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acoustic guitar, MS-miking, doubled?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by JWL, Apr 22, 2006.

  1. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    Greetings all, I have a question about MS techniques. I've been recording for many years but I've never experimented with this technique as I've never owned a mic with a fig-8 pattern.

    I'll be recording acoustic guitar in the context of a rock band. A lot of the rhythms are up tempo, strummy, driving rhythms and work well when doubled.

    So on to the question: everything I've read about MS techniques requires that the fig-8 track must be doubled, phase inverted on one, and panned hard left and right. What happens if I double the tracks, and put one pair hard left-center, and the other pair hard right-center? Will this work OK?
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean, but in either of my interpretations of what I think you mean, I would say the answer is no.

    I guess, more specifically I would ask, what is your goal in doubling? If to add thickness....I would say simply use a darker mic (you'd be surprised how much body you'll get out of MS on an acoustic guitar.)

    If it is to add dimension, again I would say you will be surprised how much width and dimension you can get out of MS.

    One note on M/S on acoustic guitar, if placement is not carefully done and levels not matched well, this can be a horrible first experience.

    You'll find that the right side of your signal may be a bit weak - afterall, if it's placed too close or too far up the fretboard, you're really only getting the resonation of the strings, not the body of the instrument.

    In other words - try one of the two -

    1 - place the coincident pair farther down the body of the instrument than you normally would and perhaps a little more distant than you're used to.

    2 - be ready to boost the level on the right/phase inverted side of your M/S. (This one can give you odd results, so be prepared to not like it.)

    In the case of M/S, you're really not trying to capture specific parts of the instrument, rather you're trying to capture the width and body of the instrument.

  3. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    Let me give a little more background.

    I currently double many of my acoustic guitar tracks using conventional mic techniques; I will put up a mic or two and often record a direct line (sometimes through an acoustic guitar modeller) to give me maximum tonal variety for the mix. I almost never USE everything I record, depending on what the song needs.

    But when I double, I often play similar parts on very different instruments. For example, I'll often use a smaller body acoustic, like a 000 body, and strum vigorously with a thin pick, then play a similar part on a Jumbo body, strumming with fingers. When I combine the 2 sounds, it gives a much fuller sound.

    So I suppose my question is, how do doubling techniques like this translate to M-S mic techniques? I do generally like the doubled sound in some applications, I was just curious about how it applies to the M-S technique. I'm a M-S newbie.

    And to be even more clear, the "thickening" that I like doesn't have much to do with frequency response, it's more of a phasing, time-delay thing....
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Oh, so you're talking about playing doubles...

    In that case - don't mess with the pan. However, feel free on one or both tracks to change the relevant levels between center and sides...

  5. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    The result depends on how you put them hard left and hard right...

    If you do it with the pan pot, then you'll be panning both sides of an MS signal to one channel, i.e. mono, and that means you'll lose the S signal. In other words, you may as well not use MS because all you're using is the M...

    If you want a good stereo effect between the two guitars, but still have each guitar panned apart, then you'd have to record each guitar by physically locating it in the desired stereo position relative to the mic pair. So, you'd set up the MS pair, then record one guitar physically positioned to the left side of the MS pair, to create a stereo signal that puts the guitar to the left, but with a real stereo soundstage between the speakers. Then you'd put the double guitar part physically on the right side of the MS pair, to create another stereo recording that puts that guitar to the right of the stereo image. If you kept the MS pair in the same location for each recording, and didn't alter the gains or anything, the result would probably sound like both guitars were playing together at the same time.

    If you're after a more close-miked pop sound, you can still do the same thing; just make sure you physically align the mic pair and the guitar to put the guitar in the appropriate position you want it to appear in the finished stereo image.

    This brings up an interesting point, actually. I have seen many multitrack studio guys using stereo microphones and ALWAYS putting the sound source in the centre, as if it's some kind of unbreakable law of stereo. It doesn't have to be like that. If you want to record a sound in stereo but not have it in the centre of the stereo image, simply move the sound source's location appropriately around the mic pair to put it where you want it to be in the stereo image. It will still be a stereo sound, no different to recording a string quartet when the first violin does a solo part. The violin is located to the left of the stereo image, but it's still a stereo recording.

    If you're going to be messing with MS, try to use a proper MS decoder - there are quite a few plug-ins that can do it, if you're using a DAW. All this business of duplicating the S signal, panning one version hard left and a polarity-inverted version hard right, and keeping the two perfectly matched together, is fraught with peril IMHO.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I would normally agree, but the "Link" feature in Sequoia/Samplitude and probably a similar feature in other DAWs makes it dreadfully easy nowadays. Otherwise, I would agree.
  7. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Point taken...

    I have bad memories of trying to decode MS on analog consoles, and finding it both frustrating and unimpressive (in retrospect, half of that was probably because most recording studio rooms are too small to create anything truly impressive in stereo - small rooms make small sounds!). In fact, it left me thinking MS was a crap technique, and I thought that way for about 20 years. Then Mr Spearritt made me listen to a very fine MS recording of a local folk ensemble [Pastance], and it re-kindled my interest. I decided to give it another chance as part of my drive to be as versatile as possible by familiarising myself with as many stereo techniques as possible. I'm glad I did.
  8. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    awesome. Thanks gentlemen. I'll give that a try.

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