Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

Home Studio Gear For Recording Great Sounding Fingerstyle Guitar

19 Comments

I call this an “update” because you may have read my earlier post or seen my videos on recording fingerstyle guitar for Youtube videos.

Here, I will describe my home studio setup with getting a great sound in mind.

Please comment below if you have a suggestion or want to mention your gear – or, especially if anything I am saying is not accurate!

The Attitude

All kinds of gear ail sounds great for fingerstyle guitar.  There are many ways to do record it, mine is just one…here goes.

I am not a studio freak or a gear junkie.  I try to get things to work with reasonably priced gear and common sense.  Also, now that I have been in a few studios to record and seen what they did, I can approximate it myself.

I like using a home studio so I can work out problems in my tunes and dig, dig dig into the music without the stress of knowing that I am paying a studio on a per hour basis.

I am finding that the sound I get here in comparison to a totally pro studio is not that different.   Many other factors weigh in to the equation.

The guitar, the room, the mics  and your playing concept and your recording concept have as much to do with the sound as gear.

Gear won’t save you…it will only give you the sound you put in!

The Guitar

Lately I am recording on my Maton ebg808c Michael Fix Guitar for a few reasons:

http://maton.com.au/product/ebg808c-micfix

  • I am used to the feel of it.
  • it does not have a big acoustic sound, but it has the mid rangy growl I need.
  • the pickup sounds good…in fact GREAT.

Tip – Use New Strings

When I record, I put new strings on.  I stretch them and check tuning, but the brilliance and intonation is very important.  The sound at the beginning of the recording “chain”  is what you end up getting at the end too!

I use Martin SP phosphor bronze strings,  12-53.

DO NOT use coated strings for recording solo guitar.  You can’t really get them in tune.  You’ll see.

I am using a combo of 3 mics and a DI 

While many players think a DI (the direct signal from a plugged in guitar cable) is not ideal for recording an acoustic guitar, it offers a pure signal which helps offset the mics when I blend the sounds.

The mics sound great, but they pick up extra noises I don’t want (dogs barking, my singing and moaning, my rustling around, raindrops, etc.) Ideally there should be no extra noise, but sometimes there is.

When I blend the DI with the mics, I get the finger sound and guitar air and airiness from the mics, with a little more “solid” sound from the DI.

If I can start to hear the sound of the DI, I bring it down in the mix.  I don’t want pickup “quack”  out front.   I think of the DI as a “thickening agent”  much the way you can add flour to gravy to help thicken it up.  No one should actually hear it!

Most people desire a killer resonant guitar with great mics in a dead quiet studio for recording, but this is what I prefer at the moment – the combo!

The Mic Setup I Have Been Playing With

2 RODE NT5 in an XY pattern pointing somewhere between the 13th to 15th fret

http://www.rodemic.com/mics/nt5-s

MOJAVE 101Fet Tube Condenser Mic pointing behind the bridge, somewhere above the sound hole pointing slightly down.  I need to mess with this!

http://www.mojaveaudio.com/MA-101fet.html

I am mindful of having all mics at about the same distance from the guitar to avoid phasing issues (about 7 to 9 inches away from the guitar.)

I have not really had a chance to “find sweet spots” micing the guitar since I am not out in front of it, but I am using my instincts.

The “complexity” in the mixed sound due to different mics and the DI gives colors, shadings and a feel of space – it is very effective.

I am also playing around in the mix with putting the RODE mics slightly off to the left and right (about 16 degrees) to achieve a slight stereo effect….nothing extreme though.

The Room

I have a new room where I have hung blankets, leaned mattresses on walls and have tried to deaden it as much as possible.

There’s the occasional car outside, but hey it still works pretty good.  There are no heavy “reflections”  when I play the guitar in the room.

USB Audio Interface 

Roland Octacapture

http://www.rolandus.com/products/details/1127

Decent, clean sounding recommended by my guy at Sweetwater music, does the job.  I am not a snob when it comes to interfaces (yet!)

Boss and Roland don’t build the most high end gear, but it usually works and is built like a tank.

DAW Software

Don’t laugh…I am using Apple’s Garage Band.  I am only tracking now though.

All I need is a traffic cop for sound coming in.  I’ll probably upgrade to logic.

http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband/

By the way, the AU effects run on the same engine as Logic effects, only much less control. They still sound great, even though they are not as fancy

2 downsides to Garage Band – no “de-esser”  for mixing…to get rid of squeaks, and no intelligent cross fades.  I’ll surely get something better soon.

For tracking though it grabs the sound just as good as any other software!

I am recording to an external 7200 rpm G-Tech drive.  I recommend recording to an external drive,  that way the drive that is doing the thinking (your computer)  is not “writing to itself.”

If and when it’s mix time, I can and will output wav files of each track from Garageband.  I found a great little tutorial on how to do this here  as it is a slightly hidden feature:

http://www.delora.com/tips_and_trends/export_garageband/export_garageband.html

Just Get Started!

Since I have started trying to record the sound gets better and better magically…you just have to dive in and start.  Have fun!

