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classical guitar

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by ozmorphasis, Jan 5, 2005.

  1. ozmorphasis

    ozmorphasis Guest

    Hey all,

    I've been digging this new forum Index! Thanks for all the great info so far, and keep it up!

    Was just wondering what some of the fave mics and micing techniqus are for recording solo classical guitar.

    Also, I will be doing another session with classicall guitar and male voice. What is a good way to deal with this? The vocalist is considerably louder than the guitarist in many passages. How does one set up in order to not have the guitar mics overwhelmed by the vocalist?. Also, the character of this music is such that the vocalist should be miced up close(ie not classical).

    Mics that I currently own:(I would like to settle down on a mic setup that is outstanding for classical guitar. So, I'm willing to buy something new if these don't cut it)

    Shure: ksm-44
    Soundelux: U195
    AT 4051 pair
    Oktava: mc012

    Pres: DAV BG1
    Peavey VMP2(too colored obviously)
    MOtu 896HD built in pres

    Much thanks in advance to all!
  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I use a mid-side pickup more often than just about anything else for classical guitar recording. Lately, I've done a couple gigs with a Royer SF-24 and I'm getting probably the best classical guitar sound I've ever gotten. Normally, I use an AKG 426 or perhaps an AKG C-34. I've also used Schoeps MK4 and MK3 (?) capsules in a combination to make a M-S mic with good luck.

    If you can control the floor reflections, I've done an "ORTF" type pickup using my B&K 4006s on a stereo bar and it seems to work quite well- probably because they space proportionally to the size of the sound source. In concert work, I will usually mic from underneath the instrument to keep the mics out of the visual sightlines of the audience.

    If they absolutely cannot see microphones, the Schoeps and Sanken boundary mics can work well.

  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm starting to notice a trend here - Ben's a M-S Guy and I'm an A-B guy. Oh well, they both work really well.

    I just did a recording of the McLean Symphony here in Northern VA with classical guitarist Gray Snead. There were so many mics covering this guy, it was almost impossible to see him from the audience. They weren't all mine - I had a Schoeps CMC6 Mk 21 and an Oktava tube mic on the same stand. The tube was oriented pointing from the base of the instrument upwards towards the tone hole, but several inches back. The Schoeps was angled similarly, but aiming towards the base of the neck (a little higher than the base). All the other mics were - 2 TLM 103s placed there by the "other" recording guy (he's the orchestra's regular 'free' recordist - I was hired by the guitarist) and a Senn dynamic mic for the house engineer. All in all, it looked like we were about to launch the poor guy into space!

    BTW...I swear, I'll be posting some samples on my web-site soon. I used to have them there, but my site crashed and I had to rebuild everything.

    Now, all that being said, you don't have any of the gear I mentioned and it doesn't really answer your question all that much.

    Any of your pres will do the trick - the Peavey isn't unusable, just realize its colorations and use them to your advantage.

    Personally, for classical guitar, I would think you could successfully use any combination of the mics you have listed. I would lean towards the ATs or the Oktavas for the neck and perhaps the Soundelux for the body.

    Of course, you could do SDCs on the guitar in its entirety and get great results. (the AT pair.)

    I think, if you mic the guitar relatively close and the vocalist relatively close, you should be okay - not too much uncontrollable bleed.

    BTW...you mentioned this is a session? not a concert right? If it's a session, play around with musician placement. Don't aggrevate the musicians, but by all means, see if they're willing to move around a bit. If it's a concert, good luck! No matter what you try to do, someone or something will almost always mess it up. :evil: (not ruin it, but for example, even though you told the vocalist a thousand times not to "eat" the condenser mic, they will, etc.)

    Good luck!

  4. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Nah- I use what works for a given situation. For solo piano and guitar, I find that M-S can work quite well. Occasionally, I'll use it for an orchestra, too... I probably use Blumlein more than anything- the rear lobes get in the way of the sound for solo guitar, though (floor reflections most often).

    In many cases, I don't like mid-side because I don't like the out of phase nature of the side microphone.

  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    True, True. In that case, I'll add Ben's a Fig 8 guy and I'm an omni guy. Not to say that we're one trick ponies, but we do have a comfort zone. :)
  6. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The micpre choice is easy-- your Broadhurst gardens is tops. For mics, the only one I have experience with is the KM184, which I would avoid if possible, but I do not know how this compares with your others.

    I reach first for omnis (as Ben described) for this sort of thing. But I don't think you have any, so plan B:

    Take the time to try different things, and experiment with a gobo to block the voice from your guitar mics-- something like 3/4 ply with lambswool on both sides (not unlike a Jecklin disc).

    IMHO avoiding brittle and bright is the goal.

    And if possible find a resonant room that isn't too huge to record in---late at night!

  7. ozmorphasis

    ozmorphasis Guest


    Thanks for all the great thoughts and ideas. I have done quite a bit with the m/s setup using the shure with a sdc. They come out quite nice much of the time. I like having the control over the stereo image with that setup.

