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recording acoustic electric

Member for

21 years
I have a balladeer special with an OP30 preamp. I've heard ovations our great in the studio and was wondering do most people record these guitars directly or a combination of being mic'd and direct?

Thanks, andrew


Member for

15 years 3 months

rfreez Wed, 02/07/2007 - 23:34
my opinion is that any mic i have heard sounds more natural than any piezo-electric under-the-saddle pickup i've heard. I would opt for the piezo under very difficult live situations, or when i'm going for a cold-sterile-unnatural sound.

nothing sounds as good as an acoustic instrument moving air, microphones come in at a distant second and piezos don't figure in the race :)


Member for

15 years 5 months

Boswell Thu, 02/08/2007 - 05:00
I've done a lot of recording of Ovations, with variable results. The problem with the slim Ovations is that the acoustic output is not huge, and close miking can produce a tone quite different from that perceived by a listener several feet away.

Stage use (for PA) and studio setups (for recording) are, of course very different. Pickups are very useful to the PA engineer, especially for avoiding feedback. Under studio conditions, I have had reasonable results with an SDC positioned conventionally (15 inches away from the junction of fingerboard and body), but less good results when using a single LDC or an M-S pair of LDCs that would otherwise give outstanding recordings of large-bodied guitars such as a Martin dreadnought.

There are other things to consider as well, for example, the playing style, the amount of pick noise that the player makes and what is wanted in the overall mix (not just the sound of the soloed track).

When recording acoustic guitars, I always take the pickup to a separate track in case. Sometimes you can add just a little upper frequency zing to the mix by blending in a delayed and EQed fraction of the pickup track, but I agree that piezo pickups are my least favourite in this regard.

I suggest you experiment with using an SDC such as a Rode NT55, but be prepared to move the mic around quite a bit before you get the tone you want.

Member for

21 years

Member Sat, 04/07/2007 - 22:09
This is the first time I've heard anyone say an Ovation is supposed to be easy to record. I've always heard the opposite.

What's worked well for me is to go DI (tube pre can be nice to smooth the piezo harshness a bit), combined with micing. I've used anywhere from 1 to 3 mic's with the piezo and blended to taste, of course watch for phase issues.

What I usually end up with is the DI combined with an over-the-shoulder mic, this gives the most natural sound with my Ovation (a 1976 Balladeer, I believe - a deeper bowl model) IMHO. The DI combined with a mic below and to the outside of the bridge pointing up towards the bridge is another option, as well as the usual where the neck meets the body. Phase placement permitting, you can blend all 3 micing positions with the DI to get the right EQ and naturalness to the sound. You'll still need to EQ a bit after tracking.

A very subtle chorus can help it sound like a regular acoustic, again done after tracking. You may also need to nudge the DI track a bit to align phase, but I haven't had to, especially when panning the DI track opposite. Mono compatability has been OK for me without a nudge, but something you may want to try if there's phase issues.

Finger sqeaks are more apparent on an Ovation IMO, so you may need to tame those depending upon the player and song/voicing.

I hope this gives you some ideas!


Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Thu, 02/08/2007 - 10:09
That's a gret link, Dave! 8-) I'm in agreement with Boswell overall. I have a client (Danny O'Flaherty, currently featured on my home page) who tours and performs with a variety of Ovation 12 and 6 strings.

They don't really sound all that great vs. the really serious guitars, but it's gone from a novelty to mostly convenience now; he's been using them for two decades, and they're pretty robust: able to tolerate a lot of travel on airplanes, etc., things he wouldn't dare risk with a more expensive guitar. (He's fortunate that most airlines will still let him bring them on planes with him when he tours).

I've been working on a ton of his older live recordings, and 90% of that stuff is DI'd right out of the guitar, no other mic on them. (Ugh!) The sound can indeed be very dry, brittle and thin. (the 12string stuff is a heckuva lot worse than the 6 string stuff, as you can imagine.) I've done a lot of different things with the signal at times, to warm it up, thicken it, give it room tone/ambience, etc. (With Sequioa/Samplitude there's a lot of room sims and amp sims avialable, I've played with those and some Amp farm plugs from time to time to get a bit more meat on the bone as well...on its own, it's not usuable.)

For studio use, and also in a recent live concert, I've taken the DI signal and also used one of my vintage KMi84s, each on their own tracks, and it helps alot. (Dont' need much top end at all on either source).

In my case, the artist (Danny) knows the guitar is a limited, albiet gimmicky situation. (The audience & kids love the look of it, and it's so old its new again...he gets questions about it all the time.) While here in town working on his CD and doing live shows, we also had access to a couple of vintage Martin's and a Gibson 1963 Dreadnaught. Both guitars blew the Ovations out of the water, and honestly, there's simply no comparison.

I'd say don't bother with it as a serious instrument if you don't have to, but if you have no other choice, expect to do a little extra work to get all you can out of one. (You may also want to look into what Melissa Etheridge's people do with HER guitar, esp the live stuff. I can tell it's an Ovation the moment I hear it, but it's still not that bad, esp now that I know what they REALLY sound like fully naked!) :lol:

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Thu, 02/08/2007 - 10:47
Thanks for the link David! Very interesting.

To me the big thing about Ovations is that a lot of electric guitarists really like the neck. Guitar X may sound a lot better in the hands of someone who really likes to play it, but if the musician is going to give a better performance on the Ovation, that's the one to record.

