CHAPTER 4 :
How to record in your home studio
Brass & Reed Instruments
Some truths are universal when it comes to audio recording: quality sounds, quality mics, and proper mic placement are three important variables that contribute to a good recording. Other variables, including the acoustic environment and type of sound/instrument being recorded, are more specific to a given recording session, though certain fundamentals will provide a starting point. This chapter profiles common instruments you might find yourself recording in your home studio, and will start you
off in the right direction. Where you go from there is largely up to the sounds you’re chasing in your head.
As with every acoustic instrument you record
with a microphone, the major factors in capturing
great tone from an acoustic guitar are: the quality of the player, the quality of the guitar, the type (and quality) of the microphones, your choice of mic placement, and the tonality of the room.
If you have a beautiful sounding guitar, most
any microphone can do the trick, though a
small diaphragm condenser is probably the mic
of choice in this situation, as it will pick up the
transients of the plucked string.
Experimenting to find the “sweet spot” of the instrument is worth the effort, and can be achieved by plugging one ear and using the other as a “mic,” moving around until you find the spot where the tone sounds best.
Some ideas for a starting point with mic placement for an acoustic include: one foot from the instrument, with the mic pointing at the spot where the neck meets the body; two feet away, with the mic pointing at the bridge; 18–24 inches away, pointed at the 12th fret.
Ultimately, the tone you’re looking for, the amount of pick and string sound, and the
amount of fret noise you want will factor into the
best spot for your recording.
If you want to add additional mics, listen for the
different qualities in the sound of the room as
the player is performing and determine if things
are sounding good. If they are, use a mic to capture that quality, using your ears to identify the best spot in the room to place it.
Another option, if you are using an acoustic guitar with a pickup, is to send the pickup signal to another track. Pickups can often deliver a more focused bass response, so you can boost the guitar’s low end to compliment the mic’s mid and upper frequencies.
A final approach is to amplify an acoustic guitar through a cabinet for a more compressed,
focused sound. Rather than plugging
straight into an amp’s input, try going to an external mic preamp, and then into the effect return of the guitar amp to bypass the amp’s preamp.
And no matter what, change your strings before you record! And if you’re smart, you’ll also hand off your guitar to a guitar tech who can check the intonation. Spend some money and have your local music store set the thing up. It’s the best investment.
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