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Huge bottom end on acoustic guitars Condenser Microphones
Old 28th November 2011
  #1
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Huge bottom end on acoustic guitars

I'm hearing a lot of acoustic guitar mixes - where it's just voice and acoustic guitar - in which the bottom end sounds massive. Enormous around the 100-250Hz mark.

This is something I simply cannot achieve, irrespective of the guitar that is used, or the person playing it, even if I stick a ribbon mic right in front of the sound hole.

How the hell are engineers getting acoustic guitar mixes that sound so crystal clear and balanced all round, yet with such huge bottom end?

Listen to the bottom notes on this track for instance:
Pete Roe - The Merry Go Round - Track Of The Day - QTheMusic.com

They sound more like an electric bass than the bottom string on an acoustic.
Old 28th November 2011
  #2
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lectric's Avatar
 

nice example¡¡¡
Old 28th November 2011
  #3
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mcgruff's Avatar
 

(1) Guitar model. You probably want a big-bodied guitar like a Martin dreadnought but remember there's never any simple formula for acoustic guitar tone. You always have to just pick up an instrument and play it to find out what it sounds like.

Maybe a baritone would be a good choice - unless you live in an area prone to earthquakes.

(2) Microphone technique. Proximity effect can be used to boost the bass end a little. Some mics are better than others. If proximity effect kicks in in a very sudden and savage way it won't be controllable. I like my ADK A6 for this since the bass boost is quite smooth and gradual when you move in close.

(3) Pickup. Maybe you can pad out the bass by blending in a pickup at a low volume so it doesn't overwhelm the acoustic tone. A low pass on the pickup signal might help.
Old 28th November 2011
  #4
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fastlanestoner's Avatar
 

It's all in recording technique.

Guitar, player, mic selection, mic technique, of course arrangement
Old 28th November 2011
  #5
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It sounds like a different take or they compressed the lows with a multiband.

Very unnatural sounding either way.
Old 28th November 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haryy View Post
It sounds like a different take or they compressed the lows with a multiband.

Very unnatural sounding either way.
Agreed. Sounds like a 'smile' curve in the eq, big highs and lows. The highs sound super bright and not natural. That isn't to say it doesn't sound good. I notice this type of sound is very popular with acoustic music now-a-days.
Old 28th November 2011
  #7
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgruff View Post
(3) Pickup. Maybe you can pad out the bass by blending in a pickup at a low volume so it doesn't overwhelm the acoustic tone. A low pass on the pickup signal might help.
Sounds like the instrument in the example is plugged in and that signal has been worked up a bit.

Other than that....instrument type seems to be the big one. I could get a tone close to that with my old Guild but my Kalamazoo wouldn't come even close.
Old 28th November 2011
  #8
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A jumbo helps, but I can get fantastic low end out of a $60 nylon with a decent condenser; even a round warm tone on the treble strings. The whole deal breaks down basically, for me, like this:

1 - A decent condenser within an inch or two of the sound hole. (Move toward bridge to tighten/brighten)

2 - It's impossible to achieve said effect if the guitarist plays loud/hard. You must play in a very controlled manor to avoid clipping (see 3)

3 - Gain on the pre so hot that a mf strum would clip. (Or with as little headroom as the performance can just safely manage)

4 - If you're recording lead, use fingers, but if you have to use a pic, use the thinnest pick you can find.

If you use a jumbo, you'll end up with WAY more low end that you 'want'. So eq to taste.

And finally, a really good player can work a mic just as a singer does, altering distance and angle—but even so, it's a process that requires patience and experimentation.

