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M-Audio Fast Track, acoustic guitar direct in, and Garageband

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by sirpicksalot, Apr 6, 2012.

  1. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Tips/Tricks?? I have a Martin with a fishman pickup. Maybe if I could just start there? What are some ideal pick up settings for recording? On the M-Audio I have the gain up to about 9 o clock. Anything below that and the sound is just too thin. But the downside is that I clip when I go to pluck the lower strings with any aggression at all. But then I can hit a chord normally and it is way too thin! It's like riding a very thin line between too loud and too soft. Is there some other cheap gadget I could buy to control the dynamics a little more? Or am I just missing the sweet spot on setting up the equipment I already have!
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Taking your guitar direct can have both advantages and disadvantages. When you go into an amplifier, a tube amplifier, the tubes provide soft overload limiting. Recording at direct, you don't get that. As a result, you really have to optimize your recording levels better. Noise should not be an issue taking a direct. However, proper gain staging even from the output of the volume control of your guitar (if this is an electric?) still has to be observed. I would say if you are using an electric guitar, crank its level all the way up. On your interface, you should have a button labeled " pad ". You should depress that button if you are suffering overload on the front end of your computer audio interface. Yes, because it is padding down the input sensitivity, you have to crank up more gain on the interface. Through headphones, you will likely hear some hiss. But without that button depressed, you are overloading the first stage preamp of the interface. There is no perfect only corrections. This noise can be effectively dealt with within software if you find it objectionable. But are you talking hailstorm or, a pleasant spring shower?

    Of course another logical suggestion would be to utilize a stomp box that can offer compression and/or limiting and then going into your audio interface. Unfortunately, gain staging is confusing for a lot of people. Rule of thumb has frequently dictated that two thirds of the way up is what is generally referred to as unity gain. This means that you are utilizing adequate amplification while allowing for greater headroom or, more amplification if necessary.

    If your interface does not have a pad switch, you'll just have to turn the level down on your electric guitar. It's that simple. There really aren't any other workarounds other than an amplifier with a microphone on it. However, if you are in an apartment, you really can't utilize an amplifier. So stomp boxes and other effects pedals need to be utilized between your guitar and your audio interface for better control of your recording levels.

    Up the down staircase
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Thanks Remy. Unfortunately my interface doesn't have a "pad" switch. It has a direct monitor switch and a phantom power switch on the back for mics. As for the stomp box, do you have any recommendations there for something inexpensive but effective? A friend of mine who is in to recording suggested that I try to mic the guitar, and use the pick up at the same time. So I'm probably going to try that approach and see how it goes. I do have an acoustic amp and I have a semi-decent tube mic. The only issue with the tube mic is that it has such a warm sound that the guitar tends to sound a bit boomy when I record with it. I'd be hard pressed to afford more gear right now, so I'm trying to get by with what I got. That's the usual story with us broke musicians though right? :)
  4. Jenson

    Jenson Active Member

    I have a Takamine with direct/in capability with the built in pickup, so I'm familiar with some of your 'issues'. Experiment. Move your tube mic around. Try it at various distances and close locations - eg. ... close to the sound hole gives a lot of boom. Putting the mic back of the bridge gives a different sound than miking near the fret board. Experiment with adding direct/in sound, but don't expect a lot of satisfaction with the Fishman. While it can add some punch, it's mostly for live sound reinforcement.
  5. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    Is the Martin the featured instrument on the song?

    What model is it?

    Why are you going direct instead of mic'ing the guitar?

    What other instruments are in the song? i.e., vocals, bass, accompanying guitars, drums, etc.
  6. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Some good questions here. I hate the sound of onboard electronics but depending on where the guitar sits in the track, it may be negligible. It's really hard to get the quack out of a transducer. Even contact (bottle cap) type pickups can sound better than undersaddle transducers IMHO. If you have the time and patience, try micing. It's worth it. It'll save you a whole lot of eqing after the fact.
  7. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    Another question i forgot to ask is:

    what kind of music are you producing?
  8. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Sorry for my delay in responding... I lost track of this thread and forgot about it.

