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Recording acoustic guitars in stereo Condenser Microphones
Old 30th January 2003
  #1
Mindreader
 
BevvyB's Avatar
 

Recording acoustic guitars in stereo

Recording acoustic guitars in stereo...

What's your favourite mic pair?

What's your favourite stereo mic pre?

How much compression do you use going down, and which compressors?

Where do you like to place the mics?

What gauge strings do you prefer for recording?

What is the best recording/mix of acoustic guitars in a recent recording in your opinion?

I like the acoustic guitars on Sheryl Crowe 'saturday night music club' and Shaun Colvin 'A few small repairs'.

Help me to attain acoustic guitar nirvana!
Old 30th January 2003
  #2
Lots of things will work. I'm assuming you have a competent player in a good room with a great sounding acoustic guitar. The worst thing that anybody can do to the tone of an acoustic is have a room so dead that you hear the high frequencies just being sucked out of the space. I've been enjoying a pair of Soundelux iFET7's, the U195's sound really great to my ears too. If I want small diaphram I reach for a pair of Neumann KM86's modded by Jim Williams. Even a mono Royer will work on the right track. For the most utility I'd probably have to pick the iFET7's. The acoustics on the new Beck CD sound natural to me, maybe could use a little more ambience sometimes though. Radiohead since '97 sounds excellent also on acoustics and in general. I like medium to heavy strings for strumming sounds.
Old 30th January 2003
  #3
Gear Addict
 
mdbeh's Avatar
 

Which setting are you using on the ifet's?
Old 30th January 2003
  #4
Quote:
Originally posted by mdbeh
Which setting are you using on the ifet's?
Generally the "V" (vocal) setting, it's got more even order distortion (not too over the top though)...18" isn't so close to the guitar to worry about the proximity effect that the "I" mode compensates for. And of course an acoustic isn't very loud so I don't have to worry about high SPL, so the "I" mode isn't my preference in this particular application.
Old 30th January 2003
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Nathan covered the steel string pretty well. Only thing I would add is my personal favorite mic position and a couple other mic choices.

I point the left mic straight at the soundhole (Or at the hand covering the soundhole when the guitarist is arpegiating) and I position the other one at about the 12th fret pointing toward the soundhole. I've tried every standard position (NOS, XY, MS, ETC.) and none of them give me as cool of an image.

If you're rich Schoeps 221b's in good condition are deluxe... If your poor MK012's are surprisingly good for most guitars. Haven't tried the iFET7's but I don't care for U87's on most guitars... But hopefully the iFET7 are better than they U87's that they were based on in this application. Peace.


Oh, I like Elixer strings. Guage 11
Old 30th January 2003
  #6
Quote:
Originally posted by 1nation
N Haven't tried the iFET7's but I don't care for U87's on most guitars... But hopefully the iFET7 are better than they U87's that they were based on for this application.
They don't sound much like 87's or FET47's in either mode. There are some similarities, but there are also similarities between an 87 and a Klaus Heyne VM-1 too (like color, capsule size, etc).
Old 30th January 2003
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
Recording acoustic guitars in stereo...

What's your favourite mic pair?
I use an Ibanez Spanish acoustic/electric. I plug the output into one channel of a 2-channel tube mic pre, and a LDC mic into the other. I set the mic so it's about 4 inches from the lower body of the guitar, but pointed towards the guitar's sound hole.

Mix to taste.

Quote:
What's your favourite stereo mic pre?
If it's got "glowey things" inside, I'm game, and don't care too much what the logo on the faceplate says.

Quote:
How much compression do you use going down, and which compressors?
I go from the mic pre into an outboard compressor, both channels (the direct and the LDC mic). Compress to taste. Not a lot, not a little. I send those signals into the DAW, and compress both channels a tad more there. I find compression tastes good when done in stages. I like to "build the flavors."

BTW: That's mixed to one mono channel. For stereo, track that twice, and pan to taste.