Disclaimer: I'm a composer, not a trained engineer, but after noodling around with it for 25 yrs, I've stumbled onto stuff that works for me. Your milage may vary.
Old 28th November 2011
  #9
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One more thing, I wouldn't use new strings; worn in strings have less 'jangle', fret buzz and high end screech when changing hand position.
Old 28th November 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy_R View Post
A jumbo helps, but I can get fantastic low end out of a $60 nylon with a decent condenser; even a round warm tone on the treble strings. The whole deal breaks down basically, for me, like this:

1 - A decent condenser within an inch or two of the sound hole. (Move toward bridge to tighten/brighten)

2 - It's impossible to achieve said effect if the guitarist plays loud/hard. You must play in a very controlled manor to avoid clipping (see 3)

3 - Gain on the pre so hot that a mf strum would clip. (Or with as little headroom as the performance can just safely manage)

4 - If you're recording lead, use fingers, but if you have to use a pic, use the thinnest pick you can find.

If you use a jumbo, you'll end up with WAY more low end that you 'want'. So eq to taste.

And finally, a really good player can work a mic just as a singer does, altering distance and angle—but even so, it's a process that requires patience and experimentation.
Thanks. I may try really cranking up my pre-amps in future.

But did you have a listen to that link there? I'm not talking about getting an all-over warm round tone. The sort of recordings I'm thinking of have a bright, sparkly, and percussive top end - often a very sharp and cutting one. They just happen to have a massive low-end too.

I'm also not sure how much I buy the "playing technique" rationale in this particular instance. I mean, I can think of plenty of players who nobody would call virtuosos, yet who do have that huge guitar tone on record. Jack Johnson for one - he's a competent guitar player, but I don't think anyone would mistake him for Bert Jansch. Yet even when he's just strumming some E and A chords, his buddy Robert Carranza makes it sound immense.

No playing technique is going to magically make your bottom strings sound like huge towers of dub bass while your top strings continue to peal like shimmering bells. That's just too much of a disparity to ascribe to a man's dexterity with fingernails and picks.
Old 28th November 2011
  #11
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Yep, I listened; personally I would preferred he not use new strings... still would be plenty 'bright' for me... but I'm nitpicking. :D

& sorry, yeah, should have been more clear I guess: a guitar player capable of controlling his dynamics is all that's required to avoid clipping the pre, artistry is optional.
Old 28th November 2011
  #12
Gear Guru
Andy R makes some great points.
1. Yes- the sound hole is a bass port. The position of the mic relative to the hole will have a huge effect on low end content.
2. Yes again. Playing lightly is essential to the sound of the example you posted.
3. No way. I can't think of an application when recording 24 bit digital that headroom isn't a good thing. If he means driving the pre, that's a creative choice. But not driving the A/D.
I also agree on strings. Not old, but not brand new either.
Old 28th November 2011
  #13
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Avening's Avatar
 

A lot of the perceived "hugeness" of an acoustic guitar can be attributed to the room it's being played in. If you're in a vocal booth, you're not going to get a huge bottom end no matter how hard you try. Also, with singer / songwriter type music, it's also the guitar's relativity to the vocal that puts things in their proper place.

But all the other mentioned techniques will work. Proximity effect of a nice LDC tube mic will help leaps and bounds. Between the sound hole and the 12th fret works nice too. But the room is also a factor.

IMO this track is a great acoustic / vocal blend as an example: Dallas Green - Hello, I'm in Delaware - YouTube
Old 28th November 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb View Post
If he means driving the pre, that's a creative choice.
Yep, the pre, which in my case is an old Valley People lunchbox, mic is a 4047.

I'm not sure why I drive the pre that hard... probably a holdover from the analog days and my general hackmanship. heh
Old 28th November 2011
  #15
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Neve?
Old 28th November 2011
  #16
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mcgruff's Avatar
 

I wouldn't have thought so. I'd try to record an acoustic with as natural and accurate a sound as possible: clean, clear, and pin-sharp accuracy. I wouldn't want pres, or mics, to do anything to the sound at all.

PS: a couple of people suggested pointing the mic at the soundhole. That's not a good idea unless you're at least a couple of metres away.
Old 28th November 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
Jack Johnson for one - he's a competent guitar player, but I don't think anyone would mistake him for Bert Jansch. Yet even when he's just strumming some E and A chords, his buddy Robert Carranza makes it sound immense.

