Recording guitar without mic suggestions?

I’ve been using Artist at home and after a year I’ve sorted out the best way to do things with my limited set-up but the one thing I haven’t got good enough is my acoustic guitar sound. I have an ancient piezo-acoustic (about £250 20 years ago!) and I can’t mic it up in my “studio” (aka the spare bedroom) as the acoustics are dreadful and the resonances make it unusable. My nearest solution has been to play it through my Line 6 Spider via the pickup using their emulation into Cubase via an Behringer UMC interface and then tweaking the sound, mainly EQing.

Given that sound treatment for the room would be silly money, my choices seem to be a new guitar with a decent internal mic and pickup system, or one of those fancy gismos that seem tocost as much as a guitar that re-emulate an acoustic sound, or some plug-in (I have Bias FX2 but barely use it as I can’t get good sounds out of it).

What solutions do people recommend? Budget: mid-range acoustic guitar -I can justify a new guitar as mine’s getting a bit Willy Nelson - plus a bit. As long as it is less than moving house, I can work on it…

Wow, so many things to consider.

What is the musical context? Just the guitar? Guitar and vocals? Part of a whole band mix? Sometimes the guitar by itself will not sound the greatest, but put it into a mix and you can work with it.

What type of music are we talking about?

I’ve achieved decent results with an old L.R. Baggs passive sound hole pickup straight into the interface. I guess that was with a Gibson J-45, though. Probably not a great comparison …

Without hearing what you have already accomplished and knowing what you are looking to improve, it’s difficult to make suggestions.

One man’s “mid-range” is another man’s low end or out of reach. So, what is your actual budget?

That one made me chuckle a bit :laughing: . It sounds to me like you are looking for a good reason to buy a new guitar. I will certainly not be the one to advise against it. I have a bad habit of buying things that I don’t really need!

On a side note, I’m sure Willie’s getting old enough now that he won’t care how you spell his name. I’ve seen him a few times live. Different at every show and some of my best concert memories.

Anyway, I think starting with a decent guitar/electronics can only help things. However, it’s amazing how good you can make a pile of junk sound given the tools available today.

Sometimes when you ask a question, you need guidance to find out what question to ask!

I mainly am doing favourite band song covers, across a load of genres, basically choosing songs I like that have guitar and bass content to drive my practice. Generally trying to do accurate covers in the hope of finding creativity one day. As you suggest, when it is just a bit of background filler it is not too important, but on say something like “King of the Road” where it is bass, guitar and vocal and not a lot else, the tone comes out. Or Only Living Boy In Bew York where it is mainly strummed but there are some nice fills. On something like Fake Plastic Trees, the guitar is pretty up front even though it’s only a strum.

So I find that the strums are ok, but the piezo twang and lack of body makes the fills thin and too percussive. I have tried mixing a close mike and piezo but its very boomy.

Budget, really somewhere less than £1000 all in. I don’t play well enough to justify a real high end guitar, but I worked on a principle of getting a real Strat when I couldn’t play at all on the basis that I could sell it. I made the mistake of getting a bottom end Epiphone for a P90 sound, and my main bass is a £500ish Ibanez SR650 which I really like. (I play bass in a 60’s covers band - or I did before lockdown).

The room is odd shaped, about 3 mx 5m (10’ x 16’) but with sloping roof, not a lot of furniture. When I looked at treatment, I concluded I could end up with wall panels and bass traps and I’d be well over budget. I guess I was hoping there was a fellow bedroom sufferer who had got their solution.

I’d encourage you to take a second look at the basic room acoustics. What you describe above is the kind of acoustic treatment you’d need to make the room a good LISTENING space. But that’s not what you need - you need a good RECORDING space. That can be achieved for little to no cost and be temporary. Right now your acoustic recordings sound bad because you’ve got guitar sound bouncing all around the room getting out of phase and generally creating a mess. If instead the room was dead or mostly dead you should be able to get a decent recording. A heavy blanket hung between 2 mic stands, sofa cushions on an ironing board, etc. just for the duration of recording.

Take some time to explore how room dampening can impact your recording. Do a test recording in your room as-is, then add some dampening and record another test, repeat as needed. If you snap your fingers while setting up you can get a good sense of how dampened a spot is.

Also you’ll probably want to do a lot of your critical listening on flat headphones rather than an acoustically wacky room

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Yes get out blankets or a couple of duvets and encase yourself inside them. Watch out how you play as well. You need to play cleanly and accurate. Do you have two mics where you could use one on the neck and another nearer the sound hole. You can experiment with positioning. I personally haven’t heard a pickup sound anywhere near as good as mic recording. Have a look on YouTube for acoustic guitar mic technique and also what eq to use for different sounds.

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Ah, that was a worthwhile post. I had tried with a couple of half-hearted attempts, closing the curtains and a duvet draped over a chair, but this has kicked me into an idea of how to make a booth with an old portable notice board I have lying around. I got somewhere with a mix of piezo and mic and a lot of eq but not really capturing what I “think” I hear.

I hadn’t really considered not fixing the room and had gone down the headphone route as the room was not capable of giving good listening results.

Thanks. Nudged me in a new direction… and still got the excuse for some GAS.

It is a very unnatural sound, attacks seem over exagurated and the mid to hi frequency is too strong for my taste. Better to go full electric than this middle ground.

I suppose it depends a lot on what exactly you are trying to achieve. For sure a quality mic setup will be able to more accurately represent the true sound of the instrument being played. However, if one is not exactly fond of the sound of the instrument being played is it worth trying to capture the pure tone of that instrument?

Many things to consider, for sure. One benefit of recording a DI signal from the onboard electronics of the guitar is being able to recreate the setup easily if you are looking for the same sound later on without setting up a temporary campground to record (I have always referred to my “studio” setup as Campground Studios for this reason :nerd_face: ).

There are so many ways to look at things, and you will most likely have to decide between pure tone and convenience a lot of times when dealing with a home recording situation.

For microphones, what do you have available?

Also, simple things like high/low cuts on the way in can tame a lot of harsh and boom. It sounds like the mixing part of the equation might be as relevant as the recording to me. Again, so many variables …

Just an update. Having considered the responses I decided I had more problems than guitar (I don’t like my singing voice, but there are clear resonances going on that don’t help).

I experimented with various display boards draped in quilts and whatever else I could find, but couldn’t make an acceptable booth, so I found some cheap foam acoustic panels and have put about 100 foot square panels up opposite each other on the long walls. I’ve kept the quilted display board at one end and have a curtained window at the other, and that seems to have taken me a long way in this carpeted room - only the ceiling is bare now.

Now to experiment with the mic’ing. I’ve got a reasonable condenser (AT P48) and a Sure SM57 borrowed from the band kit. I’m going to do some test recordings in different positions and with the different mic’s.

If I can get some good captures of what I’ve got, then I can consider whether I need (ok - want!) something better.

These treatments for control right at the mic can be both effective and inexpensive (as things go in DAW-Land).

Might want to hold back judgment on your voice if you are just starting to critically listen to your own recorded voice. All of us hear our own voices differently than the rest of the world because of bone conduction. It’s real easy to confuse ‘bad’ and ‘not what I expected, so it’s wrong’ - especially when starting off.

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