Join Larry Crane for an in-depth discussion in this video Recording live performances of acoustic guitar with vocal, part of Music Production Secrets: Larry Crane on Recording.
Larry: Recording acoustic guitar and vocal lives in the studio can be one of our most difficult task. Frequently, artists come in, they've been practicing that way at home, they've been performing shows playing acoustic guitar and singing live, and they think going to studio going to be just as easy. But a lot of times it's not. The problems are that if we put two mics up on a performer, we're trying to capture both the vocal and an acoustic take but we've got bleed between the mics. That can be an issue. So I've got my friend Ryan in here today, we're going to have him help me out. Ryan Heise, he's also in the band System and Station. He's written a little verse of a song for us to To make make them run over and over with, here.
And I'm going to run you through a few different ways of recording acoustic guitar and vocals that can help you out in the studio and give you some options, and sort that out. The first really simple one, is to start off with just a single mike. And this way, you're not going to have any phase issues or problems there. But It's kind of hard to get a good balance. So, what I like to do is this. Listen on the headphones while we're moving the mic around and see what sounds good. So, let's try this out here and play a little bit of that song there. Ryan: (MUSIC) Don't talk to loud, just to hear your own voice, the cloud will push on, and we'll all sing along to your word.
Take it easier, just to fill in the sound, and to hold on to your plan, and you just let. You walk around so proud, darling don't you jump out from this cloud. Larry: Cool. That sounds really good. Let's try another take with it in that position. I'm going to angle a little more and just run through the first part of the verse there.
Ryan: (MUSIC) Don't talk so loud, just to hear your own voice. The cloud will move on. And we'll all sing along to your word. Larry: Man, and that's a nice balance. That sounds good. But what if you are putting it in a mix where there are some other instruments and all of a sudden you're like, oh I need more acoustic guitar, I need less acoustic guitar. You can't change the blend of the instruments since you've only recorded one tract with one mic.
So what we might do then is go in and add two mics. Bring in another one here. And use this one just as a vocal mic. This is a Heil PR20. It's a good dynamic cardioid stage vocal mic. And then put the, this guy down here. Now, both these mics are cartioid pattern right now. They pick up what's in front of them, so the idea is we're pointing them at the sources that we want to capture.
The problem that we're going to run into with a configuration like this, is that they also still pick up what's coming from, from the sources they're not meant to capture. So, we're going to hear some of the vocal down in this mic, and we're going to here some of the guitar coming into the vocal mic. And that can be problematic at times. What we also get is phase issues between these two mics, the vocal, the vocal's arriving later at this mic than it is with this mic, and vice versa with the guitar.
Goes sooner to the guitar mic than it goes to the vocal mic, so with two sources that are arriving at the mics at different times, you can never quite get the phase correct on them. Sometimes you'll set up a configuration like this and it sounds great. Other times it might have a little bit of a problem. Let's just, let's run a little bit in and check it out. Ryan: (MUSIC) Don't talk to loud, just to hear your own voice, time will push on, and we'll all sing along to your word. Larry: And the good thing about this, this will give you the separation when you're mixing you can adjust these levels.
But what I've come to do is to start using different patterns on the mics here. I'll use a figure eight mic instead of a cardioid mic. And that allows me to something really neat and magical. Alright, here come the figure eight. So I put this guy up on the vocal. Thanks for being patient Ryan. Ryan: Yeah. You bet. Larry: This is the fun part of recording where the artist has to sit there and wait for the engineer.
So these are both set to figure eight. When you got a mike set for figure eight, it's got, it picks up on the front and the back sides of the microphone. What's great about it is that where it's not picking up, on this mic it'd be where this little bar is here, is called a null plane. That's where the two lobes of pick up, the positive and negative sides meet and cancel out. So there's actually less sound being recorded or being picked up here. And then there is from the front and back by quite a bit and less sound even on the backside of a cardioid mic in most cases.
So this way we're able to take these null planes, and we have one here too as well, and point them towards the vocal or the instrument, whatever we don't want. So this is the guitar mic. We're pointing the null plane at Ryan's mouth. You don't want to hear his lousy words. Ryan: (LAUGH). Larry: (LAUGH) And then we're going to take the vocal mike, and we're going to point this so there are no points basically pointing at the body of the guitar. kind of think of the sound holes like the loudest part on the guitar there. So we're going to point a little more at that.
So there's null plane. Keep in mind, just imagine there's these imaginary planes that you can't really see. One's pointing at the guitar and a null plane at his mouth and vice versa. So lets hear a little bit of that. Lets check it out in the cans here. Ryan: (MUSIC) Don't talk so loud. Just to hear your own voice, the cloud will push on, and we'll all sing along to your word.
