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Old 01-20-2021, 08:27 AM
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Default Two questions regarding spaced pairs and compression

Would appreciate any feedback here.

First topic - Read a UAD blog on solo acoustic mic placements. In spaced pair suggestions, they used an SDC for the front mic (pointed at the neck junction) and an LDC for the mic pointed at the bridge section of the lower bout. Would they use the LDC because the cardioid pattern would be larger (than the SDC) to cover the larger area of the lower body of the guitar? Last night I did some recording using a KM184 for the front and a Rode NT1A for the body and it sounded quite nice.

Second topic - Compression used specifically for solo acoustic guitar recording. From what I have gathered from articles and videos, you should not need it if you get a good raw recording. The last few weeks I’ve been using two KM184’s for recording and played around with mixing the tracks through a Focusrite compressor plug-in and the effects seem to be very subtle at best. If the recording is relatively balanced, it seems like compression is not really needed.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-20-2021, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by SprintBob View Post
Would appreciate any feedback here.

First topic - Read a UAD blog on solo acoustic mic placements. In spaced pair suggestions, they used an SDC for the front mic (pointed at the neck junction) and an LDC for the mic pointed at the bridge section of the lower bout. Would they use the LDC because the cardioid pattern would be larger (than the SDC) to cover the larger area of the lower body of the guitar? Last night I did some recording using a KM184 for the front and a Rode NT1A for the body and it sounded quite nice.

Second topic - Compression used specifically for solo acoustic guitar recording. From what I have gathered from articles and videos, you should not need it if you get a good raw recording. The last few weeks I’ve been using two KM184’s for recording and played around with mixing the tracks through a Focusrite compressor plug-in and the effects seem to be very subtle at best. If the recording is relatively balanced, it seems like compression is not really needed.

Thanks again!
Since the desired sound is subjective there is not really a "standardized" industry method . Renowned engineers have used different mic'ing methods to successfully achieve the sounds they are after.

Pairs of the same exact mic models in both SDC and LDC configurations. ,,,,pairs of the same type (SDC or LDC) but different models or mixed brands . And also using pairs of different types and or brands , one SDC and one LDC. All of these different methods have been used to make great sounding recordings. In other words the "rule" is there are no rules ,,,, only results

"Compression"
First the phrase "should not need" is subjective and ambiguous at best
A more accurate statement would be ...
Is compression "required" to a good recording ? NO
Is compression "desirable" that is totally subjective to the individual .
In compression "subtle" ( or judicious) use,, can often be exactly what you might want,,, and usually yields a more natural effect of moving the sound forward in the sound field , while not sounding "pumped" or artificial.

Consider that the notion that, in the "good old days" the engineers often did not add EQ or Compression (especially on solo instrument recordings) , is based on largely on an ambiguity.. Because recording to Analog Tape itself, provides subtle forms of both EQ and compression type results , regardless of whether it is also added or not, from the recording console or outboard gear.

Excerpt from article on analog tape

"While it’s still extremely common to see analog preamps and tube mics in a modern studio setting, tape machines are a somewhat rarer bird. While you'll still find them in many studios, the industry-wide shift to working in the box has made bypassing tape a somewhat more feasible practice. Because of this, many engineers feel that modern music is missing something.
Recording to tape gives music a certain character. It rolls off the high-end and adds a small bump in the lows, similar to an equalizer. It rounds off transient peaks, creating a subtle form of compression. Perhaps most importantly, it adds a unique form of saturation, primarily boosting what are known as 3rd order harmonics.

3rd order harmonics mimic the frequency response of a signal two octaves above the source material. For instance, if you recorded a low E on a bass guitar, the root frequency would be 40Hz. 2nd order harmonics, which are typically added by tubes, boost one octave above the source (80Hz). 3rd order harmonics are primarily added by analog tape, and boost two octaves above the source (120Hz). This helps signals “cut through” a mix by adding higher frequencies in a musical way, instead of simply boosting the top band on an EQ. As with all good things, too much can cause negative effects.
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Old 01-20-2021, 09:11 AM
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Well, there are many, more serious recording folks here that I'm sure will weigh in, but the choice of mics and their placement is probably 80% or more dependent on the player, the instrument, the mics, and maybe the space, though not so much in a closer mic'd setup. There are no rules.

