September 23, 2010

Something different: recording the guitar at home

I felt like I needed to do some recording, to try to get more gigs, so I started working on that this week. Recording guitar is tricky, especially at home and on a limited budget. I record using my Edirol R-09HR, which is incredibly handy and easy to use. I think it's a great field recorder, but I haven't been happy with its internal mics for recording guitar. Let's face it, the guitar's just not all that loud, and so you either need very sensitive mics, or you need to mic the instrument really closely. These things have resulted in too much background noise, or an unnatural guitar sound.

A few months ago I bought a pair of Naiant X-W mics, which are very affordable and sound great. I have had great success with them for recording flute and fiddle, and recently, my wife's piano trio (piano, violin, cello). These are pretty loud instruments, though, which the guitar isn't. I was still running into the same problem; I had to mic the guitar pretty closely, or get too much background noise. This recording of En Los Trigales was done that way; the mics are about 20 inches away from the guitar, spaced about 6 inches (which, having only one stand, is all I can manage at this point). It is pretty good but, given the mics sensitivity, the echo of my room became a problem on the staccato passages. I masked this a bit by using some digital reverb; in this case, it was TC Electronic's free M30 reverb. In hindsight, I think I used too much and I don't think it sounds very natural. Once upon a time, I had a TC Electronic G-Force, and their PerformanceVerb reverb plugin and loved them. I hate to say it, but I don't think the newer plugin sounds as good.

Joaquin Rodrigo: En Los Trigales by wbajzek

Today, I did some more recording with a different setup; I switched to my CAD m179 mic, set to the hypercardioid pickup pattern. This is a very sensitive mic with a fairly flat response (compared to other mics I have owned), and using this pickup pattern I was able to avoid some of the echo from the side walls. This let me move the mic back to about 3.5 feet away, and I think it picked up the full range of the guitar very clearly without problematic background noise or room echoes.

I was skeptical about recording the guitar in mono, even though I am really fascinated by mono recordings. I knew it could be done but until today I'd never achieved a satisfactory sound that way. In this case, it does sound a bit brighter than I think my guitar actually sounds, but I left that alone, figuring it would just help make the recording clear. It picked up the bass really nice, I think.

I used digital reverb again; this time, the free Lernvall Audio LAConvolver plugin with an impulse response file recorded in a church somewhere. I am really pleased with how this round of recordings turned out; unfortunately it still suffers from ambient sounds, like cars driving by and stuff, but for demo purposes, that's OK. Such is life. I actually had to call it a day as the garbage truck arrived and I knew that the rest of the morning was going to be filled with beeping and crashing noises.

The following two tracks in this post were recorded with this setup. I plan to do more soon, and will experiment further... I may be able to get away with moving the mic a little further away from the guitar, which would help tone down things like nail noises and string squeaks which would not be so prominent in a performance anyway.

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Prelude 3 by wbajzek

I will continue posting clips to my Soundcloud page as I complete them. So far, all of them have been recorded with my Robert Garcia "'37 Hauser" model guitar, with an adirondack spruce top and indian rosewood back and sides. I'm just crazy about this guitar, and love playing it.

Leo Brouwer: Estudios Sencillos 1 & 2 by wbajzek

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Man, Soundcloud is great, if i have one player here going, and start another one, the first one stops. Makes it easier to compare clips.

    I think all sound good. I prefer the second two, but perhaps that is because they are louder. Its funny how the human ear associates louder with better. They also sound perhaps a bit richer.