    One interesting point...I often find that I am at first excited by the width that is possible with the m/s setup, and then find that it is not very natural sounding. As I adjust it, I find that I go closer and closer to mono to get it sounding natural(in terms of instrument tone). Often, I found that I need it to be nearly completely folded to mono for the right tone. Of course, at that point, the whole stereo image is a lost cause. :roll:

    I'm assuming that this means that some phase problems are happening. Is this what you were referring to Ben?

    By the way Ben, when were you at USC? I went there as well(for my classical guitar degree) Yes, I am the guitarist to be recorded as well. :oops:

    I have to say that I would love to try some omni recrdings with the guitar. Which omnis are your faves for that Sonarec?

    Thanks again to all!

  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Not exactly...

    The phase thing I was talking about is because to decode Mid Side, you split the side (a fig-8) and invert phase. The matrix then makes your Left-right signal. If you listen to your sides alone, you hear a signal that is exactly 180 degrees out of phase with itself. When summed, you loose it completely (hence the perfect mono compatability). What that also means, though, is that if a lot of ambient information is coming in through the side mic, you will hear things out of phase. I notice it most of all when the applause starts in a concert. All of a sudden, there is much more side information versus the middle and the phase can sound strange...

    Ahh... Another that suffered through USC. I did my Master's there in clarinet performance, actually. Graduated in '99 with it. I still do a lot of recording around there (a lot of recitals and I record the choirs and composition departmental stuff there...).

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    I'll jump in and answer your question about the omni mics. Being an omni freak, I would easily lean towards the Schoeps in this case. I would say, that in most cases, the Schoeps are my safety mics - only because they are genuinely neutral. You may even try their MK21 - wide cardioid. These have that omni sound with just a little bit more rejection of off axis high frequencies.

  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Interesting tale about all those mics, Jeremy! (I guess no one dared bring up the idea of a splitter, or giving the house sound guy a feed from either of your boards?)

    I've been there as well, when somehow, some way, you're elbow to elbow with ANOTHER guy (often a hobbyist doing it for fun/experience) doing it for Free (ie: Undercutting) with an orchestra or ensemble. Nothing says: "Hey, this is really easy and cheap to do" better than NOT charging someone. Oiy....

    I have a baroque group that uses a "Freebie" guy on Fridays, and hires us to do their Saturday & Sunday concerts. (all three happen in separate venues, so it's a moving target, in many ways.) The weird parts happen when we get some of his recordings to compile for a grant or a broadcast. THEN I have the unpleasant task of explaining to them why his stuff doesn't match ours, and why the sound is inconsistent.

    I'm completely uninformed about Octava mics. I've avoided them early on because I heard it was tough to find good, consistent ones (myth or ?) and they seemed to be a Guitar-Center/Sam Ash favorite for a while there. I'm probably looking at the wrong models as well.....any thoughts on these?
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yep, wayyyyy too many mics. I told the other guys that they could patch out of my board, but neither of them wanted to do it.

    As for the Oktavas - yes, they can suck the big one. However, for the money, they can be amazing tools. What I do is I wait for GC to run them on sale at ridiculous prices and then go in and buy a few. (For example, I got the tube mic for $99, on sale from $699! Also, 5 MC012s for $200.) They let me play with all the ones they have in stock til I find the ones I like. Then I buy those.

    Do they compare with the big guys, in some ways yes, in many ways, no. But, they are cheap and I would still use them over a Neumann KM184!

  12. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    The thing with classical guitar is getting a solid stereo image, this is the most important acoustic feature to get right IMHO. So omnis and AB are right out.

    Blumlein and MS Blumlein are the only way to record it. I own and have heard so many CD's of solo classical guitar ( I am a lapsed CG'ist) where the image is all over the place, cardioid near the bridge omni pair somwhere else, oh please. Listen to some David Russell CD's and you will hear how not to record the CG, even though the playing is great.

    The SF24 has got to be the best shot at this instrument, bass sound power is not strong from a CG so the argument for omnis makes little sense.

    I want a solid stereo image of the guitar between the loudspeakers, so that the speakers do their disappearing act, Blumlein is the secret.
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey David, welcome to the forum!

    In general, I disagree with a lot of what you've said. You can get a perfectly viable stereo field with omnis AB or a mix of omni/cardiod. One simply has to be careful how the guitar is panned. I frequently try to avoid using the phrases "only way to record it," as many of us here have agreed there are imany different ways to skin a cat.

    The fact that the bass is not that prevalant from the CG has little to do with my choice for omnis. They certainly don't emphasize bass, but record it flat as it is present in the sound field.

    Just curious, would you feel the same - Blumlein only - for guitar and orchestra? What purpose to the rear lobes of the fig 8 serve? I would assume your overheads would pick up the necessary ambience. Therefore, all you would need in that case is XY.

    Just some thoughts.

  14. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest


    If you are feeling experimental, just TRY omnis about 19inches apart at various distances and angles. It seems to me that while you certainly want a realistic impression of a guitar, you don't need to have such imaging as to be able to shut your eyes and know what fret he is on.

