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Need tips for recording guitar plus vocals plus harmonica

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Seedlings, May 30, 2007.

  1. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Last night had a friend come by who wanted to "record a song." Well as it turns out it was a 13 minute folky fingerstyle type song. He did a juicy good job, but I had some trouble. I'm used to laying one track down at a time, or multiple mics for something like drums.

    He set up his harmonica holder stand front and center, and I had to work around that. He played the acoustic guitar with slapping precussion on the body and wild fretwork (wich sounded cool), PLUS he sang, PLUS he played the harmonica. Everything was laid down in one take, so not to loose "feeling."

    I used a condenser for vocals, one for guitar, and dynamic for harmonica. I had to put the vocal mic high and to the side of the harmonica, but when he sang, he sang right at the harmonica, instead of toward the mic. I wanted to put the guitar mic right on the base of the fretboard, but that's exactly where his harmonica stand was. I put the SM57 8" away from and above the harmonica... but the vocal mic picked up so much of it that I don't even need the harmonica track. In fact, the guitar mic had a much nicer mix between guitar and harmonica. He would also walk back and forth a couple of steps while he was just playing and not singing.

    So anyway, do you have any suggestions for when he comes back by? I need some tips on mic placement for this type of arrangement around his harmonica stand. I'm not sure if it's OK to post music here, but if it is, someone let me know and I'll put on some clips (not the entire 13 min).

  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    That is a tough one!

    I always get aggrevated by the guitar players that insist on playing and singing at the same time - phasing issues are a nightmare. But I understand where they are coming from.

    The only advices that I have are:

    1 - don't feel that you have to mic the harmonica as though he were John Popper (in other words, not right up the butt of the harmonica).

    2 - Work the guitar mic in such a way that the vocals and the harmonica are in the nulls as much as possible. I like figure 8's as much as possible with guitar - either M/S or Blumlein - MS can be tricky on guitar though - keeping the L/R balance can be tricky.

    3 - Don't be afraid to use the same mic on harmonica and voice and don't be afraid to give a little distance (not too much, just a little).

    4 - Don't be afraid to ask the artist to stay in one place. Even put some tape down if you have to. If he wants a good recording, he's going to have to accept holding still. It shouldn't hinder his performance to any noticable degree.

    Good luck and feel free to post some clips. It might be good to check with the artist first though.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm right with Jeremy on this one - getting this sort of act right is tricky.

    1) Nail his boots to the floor. This is a recording, not a stage performance.

    2) Although I'm a great advocate of M-S guitar miking, in this case I would try a single hypercardioid or supercardioid dynamic (e.g. Shure Beta 57A) for the guitar, angled downwards so the null in the polar pattern is in line with his mouth.

    3) Take a track from the guitar pickup as well. At mixdown, you may be able to use a little of this and less of the guitar mic. Delay the guitar and vocal mics by 1 - 2 milliseconds to maintain phasing with the pickup.

    4) Go with Jeremy's suggestion of a single condenser in the head area to collect both vocal and harmonica. Trying to mic both will result in phasing nulls unless you do some fast crossfades at mixdown.

    5) Are you using a pop filter on the vocal mic?

    6) Keep experimenting!
  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sounds a lot like a live recording I did last summer.
    Try this clip ...

    AKG Blueline mics MS almost 2' from guitar - pretty much centered on the performer. Rode NT2000 dialed to about hypercardioid overhead for vox/harp - also about 2' from performer - probably aiming down about 20 degrees. Small venue, no PA in use.

    In hindsight ... might have been better to have the mics closer together as there was some phasing action as she moved around. Also might have been good to track a direct from the guitar - mixing in just a little might have helped the guitar stand out better in spots.

    Overall the recording came out well - good enough that she released it as her first live CD.

  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Another thing to try from down here in bluegrass country. Set up a single MS or Blumelin pair about throat high. Don't nail his feet to the floor - have him learn to "work" the mic. Move the guitar up for solos, bend a bit for vocals, back off a bit for harmonica.

    The real bluegrass tradition is for the whole band to use a single RCA ribbon. Nowadays it would be a LDC and there are usually at least two mics, but at least it is some thing to try.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Sorry. Double post.
  7. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Yeah. I think it should have been a couple of feet away instead of 10 inches.

    Don't have one. I'm small time. It is on the short list now that I have a bonifide application.

    Man, my biggest problem was that he sings kind of quiet compared to the beating the guitar gets. I need him right up on the vocal mic.

    Actually he's beat the guitar so hard we couldn't get the electronics to work! He said he broke the neck on his other guitar.

    No. The vocal mic ended up about a foot from his mouth, about eye level. Dang do I need a fig 8!

    2 feet would have been better. How did you get the vocals to stand out so well? She must have had a hefty voice and delicate fingers. My guy's the opposite. He sings in falsetto a lot.

    I'll post some clips as soon as I have time to play with the mix a little.

    Thanks to all!

  8. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    I can't overstate how limited my equipment list [read "budget"] is.

    He's paying for free time.

  9. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    yeah, she's got pipes. Getting enough guitar was the problem just because there was sooo much bleed of everything into everything. Sounds like you could be best with a distant stereo pair for guitar/harp and a close LCD for vox. A figure-8 would be your friend here as you could position it to have next-to-zero guitar bleed for a clean vocal track.
  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    One thing...

    The only way a totally live recording (read: all instruments and vocals tracked at the same time) works is if the performance is great. For a guy that doesn't know how to treat an instrument right, can't get out of his own head, etc. he can't expect you to get a good recording out of him if he can't perform well.

    I would suggest you readjust his expectations and tell him he'd better learn how to sing and play seperately. That's the only way he'd ever get a good recording.
  11. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    I think he was real happy to get a rough copy. I'm the one who needs to lower expectations.


  12. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I disagree as well. It is an acoustic performance. You should be able to capture it - warts and all - and reproduce it accurately. Heck, how many of the great blues and folk recordings of the 30's and 40's were made with one mic. And if you don't have mics to make a good stereo pair - that may be the way to go here. At the very least it is a good exercise in mic placement where to put the mic for best balance.
  13. mattkeen

    mattkeen Active Member

  14. mattkeen

    mattkeen Active Member

    Sorry double post
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay, before everyone here goes off and has a disagree fest, try reading my post again.

    I said that if he doesn't even know how to play his instrument right, he shouldn't expect to have a good recording.

    I'm not saying the SOUND of the recording can't be good, but I AM saying that if he can't play or sing, he shouldn't try to do both at the same time. At least if you do it seperately, you could modify each component seperately (pitch shifting where necessary, compression and EQ where necessary, etc.)

    Yeah, if he's a good performer you should be able to capture it accurately as a live event.

    Why is this hard to understand?

    Sh*tty performance + recording device (of any quality) = sh*tty recording. Simple equation.
  16. mattkeen

    mattkeen Active Member

    Fair enough, but its your word "seperately" that made for the misunderstanding.

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