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Old 02-09-2010, 04:04 AM
themachinist themachinist is offline
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Question Good Tweaks For Acoustic Guitar?

Hi All,

My name's Sean, nice to meet you! I know there are tons of posts on here with regards to recording and what hardware/software to use, but the one particular subject I've always found it difficult to learn about is how to subtly enhance an acoustic guitar sound with software like Cooledit, Reaper, etc.

My current setup is thus:

SE Electronics 2200A Condenser Mic
Focusrite Saffire 6 USB Audio Interface (2 Built In Preamps)
Samsung R720 (Dual Core 2.1Ghz, 4GB RAM, 320GB HD)

Oh and the guitar, very recently purchased:

Tanglewood TSM 2

I've got Cooledit Pro 2.0 and Adobe Audition, which are very similar (is Audition just an updated Cooledit?)

I was just wondering if anybody could share some basics on what they might do with EQ, Compressors, Reverb, Dynamics Processing when they've got their raw acoustic track down? I play mainly solo fingerstyle stuff where I'm trying to get a very clear, sharp tone (hence long fingernails) and I'm still not very clued up on home recording. When I had another condenser mic previously I first spent six months recording into the topside of it: I didn't realise it had a horizontal front and back, so you can see what a newb I am!

Sean
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:03 AM
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rick-slo rick-slo is offline
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Welcome to the forum

How to record is a very big subject upon which many books have been written and hundreds or more pages posted on the internet. First I suggest you use google and type in such phrases as "recording acoustic guitar" or "using compression in recording". Also visit websites devoted to recording such as http://homerecording.com/bbs/

I would suggest that for a natural sounding guitar you will best use little or no software effects such as compression or equalization. The better the raw recording the less you need to tweak post recording.
For solo guitar IMO stereo mic'ing sounds better. If the guitar is to be one instrument in a mix then record it with one mike.
When setting up the mike positions wear some good headphones to monitor for the best position for the sound you want.
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:25 AM
DupleMeter DupleMeter is offline
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Hi Sean - nice to meet you.

I'll share some very basics with you. FWIW, I've been recording since 1987, and even studied it in college (as a minor).

Everything starts with the signal chain. The better those components are the better your recording will be. I don't have any experience with your equipment, but let's assume that your mic & preamps are decent.

Next - the room. Most homes have rooms that are far too small to record properly in. The boxlike shape and close, flat surfaces create what are called axial room modes. You can calculate the actual frequency of the modes and then apply specific fixes for those frequencies, but let's make this simple: an investment in a good broadband bass trap will help more than anything else. Real Traps is a great resource for that as are the Ready Acoustics Chameleon Bass Traps. 2 of these to create a quick wall around your recording position will do more than spending twice the amount on acoustic foam products.

So, now you have the room tamed and your signal chain is good. You get your recording onto your hard drive.

EQ: roll off the extreme low end. The only thing down there is a/c & heating noise and the rumble from the world outside. It's probably somewhere around 75Hz that you will start your roll-off. acoustic guitars have a wolf tone somewhere around the 800 Hz mark. Grab a parametric with a tight bandwidth and boost it as much as you can, sweep through the 750-850Hz range while listening for that cardboard/cheap sound. When you find it, reverse the gain on that EQ band to a cut -2dB to -4dB depending, and widen the band a bit to make it smooth (2/3 octave - 1 full octave Q area). Lastly, for the brightness you want, add a high shelving EQ starting around 4k, just boost about 2dB or so to add sparkle and clarity. Now, if you need a little low end to oomph too: that's somewhere in the 100Hz area. Just a small boost with the EQ will add some size to the recording, and since you've already tamed the sub frequencies, there is no fear of adding mud.

Compression: Be careful. Using a compressor so that it's unnoticeable is an art more than a science. And, a good compressor is a definite requirement. If you don't have a good outboard comp to track with, use the best plugin available to you. Set the attack to the slowest and the release to the fastest setting. Set the threshold so that you are below your average level. Now, speed up the attack as you listen and stop when you hear it kicking in and you're getting a good 3dB of compression. From there, slow down the release until the effect is smooth.

