Acoustic guitar: less pick noise/attack?

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Post by ??????? » Mon Oct 30, 2006 5:21 am

Last edited by ??????? on Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

high five
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Post by high five » Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:20 pm

Okay, after getting everyone's advice I tried a lot of things out. Thicker pick helped a little (orange instead of red dunlop picks), and pick technique seems promising but it's harder for me to angle it AND get a good grip on it. I've tried angling it by making a "hitch hikers thumb" and what I think is known to jazz people as the "Freddie Green" technique of bending the thumb the other way. Freddie Green works well for single strings and hitch hiker thumb works better for strumming. Maybe I'll talk to a teacher or get a video, cause its hard for me to understand all those damned ASCII diagrams I see on the newgroups.

I haven't found a mic position that has really tamed the pick noise but I found a lot of placements really make it sound worse. It's really frustrating because to my ears it sounds okay while I'm playing, but the mic makes it sound super brittle. I had the impression the Crown CM-700 was unhyped in the high freqs. It also sucks not having someone else to play the guitar while I place the mic... trying not to drop the guitar, or knock the stand over, or hit the mic with the guitar. I'll try my SM-58 and MXL 990 (usually pretty harsh, though) when I regain my patience.

I played with the parametric EQ and sweeping from about 10kHz to 15kHz makes my ears bleed. I'll experiment to see how much of that I can carve out. I also tried new strings and while they don't sound as dull (obviously) I really don't like that metally 'zing' they always have. Maybe I just need to keep trying different brands. Would light gauge strings be worth trying? I've heard they don't have as nice of a tone, but I might be willing to sacrifice. As an aside, I tried a real nice Martin the other day, an HD-something with an ebony fretboard, and it sounded a lot smoother than mine... but I didn't have a pick handy. Maybe I'm just used to hearing super nice guitars on recordings and expecting too much?

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Post by RefD » Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:58 pm

one other thing to try is a different pick material.

for what you're describing, i've had good results with either a felt or a leather pick.

also, it's good to FINALLY be back home!

*falls asleep strumming unplugged Tele*
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Post by drumsound » Sun Nov 12, 2006 8:50 am

tommy wrote:Often you cant preach right hand technique to someone whos been playing the way he or she has been playing since day one so what do you do when changing a players technique or changing a players plectrum is not an option?
Ive been recording such a player recently. (thin pick user and hard up and down strummer producing LOTS of click clacks over actual tone). For this player, it took quite a bit of mic placement finagalling to get it to sound good. One constant in all the various placements was simply that the mic was aimed below the strings. Lucily, we had about 5 acoustic guitars to choose from and a bit more time in the studio that I am usually afforded so getting very good usable acoustic guitar tones wasnt a problem given his thin picked right handed technique.
This is a little off topic, but I'm gonna address it anyway. If a player gives me the "this is the way I've always done it (or Played it)" speech, I first ask them if they 'should' do it that way. I then explain what I'm hearing in the control room, in relation to the rest of the track, instruments, songs etc. If they are unwilling to budge from their "style" or (even worse) "tone" I record what I'm given. I may then add other elements the will allow me to mix their non-complimentary tone lower in the mix. If they listen to playback and complain about the sound I might remind them that I tried to get them to do something that works better, but they would not do that. Sometimes I futz with it and sometimes I suggest we re-track trying some different things, but I don't bring up the conversations during the first attempt. The different methods are totally based on the individual playing the part.

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sun Nov 12, 2006 9:05 am

more of a band aid, but you could try a compressor, fast attack and release, high-ish ratio...

where are you putting the mics?

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Post by lg » Sun Nov 12, 2006 12:01 pm

cooksie wrote:Holding the pick "sideways"--so that one of the two more rounded points of the triangle, rather than the sharp point, is what strikes the strings--helps reduce clackiness. In other words, point the business end of the pick so that it's parallel to the line of your thumb.
hm, when this has happened to me in the past by accident (i.e. grabbing the pick w/out looking at it to see it's oriented 'business-end' toward string), i've hated the feel. puts thumb & finger too close to string for my tastes. to get a similar feel to what one's used to, i would think going with a heavier (or different material) pick is the ticket. personally, i like pickboy's meta carbonate jobs- 1.0mm. plus they come in groovy colors.

could'nt find a pickboy site (though i recall seeing one once), but your LMS should be able to order 'em, or you could get them here:

fwiw i too like the sound of 'worn-in' strings (esp. on acoustic) as opposed to brand new ones. "but it's all about the song..."

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Post by high five » Sun Nov 12, 2006 12:39 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:more of a band aid, but you could try a compressor, fast attack and release, high-ish ratio...

where are you putting the mics?
I've tried setting the mic slightly higher than the neck (looking down a bit at the neck) and probably a foot back. From there I moved the guitar so the mic was facing the headstock, the point where the neck meets the body, and behind the bridge (which was the worst sounding). I tried having the mic off axis so it looked toward the headstock or toward the bridge, but that mostly changed the bass and not the pick noise. I also tried the over-the-shoulder placement with the mic aiming at the headstock, neck joint, and bridge with pretty nasty results.

Good news is that I just tried the SM58 on a short mic stand and it's really much better. Could be having the mic below the strings as tommy mentioned, or maybe the Crown was messed up. It's also much easier adjusting the mic on the short stand, with no tripod legs to knock into. I feel a lot more willing to experiment with placement now that I found something that works... and I know it's not my guitar. Thanks for everyone's help! Oh, and a felt pick sounds pretty cool... I'll have to check that out.

