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Finger picking guitar production
Old 22nd September 2010
  #1
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Finger picking guitar production

Hello everyone,

I’m looking for some inspirations and ideas for a finger picking guitar production.

How one would go about creating heavenly yet present guitar sound that is airy yet not harsh, warm and yet not boomy or muddy. Assuming that the guitar sound is captured reasonably well and one is about to venture into an elusive “land” of making it better than life and yet to the listener it should appear like nothings been done to it.
Thank you
Old 22nd September 2010
  #2
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doorknocker's Avatar
Look here: First Listen: Neil Young, 'Le Noise' : NPR

It may not involve fingerpicking but I think it's tremendously inspiring as Lanois found a way to incorporate his production aesthetics into a solo Neil Young performance.

Another tip would be Nick Drake's records, particularily 'Five Leaves Left'. Hearing Drake's vocals and fingerpicked guitar on 'River Man' against a backdrop of some incredibly moving string arrangment is almost too much to bear.

In other words, I would seek out the path less traveled and NOT do the usual pristine and glossy 'did you know how expensive my Taylor guitar was?'-type of acoustic production. But that's just me...

EDIT: Upon re-reading your post I guess you would want a pretty 'natural' sounding guitar sound. One tip would be to treat the reverb/delays with Distortion. Not necessarily to make them grungy or LoFi but rather to create a foreground-backkdrop feel. I had good results with using the Sans Amp PSA-1 (hardware or plug-in) for this as it provides wide control over the frequency bands that make up 'distortion'.

Another way to make it sound 'like nothing has been done to it' would indeed be to do nothing to it. Find a good sounding room, spend a few hours on mix placement and don't use any reverb and as liitle EQ as possible in the mix.
Old 22nd September 2010
  #3
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Harvey Gerst's Avatar
Hopefully, Rick Ruskin will see this thread. Very simply, do whatever he says.

End of story.
Old 22nd September 2010
  #4
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
Hello everyone,

I’m looking for some inspirations and ideas for a finger picking guitar production.

How one would go about creating heavenly yet present guitar sound that is airy yet not harsh, warm and yet not boomy or muddy. Assuming that the guitar sound is captures reasonably well and one is about to venture into an elusive “land” of making it better than life and yet to the listener it should appear like nothings been done to it.

Thank you






Record in a good space. I would ***not*** manipulate using reverbs OR distortion if you can get away with it..


i tell you what.

tell me which of these sounds(if any) you like and I can probably tell you how they got there. A good friend of mine works for a fingerstyle magazine and has probably interviewed many , if not all of them.

The Best Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitarists In The World







Old 22nd September 2010
  #5
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Gerst View Post
Hopefully, Rick Ruskin will see this thread. Very simply, do whatever he says.

End of story.

Hey Mr. Gerst, Mr. Ruskin is a great, great fingerstylist! Isn't he more in the "traditional" vein(more akin to Doc Watson than Bensusan for example)
Old 22nd September 2010
  #6
What kind of guitar are you using, and are you using fingerpicks, nail, or flesh (or some combination of)?
Old 22nd September 2010
  #7
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Harvey Gerst's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
Hey Mr. Gerst, Mr. Ruskin is a great, great fingerstylist! Isn't he more in the "traditional" vein(more akin to Doc Watson than Bensusan for example)
Not sure if I'd compare Rick to Doc, but here's Rick doing a cover of the Beatles "Here Comes The Sun":

Old 22nd September 2010
  #8
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Thanks everyone for responding to my post!
Teddy,
I really liked the samples you posted especially the French one at the end of your post. Thanks.

Though, I’m after more defined contemporary -strudio production. Think more cinematic (not live sound).

Personally, I’m closer to Jazz finger picking on one side and to modern classical on the other. All blended together. Sometime, I’d be sitting in a cinema (I always pay attention to sound design and music scores) and hear some background finger picking and wonder - how do “they” create such presence in which it is almost impossible to distinguish the sound of reverb from the sound of an instrument. How do those producers compress it in a way that rounds off the picks in such pleasant ways?

Nathan, I should’ve mentioned right away that I’m not using nails and this is a very important consideration. I find that for my taste nails always sound a bit too harsh and I’m more into velvety type of sound (even when playing nylon).