Reverb: setup a good sounding 'verb on a bus and using the send from the guitar's channel, bring up the send volume until you just notice it. Then I always back-off a hair from there to keep it natural.

And one last thing: record with plenty of headroom. Your peaks should be around -12dB on your DAWs meters. That gives you plenty of headroom for plugins to do their work and to keep from overloading internal busses.

Recording is an art - much like playing. Dive in, experiment and have fun with it. You'll hone your skills over time.
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Old 02-09-2010, 04:40 PM
themachinist themachinist is offline
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Wow, thanks so much for your advice! It's very valuable to me and I feel is giving me a good push down the road of home recording. I've just recorded a cut of something so I'm going to set about EQing, etc to find that perfect subtle touch.

Thanks again!

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Old 02-10-2010, 05:19 AM
dweezil dweezil is offline
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Quote:
EQ: roll off the extreme low end. The only thing down there is a/c & heating noise and the rumble from the world outside. It's probably somewhere around 75Hz that you will start your roll-off.
Even when it's solo acoustic?
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Old 02-10-2010, 08:31 AM
DupleMeter DupleMeter is offline
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Originally Posted by dweezil View Post
Even when it's solo acoustic?
Absolutely! Bass management (low end EQ roll-off), is always necessary. Quite frankly, it's the biggest difference between 'home' mixes & 'professional' mixes. It's one of the first things you learn if you take any engineering courses in a school.

Low frequencies produce a huge amount of energy. And you need to cut them where they are not needed to bring them inline with the rest of the frequencies. Failure to do so will make everything up the chain from that (channel plugins, sends, master bus plugins) behave erratically and reduce headroom, clarity & the stereo soundstage.
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Old 02-10-2010, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by dweezil View Post
Even when it's solo acoustic?
What Steve said is correct most of the time and solo guitar is no exception.
Rolling off the lows can help the guitar sound a little cleaner and tighter. In my recording environment where low frequency background noise is very minimal I usually do not need to do it. When I do use it I usually start at a lower hertz, say around forty or sixty to keep some margin between it and the low note frequency of the guitar. Since every software manipulation degrades the digital bits to some degree, even with very good software programs, I am cautious about using something unless the specific benefit of doing so over weighs that.
Try a low frequency roll off on one of your guitar recordings and see if it seems to help. Let your ears be the judge. Just remember though that what you monitor with has to be able to pick up those low frequency sounds. Cheap headphones or speakers will miss a lot.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:45 PM
DupleMeter DupleMeter is offline
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Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Try a low frequency roll off on one of your guitar recordings and see if it seems to help. Let your ears be the judge. Just remember though that what you monitor with has to be able to pick up those low frequency sounds. Cheap headphones or speakers will miss a lot.
Better yet - use an FFT to see the low-end energy stealing volume and clarity from your recordings.

Remember - the lowest note on a standard tuned guitar is 82.4 Hz. Tune down a half step and your around 77.8 Hz,a whole step down is 73.4 Hz. The trick for setting a high-pass filter by ear is to start lower than you need it and slowly bring the frequency up while listening to the track. When you notice it thinning out the track, back it off and rest assured that it's right where it needs to be.

And - do this before any other processing (especially a compressor).

I also recommend a roll off on the master bus set around 40 Hz (not a high-pass, but an actual low shelving filter) if it's a multitrack. Keeps the inevitable build up of sub-harmonics in check. 40Hz is just under the lowest note on a bass guitar. If you have a piano, find a frequency chart and figure out where the lowest note used is and aim for just under that.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:31 AM
dweezil dweezil is offline
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Quote:
use an FFT
Can you suggest a VST one?
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:04 AM
deepnback deepnback is offline
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Hi I tried this one and it works fine: http://rekkerd.org/dtblkfx/

BTW - DupleMeters basic rules for a good acoustic sound are 100% correct. Very compressed and more worth than some expensive gear or books. Thumbs up!