Me, if I don't have 2 SDCs or a single mic, I've used the LDC as the one off the neck join and an SDC at the body because I use it more as a LF control than something to capture the instrument sound. But, TBH, a couple good mics placed well are not going to sound that different, though, back to ❡1, "it all depends."

Compression, well, I use it all the time because the performer (cough) usually does not have perfect dynamic control, or even if they do, the guitar is sitting in a mix, perhaps just a vocal. It's a rare performer that can balance their guitar playing and vocal performance to the point an audio *recording* doesn't show some improvement with a little compression, especially if you are trying to target a specific kind of loudness and dynamics. Just my experience, though.

When I use 2 mics, I will have those bussed to an aux where the compression is applied. Threshold is the control that is most useful, and in the case of a mix, probably some side-chaining. Again, my own fumblings...
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Old 01-20-2021, 09:47 AM
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I like to use a little compression to make the recording sound a bit fuller. I try to use plugins that add a little warmth also. But the mic placement makes the most difference to my ears. Things like compression and reverb and just icing on the cake after the fact, so to speak.
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Old 01-20-2021, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by keith.rogers View Post
Compression, well, I use it all the time because the performer (cough) usually does not have perfect dynamic control, or even if they do, the guitar is sitting in a mix, perhaps just a vocal. It's a rare performer that can balance their guitar playing and vocal performance to the point an audio *recording* doesn't show some improvement with a little compression, especially if you are trying to target a specific kind of loudness and dynamics. Just my experience, though.

Given my application is solo instrumental fingerstyle acoustic, what has been frustrating in searching out advice on learning about applying compression (and understanding compression parameters) is that most of what I find is in the context of making the guitar sit properly in a mix with other instruments and/or a vocalist. One of the articles that made some sense to me was looking at compression where a solo instrumental player is using percussive techniques as the percussion can create transients that benefit from compression to smooth out the recording.

I’ve got a “heavy” thumb that I am always trying to tame and perhaps compression could be used to smooth it out in the mix rather than EQ’ing?
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Old 01-20-2021, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by SprintBob View Post
Given my application is solo instrumental fingerstyle acoustic, what has been frustrating in searching out advice on learning about applying compression (and understanding compression parameters) is that most of what I find is in the context of making the guitar sit properly in a mix with other instruments and/or a vocalist. One of the articles that made some sense to me was looking at compression where a solo instrumental player is using percussive techniques as the percussion can create transients that benefit from compression to smooth out the recording.

I’ve got a “heavy” thumb that I am always trying to tame and perhaps compression could be used to smooth it out in the mix rather than EQ’ing?
My attitude about compression for solo acoustic is set the ratio light (3 to 1, maybe 4 to 1) then bring up input gain until you just start to hear the effect, then back it off just a tad. Too much and it brings out finger squeaks, nail noise, etc. Also, be aware of your gain staging. If the output is too hot, bring down the output gain.
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Old 01-20-2021, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SprintBob View Post
Given my application is solo instrumental fingerstyle acoustic, what has been frustrating in searching out advice on learning about applying compression (and understanding compression parameters) is that most of what I find is in the context of making the guitar sit properly in a mix with other instruments and/or a vocalist. One of the articles that made some sense to me was looking at compression where a solo instrumental player is using percussive techniques as the percussion can create transients that benefit from compression to smooth out the recording.

I’ve got a “heavy” thumb that I am always trying to tame and perhaps compression could be used to smooth it out in the mix rather than EQ’ing?
Yes, a lot of compression has to do with making things fit in a mix, or "gluing" the mix together.

