Tips, Techniques, Examples about my favorite musical instrument, the Twelve-String Guitar.

If you play guitar check out Playing Technique, or Strings / Setup. There are also some interesting posts about guitars at, you guessed it, Guitars.

If you want to spread your musical talents around, you will find some good info at Recording.

Marketing - meh - I'm probably the world's best bad example. Although you could find funny stuff there.

I've made some music videos through the years, and you can find them and other interesting music at Music I Like, Music I Play.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Home Recording a 12-string

Recording a guitar is said to very difficult, yet you can often hear great sounding recordings of steel 6-strings and classical guitars recorded in modest studios using home equipment. There are fewer 12-string guitarists, but one can sometimes hear a good acoustic sound from a home-recordist. For 3 or 4 years I've felt very frustrated trying to get a good sound from the 12-string in my home studio, but for a little over a year now I feel that my recordings are starting to capture the sound correctly. I don't know enough to generalize to anyone else's situation, but perhaps this run-down of my setup and the reasons behind it might help another 12-stringer to come up with a great sound.

Here is my idea of a great sound for a 12-string, the opening to Leo Kottke playing Busted Bicycle. He is playing a 1963 Gibson B45-12 with fingerpicks fit with heavy strings tuned several steps low. I happen to have a 1963 Gibson B45-12, modified, and with heavy Elixir strings tuned down a third (E strings down to C, I've never had the guts to go to C# with heavies), I can hear a bit of that sound given that, one, I don't use fingerpicks, and two, I'm not Leo Kottke.

I once read once that his guitar is surrounded by microphones during a recording session; this was in a music group comment and I can't confirm this, but if you listen to the "6 & 12 String Guitar" album you can hear various guitar sounds coming from several directions which seems to substantiate that comment. The album was originally released by Takoma, and I don't know who did the original mastering. The CD was remastered by Joe Tarantino, Fantasy Studios. So given that, as a home recordist, we probably won't have an array of expensive microphones (each of which can cost thousands of dollars), let's see how close we can come.

What I like about this sound is the emphasis on the artifacts of a 12-string: the picks hitting the strings and the low action strings bouncing on the frets. Most guitars try to emphasize the notes themselves, but in this snippet the soundhole boom and the fundamentals are de-emphasized. This is actually very close to the live sound of this guitar, so we shouldn't need to change the signal to get this sound.

Recording an acoustic guitar can be thought of as a chain with these links: the performer, the room, the guitar, the microphones, the preamplifiers, the soundcard, the recording software. Each contributes to the overall sound, but some are very, very important, and some much less important to the final result. Most important is the performer, then I think the room, which is usually not given the consideration it should be, then the instrument, then the microphones. I think these things contribute so much to the final sound that you should spend almost all your available money or effort on these items, and in that order. In other words you should be spending your time and effort mainly on performing skills, the instrument and the room, and spend some time and effort on researching and obtaining microphones. Each one of these items is probably worth its own thread.



home automation brisbane said...

My home recording setup isn't very fancy, but it got the job done. I currently record my acoustic guitar using the M-Audio Fast Track.

J said...

I'm a big fan of using "products that are a steal for their price and give their $1000+ competition a run for the money".

Taking that into consideration, I will be heading into my home studio to record my Takamine Eg-345c 12 string (refret job recently done, with setup and elixir lights installed) upon the arrival of my Studio Projects B1 condenser mic. If you haven't read about these two items on the internet, they fit into the category described above.

I know I won't be sounding like a Taylor 12 string mic'ed up to a U87, but still, beats spending all that money when I'm only using a home studio to record my music anyway.

Thanks for all the great info on your site!

Mushfique @ said...

This TM1 is really a 6mm pre-polarized top-rated recording microphones that includes the omni-directional polar routine. Furthermore, it has a extremely smooth volume range, coming from 20Hz : 25Hz, which makes it outstanding microphone regarding noise designers, noise organizations, and in many cases regarding saving fanatics.

12String said...

Too rich for me, if you mean a Pearlman TM-1. They are on ebay for 1,000 bucks and up. If it really sounds like a Neumann U47, well, I've heard them in mic shootouts and I really like how it captures a steel string guitar. Better than anything I have.

Post a Comment