).
I see so many videos every day where singing guitarists are miked with two cardiod mics. For example this one from Eric Clapton (YouTube) or the John Mayers acoustic sessions (YouTube). Why the hell (sorry but I'm a bit frustrated) can so many people do this without phasing issues (Clapton even moves his head all the time while singing) and I try to move the mics for hours and it still won't get an acceptable result? How hard can it be to record a singing guitarist?

Last edited by erictries2record; 2 weeks ago at 08:44 PM.. Reason: incomplete title
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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Drumsound's Avatar
What the situation of your recording space? If there are close reflective surfaces, you need to deal with them ASAP.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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What mics do you have? How big and how live is your room? Do you sing louder than you play or vice versa?
Old 2 weeks ago
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Thread Starter
Thank you! My mics are a Rode NT1a on Vocals and a Aston Spirit on Acoustic Guitar. The room is unfortunately very small and not treated yet. Can a untreated room really be the reason for the phase issues? I thought that the reflections coming from the walls back into the microphones are diffused enough to not cause phase problems. (With a figure 8 mic on guitar the phase problems are gone, then the guitar just sounds too roomy). I always try to keep a good balance performance wise but when I sing high notes I can't avoid that my voice is louder than the guitar.
I am totally okay with bleeding if the bleeding is in phase and does not 'cause the voice to have a strange out of phase sound.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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Please forgive the barrage of questions, but when you say "phasey," are you actually talking about bleed?

"Phasey" is what happens when one microphone is fixed in place and the other one is moving.
Old 2 weeks ago
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Please forgive the barrage of questions, but when you say "phasey," are you actually talking about bleed?

"Phasey" is what happens when one microphone is fixed in place and the other one is moving.
Sorry, yes I meant bleed. It was obviously wrong to use the term phasey, I was just looking for a word to describe the hollow out-of phase sound you get when the vocals are getting into the guitar mic.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erictries2record View Post
When I record myself (I'm singing and playing the acoustic guitar) with two cardioid mics at the same time I ALWAYS get phasing issues, especially when I sing loudly and too much of the vocal gets into the guitar mic. I know that using figure 8 mics is an option but in my small room it sounds far too roomy (I started another thread because of that issue).
I see so many videos every day where singing guitarists are miked with two cardiod mics. For example this one from Eric Clapton (YouTube) or the John Mayers acoustic sessions (YouTube). Why the hell (sorry but I'm a bit frustrated) can so many people do this without phasing issues (Clapton even moves his head all the time while singing) and I try to move the mics for hours and it still won't get an acceptable result? How hard can it be to record a singing guitarist?
In the case of the John Mayer clip, he plugs in his acoustic so part of the guitar sound maybe comes from piezo pickups or some other kind of pickup (it doesn't sound much like piezo's). So maybe the guitar mic is not mixed in very loud. Or maybe they only used the sound of one microphone. I can't tell from the clip alone.
Old 2 weeks ago
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Something I have had really good luck with in small rooms is using a dynamic on the acoustic guitar pretty close in around the 12th fret and use the LDC for vocals. Last time I did this (about 6+ years ago) I used a Shure Unidyne III - 545 for the acoustic guitar, which worked pretty well.

Come mix time, put Reverb/delay only on the LDC and keep the dynamic dry and tight. The bleed from the LDC adds a hint of reverb/space to the guitar and keeps the vocals from getting mushy. The dryness from the dynamic picking up vocal spill keeps the vocals up front. Mix the vocals first then bring the acoustic guitar mic up underneath. Good luck!
Old 1 week ago
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Another option is to use the bleed into the vocal mic to pick up the guitar and forgo putting a mic on the guitar itself. Listen to I Will Follow You Into The Dark, or Bob Dylan live at Newport.


Old 1 week ago
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I’ll add that one advantage of using the vocal mic to pick up the guitar as well (aside from the obvious lack of bleed/phasing issues) is that because the guitar is off-axis to the vocal mic you end up with a high end rolloff on the guitar which in turn helps the vocal stand out nicely without having to boost the highs on it (or alternatively if you do choose to boost highs you wind up simultaneously adding air to the vocal and restoring the high end of the guitar.)

Of course you need the right combination of microphone (a hypercardoid obviously wouldn’t work well for this application and a mic with poor off-axis response might not give you a good guitar sound), mic position (if you’re eating the mic your vocal will likely drown out the guitar), and guitar (ideally you want a guitar with a nice chunky lower midrange as a thin-sounding guitar that speaks mostly in the higher frequencies will be completely neutered by this approach) for this to work, but get all those things right and you can get a great track that pretty much mixes itself.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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I have worked on this over the years. Ribbons and/or LDCs with variable patterns, careful placement, and careful polarity checking (especially AFTER recording) all help.

