Recording Crappy Acoustics

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by SHINEBOXNJ, Oct 21, 2003.



    So I am working with a pretty talented band, but the rythym guitar player insists on playing all acoustic, but has a crappy Ovation that cant even stay in tune for a whole song.
    I have tried every single one of my mics, all my pre's.... nothing is working.
    So now I am recording direct thru his pickup going thru one of my telefunkens...and its usable, but not what i was hoping for.
    Any ideas? Am i going to ruin this recording using a a direct line from a crappy ovation pickup!!!!

  2. M Brane

    M Brane Guest

    Try a blend: the internal pickup + a mic. I find it works sometimes to use the pickup for the bottom/mids, and a mic to capture the top. I usually like to record slightly more bandwidth than I think I'll need though just to be safe. It easier to trim off what you don't want than to boost what ain't really there.

    BTW some pencil in the nut slots works wonders on the tuning isues. ;)
  3. launchpad67a

    launchpad67a Guest

    Yes, I totally agree with the "blend" method. Put up you best mic and find the sweet spot. Run the pickup to 1 track and the mic to another. Both through your best pre's!
    And it never hurts to explain to a "guitarist" that their sound is just not cutting it and their equipment is sub-par! Most won't listen, but the good, ego-free ones will.

  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    You don't say how you are micing this Ovation. Unless it's an Applause, most Ovations are decent guitars, Not great, but real ok. I'm surprised you are having so many problems. Try a SD condenser aimed at the point where the neck meets the body or at the soundboard just below the bridge, or both.
    I pretty much hate the sound of acoustic pickups. they just sound so fake. Blending can work sometimes too but if you get it right with a mic, well there's just no beating that. Just DON"T aim the mic at the soundhole. That is the worst thing you can do.
  5. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    You could try to this from another angle.

    Mix what you have and make shure his guitar is louder than normal and have the band listen to it and see if they catch it and hopefully demand he use another guitar.

    Take one or more of the other band mates aside and tell them your concerns, ask them if they really want that sound on their recording and then have them rag on the guy to use something else.

    Educate them. Play them or record a decent sounding guitar and show them the difference. If you have access to a decent guitar, get it and try to get him to play it. Record it and show him the difference it makes. The skills to pursuade, influence and handle people politics are often as important and necessary as the skills of recording.
  6. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    > a crappy Ovation that cant even stay in tune for a whole song. <

    Not staying in tune is a whole 'nother issue. But you can often improve a lousy sounding acoustic guitar by using EQ to cut out the boxiness around 400-500 Hz.

    Set the Q to about 1, set the EQ to boost 10 dB, then sweep the EQ frequency between 300 and 700 Hz until it sounds the worst. That identifies the crappy sounding range. Then go back to flat for a few moments to get used to hearing the original sound. Then cut that frequency range until it sounds acceptable. Or less lame, anyway. Don't be shy about using extreme settings if needed.

  7. zebra50

    zebra50 Guest

    New strings anyone?
  8. remainanon

    remainanon Active Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    southern cali
    Funny, I was going to suggest old strings...

    Of course if it's drifting you have to look for the cause - could be poorly-installed strings, maybe the bridge is moving in its saddle, is the nut worn? Check out the pegs.

    Have a good guitar tech look it over for $50 - well worth it!

    Meanwhile you can also try running the DI into a guitar amp, and if it were me I'd use a Beta 58, real close on the body between the soundhole and the neck joint.

    Also, compress the living daylights out of it.

    Does this person play really hard and loud?


    Thanks so much for all the suggestions...

    Mic technique- I have tried just about everything... I used an ADK sc1 SD condenser and aimed that just about everywhere. I used an AT4033, around the 12th fret that sounded decent, but still bothered me. I tried a 57 and 58 just for the hell of it.

    Pre's- I have 2 choices really. My Telefunken v672s, and my Ramsa DA-7's pres. Tele's have never failed me on acoustic before.

    I have tried doing the blend thing, but it always ends up with more direct than the mic.

    Strings- He changed them a week before recording, which I called and reminded him about numerous times. I know i cant control the tuning. I told him straight out he needs a new guitar. He knows, he just doesnt have the money.

    He doesn't play too hard, the band is a typical college rock band.. Dave Mathews, Counting Crows etc. I dig the band so I am really getting frustrated by the fact I cant capture the best sound possible.

    Ethan, I tried basically doing what you suggested with EQ and it made it bearable for the rythym track. He actually commented how much he liked the sound, but as soon as he plays any type of arpeggios or riffs it just gets lost or sticks out like a sore thumb. There seems to be no in between.

