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Recording 12-string electric?
Old 21st December 2011
Lives for gear
pinkheadedbug's Avatar

Recording 12-string electric?

I've been beating my head against the wall the last couple days trying to get a 12-string electric guitar part to sound right.

The part is a very busy cross-picked up-tempo part that drives the song, halfway between Byrds and REM, poppy but quite aggressive. It really is very busy -- 160 bpm and a mix of eighth and sixteenth notes with lots left ringing. The guitar part itself is GREAT... I wouldn't change a thing. But getting it to work in the mix is really hard. It needs to drive the song but not overpower everything else.

Normally my tactic with 12-string (it's a Burns doublesix reissue, as if that matters) is to compress it before the amp, keep it pretty clean, double it, and pan hard left and right. That sort of works here but something's missing -- it just doesn't have the IN YOUR FACE jingly-jang-jang fullness of the way it sounds in the room.

I've tried a bunch of different approaches

- using a real amp and a ribbon mic
- using amp sims
- using a six string and doubling the part with a version capo'd at the seventh fret and panned L/R
- bringing in a bunch of other guitar parts, eg quarter note chords, picked melody lines etc to double the key notes in the crosspicked part.
- adding strummed acoustics to fill in the top end and add a bit of rhythm
- instead of doubling the part, copying it and delaying the hard-panned-left version by 20ms or so
- eighth note echoes

It all KIND OF works - none of it sounds bad - but it just isn't getting there. The odd thing is that when you just hear the 12-string part played live with the vocal it sounds absolutely great.

Any tips for getting this to sound right? What's your go-to chain for a busy 12-string part?
Old 21st December 2011
Registered User
Of course you could always do what Roger McGuinn did ...

RED: Do you mic an amp when tracking your classic “jingle-jangle” electric 12-string Rickenbacker sound?

ROGER: No, for that I go direct into the computer without an amp through one of my three I/O interfaces. I got into recording the 12-string electric this way back in The Byrds when we always went direct with it in the studio. That’s the clean part of the jingle-jangle sound with no hum or ambient room noise. It’s a very compressed sound, of course, and I achieve that by running the Rick through a pair of Jangle Box stomp boxes I love. Those are based on the compressor circuit built into my custom Rick model [Rickenbacker 370/12 McGuinn Limited Edition 12-string.] Once I’m in Adobe Audition with it, I don’t really need to compress the Rick any further because the two Jangle Box’s have already nicely compressed it. But I do like to hard limit the track once I’m in Audition to really punch the Rick to the edges of the envelope.
Old 21st December 2011
Gear Addict

Old 21st December 2011
Gear Head

Recording 12-string electric?

It's the compression ahead of the amp, I've made the same mistake. The dynamics are such an integral part of the instrument. You're much better off shaping the instrument with eq into the mix, then applying a compression scheme that works to tame it a bit.
Old 21st December 2011
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cjogo's Avatar
Depending on the guitar :: last one was a Danelectro -- we went direct with limiting on a Manley . The one before ~ was a 73 Coronado > we mic'd a BluesJr with a 58 and used a Rode NT3 on the strings.
Old 21st December 2011
Registered User
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
Here come the 12 string, Same as the six string...

as far as recording goes that is.
In the sense that there are millions of possible options and millions of possible tones that are all equally valid in certain musical contexts ...

For very busy guitar parts, a clean DI sound is often best. It clearly worked for The Byrds and some Beatles chimey stuff ... they didn't always use amps, and the amps they used weren't always Vox and weren't necessarily tube amps either.

JangleBox :: JangleBox

This is used by some major guitar players for 12 string chime ...

Layering parts might get muddy if you aren't extremely precise. Maybe you can use some artificial doubling of some sort ... pitch shift chorus perhaps.

A great room reverb might be all you need if you really like that room sound you mention ... perhaps with a lot of timed pre-delay so it doesn't clutter the part.
Old 21st December 2011
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pinkheadedbug's Avatar

I hadn't thought of going direct -- interesting idea.

I've played through those jangleboxes -- Jesus God they are extreme. I ended up buying a Diamond compressor stompbox instead. The janglebox was just too much for me. Maybe that's the point.
Old 21st December 2011
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Denny McNerney's Avatar

another interesting thing to try is actually mic'ing the electric gtr strings, as if it was an acoustic gtr, and blending that in w/ the amp or direct sound...

something i've always heard about, but have yet to actually try myself...
Old 21st December 2011
Gear Addict
mahler007's Avatar

Originally Posted by Denny McNerney View Post
another interesting thing to try is actually mic'ing the electric gtr strings, as if it was an acoustic gtr, and blending that in w/ the amp or direct sound...

something i've always heard about, but have yet to actually try myself...
I've done this, and it works brilliantly. You get the full, rich sound from the amp, and all the beautiful high end shimmering detail that you usually are hearing "under your ear" from the mic on the actual body of the guitar.

Try putting a SDC or a LDC back by the bridge, about 2.5 inches away. You can also try a lot of compression on this mic (while tracking) to really get it to sing and sustain. In my experience, I had to put a pretty steep HPF beginning around 400 HZ after it was all said and done, but the "jangle" you are referring to really popped out. Give it a try!

Old 21st December 2011
Gear Nut

Sounds somewhat similar to what some engineers do when they layer doubled guitar parts recorded with different pickups. Actually miking the strings sounds interesting.
Old 21st December 2011
Lives for gear
pinkheadedbug's Avatar

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone.

I went back to the track today and had a good listen. Part of the problem was definitely all the upper harmonics from the amp distortion. However, when I dialled that back, all the guts went out of the sound.

I tried the straight DI sound EQd and compressed but I didn't have the aggression I was after.

However I did finally get it sounding great by using a really clean, compressed sound through a Jazz Chorus sim, then hammering that into Kramer MPX to give it some punch, and panning the double parts left and right, then using a HPF to take off the harshness on the top. The last key thing was to duck the guitar bus using the vocals as a sidechain. It will still need some automation but the 12 string is really in yer face now but not completely dominating the entire mix.

The Kramer MPX was the key. As soon as I hit it with that, I knew it was going to work.

I will definitely try some of the other suggestions here next time.
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