No playing technique is going to magically make your bottom strings sound like huge towers of dub bass while your top strings continue to peal like shimmering bells. That's just too much of a disparity to ascribe to a man's dexterity with fingernails and picks.
Well, those guitars he plays are not run of the mill instruments. Plus his buddy Carranza has some nice mics and pres and knows what to do with them.

And playing technique is a BIG thing on how your bass weight comes across as it goes. Totally depends on how you hit the guitar/strings. How hard. What angle. With what....skin, nail.....where....closer to the neck, likely for more fat. Move your right hand around. Don't just go up and down in the same spot. Go where each stroke/pick demands, fatter/softer/mellower by the neck, skinnier/brighter/more tense by the bridge. Makes ALL the difference actually.
Old 28th November 2011
  #18
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I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of bass enhancement toys get used on acoustic music too ...
Old 28th November 2011
  #19
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glenn Taylor's Avatar
 

Yea if you put your pencil mic too close or in the the hole you will get a
HUGE BIG BOTTOM. It can be pretty dark and it will boom boom
Old 28th November 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
Listen to the bottom notes on this track for instance:
Pete Roe - The Merry Go Round - Track Of The Day - QTheMusic.com

They sound more like an electric bass than the bottom string on an acoustic.
Nice song and recording!

I guess there are different possibilities like others have said already: Some kind of Baritone guitar could be used, maybe as an overdub or it's multiple micing. Pat Metheny's recent solo record is a great example of the kind of spectrum you can get with both a baritone guitar and multi-micing.



Sometimes I use the Digidesign Recti-Fi plug-in on acoustic guitar, with a lot of fiddling and a bit of luck you sometimes get an effect that's a bit like on the example here. Of course it depends on the voicing and playing technique.

Another thing I have tried lately was to use a D12 along with a SDC like a KM 84 or C451 to catch the bottom end of the guitar. Though it won't magically create the seperation you here on this track, it can add some nice weight esepcially to a solo acoustic guitar.
Old 29th November 2011
  #21
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I agree with those who think this was achieved by plugging the guitar in.

Here's my guess:

1. Mic the guitar as you normally would (for me that would be stereo with a pair of SDC's)

2. Plug in the onboard pickup (giving it its own channel of course). Use a Low Pass Filter starting around 250 Hz, and compress it! The compression should smooth it out and milk it for maximum sustain (basically, just like you'd compress a bass guitar).

3. Mix to taste

4. you might want to use a HPF on the stereo pair to get it out of the way of the "bottom end" track.
Old 29th November 2011
  #22
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CompEq's Avatar
 

I've never had a problem getting low end from a acoustic guitar, usually the problem is too much low end! Two SDC's (as guitarmax_99 mentioned). Make sure they're in phase. It may seem mundane, but one a few inches off the 12th fret angled between the 12th fret and the edge of the soundhole, the other I like either over the guitarists shoulder or in front (aming across the soundboard) directly above and pointed down at the high E string. I've tried sticking one down by the bridge, but it gets more boom and less tone.

Be aware of proximity effect and try to record in a room that allows the guitar to sound full and isn't too live or too dead.
Old 29th November 2011
  #23
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Use an AKG c12a (omni) without the lo cut engaged on the PSU, thru a DW Fearn VT1/2 mic pre in a decent room with a good guitar.

It's really as simple as that.

Pretty expensive though, as that is between $6-$7k just for the mic and pre -- but well worth it !


Old 29th November 2011
  #24
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
I'm hearing a lot of acoustic guitar mixes - where it's just voice and acoustic guitar - in which the bottom end sounds massive. Enormous around the 100-250Hz mark.

This is something I simply cannot achieve, irrespective of the guitar that is used, or the person playing it, even if I stick a ribbon mic right in front of the sound hole.

How the hell are engineers getting acoustic guitar mixes that sound so crystal clear and balanced all round, yet with such huge bottom end?