If your room is so small and live that a figure eight mic picks up a lot of room, then your room and your setup need to be looked at. A fairly close-mic’d acoustic guitar in the front lobe of a figure eight mic should not be overwhelmed or seriously affected by guitar bounce being directed into the back lobe by relatively distant boundaries. Same for vocal in a front lobe being challenged by wash from the back lobe. You might try hanging a folded packing blanket over a garment rack about three feet behind your mics.
Figure eight doesn’t usually pick up more room. It picks up more directly behind the mic, but much less from sides, top and bottom. Get your mouth in the null of the acoustic mic and your acoustic in the null of your vocal mic (this is not possible with cardioid patterns, but is with figure eight).
I couldnt get anything I really loved with an NT1a on voice or acoustic. The cardioid pattern is too wide. I haven’t used the Aston mics.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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Here's Snorre Busch showing you the many ways to record guitar and vocals:











Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Then there's this:

Old 1 week ago
  #14
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One mic for me ...because I don't like fiddle-faddlin' around.
Old 1 week ago
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Thread Starter
Thank you all! @Funny Cat I tried using a SM57 a few times, but the guitar always sounded too midrangey and muddy. How much better is that with the Unidyne III mic? I know it has no transformer in it so it should sound a bit brighter. With SM57 the bleeding is actually the same as with a LDC, the only advantage is maybe that you can get a lot closer. But I'll try your tip with getting some sparkeling in the guitar through the vocal mic.

The Bob Dylan one-mic technique sounds great at the Newport concert! I guess in a small room like mine there is the danger that is sounds like an amateur bedroom recording if the room is not dry enough. Anyway, what mic pattern would you use for that - cardioid or omni? The Ashley Campbell video also sounds great, but I guess the room contributes a big part to that sound. Man, I really have to find a way to improve my sh*tty little room.

Last night I tried to put a heavy blanket on a microphone stand with the boom being horizontally and put that in front of a wall. Then I placed myself and the figure 8 microphone in front of that blanket construction with my back towards the blanket, so that the backside of the figure 8 mic was facing the room but as far away from the other walls as possible. This brought at least some improvement with the figure 8 miking although it still did not sound as direct and full as with the cardiod pattern. Unfortunetely when switching to the cardiod pattern the bleeding issue was still the same.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
Gear Nut
 

I wonder if you could reduce vocal phase issues introduced by spill into the guitar mic by slipping the vocal track a tiny amount to phase align them?

Some tips from people more knowledgeable than me that might help: Studio SOS: Recording Guitar & Vocals Together |
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erictries2record View Post
The Bob Dylan one-mic technique sounds great at the Newport concert! I guess in a small room like mine there is the danger that is sounds like an amateur bedroom recording if the room is not dry enough. Anyway, what mic pattern would you use for that - cardioid or omni?
It can work with both. I believe the Death Cab track was recorded using a cardioid LDC and I’m guessing the Dylan performance was an omni. The room will obviously have a greater impact with the omni.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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I have posted thousands of words in these threads pursuant to the advantages of a one mic capture protocol of both guitar/vocal performance. The first factor to digest is the fact that acoustic performance, both instrumental and vocal, needs an amount of space between the source and mic to allow the "vibes to bloom". The amount of distance will depend on the quality and strength of a given performer and their instrument: to this end hundreds of hours of rehearsal practice with headphones will be necessary to identify your particular placement "sweet spot".
I have three different tube mics that work very well for both live and studio recording simultaneous capture: an AT4060 with a Mullard NOS tube, A Peluso 2247SE and my new Flea 47 next. I always work in Cardioid pattern and seldom, if ever, have room problems. Beyond your instrument and talent the single most important gear choice is the mic: this is where a healthy investment will pay huge dividends!
Hugh
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
I have posted thousands of words in these threads pursuant to the advantages of a one mic capture protocol of both guitar/vocal performance. The first factor to digest is the fact that acoustic performance, both instrumental and vocal, needs an amount of space between the source and mic to allow the "vibes to bloom". The amount of distance will depend on the quality and strength of a given performer and their instrument: to this end hundreds of hours of rehearsal practice with headphones will be necessary to identify your particular placement "sweet spot".
I have three different tube mics that work very well for both live and studio recording simultaneous capture: an AT4060 with a Mullard NOS tube, A Peluso 2247SE and my new Flea 47 next. I always work in Cardioid pattern and seldom, if ever, have room problems. Beyond your instrument and talent the single most important gear choice is the mic: this is where a healthy investment will pay huge dividends!
Hugh
Hugh, I share in your passion for single mic capture. Do you happen to have any tracks you could post? Thanks.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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That Ashley Campbell thing and the live Dylan, they're fine fine for video. Your eyes fill in the blanks. If you can only hear it, different story.
Old 1 week ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
Beyond your instrument and talent the single most important gear choice is the mic: this is where a healthy investment will pay huge dividends!
Hugh
In the John Mayer clip, there was about $20,000 worth of mics pointed at him. The (47?) on the vocal sounded like pure presence. I'm sure there was also some skillful engineering in balancing the three mics.