As a sound man, it's great to have a piezo system in a live venue. Even if my primary sound source is a mic it's good to have a backup that's much more stable (and less dependent on the guitarist having good mic technique). If I'm recording and I have a pickup on board, I'll usually record it - usually through my Brick. I don't often use it, but it takes about a minute to set up, and it usually isn't all that bad.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 02/08/2007 - 11:43
ovations are crap. never palyed a 12 string version, on the contrary i think playing the 12 sting version would be the only ovation worth playing but i could be wrong i'd have to hear it.

ovations are not necessarily easy to play or have a good feel, the action is very high. besides man if your guitar is called 'the celebrity' and most notably used by melissa ehtridge, you got no pride.

Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Thu, 02/08/2007 - 12:20
Thanks for such positive feedback, Aqua-man.

You were asked for an opinion on how to record them, NOT show your ignorance or lack of class. Nice going!

Meanwhile, the world holds its breath waiting for your vaulted opinion of the 12string version. (They've only been around about 20-25 years or so, so no rush, eh? Glad to see you're on top of such things, meanwhile tossing bigoted opinions around.)

Curiously, I'm beginning to see an old pattern emerging here....

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Thu, 02/08/2007 - 13:27

I just remembered that you were starting out in your dorm room. In that case the direct piezo signal may sound better than any thing you can get with a mic. Small untreated rooms are always tough acoustically. Until you have access to a room with good acoustics, I wouldn't try to chase a better acoustic guitar sound by investing in mics or preamps. (If you can get your hands on a SDC, definitely try Boswell's suggestions. If you can get two try them in xy stereo. But unless its in a good room you may end up going with the direct signal.)

On the silly side issue, there are three reasons an Ovation might have high action: (1) the owner likes high action (2) it's broken (3) the owner doesn't know enough about guitars to have it set up properly. Until Taylors hit their stride, Ovation was the easiest acoustic to set up on the market. They are still dead easy to set up for anyone who knows anything about the proper care and maintenance of guitars.

As was said above, a lot of choices and compromises were made in the design of Ovations. Anyone is free to reject the choices in favor of other ones. But it's just simple bigotry to think one's own choices and priorities are the definition of perfection for everyone else.

Member for

15 years 10 months

hueseph Thu, 02/08/2007 - 17:44
aqualand666 wrote: ovations are crap. .........ovations are not necessarily easy to play or have a good feel, the action is very high.

Again with the blanket statements. Even worse that it's baseless. Ovations have high action? Okay. Tell that to Al Di Meola. Speaking of playing, I'm waiting for that 1:50 recording of Caprice #5

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Fri, 02/09/2007 - 06:52
I sold Ovations for several years. Charlie Kaman was a real visionary and excelled at making a great-playing guitar that amplified easily.The neck design does have a very easy-to-adjust truss rod and there is a good amount of latitude that the player WHO KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING WITH THE S.O.B. can set it up. I remember getting "service bulletins" from Kaman detailing proper set-ups the dealers could do to satisfy the player.
The bridge can be shimmed, and the neck adjusted so that there is more string clearance for those who want to beat the thing to death. Or, to play slide. And then, there are already a couple of shims that can be pulled from under the pick-up to lower the action. Whatever, BaderUp obviously has no issues with playing it or else he wouldn't want to record it.

Recording that guitar is another matter, especially, like BobR stated, the accoustics in a dorm room are...crap. In your situation, I'd look at (2) possible solutions:
A) Try out the Yamaha "Magic Stomp AG". It does pretty well on an Ovation 12-string that an artist I work with uses regularly, live and recording direct to a Roland recorder. She's gotten pretty good at selecting the models and EQ curves that help her get her sound down.
B) On a tighter budget, a decent little graphic EQ pedal, like the Boss, can help you tame some of the "brittleness" that the piezo will emphasize. Try to stay away from the MXR 6-band...those are great at boosting the OD tone for electrics, but are too "sharp" and dirty for an acoustic. But the Boss is pretty clean for the preamp output of the Ovation.

Member for

16 years 10 months

MadTiger3000 Fri, 02/09/2007 - 08:29
moonbaby wrote:
B) On a tighter budget, a decent little graphic EQ pedal, like the Boss, can help you tame some of the "brittleness" that the piezo will emphasize. Try to stay away from the MXR 6-band...those are great at boosting the OD tone for electrics, but are too "sharp" and dirty for an acoustic. But the Boss is pretty clean for the preamp output of the Ovation.

The old DOD Bass EQ pedal is great at that, too. Yep, I said bass. A friend borrowed mine for guitar, then fell in love and demanded I sell.

Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Fri, 02/09/2007 - 10:06
Yes, Martin's and Gibsons are wonderful guitars. I've spent a considerable amount of time in the last 18th months recording various vintage guitars totalling over $100K, owned by one particular artist here in Philadelphia. They include a rare 1990's John Ziedler, four or five Martins (None older than 1965, one from 1938), and several Gibson's, including one from the late 1920's. As we pick and choose the right guitar for each song, it's easy to get spoiled and become a gear-snob with that kind of pedigree all around.

None of that makes someone's Ovation recording situation any less important. Moreover, it helps understand how guitars work in general, and what needs to be done to record them properly.

What really makes me happy to see is the positive, HELPFUL comments folks came up with here. This discussion on recording/mic'ing an Ovation guitar has yeilded more useful thoughts and ideas than one would have expected, truly. Kudos to those who took the time and effort to respond.

The most important thing for getting the right sound that we all left out, however, is the TALENT (or lack thereof) for playing the instrument in the first place.

Actually, that might explain a few things. 8-)

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Fri, 02/09/2007 - 11:48
Another possibility - I remember from another thread that you have a Flextone. If that has the "tube preamp" setting that the POD 2.0 has, give that a try. I don't like it as much as the piezo settings in the PODXT, or the LR Baggs ParaAcoustic, but since you already own it.....