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recording acoustic guitar and voice

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by bfloyd6969, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. bfloyd6969

    bfloyd6969 Active Member

    Hello everyone. First post here and looks like a great community. I am looking for ideas on how to record a solo acoustic guitar and vocal at the same time. I guess my main concern is microphone bleed between the two mics being used. My only condenser mics at the moment are the MXL 990/991 matched set. My plan is to use the 991 SDC pencil mic at/around the 12th fret, or the bridge (pending on best results for the song being recorded), and of course the LDC 990 for the vocal with pop filter. I never recorded in this manner before (two mics for different applications - voice and guitar) and I am concerned about mic bleed into each other. Is this something that just has to be had or are there some tricks that can help with this? Perhaps the cardoid pencil SDC won't pick up much of the vocals? I don't know. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    When recording like this you will have bleed and that is not unacceptable. Using two sdc cardoid mics (vocal and guitar) is likely going to help minimize this over using the ldc. Live recordings will always have bleed. Pointing the mics down towards the guitar and up towards the vocal will also use the cardoid pattern of the mics to their best advantage, null points. If in the end though you are using the vocal and guitar performance you recorded at one time then bleed is not so problematic. To avoid this altogether the obvious choice is track them seperately, which is what I do on most occasions.
  3. bfloyd6969

    bfloyd6969 Active Member

    Thanks for the reply, and I mostly do track seperately. However, I am going to be recording my daughter's friend (13 years old) and she usually gets lost in her music to just play the guitar part itself without her singing with it. This is my reason for wanting to capture both at the same time. Thanks again and I'll give your tips a try.
  4. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    I like the idea of using sdc on the sources, I would imagine that ribbon mics may also isolate better due to their sensitivity to sound pressure level, then again, I don't have more than one sdc and no ribbons, so how would I really know??

    This is an interesting subject matter, one that I have also been trying to get a grip on for quite some time. Whenever you do a session such as this you have to ask yourself how picky to you want to be and can the artist whom your recording handle your ideas and stick to the project in the long run.

    So, let me just start by saying that I have been working on my self produced sound for quite some time. I find that the best recording is when I record the guitar parts first, then sing the vocal over the guitar. To keep my place in the song I will sing the part silently, I do that by mouthing the words but not making them vocal. Sometimes it works, its worth a try if your patient. Then again, you can always write down the guitar parts and follow your chords.

    Many years ago I did a project with some friends that was very intense and required many single takes. This was difficult for those same reasons, losing your place in the song, feeling the vibe of your singing and playing and doing the best to capture that on a recording while making it musical.

    So instead of going that route, we went straight into it at first. I'd set up the mics and get the heaphone mix just right and then we would just play the song. At first I was intending on using a scratch vocal and then replacing it down the road. Turns out the scratch vocal was bleeding all over the place and somehow it added a really cool vibe to the rest of the tracks. I guess what I am trying to say here is that just when you think you know what will sound best reality will change your mind.
  5. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Jammster wrote"To keep my place in the song I will sing the part silently, I do that by mouthing the words but not making them vocal. Sometimes it works, its worth a try if your patient." This is something I frequently tell performers who are new to the recording process, and something I often do myself live during instrumental breaks in songs I am not very familiar with. I wanted to clarify that you will not be able to point the mics vertically up and down but at an angle. Your other choice for this is to just use a single ldc as a room mic. This method will really bring the room into play, so you would need to consider where the performer is located, how the room sounds, and mic location will make huge differences in the vocal to guitar ratio. If you have enough tracking ability you could do both but if you use all three mics in the final mix phasing may be an issue.
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    This sort of problem (recording guitar and concurrent vocals) crops up all the time. It's the only thing on offer when recording live events, so you have to work with it.

    However, it sounds as though you are under studio conditions, so you can be a little more creative. For example, you can use a stereo mic that has nearly coincident elements to reduce the effects of phase interference. I have successfully used a stereo ribbon mic on its side, positioned so the singer's mouth and the guitar subtend a right angle at the mic, thus locating the unwanted source in the null of each channel's fig-8 polar response. You may need to put a carpet down ahead of the performer to reduce reflections from the floor entering the rear lobe.
  7. bfloyd6969

    bfloyd6969 Active Member

    Thanks everyone, great tips. I expected to have some bleed, just didn't know how much I could reduce. I was wondering if I put some type of plastic shield horizontally between the guitar and the voice mics, but then was worried that I might get some weird reflections from it. I'll try some of the above tips and see how it goes:) Thanks again.
  8. fguidry

    fguidry Guest

    Actually, using switchable LD mics or ribbon mics is the way to accomplish this. The figure 8 pattern by its very nature has the most complete and well controlled null, so you simply point the null at the thing you don't want to hear, the sorta aim the area of sensitivity toward the source.