    The acoustic guitar is a Martin 000CXE which is a small body guitar. The music would primarily feature acoustic guitar and vocals. Very basic and simple.
  9. vttom

    vttom Active Member

    I see that the Fast Track has a mic input as well as an instrument input. Try recording the guitar DI and with a microphone at the same time, each to a separate track in your DAW. Then blend the 2 tracks to get the sound you're looking for in software.

    Oh, one more thing. Does the guitar take a battery to pre-amp the pickup? If so, try putting a fresh one in and see if that improves things.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    If you take the guitar DI and you put a microphone on the guitar amplifier, you will have a timing differential you'll have to deal with. This will require that you slightly delay your DI so as not to cause phase cancellation. This will require that you'll have to zoom in on a staccato transient. But then you could also delay the DI channel slightly more. These are tips and tricks we all use. Playing with different kinds of time alignment can be a fascinating experience to behold. I have even slightly delayed snare drums in relationship to the overheads. This allows the overhead to be perceived as the initial transient where the slightly delayed snare drum will create more beef. Moo over, it can be real cool.

    It's prime sound.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Vttom... Interesting you mention that idea. That was the advice a friend gave me which I did try out. It gave me better results, and I'm still experimenting with the post mix using this strategy. I actually just made a new post in the mic forum which is basically saying where I'm at right now. Which is here: http://recording.org/microphones-forum/52690-ideal-mic-small-body-martin-guitar.html#post389316
    Basically I'm looking in to buying a new mic in the 200-250 price range. I've narrowed down my search to a Rode NT1 or NT5 but I'm open to any and all suggestions from people who I'm sure are far more experienced than myself. As for the guitar, I have been keeping a fresh battery in the pickup, and minding things like age of strings etc... Thanks for responding!
  12. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Thanks Remy! Thus far I haven't had any latency issues, but I have encountered them with my old set up using Audacity. Now that I'm using this Fast Track interface it has latency correction software built in which is a huge help. Haven't encountered any issues thus far with the new set up at least that I can tell with my novice ears. ha!
  13. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The mic-pickup timing issue is nothing to do with latency, at least in the usual sense that the word is applied to computer recording. It is to do with the speed of sound in air. The mic will "hear" the guitar about 1 millisecond later than the pickup for every foot of distance between the microphone and the guitar body. That's the reason Remy is suggesting you need to delay the pickup output relative to the signal from a microphone so that they are coincident in time. You can use the rough 1ms/ft figure for the delay needed or else work it out by using a tape measure and a calculator, but in my experience it is better to use a slightly greater delay than expected so the transient from the mic signal is seen in the blended track fractionally before the same transient arrives through the pickup route.

    There is another more subtle effect to do with phase, which I'll mention here for completeness but is unlikely to cause a problem in this case. If your guitar pickup is magnetic rather than piezo, it responds to the velocity of the vibrating strings, where the sound that a piezo picks up is derived from the displacement of the string. There is a 90 degree phase shift between these two at all frequencies, just like the difference between a capacitor mic and a dynamic mic. So if you have a magnetic pickup, you can avoid the phase effect by using a dynamic mic, and if you have a piezo or other type of displacement pickup, you get best phasing with a condenser mic. The phase characteristics of a resonating guitar body muddy the whole scene, but the theory still holds.

    I play a Martin dreadnought, and have made hundreds of recordings under different conditions using various pickups, separate acoustic microphone(s), microphone on an amplifier (sometimes!) and a Swallow combo magnetic pickup/internal microphone. I find there is no one combination that is universally the best, and have to experiment each time depending on where I am recording, the style of music, what other instruments and vocals the guitar has to blend with, and things like whether the result is for listening or for formal dancing, where it's important that the rhythmic element comes through strongly.

