Here, I will describe my home studio setup with getting a great sound in mind.
Please comment below if you have a suggestion or want to mention your gear – or, especially if anything I am saying is not accurate!
All kinds of gear sounds great for fingerstyle guitar. There are many ways to do record it, mine is just one…here goes.
I am not a studio freak or a gear junkie. I try to get things to work with reasonably priced gear and common sense. Also, now that I have been in a few studios to record and seen what they did, I can approximate it myself.
I like using a home studio so I can work out problems in my tunes and dig, dig into the music without the stress of knowing that I am paying a studio on a per-hour basis.
I am finding that the sound I get here in comparison to a totally pro studio is not that different. Many other factors weigh in to the equation.
The guitar, the room, the mics and your playing concept and your recording concept have as much to do with the sound as gear.
Gear won’t save you…it will only give you the sound you put in!
Lately, I am recording on my Maton ebg808c Michael Fix Guitar for a few reasons:
- I am used to the feel of it.
- it does not have a big acoustic sound, but it has the mid-rangy growl I need.
- the pickup sounds good…in fact GREAT.
Tip – Use New Strings
When I record, I put new strings on. I stretch them and check tuning, but the brilliance and intonation are very important. The sound at the beginning of the recording “chain” is what you end up getting at the end too!
I use Martin SP phosphor bronze strings, 12-53.
DO NOT use coated strings for recording solo guitar. You can’t really get them in tune. You’ll see.
I am using a combo of 3 mics and a DI
While many players think a DI (the direct signal from a plugged-in guitar cable) is not ideal for recording an acoustic guitar, it offers a pure signal which helps offset the mics when I blend the sounds.
The mics sound great, but they pick up extra noises I don’t want (dogs barking, my singing, and moaning, my rustling around, raindrops, etc.) Ideally, there should be no extra noise, but sometimes there is.
When I blend the DI with the mics, I get the finger sound and guitar air and airiness from the mics, with a little more “solid” sound from the DI.
If I can start to hear the sound of the DI, I bring it down in the mix. I don’t want pickup “quack” out front. I think of the DI as a “thickening agent” much the way you can add flour to gravy to help thicken it up. No one should actually hear it!
Most people desire a killer resonant guitar with great mics in a dead-quiet studio for recording, but this is what I prefer at the moment – the combo!
The Mic Setup I Have Been Playing With
2 RODE NT5 in an XY pattern pointing somewhere between the 13th to 15th fret
MOJAVE 101Fet Tube Condenser Mic pointing behind the bridge, somewhere above the sound hole pointing slightly down. I need to mess with this!
I am mindful of having all mics at about the same distance from the guitar to avoid phasing issues (about 7 to 9 inches away from the guitar.)
I have not really had a chance to “find sweet spots” micing the guitar since I am not out in front of it, but I am using my instincts.
The “complexity” in the mixed sound due to different mics and the DI gives colors, shadings and a feel of space – it is very effective.
I am also playing around in the mix with putting the RODE mics slightly off to the left and right (about 16 degrees) to achieve a slight stereo effect….nothing extreme though.
I have a new room where I have hung blankets, leaned mattresses on walls, and have tried to deaden it as much as possible.
There’s the occasional car outside, but hey it still works pretty good. There are no heavy “reflections” when I play the guitar in the room.
USB Audio Interface
Decent, clean sounding recommended by my guy at Sweetwater music, does the job. I am not a snob when it comes to interfaces (yet!)
Boss and Roland don’t build the most high-end gear, but it usually works and is built like a tank.
Don’t laugh…I am using Apple’s Garage Band. I am only tracking now though.
All I need is a traffic cop for sound coming in. I’ll probably upgrade to logic.
By the way, the AU effects run on the same engine as Logic effects, only with much less control. They still sound great, even though they are not as fancy
Two downsides to Garage Band – no “de-esser” for mixing…to get rid of squeaks, and no intelligent cross fades. I’ll surely get something better soon.
For tracking though it grabs the sound just as good as any other software!
I am recording to an external 7200 rpm G-Tech drive. I recommend recording to an external drive, that way the drive that is doing the thinking (your computer) is not “writing to itself.”
If and when it’s mix time, I can and will output wav files of each track from Garageband. I found a great little tutorial on how to do this here as it is a slightly hidden feature, check it here.
Just Get Started!
Since I have started trying to record the sound gets better and better magically…you just have to dive in and start. Have fun!
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