Quote:
What gauge strings do you prefer for recording?
Medium to heavy gauge nylon strings. Big strings make big sounds. And they must be nylon for acoustic guitars here at Curve Labs. Steel strings are fine for electric guitars, but I do not tolerate them on acoustics. Not in this house.

Quote:
What is the best recording/mix of acoustic guitars in a recent recording in your opinion?
Bebel Gilberto's "Tanto Tempo" (Six Degrees Records). Very sweet, exotic. Put this CD on while you're cooking breakfast for an overnight guest after a night of serious lovemaking. She'll be back.

Quote:
Help me to attain acoustic guitar nirvana!
That's entirely in the hands of the person playing the instrument. If you have some half decent recording gear, it's kinda hard to **** that up.

Good luck!
Old 30th January 2003
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
If it's got "glowey things" inside, I'm game, and don't care too much what the logo on the faceplate says.
What if the faceplate says ART Tube MP

Quote:
Steel strings are fine for electric guitars, but I do not tolerate them on acoustics. Not in this house.
I don't mean to be rude but different strings for different styles. I'd like to see you try and put some Nylons on my Dreadnought... tut
Old 30th January 2003
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
They don't sound much like 87's or FET47's in either mode. There are some similarities, but there are also similarities between an 87 and a Klaus Heyne VM-1 too (like color, capsule size, etc).
I really need to try one of these bad boys.
Old 30th January 2003
  #10
Moderator emeritus
 

Shure KSM44's, Neumann KM184's, or Gefell M-582's, depending on the guitar. I'll usually use either Great River MP-2's or Manleyu 40 dB pre's, and a Manley ELOP when tracking (and usually a Millennia TCL-2 when mixing) No more than a couple of dB og gain reduction either way,. I just used a pair of Summit TLA-50's with excellent results, too. The mics are usually placed with one around the 12th fret, and the other about the level of the players nose, pointing down more or less towards the sound hole. It's not 'stereo', but it sounds great.

A couple of recent things sound great to me - Randy Travis' "Three Wooden Crosses" (for a really forward sound), as well as the acoustics on the new Dixie Chicks record.
Old 30th January 2003
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
Sir Bob's Avatar
 

Would someone please post me an explanation or two of why I would want to record the acoustic guitar in stereo. First problem is now you have it in the middle of the mix competing with the vocal. Wouldn't you rather put an acoustic guitar on each side of the mix? I'm not advocating here but I just want some info on when it would be appropriate to mic in stereo.
Old 30th January 2003
  #12
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Would someone please post me an explanation or two of why I would want to record the acoustic guitar in stereo. First problem is now you have it in the middle of the mix competing with the vocal. Wouldn't you rather put an acoustic guitar on each side of the mix? I'm not advocating here but I just want some info on when it would be appropriate to mic in stereo.
You may be confused because you've never done this before but When you record a "Stereo" source and both images are identicle the sound winds up in the middle. However, when the sources are even slightly different (ie. like the same mic picking up signal from different places)the Stereo source is percieved to be on either side of the stereo spectrum. ie "Stereophonicphatalicious"


OT: Dave, I’ve never talked to anyone (Beside a Summit employee) who has used both the TLA-50 and TLA-100, I'm hoping that you can help me out. The guy I talked to said that the units sound almost identical, the only audible difference is that the 50 (Which uses a Summit OP amp instead of the 990) has a little less noise. I love the sound of the TLA 100 and I have a TD-100 and a rack-mount on the way. If I knew that I could get the TLA-100 sound to go beside it for 500 bones I would do it in a second. What do you think, does it sound identical to you? Have you ever A/B'd the two.
Old 30th January 2003
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
supaheef's Avatar
 

Man, I could have used this thread a week ago!

In the last year I have had a massive change in my guitar sound. I changed from a modern jumbo to a Maton BG808 that is 24 years old, and sounds like GOD. Well, it sounds like God in the room, but getting that on tape without getting phasey room reflections has been really hard. It's a small bodied instrument, and the wood is reeeeal loose from years of playing. It just rings for days, and loud. I had been using an NTK on the jumbo, with ok results. This just wasn't working on the Maton, so I have been borrowing mics from my local recording shop. First, don't use Rode NT5's. They are too bright, just way too bright on anything (except my indian baya drum). Also, I found that getting a good stereo sound that will collapse to mono (You never know where your stuff will get played) is not worth the hassle. Most people (now me included) like a mono acoustic sound. Maybe try an omni, but at least steer clear of the NT5s. I actually unscrewed the mesh head from a Neumann KMS 105 and got a better sound.