    It's absolutely amazing how well it works. You can also get separation between adjacent players by aligning the nulls from the figure 8s correctly.

    Of course, some ribbons are not figure 8, but that's their natural pattern. And not all switchable LDs are guaranteed to have great pattern control, but I've used Shure KSM44, Rode NT2x, and CAD M179 for this and been very pleased with the result.

    I posted a blog entry about this technique: Homebrewed Music − Vocal – Guitar Separation with Figure 8 Mics

  9. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    I have had good luck using two SDC's on the guitar pointing down at the guitar and a decent dynamic on the voice. A Shure Beta 58A works well for some voices, the SM58 works well on others. The off axis rejection of the mics seems to work pretty well.
  10. botham

    botham Guest


    Hay i am botham student of Mcs and keen interested in the music. I must say all tips and tactics provided to solve out the query of the bfloyd6969 are fabulous. But a preeminent tip form my side is bfloyd6969 keep an eye on the voice quality and opt for that suggestion which should not effect the voice quality of your solo acoustic guitar especially in the live performance. Good Luck!:rolleyes:
  11. When i tried to make solo acoustic guitar and vocal at the same time i found it sooo hard to perform so i give up.
  12. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Someone once said to me that singing and playing an instrument at the same time was a lot like riding a unicycle and juggling chainsaws, not extremely difficult to learn either one but hard to master both at the same time, practice, practice, practice.
  13. Zmark

    Zmark Guest

    Use Figure 8 on guitar

    I often record acoustic guitar and voice together, live on the radio or straight to 2-track. If the person sings rather loudly and plays relatively softly, the guitar mic can easily pick up far too much voice and the vocal winds up sounding phasey. Lately, I've been using figure 8 condensors on the guitar, usually a Schoeps CK-8 or Neumann KM-88. This helps a great deal to control the phase problem, as long as there's nothing too loud leaking into the rear lobe of the figure 8 pattern. Occasionally I'll have the opposite problem, a loud guitar and soft singer, and one solution is to do the opposite: use a figure 8 on the vocal and aim the null at the guitar.

  14. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    I've used two of the above techniques w/ great success - the principle is the same in both.

    1. If you have one (or two) SDCs, use these on the guitar. Remember the null, and point downward towards the guitar, but try to achieve the same results as straight-on.
    This way less voice gets in the gutiar mic(s). Do the same w/ the vocal mic - try and get the rear of the mic as closely directed at the guitar as possible/ w/o sacrificing the vocals in said mic. The closer you get the mic to the source (voice, in this case), the better the signal (voice) to noise (guitar) ratio is going to be.
    Doing it this way, you have a lot more leeway considering bleed. In fact, if you can get a pretty good, clean track from each mic, it will only be additive.

    2. Like mentioned, the ribbon mic has a much more easily directed null. Two ribbons (or any Fig-8 pattern mic) work best. Point mic "A" at the guitar, w/ the null (middle of the mic) pointed at the mouth. Do the reverse for the vocal mic. Better separation than method #1, but you do have to worry about what the "back" of the fig-8 is picking up. Especially consider reflective surfaces like floors, walls, and ceilings.

    Let's assume you're not getting any new mics and must work w/ the 990/991 combo...
    Use the 991 as the guitar mic, positioned around the 12th fret. Since it's cardioid, get the best sound you can while positioning the 991 so the rear of the mic is directed at the mouth as much as possible.
    Use the 990 as the vocal mic, and apply the same technique, while still maintaining the vocal clarity.
    W/ a little trial and error, you should get much better results.
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Some of the ideas mentioned here are great. I too use figure 8s (primarily ribbons) when trying to isolate the guitar from the vox. However, since you've got a limited arsenal, let's try it this way.

    You mentioned that she gets lost without both the guitar and the vocal at the same time. So, record her doing both at the same time (you can use a single mic for this if you want to).

    Then, play it back through headphones while she's just playing. She'll hear her own voice and the previous strumming/playing while she's playing and should keep her on track. Make sure she doesn't sing, or if she does, she does it VERY quietly (under her breath).

    Then, play her newly cut guitar-only track back and have her sing to it. You'll now have a completely isolated set of tracks with no phase issues. It can be a little tricky for the performer the first time, but she'll get the hang of it really quickly.

  16. casemaker

    casemaker Guest

    Using MBox Mini and Protools

    I use the xBox Mini running through ProTools; combined with a condenser mic for vocals. I plug my acoustic directly into the main input, and listen through headphones while I record the vocals (and play the guitar). Placed properly, the mic doesn't pic up too much of the guitar and I've gotten some really decent mixes this way.

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