    Your point about bass is on target, which argues in favor of omnis. The proximity from the SF12 or 24 won't be much help unless you are so close that the quitar image is from tweeter to tweeter. That is a scary thought, IMHO.

  15. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    But this is precisely what you do want. It is the most exciting stimulus while listening to a guitar. The player is reproduced in your room between the loudspeakers while they dissappear.

    The guitar has all sorts of nuances to do with what string the note is played on, often the third string is used for emphasis on melody, the fifth string has a particular resonance above the 5th fret, vibrato and other string bends are sometimes very subtle etc etc, and accurate imaging is almost more important that tonal accuracy, in recording these subtleties.

    Spaced omnis are incapable of doing this. Also most recordings of the guitar, like the piano are recorded too close. The table of the guitar is like the soundboard of the piano, one needs to be at least one characteristic dimension away from it, ie at least 1m away.

    I have made many recordings of the CG, of both myself and others playing, I test new mics this way as well. But it is a personal thing and this is my opinion only.

    There are so many squandered opportunities in commercial CG recordings because engineers and producers fail to understand the acoustics of this instrument.

    I recommend listening to any of the Opus3 (Jan Erik Persson) guitar recordings, this guy knows how to record the guitar. (IMHO) :)
  16. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Just to add, that I love spaced omnis for certain things, mainly very large sound sources, ie orchestra or choir, but do not like them for small sources, like the solo guitar or chamber music, where I hear the following problems in abundance:

    1. Comb filtering (oboe and clarinet its so obvious, but guitar as well)
    2. Image inaccuracy
    3. Hole in the middle

    These things far outweigh the wonderful tonal accuracy down low, as I said, often there is no energy down there, from a guitar, so whats the point of recording nothing.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    I have to vehemently disagree with many of the comments you make here about the inadequecies of spaced omni.

    1. "Hole in the middle" syndrom is from spacing the omnis too wide or angling them away from each other.
    2. Image accuracy - strongly tied to number 1 above, has to do with the positioning of mics. As I mentioned in a different thread, "omni-directional" is a misnomer. Only in the low frequencies do omnis act truly omni. Otherwise, in the frequencies most easily detectable to the human ear, omnis are quite directional. The problem with imaging on omnis is a myth most often perpetuated by those unwilling to experiment with them.
    3. Low frequency absence on CG. On the few recordings I've done of classical guitar, I have had usable, substantive tones as low as 40 hZ. I wouldn't say "there is no energy down there."

    I will strongly agree with you on the point you make about those who record instruments too closely. While sometimes essential to get up close on an instrument, I often find myself re-evaluating a set-up and thinking - "did I put those too close?"

    Just some opinions...

  18. guitz1

    guitz1 Guest

    What do you think of Steve Morses classical recordings , with his trick of panning each string alternating hard left and right? It sounds gigantic. I've read his classical guitar ( a $6000 handmade Buscarino) has a special pickup with 6 seperate outputs , 1 for each string. Is there a way to simulate that effect or a similar pickup? I love his classical guitar sound.
  19. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    If these things normally happen to you, then there is something amiss other than the choice of mics. Go to http://www.dpamicrophones.com/ and click on Microphone University and you may find that the issues are related to techniques.

    You are certainly free to choose another path, but to me the items above indicate too much of a space between the microphones or an out-of-phase cable. I would not consider anything wider than 50cm unless you are in King's College Cambrige (or similar).

  20. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Its good to have these discussions, but I am a bit taken aback by the quoting of microphone university papers (no specifics) or that its the technique that maybe wrong.

    I have 18 years of real studio and broadcast recording experience with spaced omnis, I have used them regularly for all that time. We have a matched prs of B&K 4003's, Schoeps MK2, Neumann KM130 AKG 414's etc and have used them hundreds of times, on chamber music, choral, orchestral, solo instruments.

    We beg to differ on the results, but its not technique thats amiss, its plain old physics. Spaced mics (I typically use 400mm as the B&K bar is calibrated in), produce phase differences to get an approximate image, this produces the faults described above that I can clearly hear.

    I, and many other engineers, prefer coincident techniques that eliminate these problems for dimensionally small sound sources. They introduce other problems but these are less offensive to my ear in a well controlled hall. We have one of the finest halls in the southern hemisphere to test in, the magnificent Conservatorium Theatre, designed by Nagata Acoustics.

    The main benefit of omnis is the extended low frequency response, not much else. We tend to only use omnis or fig8's as these are the only two types of mics in existance, ie pressure and pressure difference, they produce the most neutral results. All other mics are hybrids of these and suffer off axis problems to do with the hybrid arrangements.

    I can list many recordings of solo CG that are just one big amorphous swimming mess (omnis) and I don't like it, its not how the instrument appears when heard live so its not a good recording in my definition.

    If you want to wire strings to each speaker then so be it, but that is not an acoustic recording.

    Last time I looked/listened, the lowest string on a CG is a low E, sometimes a low D. The E is E1 or 82.4Hz and the D is D1 or 73.4 Hz, so where the 40Hz is coming from beats me.

    Good discussion though. :D

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