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Acoustic Guitar, Stereo or Mono?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by AcousTronic, Aug 6, 2005.

  1. AcousTronic

    AcousTronic Guest

    Since an acoustic guitar is a single sound source, does recording in stereo sound realistic? I was doing an A/B with my song recorded with 2 mics, and the acoustic version of Dave Matthews' "Gravedigger" in which the guitar sounds great, but seems to be in mono.

    I am from the school (so I thought) of elements being in stereo in order to sound big, but now am rethinking that maybe I should do more mono instrumentation, to not cloud the overall playing field. Am I crazy, or should I record in mono and make use of the spectrum via panning as I add instruments?
  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Recording a guitar in stereo can sound in credibly realistic! When stereo recording was invented, a whole new world of realism was made possible via the phenomena of phantom imaging. A guitar is not just a point source, but rather is a complex vibrating object with width and depth.

    Well, I guess it depends on your plans for the stereo field. It can work either way.

    p.s. - you can find out if the Dave guitar is stereo or mono by inverting one channel's polarity and then mixing the channels together. If the guitar disappears completely, it's mono.
  3. AcousTronic

    AcousTronic Guest

    Ok, now your talking over my head, I'm just a musician that is still new to the recording world. When listening to Dave in headphones, the guitar is straight up 12:00 (like a vocal) and it seems the stereo image could be created using stereo reverb. Though, I'm pretty sure that Dave was recorded using a matched pair of mics which I currently don't have. Could that be the difference?

    I am curious if I used my better instrument mic and a good verb, if that might be the poor man's way of creating that sound? I have so much to learn, I wish there were an easy formula so I could go back to only worrying about writing good songs :roll:
  4. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    If I could do that, I probably wouldn't be such a recording freak. If I were you, that's all I would worry about.

    That said, a working knowledge of recording is very healthy for an artist. Get a nice book. There are lots of them to choose from. One I like to recommend to people is Modern Recording Techniques by David Miles Huber. It's a good basic overview of recording, acoustics, gear, technique, process, and other things as well. It doesn't go extremely deep, but it's a great way to get some basic knowledge.
  5. AcousTronic

    AcousTronic Guest

    I'm not extremely new to the process... I have 26 years of playing guitar and piano, many bands and road experience, as well as two albums under my belt from a musician/writer's point of view... I am recording via a Mac G5 into Logic Pro 7, MOTU 896HD interface, good tube pre's, good mics, reflection free room, etc... I have read many good books including "Behind the Glass", "The Engineers Handbook", "The Art of Mixing", "The Art of Mastering", etc... But I still have some 'newb' questions which haven't been answered in the books.

    I know enough to be dangerous, but am wondering if some simple shortcuts may keep me away from endless hours of tweaking EQ's, only to find that I am never quite satisfied... UGH!

    BTW, I found this site that has a video of Dave recording his last album, in which he has 3 mics in front of him... A ribbon mic, an instrument mic, and a vocal mic... So, now I am thoroughly confused...

    Check out video #4: http://www.dmbnewstudioalbum.com/

    I appreciate your attempting my question, but perhaps it will take much more listening, studying, probing and tweaking to find what will ultimately work for me.

  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    A faithful solid stereo image is a mandatory requirement in a great recording. A singer songwriter with a guitar or just a guitar is a golden opportunity to get a really exciting result with a stereo technique.

    You will get the best result and blend if you can record both with one stereo mic array, and I think the best result will happen with a Blumlein array due to the superior imaging. There is no significant low bass from an acoustic guitar so omnis lose their appeal.

    Close recordings of acoustic guitar with one or more mono mics mixed and panned arbitarily together represents time squandered and a guaranteed boring result. This technique bears a result with no resemblence to the beautiful sound field around a guitar.

    If you want to hear some great guitar recordings, listen to Manolo Yglesias playing flamenco, or Eric Bibb or Tiny Island on Opus3, Jan Eric Persson the engineer. The guitar occupies the stereo image superbly and you can close your eyes and see a glorious phantom image of it.
  7. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Keeping in mind that human hearing is NOT stereo but binaural mono (each ear hears the direct source, and then the ambience/distance sources, then adds them together in the brain), a pair of mics with a Jecklin disc or similar can give stunning results.

    Or, drop a 4033 in 8-10" in front of the 12th fret and rock on...either way, you can get superb results.
  8. AcousTronic

    AcousTronic Guest

    Thanks guys,

    I come from the school that stereo is better but was second guessing myself, and wondering if perhaps a mono source and "stereo" effects could give the same results.

    Problem is that an acoustic guitar has different sounds from different mic placements and I would be sacrificing the blend of sound as I believe was mentioned earlier in the thread. Yesterday, I did a couple of experiments with mono, and I will be recording in stereo from here on out :wink: After all it is the tried and true method...

    DavidSpearit, that sight was very informative!! Now if I could play like Manolo Yglesias, I would never have to worry about such things as I could pay engineers and producers to do it for me.

    Thanks again,
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Coming late to this tread, I'm a firm believer in making the effort to get it right in stereo.

    With all the new singer-songwriters out there sporting an acoustic guitar instead of electric, i'm surprised at the lack of really good recordings - compared to some of the best classical and folk things done all the way back to the 70's and beyond. DM and co. are another case in point. Wildly successful, great guys, but not that great a guitar sound, IMHO. I guess it's because they have to contend with the rest of a band all around him and fitting it all into the track. (I enjoyed watching the videos, though!)

    We just did some mic tests recording original and cover tunes with a guitarist using a Gibson 1933 LG ($16k vintage guitar - similar to the one Elvis Costello uses. Incredible instrument, when played properly - which isn't easy.) In this case, the artist used a very articulate finger (and flat) picking style - no 'strumming' per se.

    I went with a pair of DPA 4006 TLs (new - on loan for review) as spaced omni's and an AT 4050 in the middle, all on their own tracks. Depending on the tune, the DPA's were drop-dead gorgeous stereo imaging, (using the trapezoid near-field grids) while the 4050 gave me a little more oomph on certain tunes that needed it. For the very quiet finger picking song or two, the DPAs were too unforgiving - too much finger noise vs. actual sound, so we mixed in more of the 4050. For the louder, more jangly stuff, the opposite was true: Too much box & low end, so we used much more of the DPA's in the final mix and hardly any of the 4050.

    I've found dreadnoughts like the Martins and other bigger instruments get a bit boomy/bassy up close, and while the Gibson LG 1933 isn't a loud instrument by any means, the omni's still worked out quite well in this case.

    As always when recording acoustic guitar: YMMV.
  10. Costy

    Costy Guest

    Joe, could you spell it out please ? Thanks.
  11. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I'm not Joe, but... 'Your Mileage May Vary' :)
  12. Costy

    Costy Guest

    Thanks David. Make sense...

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