My biggest concern is often the lower mid range. I like when it is really tight as oppose to splashy and undefined and I find that EQing this area is very, very tricky; dip just a bit too much and it sound thin, not enough and it remains boomy.
Thanks
Old 23rd September 2010
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
Nathan, I should’ve mentioned right away that I’m not using nails and this is a very important consideration. I find that for my taste nails always sound a bit too harsh and I’m more into velvety type of sound. My biggest concern is often the lower mid range. I like when it is really tight as oppose to splashy and undefined and I find that EQing this area is very, very tricky; dip just a bit too much and it sound thin, not enough and it remains boomy.
Ok, no nails, so I'm guessing that means the flesh part of your fingertips and not metal fingerpicks?

What type of microphone are you using, and what polar pattern for that microphone? If you are using cardioid, how close is the microphone to the guitar and at what position? There are not enough details about your technique or gear to tell how you are doing things and how you might be able to improve them.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #10
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Hi Nathan,

Yes, I’m using the flesh part of my fingertips. My signal chain: 184 into Great River, into Purple Audio, into HEDD with Pentode at 2 and tape at about 4 also sometimes I use a second microphone (over shoulder) AT 4060 into another Great River with Fatso and CraneSong Trakker.

I tried many positions and it seems like more distant placement gives better results but no matter what I tried I can’t get focused, tight sound in low mids. Also the highs are not particularly nice. I mean none of this sounds bad, in fact most of people don’t ever question my recording but I tend to compare my sound to some of the other existing recordings (mostly in cinematic scores) and it makes me sad…
My instrument is a custom made Boucher Guitar 000.

I think in addition to the recording techniques a lot of what I hear is mostly postproduction trickery with very careful choices of EQs, Compression, reverbs and delays. I still have no idea of how to compress fingerpicking in a way that doesn’t destroy it. As far as reverbs go I think I should’ve taken the TC road because Lexicons are way too noticeable...what do you think?

Thanks for your participation!
Old 23rd September 2010
  #11
Could we hear a few short samples of productions you've done that you think are a problem? Right now I think the mics are the weakest point, I'd be using Schoeps or DPAs (which IMHO are a big improvement over what you are using, and the essential place to start) if I had someone coming into my studio with a high level of playing ability doing anything even remotely within your genre. And yes, postproduction/mix is very crucial to getting things right, just as important as the original recording IMO. Even subtle sweetening of the signal and elements of the mix can make big differences.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #12
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

There are much better mics than the 184s. The Beyer MC930 for example, are fantastic(better than the 184s for this) for much cheaper. That is one of your problems. The 184s dont get on well with acoustic guitar.


do you have examples of scores you like/love?? or short snippets??
Old 23rd September 2010
  #13
Acoustic guitars are finicky instruments. From day to day they can sound quite different. That said, I've done a fair amount of recording with Doug Smith. We've typically done a LDC (usually a u67) about 20" away pointed toward the bridge of the guitar from slightly below the end of the guitar. A SDC (USUALLY B&K 4011) located about 12" out from where the neck meets the body of the guitar pointed back towards the 12th fret. Both mics are equidistant from the bridge. Mic pre is GML if we want it neutral, Trident s20 if we want a cool top end sheen. Compression is a touch, 2dB tops, through the Manley Vari mu. Most of the time the compressor sits idol.

Hope this is helpful...
Old 23rd September 2010
  #14
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From the newer generations I like Andy McKee not only for his style but also for his compositions. Some of the stuff from Preston Reed, Don Ross, and Antoine Dufour especially their simpler tunes where virtuosity doesn’t get in a way of music. Also, I should mention that my tunes are fully arranged (perc, double bass, fem vox, cello etc) and as such I don’t have the freedom of letting my instrument be too full in the lower mids. So it has to be contained, focused and tight sound that allows coexistence of other instruments without getting lost.

Some guitar passages in “Beautiful Kate” (Australian movie) were super simple yet haunting.

I’m also a bit into Segovia and have almost all his recordings though I’m not particularly fond of the actual recordings I just like how he played.

I know I should post the tune in question but I’m on tour right now and don’t have access to my recording at least till the end of the next week.