Listen to the bottom notes on this track for instance:
Pete Roe - The Merry Go Round - Track Of The Day - QTheMusic.com

They sound more like an electric bass than the bottom string on an acoustic.
I hear such a separation between the low notes and the rhythm strum I'd say they have to be different guitar parts. There parts are too distinct in a number of ways.

Overdubbing (or having a second guitar playing along) allows the low guitar to be tweaked expressly for that sound, and played very simply and precisely for that sound. Makes dynamic control of that simple line much easier and more compelling as well.

The panning, the EQ, and the dynamic processing on the low guitar leaves plenty of horizontal room for the strummed guitar and vocal.

I'd love to see what the artist can pull off live, I have sneaking suspicion he can get close to this mix, but not quite all the way there, playing solo.

Fran
Old 29th November 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
I hear such a separation between the low notes and the rhythm strum I'd say they have to be different guitar parts. There parts are too distinct in a number of ways.

Overdubbing (or having a second guitar playing along) allows the low guitar to be tweaked expressly for that sound, and played very simply and precisely for that sound. Makes dynamic control of that simple line much easier and more compelling as well.

The panning, the EQ, and the dynamic processing on the low guitar leaves plenty of horizontal room for the strummed guitar and vocal.

I'd love to see what the artist can pull off live, I have sneaking suspicion he can get close to this mix, but not quite all the way there, playing solo.

Fran
Well, the main reason I picked this particular example is that that is a totally live recording, no overdubs. (No idea how many mics were used though.)

I take the point about the room though. I've been amazed at the way some rooms where early reflections can utterly transform vocals and acoustic instruments. That EP was recorded by Ian Grimble. I think it may have been recorded at The Church studio, which I imagine probably has a pretty nice sounding room...

here's another one from the same EP:
Pete Roe - Bellina*(Communion Compilation Track 05) by Stayloose on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
Old 29th November 2011
  #26
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This player is known for making his guitar sound this way.
It's the player's experience.Wisdom, experience and a good engineer.
Sounds like open tuning, what do you reckon?
I'd even hazard a bit of MaxxBass down there or a Little Labs VOG. Pickups can do that too. Could have a split pickup... hmmm...
To me it's not an amazing guitar sound IMO. A bit unnatural. Sounds like it's coming from a few places at the same time, like the overheads were turned up and time aligned to the close mics.
Old 1st December 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by famousbass View Post
This player is known for making his guitar sound this way.
Really?! He's only made one EP! I wasn't aware he was well known for anything other than being in Laura Marling's backing band.

Anyway, I've been doing some acoustic guitar recordings over the last day plugging in the fitted pickup. And boy, does it make a difference. I haven't done that in years, mainly because I hate that horrible plasticy, dead sound of a Piezo... But if you ruthlessly roll off all frequencies bar the particular bass notes you want to emphasize, it gives you a sound not unlike the one I'm thinking of.

Feel faintly embarassed about how many guitar mics I'm using though! I put a C451B on the 12th fret, a second C451B in front of the soundhole, a Coles 4038 backed off a little facing inbetween the bridge and the soundhole, and DI'd the pickup.

Hard-panned the 451Bs. Panned the Coles at about 2pm, mirrored it with the "monster-bass pickup" at 10pm. Sounds huge. And, while I'd love to claim otherwise, I can honestly say that the hugeness has sod all to do with amazing guitar technique.
Old 1st December 2011
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of bass enhancement toys get used on acoustic music too ...
Voice of God
Old 1st December 2011
  #29
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Knox's Avatar
 

If I want a big low end on an acoustic, I have a 1967 Gibson J200 . . . (a different sound then what that guy is playing). All the boutique guitars these days never seem to have that. It starts with the guitar obviously . . . you can't add it if it's not at the source (not really and make it sound natural). Yet you can remove it if needed.
Old 1st December 2011
  #30
Gear Guru
Yes, really. There are numerous ways to add harmonics, including subharmonics.

In some ways, relying on the instrument or the room to provide bass boost means you tend to get strongly resonant nodes so the boost can be peaky and inconsistent.
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