I guess this won't really help at all. I just want to share my frustrations. About twenty minutes ago I changed back to the NTK on my Maton for a giggle. I put it in place of the NT2 I had placed in omni mode, and got a really good sound. I feel like I'm going around in circles, so I want to share my frustrations!
Old 30th January 2003
  #14
Gear Addict
 
mdbeh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Sir Bob
Would someone please post me an explanation or two of why I would want to record the acoustic guitar in stereo. First problem is now you have it in the middle of the mix competing with the vocal. Wouldn't you rather put an acoustic guitar on each side of the mix? I'm not advocating here but I just want some info on when it would be appropriate to mic in stereo.
First, as someone pointed out, if it's true stereo, there will be differing information L&R, so it's not really "in the middle."

But even if the voice and the guitar are in the same place in the stereo image, if it sounds cool, who cares? Think about all those great early country records that are in mono. If the arrangement's right, things can be in the same pan position and still not fight each other.
Old 30th January 2003
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Knox's Avatar
 

KM 84s or KM 184s depending on the guitar for stereo.

I don't record stereo acoustic if it's a strumming guitar in an uptempo track. If I record mono, again depending on the guitar (I have an old Gibson J200) I found a Brauner VM1 back a bit sounds really good.

If you want The Sheryl Crow sound you spoke of . . . start off with a Gibson acoustic. To me, they have more of the "wood" sound that you may be liking. It's funny but I have not been blown away by any of the 'designer' acoustics. Something about an old Gibson (1st) or an old Martin D18 (2nd) in a track that sounds right to me.

Many Gibsons are probably NOT what you are looking for if you are looking for James Taylor finger picking style.

Pres change around depending on the guitar. Maybe API if I'm looking for clean. Possibly the Tube Tech compressors if the guitar is standing out by itself. Many times I will use Neves with 1176s for a strumming guitar sound to fit inside a track.
Old 30th January 2003
  #16
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by 1nation


OT: Dave, I’ve never talked to anyone (Beside a Summit employee) who has used both the TLA-50 and TLA-100, I'm hoping that you can help me out. The guy I talked to said that the units sound almost identical, the only audible difference is that the 50 (Which uses a Summit OP amp instead of the 990) has a little less noise. I love the sound of the TLA 100 and I have a TD-100 and a rack-mount on the way. If I knew that I could get the TLA-100 sound to go beside it for 500 bones I would do it in a second. What do you think, does it sound identical to you? Have you ever A/B'd the two.
Not quite identical, but pretty damn close. Understand that I'm not that big of fan of the TLA100's; the seem more like special use compressors than general purpose boxes. That's why I was surprised at how nice they sounded on acoustics.

My biggest complaints are the lack of a hard wire bypass and the ballistics of the meter. But its less than a third of the price of a TLA-100. Something's gotta give.
Old 30th January 2003
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Sir Bob's Avatar
 

Wrong time for another mic shootout?

For the purpose of micing an acoustic guitar in stereo, would this be the wrong time for a shootout? Let's just look at the new stuff because KM84's would be difficult to find in a matched pair:
Shure KSM141 vs. Neumann KM184 vs. Josephson C42
Old 30th January 2003
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Steve Smith's Avatar
 

I generally don't record acoustics in stereo, but 2 channel mono is the way to go around here, sometimes two mics in diffrent places on the guitar.. sometimes a mic and a di, whatever makes my skirt blow up that dau with that player... For the Mic end, I really dig KSM32s and KM184s.. I have even had really good luck with a Soundeluxe U95S on occasion..