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Post by imo » Sun Nov 12, 2006 5:30 pm

Agreeing for the most part about the technique being tantamoun, I have had a lot of success with large diaphragm mics on omni when i want more of the guitar as a whole and less of the close up focused sound from a km84 or the like. If you have a decent sounding room you can pull the mic a bit further away and that will pull a lot more of the sound of the box and strings vibrating, and less of the stringy sound. For what its worth i kinda liked the sound, but i think i know what you are talking about, especially with your avatar as a possible guide.
Maybe its being devils advocate as this is a forum for recording engineers (albeit often musicians as well) but I think as often as the musician might be hampering a take by their technique, or lack there of, it seems there are just as many engineers that fall into the tunnel-vision of thinking that the musician is at fault, instead of finding a way to get it down on tape. There are so many vastly different recorded versions of great acoustic guitars for instance, and many of them are coming from completely different styles and stand tall because they were properly recorded versions of what they players were doing. I don't have the experience of recording a bunch of different players and being confronted by what might be limiting in the engineers eyes, but i have seen many great engineers navigate ways to get unusual styles down in ways that often made the recordings beyond what any of us thought going in.

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Post by ??????? » Mon Nov 13, 2006 6:14 am

yeah I think an engineer or producer can often make the situation worse by alerting someone to their improper technique. This takes them "out of the music" for a moment and nothing can be inspired after that. For the 'greater good' it's often best just to let it go and find the workaround to get the ultimate best musical result on that day. I learned this lesson the hard way when producing a singer who was very soulful, etc, but his pitch wasn't so hot. I only realized later that it doesn't really matter for his style, and if it did matter I should've just had him take a bunch and comp the takes. What I ended up with was some lifeless, beleaguered-sounding uninspired poo.

I'll take the tuning problems any day. :?

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Post by pantone247 » Mon Nov 13, 2006 8:58 am

high five wrote: I haven't found a mic position that has really tamed the pick noise but I found a lot of placements really make it sound worse. It's really frustrating because to my ears it sounds okay while I'm playing,
stick a mic by your ears

which is sort of a joke but sort of serious, set a stand up behind you and have a mic "looking over" your right shoulder (your strumming arm)... sort of level with your head... I used to use an LDC for this

I think that was mentioned in Sound On Sound once, and I know Craig Shumacher talks about micing somewhere around a drummers head, makes sense seeing as you alter your style or position, etc, etc, to make it sound nice to your ears all the time, probably unconciously...

keeping in mind that this mic is going to pick up a lot of refelection from the floor, I had a nice old wood floor when I used to try this, probably helped... it might not be the whole answer, but something like a 57 or SDC out front to get some presence and use the "ear" mic for the rest...

I used to get nice results like this, but got lazy and don't do it as much anymore...

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Post by chris harris » Mon Nov 13, 2006 12:48 pm

sure.. if it's your own playing, then work on technique. and, if it's a client, then hopefully you can address their technique early in preproduction... but, this often isn't the case. And, I think that it's often a HUGE vibe killer to try to alter a players technique in the middle of an already anxiety-ridden circumstance (studio recording).

so, I'm going to offer the "young guy" answer...

SPL Transient Designer. It will absolutely FIX the problem and also allow your player to play the way that he/she is comfortable.

I've seen so many great players with unorthodox techniques that I kind of shudder when engineers feel like it's their responsibility to teach them how to "play right"...

sure, I'll give players hints about how to make getting great sounds easier. but, in the end, it's my job to make them sound good, no matter how they play. it's kind of like killing the vibe of a vocal session to spend a few hours teaching the singer good mic technique, just so you won't have to compress the vocal in the mix.

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Post by kayagum » Tue Nov 14, 2006 5:52 am

Here's a free technique to try:

Try strumming closer to the neck and away from the bridge.


I tend to pick/strum over the 1/3 of the soundhole closer to the neck.... and I've had people ask me what effect I used when I play live. (Answer- nothing but DI).

Closer to the bridge = less string give = more resistance = more pick click.
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practice with hands independently

Post by kweis7 » Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:33 am

The best practicing I've done for guitar in many years, the result of finally dealing with classical technique seriously with a top notch teacher, has been to practice techniques with only one hand at a time. The classical guitar training was just short of 'Karate Kid' for about the first 3 months but the concepts apply to pretty much all gutiar playing regardless of style.

For example, do nothing with your left hand (fretting hand for right handed players) while you practice picking with your right hand, examining how you strike open strings. Sometimes I'll mute a string with the left hand but often I just go with open strings. Break things down, look at what you can vary and how it changes the sound, practice super slow and observe. Add speed only as much as you can while remaining relaxed. If you really isolate a motion, concentrate, and practice a bit like this regularly, you will be rewarded. I bet you can learn to sound more like you want to sound.

I do a bit of this sort of stuff everytime I pick up a guitar, even if for just a moment. It has really helped my playing (after 20+ years) and eliminated a lot of extra motion and unwanted sounds.
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Post by puls » Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:58 am

I think I remember reading somewhere that chet atkins wasn't happy w/ the tone they were getting from micing his guitar - it didn't sound like what he heard while he was playing. The solution was to put a mic just above his head.

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Post by Studiodawg » Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:47 pm

I just read the entire thread...about half way through it I got thinking about the technique of mic'ing over your shoulder (the over your head technique). Then I saw two responders mentioned the same thing. This particular technique will minimize your pick noise and keep your tone. You can further "color" your sound by your choice of flooring underneath where you are sitting/standing...carpet, wood, linoleum, can get pieces of any/all this material and switch them as the case may dictate.

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