acoustic mixing tips

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timh
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acoustic mixing tips

Post by timh » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:20 pm

so im sitting here listening to From a Basement On a Hill (-E. Smith), and im listening to the acoustic sounds, particularly the strumming on Fond Farewell. i know this is simple, but i am somewhat of a newbie just trying to learn this art of recording.
whenever i record strumming on acoustic its always harsh and peaks at the actual hit of the strings. but smith's songs are so incredibly smooth. and every strum is so even.

any tips or tricks on compressing, or just generally mixing acoustic perfectly?
btw, im mixing in the box on logic.

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joninc
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Post by joninc » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:59 pm

dark acoustic tone - probably a thinner pick played medium strong. sounds great. there's multiple takes there too - for sure atleast doubled. not mic'd too close - not really compressed sounding either.

what kind of guitar are you using? what's your go-to setup for recording it?
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timh
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Post by timh » Tue Jan 19, 2010 11:59 pm

well its kind of embarassing to say but i play a cheap takamine. i dont know the model number, but it cost $100. but it gets the job done.
recording set-up is a rode nt1a>firebox>macbook/logic.
how much do you think the guitar has to do with the sound? i mean...after eq and various plug-ins, nothing sounds like it did when it was untouched. do you think eq can make up for where the guitar is lacking?

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Post by jgimbel » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:06 am

Elliot Smith always sounds to me like old strings. It's that sound that when you don't want it it sounds horrible, but for these kind of purposes it's absolutely perfect. I think old strings, thin pick, and the mic backed up a good bit. When a mic is closer to an acoustic guitar it sounds more "direct" and clean, which is not what you want. I always feel like I'm hearing as much of the room he's in as the guitar. Not in a room ambience reverb way, but in that you're definitely hearing some space between the guitar and mic. Doubling too, definitely. The guitar he used has everything to do with how it sounds, only so much processing can be done afterward but you can't make it sound like it was a different guitar in the room, it is what it is. That's not to say you can't get good sounds. And hey, no shame in cheap guitars. I tried a Takamine once, something in the G series, and it sounded incredible. I wish I had the spare cash to pick it up. Anyway, I'd probably use old strings with a mic that maybe has a bit of a hyped high end. Dark strings with a dark mic would probably be too much. Just my 2 cents.

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timh
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Post by timh » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:24 am

ya i can see why it sounds like old strings. but thats the dullness im looking for. it just sounds so smooth and not sharp or harsh or bland. everything i dont like about my acoustic recordings.
and can totally hear the space between the mic and guitar. and the doubling of tracks. but ive been doing that for a while.
i think my takamine is one of the G series. maybe. with fresh strings on it, it doesnt sound half bad imo.

i shall experiment tomorrow...

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losthighway
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Post by losthighway » Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:44 am

I would put some stock in the mic choice, also probably a nice preamp, and a compressor good enough to do something while making you feel like it's not really all that compressed.

Larry might know about that record since he was kind of in that circle. Larry? Do you know?

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Post by KennyLusk » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:03 am

To me it sounds like a combo of using a Ribbon mic and a little De-essing.
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Ryan Silva
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Post by Ryan Silva » Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:34 am

I keep a thin pick around for just this purpose.

Judicious limiting, can work as well.
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Crocoduck5000
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Post by Crocoduck5000 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:56 am

Old strings FTW

Then again, my favorite sounding production guitar so far is a Baby Martin. Go figure.

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Post by lyman » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:11 pm

i just listened to "twilight" from that album, and yeah it does sound like there's some compression going on. but also, it sounds the way it does cause that's how he played it. good playing, great song and arrangement. what is that, a mellotron that comes in midway?

i second the "old strings" comment(s).

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timh
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Post by timh » Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:46 am

i dont think he used a pick at all most of the time. and he said that he chewed his nails so i think thats where the soft strums come from. its all finger, no nail.

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Post by kayagum » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:55 am

timh wrote:well its kind of embarassing to say but i play a cheap takamine. i dont know the model number, but it cost $100. but it gets the job done.
recording set-up is a rode nt1a>firebox>macbook/logic.
how much do you think the guitar has to do with the sound? i mean...after eq and various plug-ins, nothing sounds like it did when it was untouched. do you think eq can make up for where the guitar is lacking?
You play the brightest guitar out there, use one of the brightest condensors out there (I have an original NT1, so I can relate), record basically straight wire into DAW, and you wonder why it doesn't sound like Elliot Smith?

Some starting points:

(a) strings. What are you using? Dead is good, Dead phosphor bronze better, Medium/Heavy dead phosphor bronze better yet (if you use heavy, probably need to tune to D and capo up to pitch so you don't trash your guitar). Also, you need to get a setup with as high of an action as you can play- I think this is a huge component to the overall sound of the acoustic. If you're using light gauge 80/20 with a thin pick, fuggedaboutit.

(b) fingerpicking. You don't need much nail- just enough to add extra attack. The bulk of the tone comes from the finger tips. Think rest strokes a la classical guitar

(c) Mic. Practically any dynamic mic will be better than the NT1a for this application. (BTW- I'm not an NT1 basher- it's one of the very best room/OH/front of drum kit mic I've ever used). Ribbons are good too. Experiment and try searching this site for cool model ideas. One idea: EV635a. I believe it's mono, so you won't get a bad proximity effect, and it's dirt cheap, especially used.

(d) If your guitar has a pickup, record a direct track and mess it up with a character box (compressor, even mild OD or distortion).
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~ Erica Jong

"No one wants advice ? only corroboration." ~ John Steinbeck

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timh
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Post by timh » Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:14 pm

haha its pretty obvious that im not gunna sound like elliot with that set up. i already know that. the general purpose of this thread was to just get some tips on getting a smoother less harsh sound.

or strings im using martin sp's. theyre light. thats no help. but i am tuned down to D.

i have a 57, but i really have never had a good experience with a dynamic mic other than close micing cabs. theyre just not sensitive enough.

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Post by jgimbel » Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:22 pm

timh wrote:i have a 57, but i really have never had a good experience with a dynamic mic other than close micing cabs. theyre just not sensitive enough.
I think the fact that they're less sensitive might be key to helping get that kind of sound. It'll pick up the attack more and less of the sustain, so it's going to be a little thunkier, which I think is what you're going for. I have a 635a I got for $50 used. I'm not sure it's what I'd use for this kind of sound, but I'd definitely use it over the Rode. But honestly I think a 57 with old strings played with your fingers would get you at least in the same kind of arena of sound. Not necessarily his sound but something that's at least a nod to it.

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vikingrecording
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Post by vikingrecording » Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:01 pm

Firstly, i agree that it's all about how you play and your fingers. Once you've got that sorted...
The 635 is an omni-directional dynamic mic. i like omnis for acoustics on tracks that need more "natural" sounds. organic? eh... whatever. you know what i mean. Often i'll mic up around the 12th fret and adjust the angle looking from the sound hole to straight on the 12th until i find the sound i like.
Although recently i've been using a 414 in cardioid looking at the joint where the neck meets the body and been pretty happy. But that is for someone who plays softly and with her fingers.

I don't know if this really helps you or not. I hope so!

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