Generally I try to find two diffrent and complementary sonic "stamps " of the guitar, so that as they strum or fingerpick the sound "moves" around the stereo field. not realistic per se, but pretty cool.
Old 30th January 2003
  #19
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Messiah's Avatar
 

I recently co-produced with an engineer/producer who has amazing credits, was a big influence to me and who's acoustic sound I always dug, still do.
Anyway, one day we came to acoustic. U67 in front of soundhole, SM57 pointing at roughly the 7th fret. A touch of 1178 linked and applied over both channels, it was then grouped to 1 track on the 2".
I asked him if he ever stereo mic'd acoustics and he said he thought it comprimised the sound and made it unfocused. He also said it's a mono instrument anyway. I agree.
Does anybody record snares in stereo? You know, top and bottom left and right? No....
I think of acoustic guitars in the same way.
Old 30th January 2003
  #20
I think if it's in mono and panned right up the middle it gets in the way of the vocals. I would rather do two mono tracks recorded seperately and then pan hard l-r. It's fake stereo, but better than having to cut the high frequencies on the acoustic to get it out of the way. That's a hell of an idea for the snare BTW.
Old 30th January 2003
  #21
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blackcatdigi's Avatar
IMHO, the context or role of the acoustic in the song determines the tracking method.

If it is the focal point in a sparse track, then I usually will use a pair (KM184s or R121s or something else) on a stereo bar placed to taste. Trident console or Spider pres, light comp. (CL1B/1176/STC8/VARIMU/501/etc.)... Maybe blend a DI. Maybe double track through different setup for girth.

If it's just a jangle or accent to propel the track, I generally will use either an old 451 or a BlueBerry into DW Fearn into light comp (see above) into HEDD for A/D.

Last week we used a R121 and a 57 into the Spider w/no compression!

Again though, it really depends on the track's needs. YMMV!
Old 31st January 2003
  #22
tee
Gear Nut
 
tee's Avatar
 

I remember finding a cool post from George Massenburg on his forum in response to someone asking how he got the guitar sounds on L Lovett's "Joshua judges Ruth". He recorded M-S, but close to the guitar and on the vertical plane instead the horizontal one. Ah hell, I'll just go and find it & paste it here, hang on .................

Quote:
Lyle's acoustic was a Martin...maybe a D-35.

The guitar mic was a C-24 with dual Stephen Paul 0.7 micron capsules, running in MS. The MS was set quite close to the instrument, just an inch or so east of the hole, and positioned to pick up a "vertical" sound stage rather than a horizontal one. Furthermore, it was mixed so as to greatly exaggerate the width; that is, a strum top to bottom becomes a far left to far right strum. Unusual, I know. The downside is that the vocal leakage is out of phase and exaggerated as well. Bummer, Bob.

Sorry to be so repetitive, but the micpre's, eq's, compressors and converters were all stock GML. Didn't go through the Focusrite console on this one.

George
Sounded pretty interesting , although I haven't tried it yet.

Tony
Old 31st January 2003
  #23
Quote:
Originally posted by Messiah
I recently co-produced with an engineer/producer who has amazing credits, was a big influence to me and who's acoustic sound I always dug, still do.
Anyway, one day we came to acoustic. U67 in front of soundhole, SM57 pointing at roughly the 7th fret. A touch of 1178 linked and applied over both channels, it was then grouped to 1 track on the 2".
I asked him if he ever stereo mic'd acoustics and he said he thought it comprimised the sound and made it unfocused. He also said it's a mono instrument anyway. I agree.
Does anybody record snares in stereo? You know, top and bottom left and right? No....
I think of acoustic guitars in the same way.
Hang on, usually the snare is part of a kit, most people do the overheads in stereo, which tends to put the kit in stereo. And you would really want anyone to hear the bottom mic on the snare not mixed in with the top? Somehow I doubt it.
As far as guitars go, I think it depends on what your going for in the track.
Sometimes stereo is the right thing, sometimes mono is the way, sometimes double tracked. They are all different sounds and all have they're uses
Old 31st January 2003
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Not quite identical, but pretty damn close. Understand that I'm not that big of fan of the TLA100's; the seem more like special use compressors than general purpose boxes. That's why I was surprised at how nice they sounded on acoustics.