    As examples of suitable external studio microphones for acoustic guitar, I would put forward a Shure Beta 57A as a dynamic and either a Shure SM81 or a Rode NT55 for a condenser. For a stage mic, one of the best I have used is the DPA 4099G. This is an external clip-on type with a gooseneck that you adjust to get the best sound from your guitar. Since the mic is attached to the instrument, there is no variation of sound as the performer moves around, and also you can use high gain before feedback from the PA system.
  14. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    VtTom has the right idea with this IMO. The straight DI signal is nice for live stuff but unimpressive in the studio all by itself. But this particular model is hobbled for mono mic applications in the studio. The cutaway design limits the range of treble response on the soundboard and the onboard preamp inhibits full range of body response - so you get a guitar that sounds a bit boxy acoustically. Not to mention, Martin's HPL guitars are relatively aggressive in the midrange. So blending a mic signal and the DI signal results in a more desirable way to track IMO.

    As far as what mic to use on this guitar with your m-audio preamps the sm81 starts to look like a smart choice because the 81 tends to dip a bit in midrange response - to my ears. Your inexpensive tube mic will sound a little harsh even with a premium 12AU7 tube in it. So the SM81 would be the first thing I'd look into FWIW or maybe even an EV N/D767. The 767 has a nice full bottom that's smooth but not loose, the mids are smooth without being muddy or too punchy and the high's are tight but still sweet. So when you ask about a mic for AC guitar it's important to take into consideration your preamps and the type of guitar you're mic'ing. Another plus regarding the 767 mic is that it's an outstanding mic for live applications as well, especially vocals; and you can drag it around on gigs without worrying about it being a delicate mic. It's built very ruggedly and can take some hella punishment IME.

    You could also consider a Fishman Aura pedal like the Aura 16 or Spectrum which will work nice for you in your live work and add a lot to your DI tone in the studio. If you buy one of those pedals instead of a new mic you can still use your tube mic but maybe use a plugin on the mic track to smooth out the capture a bit. There are a lot of free plugs available that can help you do that.

    You have a lot of options which is what makes home engineering so much fun. In the end make sure you remember to be practical. Sometimes we get carried away with being overly critical about our music, right? It's always nice to remember life isn't just a mathematical equation - it's an art project too.
  15. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Ohhhhhh! I totally misunderstood Remy. Thanks for clarifying! Also thanks for the mic suggestions! I'm adding those to the list to research.
  16. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    Wow some great ideas here. Thanks Coyote. I looked at the mics you've suggested as well as Boswell. That Sm81 is looking pretty appealing at this point. Would you say its overall a better mic than the Rode NT55. I know a lot of this mic stuff can come down a matter of personal taste. Also I'm not completely over the idea of the Rode NT5 for the sake of the wallet. But if these mics you guys are suggesting are highly superior mics than I guess I need to shoot for the higher quality if possible.

    I also looked in to the EV ND767 and price-wise it is significantly cheaper. That's a definite plus in my book.

    With that guitar pedal do you have personal experience with it? Is it pretty smooth or does it make the guitar sound like a keyboard guitar sound? That would be my only concern that it make the guitar sound fake. I'm not a big pedal person, but I'm certainly open to ideas.

    Great stuff guys. Thanks a lot!
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    LOL, I'm glad you now understand what I was saying. Boswell is from the UK and these cousins of ours are so much more eloquent in the way they describe things.

    The SM 81 is one of my favorites and I have four of those. Your choice of the NT 55/5's are also good ones. I think most of what we're trying to impress upon you is that having a decent SDC (small diaphragm condenser) are quite linear sounding, very good off axis, can be beautifully robust sounding with great articulation. LDC's can be a little more finicky to use because their off axis pickup is generally less than stellar sounding. And with an acoustic guitar much of the sound will enter the microphone slightly off axis. So an SDC will sound less boxy and less hazy in that respect.

    As far as pedals go, the right one is for the break and the left one you shift your gears with

    1982 Honda Silverwing Owner purchased new, now with antique tags.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. sirpicksalot

    sirpicksalot Active Member

    LOL@pedal comment! I hear you there!
    The more I'm looking in to the SM81 the more I'm leaning in that direction. There is a lot of love out there for that mic.
    Thanks again for all the help! I'm sure I'll be back in the very near future! ha!

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