Anyhow, the idea of trying other microphones did cross my mind but due to some timing constrains I never had the time to get out and rent/try any other mics accept those that I already have in my studio.
I think this time around I should take those extra steps. I think Beyer MC930 is an excellent suggestion because I remember recording with them in a commercial studio and the results were great. Which Schoeps or DPA microphones should I try?
Thanks
Old 23rd September 2010
  #15
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Scott Whigham's Avatar
 

I'm assuming you've seen Jeff Troxel's mic shootout? His is flatpicking but it covers most of what you'd want: Flatpicking Guitar Magazine: Articles: Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Comparison

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray
The 184s dont get on well with acoustic guitar.
I am *brand new* at doing acoustic stuff and have been checking out lots of shootouts. On the shootout above, the Peluso and the KM184 were my two favorites. From what I've read, the KM184 is one of the go-to mics for acoustics. Can you elaborate why you aren't a fan? I have zero knowledge of these outside of shootouts/posts so I'm just trying to weed my search down to 3-5 mics and that was one in my list.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #16
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
From the newer generations I like Andy McKee not only for his style but also for his compositions. Some of the stuff from Preston Reed, Don Ross, and Antoine Dufour especially their simpler tunes where virtuosity doesn’t get in a way of music. Also, I should mention that my tunes are fully arranged (perc, double bass, fem vox, cello etc) and as such I don’t have the freedom of letting my instrument be too full in the lower mids. So it has to be contained, focused and tight sound that allows coexistence of other instruments without getting lost.

Some guitar passages in “Beautiful Kate” (Australian movie) were super simple yet haunting.

I’m also a bit into Segovia and have almost all his recordings though I’m not particularly fond of the actual recordings I just like how he played.

I know I should post the tune in question but I’m on tour right now and don’t have access to my recording at least till the end of the next week.

Anyhow, the idea of trying other microphones did cross my mind but due to some timing constrains I never had the time to get out and rent/try any other mics accept those that I already have in my studio.
I think this time around I should take those extra steps. I think Beyer MC930 is an excellent suggestion because I remember recording with them in a commercial studio and the results were great. Which Schoeps or DPA microphones should I try?
Thanks
The Schoeps MK41 are wonderful for acoustic guitar, as are the MK21s. (41s are my preference) the DPA 4006 too.

My "personal" "holy grail" guitar microphone is the Gefell mk221 with josephson c617 bodies. Just wonderful. The beyers are great too, really. there are numerous samples here of that combo.

actually, I know someone that does film score work...a guitarist... ill ask him too.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #17
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

Sonic Beast.. do yourself a favor and watch the film "DEAD MAN" with johnny depp

and get the album. .FANTASTIC , haunting guitar work.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #18
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
Sonic Beast.. do yourself a favor and watch the film "DEAD MAN" with johnny depp

and get the album. .FANTASTIC , haunting guitar work.
Hah, I was just about to edit my post in the Neil Young/Lanois thread because I forgot about 'Dead Man'...stunning guitar work, one of my fave albums actually!
Old 23rd September 2010
  #19
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Unclenny's Avatar
I finger pick my acoustics.

I spend a lot of time with a tube LDC over my shoulder and a KSM32 out in front of the fretboard. Recently, however I've moved the LDC to a position below the lower bout.

For dynamic or percussive picking a little compression is a good thing.

I'm nowhere near the league of most of the above posters so I'll be watching this thread for some lessons.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
Which Schoeps or DPA microphones should I try?
If your room is very good, then I would heavily lean towards the wide cardioid versions of either (DPA 4015 TL, or Schoeps CMC6 mk21). If you need more isolation then cardioid (DPA 4011 TL, or Schoeps CMC6 Mk4). Pure omnis are cool but they are too open and pick up too much room for my tastes (even with a good room), I like at least a little to mostly directional sound. In general the DPA character is extremely neutral, the Schoeps is also neutral but has a bit more character for lack of a better word. I LOVE the Great River (I'm assuming the NV is what you are using), but my only concern is that with fingerpicked guitars it may be a little too thick and soft in this particular application, especially at high gains which is where it is at its fatest lows and slowest (almost lightly compressed). You may need something faster and cleaner at high gains...but I'd stick to different mics first. If its the original Great River (the white one), then ignore what I said because its perfect here.