Thanks for the honest advice about the TLA 50... It put some things in perspective for me.

Very cool Massenburg technique-not that I have the SP modded C24 to try it with, but it's still gave me some ideas. What's the adress to his forum?

I also want to try Messiah's technique. This is a great thread because of all of the different opinions. Sometimes when I find a sound that I really dig I get too comfortable and start using it on every song. Time to experiment.
Old 31st January 2003
  #25
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Messiah's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Musiclab
Hang on, usually the snare is part of a kit, most people do the overheads in stereo, which tends to put the kit in stereo. And you would really want anyone to hear the bottom mic on the snare not mixed in with the top? Somehow I doubt it.
That's what I was saying anyway. If you take a snare as an individual source, you wouldn't spread out the top and the bottom mics left and right. I don't think the "tends to put the kit in stereo" comment has any baring on this because we're talking about an individual source and all the overheads do is put that source in context with other sources.

I kinda see acoustic guitars in a similar way to the top and bottom approach of a snare, so I rarely separate the fingerboard from the soundboard. I don't hear acoustic guitar as a stereo source, so I tend to treat them accordingly, and IMO, naturally. You need to get VERY close to an acoustic to get a stereo impression of it, which isn't a natural listening position. I think the interaction between an acoustic and the room ambience is more important and a more natural way of achieving imaging and depth that allows vocals to take center stage. I also usually imagine and mix them as part of the rhythm track.

Obvoiusly, this is very general and it's not often that I record music that's primarily based around acoustic guitar. Usually when I record them it's as part of a band recording, so I appreciate that if I was recording a vocal/acoustic only track I'd probably take a different approach, but it's not often I record them in stereo, personally. I am quite tempted to try out the Massenburg MS technique that was described earlier though!

I fully agree that everything has it's place and it depends on what one is looking for.
Old 31st January 2003
  #26
Bev I see my sugestion to you over the phone the KM84 popping up repeatedly.. Plus they are very handy mics to own anyway..

Old 31st January 2003
  #27
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I find them much more natural sounding than the 184's with their fake hyped top end... tut

I agree the sound of a "rock" acoustic gtr is very much the sound of Gibson acoustics. (My personal fav! ) BTW, of all the designer acoustics I tried I found Larivée's to record the best so far. Also, for rock/rootsy stuff I often prefer the sound of dynamics (M201, D222, Beta57) to condensers. For a more hi-fi sound an omni condenser generally gives a nice balance of the whole instrument sound as well as some room reflections depth with the benefit of no proximity effect and no phase error. (A B&K omni or Schoeps or GT small tube mic with omni capsule...) I too feel that when using acoustics in the context of a (typical) crowded arrangement, they tend to be more useful when recorded (or collapsed) to mono.

However when it's a sparingly orchestrated song, either two panned mono mics, an X-Y or M-S all might be the ticket to a more enveloping/3d soundstage depending on the situation. An SM-2 or SF-12 can be cool depending on what is needed. I also like a pair of Schoeps CMC5+MK4.

I used the GM technique once on a 12 string track. It was interesting for that track. Unfortunately it was "only" a stock C-24...
Old 31st January 2003
  #28
Mindreader
 
BevvyB's Avatar
 

Hang on a minute, what's the diff between 184's and 84's...
Old 31st January 2003
  #29
Gear Addict
 
Curious G's Avatar
 

The problem I had with the km84's was finding a stereo pair in good condition. Lot's of singles out there though. I ended up with a pair of Josephson c42's which I like alot. On a budget, the mk012's are nice on acoustic and they're hard to beat for the price.

Ghoost has a DPA omni that's damn sweet on acoustic. Maybe he'll chime in about it.
Old 31st January 2003
  #30
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by BevvyB
Hang on a minute, what's the diff between 184's and 84's...
Mostly high end - 184's are a lot brighter than the 84's. There are other differences in the sound, but that's the most obvious.
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