I usually use no FFT, but found a couple of VST Plugs very valuable. These are as EQ the DDMF LP 10 EQ (http://www.ddmf.eu/ ) - thanks to Rumi11 for the tipp. Just enter DupleMeters recommanded setting to the different bands and your sound will win.

A great reverb is this SIR plug. http://www.knufinke.de/sir/
I use this tool as Limiter: http://www.voxengo.com/product/elephant/ - it can also adds kind of smooth compression.

Hope that helps.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:32 AM
dweezil dweezil is offline
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Wooo - thanks!
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:01 PM
DupleMeter DupleMeter is offline
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Sorry - I don't know of any VST based EQs with an FFT.

I use a Mac and Digital Performer. DP comes with an incredible sounding EQ that includes an FFT.

The thing that the FFT will do is help you 'see' what you 'hear'. Once you get your ears better trained, you won't need the FFT. Then you can relegate it to tuning a sound system
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:31 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DupleMeter View Post
Better yet - use an FFT to see the low-end energy stealing volume and clarity from your recordings.

Remember - the lowest note on a standard tuned guitar is 82.4 Hz. Tune down a half step and your around 77.8 Hz,a whole step down is 73.4 Hz. The trick for setting a high-pass filter by ear is to start lower than you need it and slowly bring the frequency up while listening to the track. When you notice it thinning out the track, back it off and rest assured that it's right where it needs to be.

And - do this before any other processing (especially a compressor).

I also recommend a roll off on the master bus set around 40 Hz (not a high-pass, but an actual low shelving filter) if it's a multitrack. Keeps the inevitable build up of sub-harmonics in check. 40Hz is just under the lowest note on a bass guitar. If you have a piano, find a frequency chart and figure out where the lowest note used is and aim for just under that.
The lowest fundamental frequency from a guitar string tuned to standard tuning is 82 Hz. The guitar itself, however, produces frequencies below that frequency. These subharmonic frequencies are part of the natural sound produced by the instrument. Cutting those frequencies certainly has benefits, as has been pointed out, but it also is detrimental because the resulting mix is less accurate and authentic.
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Old 02-11-2010, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
The lowest fundamental frequency from a guitar string tuned to standard tuning is 82 Hz. The guitar itself, however, produces frequencies below that frequency. These subharmonic frequencies are part of the natural sound produced by the instrument. Cutting those frequencies certainly has benefits, as has been pointed out, but it also is detrimental because the resulting mix is less accurate and authentic.
This is true Steve, the body of the acoustic guitar gives off some lower frequencies, which is part of the reason why when I do cut off low frequencies I do not begin evaluating that close to the lowest string frequency. Also there is a bell curve, not really a point, around the cutoff frequency selected, plus some filter artifacts. However as always use your ears to decide.
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Old 02-11-2010, 08:25 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
This is true Steve, the body of the acoustic guitar gives off some lower frequencies, which is part of the reason why when I do cut off low frequencies I do not begin evaluating that close to the lowest string frequency. Also there is a bell curve, not really a point, around the cutoff frequency selected, plus some filter artifacts. However as always use your ears to decide.
+1 on that. I like to preserve some of those sub-lowest fundamental frequencies (I guess you could call them such), but still use some high pass or shelving eq. I have a few different options to do this, one hardware solution when tracking and several software options post-tracking. The hardware low cut option is tied to one particular preamp with 6 dB/octave rolloff in the 20-180Hz range with 10 corner frequency choices. It's the finest rolloff I've ever used - totally transparent and invisible, but it's tied to a preamp and once set it can't be changed later. The software solutions I have are all pretty good - they certainly are a tweaker's delight - but I do notice a hint of artifact akin to "I've been here". Of course, those can be changed post-tracking which is quite versatile.
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