    I have compressed it, but the more i compress the harder it is to avoid it getting buried. There are 2 guitars, a keyboard player, and a bassist who is playing some pretty heavy lines in every tune, and of course drums.

    I cant thank you enough for all of your suggestions. I think nothing short of him using a different guitar will make this thing sound good. Ovations arent bad guitars in general, but I have always had a problem recording them. Something about the plastic body to my ears.

    I will keep you posted with any other findings

  10. white swan

    white swan Guest

    I was with you all the way, Mark, until we got to that point. I can't quite understand how compressing would bury a track - proper use of compression would do exactly the opposite.

    Yes, compression shrinks the dynamic range, which makes the overall track softer. But that creates headroom so that you can use the make-up gain to now raise the overall and average volume of the track. Compress it enough, and you can blow away every other instrument in the mix.

    I don't mean to doubt your expertise, as you probably are a much better engineer than I am. I just don't understand how you are using compression, and why it is giving you results that are opposite to what everyone else gets!
  11. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Just about all of the cheaper and less than stellar compressors, including many to most of the software ones, can eat and ruin more of the tone in an instrument than they do to enhance the tone or control it's dynamics and that can appear to bury the sound as it is no longer resembles anything close to what it did before using compression.
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Rent,demo,borrow,find a better guitar.

    There is no other solution at this point.I would think that in N.J. there has to be a music store close by that would allow this.

    If you are getting paid to do this then a renegotiation with this added expense billed to the band is the proper way to treat this.

    If the player 'balks' at this idea and knows that his own instrument will not cut it,then stop production until a solution can be achieved.

    It is not worth spending a large chunk of time on, knowing there will be no adequate solution.

    This is the very reason that a LOT of studios maintain a collection of instruments that are known quantities.
  13. spoon

    spoon Guest

    Yeah that would be the best/simplist solution....beg, borrow or steal(rent) another guitar.
    Cheap solution too.



    White Swan...
    I am certainly no expert!
    I should clarify myself better about the compression thing. Yes i would be able to increase the overall volume and makeup to bring it back up front after compression, the problem is even with compression it still sounds like ass... so i couldnt really afford to make it more noticeable. THe more I compressed it, the more i brought it up in the mix and the more it bothered me.
    I am definitely working on trying to get them to put a rental in the budget. He is a guitar player/ lead singer... so convincing him about something he disgrees with is next to impossible. There are millions of places by me to rent or borrow, but he isnt convinced its needed. He thinks it sounds great, but im not just being my biggest sounds bad.
    What I tried was basically eq-ing the hell out of it with my oxford eq and working it in with kick, snare, and bass. I got them into their own little spots and had some luck with it. It is better, and due to their budget and guitar pride that may be the best it will be. Now I just have to try to record this thing again and keep it in tune!
    Thanks again-
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I do not envy you your position on this....for the studio and the engineer its a lose-lose situation...Anyone that hears it will think the engineer and the studio didnt know what they were doing and the client(bless their pointed little egos)is not benefitting by getting the best sound for themselves.And its all about that ego.I left mine in a bag somewhere many years ago whilst attending a Howard Roberts seminar.I was the recordist.Once you've witnessed someone of that much talent up close and personal, and have also been witness to just how self-deprecating and real they can be, theres no going back to the ME ME ME....Sorry to hear your problem ...

    You might try getting the guitar to a bench to cure the tuning problems....and you might try to find a small disphram mic such as is used to measure frequencies in a room or environment...DPA makes these measurement mics and theres a cheap remedy called an ECM 8000 made by Behringer which may work....The point being these are very flat in their response and you can mic a very small area of the top of a guitar...perhaps finding and isolating the ONE nice sounding area on an Ovation will help.

    You could also try micing the peghead of the guitar with a SD condenser...I've found this to be of help with difficult guitars.Over the shoulder and down is also a method which might work.

    Other than that, you could just send on their way simply because of the ego crap.
  16. danfor-2

    danfor-2 Guest

    I had that problem some weeks ago, then I tried placing an omni SD mike above his right shoulder and it worked out just fine. I blended the signal with another omni at 4´from the front of the guitar.


    Thanks.. thats real valuable information. I have never tried mic-ing like that.
    I have to say though... there are some ego's, but for the most part this band has been one of my favorite to work with and they are very loyal to my studio.
    But thanks again, the help has been great.


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