Please Leave Comments, Suggestions or Corrections Below, and Thanks for Stopping By!

Advertisements

Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

19 thoughts on “Home Studio Gear For Recording Great Sounding Fingerstyle Guitar

  1. That MA101 is a seriously expensive mic. I’ve had a pair of NT5’s for several years – great condensor mics and about £90 each in UK when I bought them. The Mojave is some£5-600. Seems a lot for home recording. Any cheaper alternatives that you’ve tried? Behringer C series seem good value. – I can but 15 or 20 C-1’s for the price of 1 Mojave.

    • Richard. Oops. I was given that as a gift actually, not aware of the price. Another Rode or oktava would work too I suppose. I have an Oktava MK319 large condenser.

      The blend is whats important…..really cheap condensers like SAMSON get hissy when you start EQ”ing.

      • Hi Adam, thanks for all these tips. I had a quick question about the zoom H4: how do you split the various guitar signals into separate tracks so that you can then blend them *afterwards*? When I plug a condenser mic into input 1 and the guitar direct into input 2, I can blend them in the zoom, but I can’t work out how to actually record them onto *separate* tracks, either in the zoom itself (in 4 track mode) or in Cubase. There’s probably something very obvious I’m doing wrong, but I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere! Many thanks 🙂

      • I use Audacity – look for my YT video on it, I show how I split the tracks into 2 mono tracks and mix…

      • Thanks so much Adam – really helpful!

  2. Many thanks Adam. That’s a bit like my son Tom, who seems to get thrown expensive ‘toys’to play with and review. Brilliant, but not so good for us mortals. Best wishes.

    • Richard, assuming you have a computer & guitar….I bet you could even do a decent recording with one mic & a DI.

      Avid has some new interfaces, the roland has a smaller version of the octacapture. Apogee Duet sounds great but you may want more ins.

      All together my setup cost

      $600 (roland)
      $430 ish (nt5 pair)
      and if I bought the Mojave ($600) based on the sweetwater.com pricing.

      I have an oktava I got less than $300, but I did not use it for the more recent setup.

      Anyhow, start slow. a pair of NT5 Rodes and an interface would totally get you going….I know it’s about $1K but heck, add up your studio hours at $75/hr or even $50/hr….

      Another good mic company is Studio Projects – I like those…good luck!

  3. Adam, do you still use the Zoom H4N for recording? I picked one up on your suggestion from one of your videos a while back and I love the X/Y configuration of the microphones and how well it records. I then drop the WAV file recordings into my DAW software and tweak it there.

    • Edgar – I can’t find my zoom! Ha , crazy I know. However, the preamps on the zoom are Ok…goood enough for youtube, but not a CD. This is what I am doing for higher fidelity recording….when I find the zoom, it’s fine for youtube quickies…

  4. Great article Adam. Just a couple of suggestions for the nylon string players out there. Change the three bass strings before the session but leave the three top strings as you’ll never get them to cooperate that day as most classical players know. Also, sometimes placing the mic around the 12th fret can be a bit nasally sounding (if that’s even a word). I move the mic toward the sound hole until I get a more even sound. You have to experiment quite a bit with mic placement when recording a nylon string guitar. It won’t have the energy of a steel so it seems more prone to having sweet spots.

    Thanks again for the blogs, they really help.

  5. So, DI boxes look to be cheap. Suggestions, anyone, on a DI box choice?

  6. garage band does work great. I use Logic express on my laptop and have access to Logic Pro on another computer. Very easy to use. I love your concept on DI blending with mics. Whats your opinion on a somewhat live room vs. a dead room.

    • I had Logic Express but my computer was stolen, got a shiny new mac and….no support! UGH!

      Live room? For classical yes, maybe even put mics way out in the room just to record the room. For my purposes I want a dry signal.

      GREAT HINT!!! Gene Paul – son of Les Paul mastered 3 of my CDs. Use a short reverb on your guitar – a really short one – in addition to the reverb you “want.”

      When you toggle the short one on/off it gives the illusion that the “mics” are a few feet back from the guitar and add presence.

      That may be the sound you are looking for when you say “room.”

      Good Luck!

      AR

  7. Hi Adam, great blog!
    Ok, after recording a nice dry sound … what effects, and with what settings, do you apply? (reverbs, delays and so on).

    • Ooh, a long topic!

      Regarding reverb – experiment with a very short one for presence ( should sound like the mics moving back from your guitar a few inches) and a longer one to your liking.

      I’ll have to do a mix “tips” post…

  8. Many thanks Adam!

  9. Hi Adam! how are you!
    thanks for your experience!
    my name is Oscar Mendez, i´m a fingerstyle guitar player form Bogotá, Colombia. If you want listen my album please check out this link http://oscarmendez.bandcamp.com
    ok…. about this topic… may you help me about … how play the fingerstyle guitar music live? …… because in my case my song have percutive parts ….
    this is a video…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOSEkQBlU4s
    but sometimes is boring play with a other mic in front……
    thanks! master!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s