But in all these cases, there was obvious room treatment. The OP is saying he can't do anything about his room . . . the Acoustics forum on GS is loaded with DIY and cheap solutions, and I'd spend some serious time on that, if you're serious about your recording quality.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
That Ashley Campbell thing and the live Dylan, they're fine fine for video. Your eyes fill in the blanks. If you can only hear it, different story.
I feel differently on the Campbell recording. It is a bit dry, but I can hear everything just fine and it sounds pleasant and honest. It's refreshingly effects free!

It also does a nice job showing how the acoustic guitar is not a point source, whereby vocals are (stereo spread on guitar vs centered vocal- on the same mic).
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pangolin View Post
I feel differently on the Campbell recording. It is a bit dry, but I can hear everything just fine and it sounds pleasant and honest. It's refreshingly effects free!
It is all those things, you're right. But close your eyes and the voice is considerably louder than the guitar and subjectively more forward. Me, I'd have lowered the mic by maybe a foot. But then the video director would probably make me put it back because it didn't "look right."
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
It is all those things, you're right. But close your eyes and the voice is considerably louder than the guitar and subjectively more forward. Me, I'd have lowered the mic by maybe a foot. But then the video director would probably make me put it back because it didn't "look right."
I don't hear the vocals as being too forward. They do seem a bit small sounding, considering the mic. The room is the real factor here, imo. Put her in a room with a bit more life- our earbrains don't like things too dry.
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pangolin View Post
I don't hear the vocals as being too forward.
"Too forward" isn't what I meant to communicate, sorry. More that, compared to the vocal, the guitar was "too backward."

All just opinion.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erictries2record View Post
Thank you all! @Funny Cat I tried using a SM57 a few times, but the guitar always sounded too midrangey and muddy. How much better is that with the Unidyne III mic? I know it has no transformer in it so it should sound a bit brighter. With SM57 the bleeding is actually the same as with a LDC, the only advantage is maybe that you can get a lot closer. But I'll try your tip with getting some sparkeling in the guitar through the vocal mic.

The Unidyne is much brighter and more HiFi sounding than a regular 57. However, you can still do quite well with a 57 on acoustic guitar. It's really all about mic placement and room treatment with that combination. Try processing the vocal mic as I mentioned to help get more definition on the 57. You may also need to filter the 57 pretty aggressively e.g. low and high cuts. Good luck!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
That Ashley Campbell thing and the live Dylan, they're fine fine for video. Your eyes fill in the blanks. If you can only hear it, different story.

Interesting you said that regarding the Ashley Campbell vid. I did just that and I agree with you completely. I closed my eyes so as not to be "distracted" lol and came to the conclusion I would redo this take if it was my recording. It has an old school 50's charm but I don't think it would cut it for radio play in 2018. It sounds a bit retro and doesn't have quite the detail I would want for a modern recording, so good point Brent.
Old 1 week ago
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Originally Posted by erictries2record View Post
Thank you all! @Funny Cat

Last night I tried to put a heavy blanket on a microphone stand with the boom being horizontally and put that in front of a wall. Then I placed myself and the figure 8 microphone in front of that blanket construction with my back towards the blanket.
That’s absolutely backwards to my advice. Put the suspended blanket behind the microphone, not behind you, or do both. You want to suppress the room sound being picked up by the back lobe of the figure eight mic.
And record in figure eight, don’t switch back to cardioid.
Old 1 week ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pangolin View Post
I don't hear the vocals as being too forward. They do seem a bit small sounding, considering the mic. The room is the real factor here, imo. Put her in a room with a bit more life- our earbrains don't like things too dry.

I think this is what I'm hearing too. The vocals sound quite small. I was surprised, this being recorded with an AEA ribbon. I didn't feel there was enough "air" on the vocals either. You might be right though. This could be a symptom of the room at play.
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Cat View Post
I think this is what I'm hearing too. The vocals sound quite small. I was surprised, this being recorded with an AEA ribbon. I didn't feel there was enough "air" on the vocals either. You might be right though. This could be a symptom of the room at play.
This all comes back around to wanting a big, modern vocal and a full, present guitar and using a single mic and achieving neither.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
This all comes back around to wanting a big, modern vocal and a full, present guitar and using a single mic and achieving neither.

I agree. Have never had luck doing singer-songwriter stuff with one mic. One mic is great for retro. Not so much for modern because the minute you apply reverb or delay on the vox you’ve applied it to the guitar also by default. Probably why that Ashley Campbell video is dry. Rock and a hard place, I say.
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