Just IMHO, if the player/guitar/room/mics/preamps are all A+, its really just a matter of documenting what's going on in front of the mics, with all of that in good order, it should sound very sweet coming out of the speakers as is. A little hi quality compression, EQ and or ambience is icing on the cake.
Old 23rd September 2010
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
Look here: First Listen: Neil Young, 'Le Noise' : NPR

It may not involve fingerpicking but I think it's tremendously inspiring as Lanois found a way to incorporate his production aesthetics into a solo Neil Young performance.

Another tip would be Nick Drake's records, particularily 'Five Leaves Left'. Hearing Drake's vocals and fingerpicked guitar on 'River Man' against a backdrop of some incredibly moving string arrangment is almost too much to bear.

In other words, I would seek out the path less traveled and NOT do the usual pristine and glossy 'did you know how expensive my Taylor guitar was?'-type of acoustic production. But that's just me...

EDIT: Upon re-reading your post I guess you would want a pretty 'natural' sounding guitar sound. One tip would be to treat the reverb/delays with Distortion. Not necessarily to make them grungy or LoFi but rather to create a foreground-backkdrop feel. I had good results with using the Sans Amp PSA-1 (hardware or plug-in) for this as it provides wide control over the frequency bands that make up 'distortion'.

Another way to make it sound 'like nothing has been done to it' would indeed be to do nothing to it. Find a good sounding room, spend a few hours on mix placement and don't use any reverb and as liitle EQ as possible in the mix.
Yeah... keep in mind not everyone's gonna like that Lanois approach, either.

I thought it was a horrid trainwreck.

As I wrote elsewhere, I'm waiting for the Rick Rubin remix. (ie, ditch the cheezy fuzz box, goopy reverb, and gimmicky echo and process drop ins, and just go back to Neil and an acoustic guitar, playing and singing. What a concept.)


For what it's worth, I'd study Nick Drake and avoid the mistakes that the late, lamented Elliot Smith made (like trying to 'stereo-fy' his guitar with a way-too-obvious delay split -- I'd love to get a stripped down remix of some of that but I fear that's a never, too -- still, ES's efforts are nowhere as offensive to my ear and sensibilities as Le Noise.)
Old 23rd September 2010
  #22
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Nathan, I have2 Great Rivers ME-1NV. Bytoo thick and soft” do you mean that it can emphasize in some ways low mid frequencies? Because this is exactly where it gets kind of splashy as opposed to tight and controlled. The room in which I record is very well treated with wooden diffusion and very thick absorption but it is also very small so I’d rather stay away from the natural acoustics of the room hence the search for some suitable reverbs.

From my personal experience I find that 184 sounds a bit hard (not harsh) and not extended enough in a high frequency department like there is some kind of wall in there rather than an open space.

Teddy thanks very much for the “Dead Man” recommendation and the microphone tips, I wanted to see this movie for a long, long time. Also, I noticed that you use a quote from Baudelaire whose poetry I really like though in translations thumbsup.

KingFuLio, can you tell me if you were pointing SDC mic away from the guitar whole?

Thanks
Old 24th September 2010
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
Nathan, I have2 Great Rivers ME-1NV. Bytoo thick and soft” do you mean that it can emphasize in some ways low mid frequencies? Because this is exactly where it gets kind of splashy as opposed to tight and controlled. The room in which I record is very well treated with wooden diffusion and very thick absorption but it is also very small so I’d rather stay away from the natural acoustics of the room hence the search for some suitable reverbs.
IME the Great River emphasizes lows more than low mids when the input gain is pushed heavily (when it's not pushed hard it doesn't do that nearly as much, but when recording soft instruments you don't have a choice but to usually use a lot of gain). There is still some low mid thickening (part of the beautiful sound of the preamp, and why I like it on things like electric guitars, bass, kick drums, smokey/raspy voxs, etc), but less than you'd find on a 1073 or clone. But I still think it's your mics, even though you may end up liking a cleaner preamp that basically doesn't saturate at higher gain settings. I do know from my own experience that plugging a Schoeps, or DPA into a Great River is a different world to my ears. Also, using a Fatso and the HEDD coloration may very well be emphasizing low mids and de emphasizing highs, I'd stop doing that or at least reserve it only for mix. In general, fingerpicked guitar using the flesh of your fingers has very little attack and sparkle, so your highs are going to have to be as clear and clean as possible. BTW, how heavily are you compressing?
Old 24th September 2010
  #24
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Tokamak's Avatar
 

Don't most of these "modern" fingerstyle guitarist rely heavily on pickups when recording?