You can use it to fix things, too, though be careful. I briefly used a compressor with my electric playing but quickly decided it was making me lazy about some technique. Now, there are styles where it's practically required (e.g. "chicken pickin'), but as a matter of course, it's best reserved in solo playing for those things that just stick out a bit much, and not worth a retake or punch-in may not be worth the trouble (or possible).

Something like that is probably where I'd either use a side chain filter or dynamic EQ, possibly with automation. (Feels like this was discussed recently here.) I.e., you only want the EQ to be applied when it occurs on notes of a certain (excess) dynamic, and so you can set up an EQ and just automate it on/off in those parts, or if there are a lot, use a compressor, but filter it for the EQ range where your thumb is causing problems, adjusting threshold to just hit the dynamic you wnat squashed a bit, or, employ one of those newer, dynamic EQ plugins (which are kind of EQ filtered compressors in an EQ kind of UI wrapper, IMO).

You may not want any "makeup gain" if you are using the compressor to strictly target a few notes/frequencies, at least not in the filtered compressor/dynamic EQ scenario.
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Old 01-20-2021, 11:42 AM
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Videos like this from Michael Watts have been driving my recording priorities:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQV2...uEGuZH&index=1

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G7-...uEGuZH&index=3

He's focused completely on the front end of the production (player, guitar, mics, and room).
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Old 01-20-2021, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jklotz View Post
My attitude about compression for solo acoustic is set the ratio light (3 to 1, maybe 4 to 1) then bring up input gain until you just start to hear the effect, then back it off just a tad. Too much and it brings out finger squeaks, nail noise, etc. Also, be aware of your gain staging. If the output is too hot, bring down the output gain.
I'll try this to see if I hear a difference. Thanks for the feedback!

Hope the Edwinson is moving along well.
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Old 01-20-2021, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SprintBob View Post
One of the articles that made some sense to me was looking at compression where a solo instrumental player is using percussive techniques as the percussion can create transients that benefit from compression to smooth out the recording.

I’ve got a “heavy” thumb that I am always trying to tame and perhaps compression could be used to smooth it out in the mix rather than EQ’ing?
Check into multiband compression. You can divide the signal into frequency ranges and set compression differently for each range. (Similar to side-chain compression, but more versatile.)

It can be amazing how effective a small bit of compression in a narrow range can be in tamping down problems.
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Old 01-21-2021, 07:39 AM
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Check into multiband compression. You can divide the signal into frequency ranges and set compression differently for each range. (Similar to side-chain compression, but more versatile.)

It can be amazing how effective a small bit of compression in a narrow range can be in tamping down problems.
I will, thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 01-21-2021, 05:41 PM
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Given my application is solo instrumental fingerstyle acoustic, what has been frustrating in searching out advice on learning about applying compression (and understanding compression parameters) is that most of what I find is in the context of making the guitar sit properly in a mix with other instruments and/or a vocalist.
I know I've told this story here before: There was an article in one of the recording magazines a few years back, one of those "20 sure-fire techniques for recording acoustic guitar" things. I read it with great interest, all kinds of ideas I hadn't thought of. Got to the end and the "famous recording engineer" who was writing says "All these techniques are sure to work unless you're doing something totally crazy, out in left field, that no one ever, ever does, like recording solo instrumental guitar". Sigh... Tosses article... You do have to be careful about the context :-)

I view compression as something I'd do in a mastering step, and it needs to be done very carefully for the kind of music I play, or else it will be obvious. I don't use it to fix or balance out a recording. That's best done with mic placement and fingers. That said, I do find dynamic EQ useful, which is basically an EQ side-chained to a compressor. You can set it so that when a certain frequency triggers a threshold, you can cut (or boost) that frequency. You set it up like an EQ, but with that additional threshold feature. Very handy for occasional boomy notes, maybe a raspy high note that you only hit now and then. Even tho it's leveraging compressor technology, the idea is more "EQ that only kicks in when you need it".