It's easier to turn in the sand, just hold on to your plan, and we'll, just land, you walk around so proud, darling don't you fall down off this cloud, of this cloud. Larry: Cool.
So now, another thing you can do, which will help even more, is even if in these are in figure-eight or cardioid, is to try to point them even more away from each other. I do this a lot with cardioid mics, in fact. I'll take the mics and point them so they're really Pointing away from each other and towards what we're trying to capture. So a little more like, even like this at times. And that can actually help you get less, less of the offending vocal or guitar into the mics there. And more tricks.
If the player is comfortable with playing and not looking at their fingers too much, which isn't everybody, keep in mind. You don't want to torture your friends. You can put a baffling here. Let's move this guy back up a little. And that's okay, get some of the sound out. Really, one of the best things a Baffle does is get the high, clicky part of the pick hitting the strings or the acoustic guitar, get some of that out of the vocal mic. I'll even just go in and tuck it under the mic like this, or use a smaller piece of foam. And and that can help get some of the noise out of there and just get you a little bit cleaner signal.
How's that feel to play like that? (MUSIC) Yeah. That's not too bad. And that's definitely, I guarantee you there's, you're going to hear a little less spill, a little bit less of the click, click, click, pick hitting there. So More tricks, we've gotta have lots of tricks, right? I'm here to show you all the great things that I know. One of them would be using the built in microphone, I mean sorry, the built in pick up that we have on the guitar here.
So there's a, a sound hole mounted one with an output here. So, we can plug that guy in, (SOUND) run it into a direct box like this, take it to a mic pre-amp. This gives us a signal that's going to have basically no vocals in it at all, just the sound of the guitar. (MUSIC) The problem with that is that it has sort of a clinky little sound sometimes like a piece of pick ups and stuff, has a little bit of a grainy sound, it doesn't sound exactly like an acoustic guitar. But if you have a track that you are doing where someone sings louder than the, they are singing loud and the guitar playing is pretty quite that you can bring some of that in, underneath the guitar mike, it helps bring out the guitar a little bit. Up that the next.
Let's unplug you, though. We're not going to do that, though. Why is it, play just a little tiny bit, we should hear some of that. Ryan: Okay. Larry: (MUSIC) Perfect. Okay. That's going to go pop now when I unplug it. Ow. Okay, and then another trick, let's take an old, I have an old Lavalier mic, an old Sony mic here. Little tiny guy and this would be used for interview type stuff.
But you can take that and this is pretty fun. Of course the guys with the really expensive guitars get mad at you when you do this. Ryan: Not me. Larry: (LAUGH) Not you. Ryan: This also is an expensive guitar. Larry: Its not an expensive guitar. Alright I put a little bit of tapes on the clips there too so it wouldn't be too bad. So now the little tiny loud mic is pointing right across the strings on the saddle. It can be a little bit weird. It can be in the way somewhat. Sometimes I've even taped it up against the body here. That's great if the guitar player, he's moving around and he's getting kind of goofy, you know. So you got, you're going to have some recording, capturing what's going on with the acoustic.
Especially if it's like, I don't know, with the whole drum set in the room, and the acoustic guitar. And it just keeps it right up on it real close. And you can actually use that track. Okay, let's take this off of here. One thing to remember is that if you're doing a two-mic recording technique and you want to re-cut a vocal part. So, have the singer also play the acoustic guitar while they're cutting the vocal. Record both mics, maybe? Maybe record just the vocal mic. You get a little bit of doubling. It might be okay. Just go ahead and check that out. But you need to keep a little bit of that balance that you had on the initial track.
So, let's punch in like that. You'll need to do that sort of thing, to have a nice continuity on the punch in. So there's a bunch of tricks. I hope they work for you. Try 'em out. All these work in different situations. Depends on the song, the player, so many factors. Go ahead and try it out, and hope it works for you.
First, Larry introduces basic signal flow techniques that will improve any recorded sound. Then he explains some of his recording secrets, like how to capture acoustic guitars and vocals at the same time, how to choose the best microphone for a vocalist, and how to use stereo mics and room placement to create an ensemble sound on a single performer.
- Understanding input signal path
- Gain staging
- Checking phase on a drum kit
- Miking snare drums
- Comparing vocal mics
- Recording live acoustic guitar with vocals
- Using distortion with bass guitar
- Finding the best drum placement in rooms
- Recording upright piano
- Creating your own style