Monday, October 27, 2008

Where to Place the Microphone when Recording Acoustic Guitars

As Mike said in the previous post, things have been a little hairy on this side, so I must apologise for the lack of new content over the last few weeks. With the formalities out of the way, let's get started with the good stuff...

When recording acoustic guitars, it is typically best to use a microphone rather than its built in pickup. The reason for this is that an acoustic guitar is known for its acoustic sound (i.e. the "natural" sound it makes in a room) rather than for the electronically reproduced sound its pickup would create. However, the quality of the recording is also highly dependent on the quality of the mic. So, this leaves you with two options: either buy a decent mic (preferably a condenser mic), or use the built-in pickup if it sounds better than your cheap mic.

Okay, so I've now convinced you to get a decent mic, and you probably think that it makes no difference where the mic is placed, as long as it's fairly close to the guitar. Well, that's simply not true, your mic placement is extremely important. Let me explain...

If you place the mic far from the guitar you will get more of a room sound than a defined guitar sound. In other words, your guitar track will sound quite spacious, as if there was a reverb effect on it. On the other hand, if you place your mic close to the guitar, you will get more guitar sound than room sound. This seems pretty obvious, and it is... but sometimes it's good to hear the basics. I can see you're a bit disappointed, so let's go a little deeper...

If you place your mic close to the bridge, you will get a very twangy sound (i.e. loud mid to high frequencies with little bass) and you will also hear the pick hitting the strings. However, if you place the mic close to the bottom of the neck, you will get a bassier/warmer sound. The reason for this is that the strings have more room to move on here than they would at the bridge, meaning that the higher frequencies of the note are produced where the string is tight and the lower frequencies are produced where the strings are loose. You may not want to place your mic right by the sound hole because it is typically too bassy and loud there, so your mic will start clipping.

You can see from the pictures below, that I like to place my mic by the bottom of the bridge, but aimed towards my strumming hand. By placing my mic here, I will get a warm mix (meaning a mix with a fair amount of bass but still with a defined mid and high tone). By aiming the mic towards the strumming hand, the sound of the pick hitting the strings will become clearer, which most artists consider to be a good thing because it adds definition. The nice thing about this setup is that if you want to remove bass later, it is simple to add a high-pass filter in Ardour (or any other DAW) to get a thinner and clearer mix.

I have recorded the sound of the guitar whilst moving the mic from the nut to the bridge and whilst moving closer to and further away from the guitar. Once you hear this, you will understand completely what I've been trying to get down in writing. The MP3 is available from the link below:

AcousticMicing.MP3 (1,619 kB)

Other posts you might find interesting:
What Gives a Guitar its Tone?
Microphone Review: Shure's SM57
Sound Proofing and Room Acoustic Basics
Sound Mixing Tips: EQ vs Volume
Stereo Panning Tips: Panning for Gold

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Ardour Recommended Plugin Effects Page

Sorry it's been so long since the last post. Brian and I have been insanely busy with work.

One of the biggest problems with using Ardour is the ridiculous number of LADSPA effects plugins that are available. It's not easy to find a good plugin and you end up wasting a lot of time trying all the different compressors, reverbs and EQ's.

To help you out, Ardour has posted a new page on plugins with recommended EQ, dynamics, reverbs and other plugins. It also tells you where to get more plugins if you're collecting them:)
If you want to recommend a plugin to Ardour, you can comment on the original plugin page annoucement.

Other posts you might find interesting:
My Favourite Linux Audio Effects
Using a Bus to Route Effects in Ardour
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 3: Adding Effects to the Ardour Drumtrack
An Overview of Compression
Sound Mixing Tips: EQ vs Volume