In the mastering stage, I do typically use some simple compression/limiting. Ozone's been my go to limiter for a while, but lately I've been using Limitless. In either case, we're talking *very* little compression. I typically use it to bring the track up to release level and that's it. In other words, I'm trying to find the point just before compression starts, with perhaps an occasional overshoot. Ozone has a nice display that shows you when limiting is kicking in. Here's an example. That line is showing when compression is applied. So here, it basically isn't, except for that short little divot on one note a few seconds in.

Screen Shot 2021-01-21 at 3.28.01 PM.jpg

I also sometimes like the sound of an LA2 compressor on a track. Again, adjusted to where the meters don't move, so in theory, "no" compression. In reality there's maybe a 1/2 db or something happening, and the LA2 just seems to add a nice color and smoothness.

On your mics question - personally, I tend to use identical mics most of the time. I can see in theory that using different mics could be useful, LD vs SDC, or even condenser and ribbon. I've been able to play with those ideas easily lately, since I got the Townsend L22 modeling mic, which lets me record stereo and swap virtual mics around after the fact while listening. You can certainly get some different colors both by choosing different mics and by choosing different pairings. On the Christmas CD I recorded last year, I used a LD/Ribbon mic pairing on a few tracks, and liked the way that came out. But other times, I've thought the result seemed a bit odd and matching mics seemed more natural sounding.
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Old 01-21-2021, 06:20 PM
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you should not need it if you get a good raw recording.
It's possible to get an absolutely outstanding recording of a guitar or any other set of audio signals with very bad dynamic balance. Judiciously applied compression really reduces the cringe factor when listening to such a recording.
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Old 01-21-2021, 06:37 PM
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It's possible to get an absolutely outstanding recording of a guitar or any other set of audio signals with very bad dynamic balance. Judiciously applied compression really reduces the cringe factor when listening to such a recording.

Do you have an example? Seems like a contradiction - a recording with bad dynamic balance seems like either a bad performance, a bad recording, or just a piece with both very quiet and very loud parts. In the latter case, a bit of volume automation would be what I'd go for. Compressing a very loud part enough to even it out with a very soft section, on solo acoustic guitar, is at least in danger of creating audible, pumping compression - tho of course it all depends on the degree.

One place people talk about using it - maybe this is what you mean - is for percussive guitar. Certainly you can use limiting to reduce peaks caused by hitting the guitar. But a while back when I interviewed Andy McKee for an article, one of the things that impressed me was his dynamic control - he sounded in person exactly like his records. His loud stuff (hitting the guitar) was relatively quiet. His "quiet" stuff - harmonics, tapped notes, etc were nearly as loud as picked notes. So on my recordings of him, I didn't have to do anything special to make him sound balanced. He did it with his fingers. Jon Gomm talks a lot about this same thing in one of his instruction videos. If the performance is right, you don't have to "fix it in the mix".
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Old 01-21-2021, 07:46 PM
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One place people talk about using it - maybe this is what you mean - is for percussive guitar. Certainly you can use limiting to reduce peaks caused by hitting the guitar. But a while back when I interviewed Andy McKee for an article, one of the things that impressed me was his dynamic control - he sounded in person exactly like his records. His loud stuff (hitting the guitar) was relatively quiet. His "quiet" stuff - harmonics, tapped notes, etc were nearly as loud as picked notes. So on my recordings of him, I didn't have to do anything special to make him sound balanced. He did it with his fingers. Jon Gomm talks a lot about this same thing in one of his instruction videos. If the performance is right, you don't have to "fix it in the mix".
That’s what inspires me about you, Andy McKee and what I mentioned above about Michael Watts. You all seem to be in pursuit of a recording that requires little to no post processing because the front end is done with commitment to a really good signal chain (great mics, good room, good mic pre, and most importantly a great player who knows how to control his dynamics).
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Last edited by SprintBob; 01-21-2021 at 07:53 PM.
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