I know what you mean about the 184. It might work on some styles of acoustic guitar, but not fingerstyle. I second the suggestion about using a different mic.
Old 24th September 2010
  #25
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vernier's Avatar
If you want tinkly, use a condenser. If it booms, place it more towards the neck.

Thats all there is to it.
Old 24th September 2010
  #26
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
I’m after more defined contemporary -studio production. Think more cinematic (not live sound).
Do you like any of Knopflers work?

I appreciate the place for highly accurate, faithfull reproduction, but my taste actually errs on the highly processed stuff. Especially if you want "cinematic" ...

My personal take on how to do this would be to eliminate as much room sound as possible, and get the noisefloor as low as possible, to allow maximum room for processing with quality compression and reverb. I dislike piezo pickups intensely - I don't mean that. Although I have a lot of respect for magnet pickups, and the combination of acoustic and electric can be awesome - maybe just using the electric for delays/reverb even ...

I would consider doing something as radical as taping a stick onto the guitar to allow a lightweight, low noise condensor mic to be positioned in the sweet spot, regardless of how the player moves. I would use an extreme amount of absorbant baffles all around - think anechoic chamber.

I can see the coming ... but bear with me. The idea is to be able to use very high quality reverb such as the Bricasti M7 which I love, with no room sound to interfere. That's assuming you want a larger-than-life, hyper-realistic sound ...

You could even add a midi pickup too and enhance the sound with very subtle synth shadings ...

Consider using dessers or envelope shapers on the reverb feed ... consider non-linear or even backwards reverbs/delays ... "cinematic" is all about FX in my book.

Just an alternative view ...
Old 24th September 2010
  #27
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This is such an important topic to me personally as I am also a fingerstyle guitarist recording my own material. Of course I am very opinionated about this topic, and I've done a lot of exploring in the realm of miking up my acoustic.

There are lots of suggestions in this thread so far, some of which I agree with, some of which I'm not crazy about. Personally, I'm a fan of using a nice pair of matched SDC's, a nice room, and (hopefully) an excellent guitar player playing an excellent piece on an excellent guitar. Compression (to me) tends to be unnecessary and problematic. A good player will have control of his own tone and his own dynamics - you shouldn't have to do it for him with a gadget. As for minimizing unwanted picking noise and such, I really think you can do that with good mic placement.


Here's a link to a clip that I recorded last year. The thread has details as to my rather unconventional miking technique and the gear used. It might work for you, or perhaps not, but at least it is another direction for you to explore.
Old 24th September 2010
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic_Beast View Post
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3]]KingFuLio, can you tell me if you were pointing SDC mic away from the guitar whole?[/COLOR]

Thanks
Yes, usually never pointing at the hole... awfully boomy when I do that...
Old 24th September 2010
  #29
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
As I wrote elsewhere, I'm waiting for the Rick Rubin remix. (ie, ditch the cheezy fuzz box, goopy reverb, and gimmicky echo and process drop ins, and just go back to Neil and an acoustic guitar, playing and singing. What a concept.)
And have it bone dry with no transients left after the compression and mastered 'stupid loud' like the last few Johnny Cash records? No thanks, I much prefer the Lanois approach...
Old 24th September 2010
  #30
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Whigham View Post
On the shootout above, the Peluso and the KM184 were my two favorites. From what I've read, the KM184 is one of the go-to mics for acoustics. Can you elaborate why you aren't a fan? I have zero knowledge of these outside of shootouts/posts so I'm just trying to weed my search down to 3-5 mics and that was one in my list.
FWIW, my first 'good' consensors were a pair of 184s that I used for a few years with good results. There's absolutely nothing wrong with these mics and they certainly would work on fingerpicked acoustic guitar.

Later I bought 2 KM 84s and then began to understand why most people prefer them over the 184s. The KM 84 is more balanced sounding with less hyped treble. To me, it was like lifting a veil, everything became more defined, less 'watery' and more organic.

In the end, I also sold the KM 84s. My preference on acoustic guitar these days is either a Beyer M201 or an AKG D19c dynamic mic. The Coles 4050 is also on my list and I plan to use it for 'pristine' acoustic stuff eventually.
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