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FDP Forum / Home Recording Forum / Nylon versus Steel

FlyonNylon
Contributing Member
***

East Tennessee

Jun 8th, 2019 08:30 AM   Edit   Profile  

Recently picked up a Martin D-18 and in a guitar-honeymoon changed the strings on several other guitars including my nice classical.

Thought it'd be interesting to do a tonal comparison between the two instruments, since for me it's a bit rare to have several freshly strung guitars at the same time!

The nylon string has a European spruce top w east indian rosewood back/sides while obviously the martin is sitka spruce/mahogany.

Both recorded with the same equipment in the same space with the same mic position/etc. Mic is a Rode NT1A and the DAW is Audacity exported with essentially no editing.

Nylon:

Lagrima - Francisco Tarrega

FlyonNylon
Contributing Member
***

East Tennessee

Jun 8th, 2019 08:31 AM   Edit   Profile  

Steel:

Home Sweet Home - Traditional

FlyonNylon
Contributing Member
***

East Tennessee

Jun 8th, 2019 08:40 AM   Edit   Profile  

Anyway, obviously this is a flawed comparison due to the differences in styles of the recordings, flat picking vs fingerstyle etc.

To my ear from a sound-engineering perspective the classical piece sounds decent (playing deficiencies aside) while the steel string recording just sounds like some guy playing in a room at his house.

If anyone with more audio experience has any useful critiques about getting a better steel string recording, as a total novice I'm interested your opinion. Room is a carpeted 10x12 up-stairs space. Mic is angled at the 14th fret maybe 12 inches away.

I put a rug behind me to help isolate the sound but I think I need some acoustic panels or something.

ninworks
Contributing Member
*******

Middle Tennessee

Guitar Slave
Jun 8th, 2019 07:48 PM   Edit   Profile  

There are so many different mic techniques for recording acoustic guitar it boggles the mind.

My best suggestion is to set the mic, put on some headphones, get in front of the mic and start playing. Move around in front of the mic and listen to the differences in the sound at the different locations. Closer, further, to the left, to the right, above, below, etc. You will find the sweet spot that way. If you can't find a spot where the sound is to your liking then try another mic position. Point it at the guitar at a 45 degree angle, a 90 degree angle, etc. Sometimes you just have to use a different mic to make it sound right. Google mic techniques for recording acoustic guitar. There are many. After you find a sound you like, record it.

Put some kind of compressor plugin on that channel and, for starters, set the compression ratio at for 3 to 1. Then adjust the threshold until there is about 3 or 4 dB of compression. Set the release control on the compressor to somewhere in the 1 to 3 second range. Then set the attack on the compressor to 1/2 second or so. You will have to fiddle with the attack and release to get the best results. Those settings will vary depending upon the song.

What you are trying to achieve with the attack and release settings is to have the compressor's attack slow enough that it leaves the initial string attack alone and lets it through without compressing it. The release time is something where it will help you to watch the level indicators to see how fast or slow it is returning to zero, or there abouts. The idea is to have the release time return to zero, or there abouts, about every beat of the tempo. This will vary depending on the material. Sometimes it needs to hold for a couple of beats. You'll just have to listen and see where it sounds best. It needs to return to around zero so it won't squash the initial string attack. If the attack is too fast it can sound unclear and lose it's sparkle. If the release is too fast you'll hear what is called 'pumping'. You'll really hear the compressor messing with the sound and it sounds weird.

Those are some very general guidelines.

Compressors seem like voodoo if you're inexperienced using them. It's hard to hear what they're doing to the untrained ear but, they can make a world of difference in the sound of the program material when used correctly. Unfortunately the only way to learn them is to use them and try to recognize what they sound like when they're set up properly.

(This message was last edited by ninworks at 09:59 PM, Jun 8th, 2019)

ninworks
Contributing Member
*******

Middle Tennessee

Guitar Slave
Jun 8th, 2019 07:52 PM   Edit   Profile  

BTW, I like the classical piece. It sounds great. I don't usually compress solo nylon string guitar. If it's being played with other instruments sometimes I'll compress it a little but, not much.

ninworks
Contributing Member
*******

Middle Tennessee

Guitar Slave
Jun 8th, 2019 08:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

Here's an example I put together for you.

This is my Guild D40 acoustic. The strings were nowhere near new.

I was using a Roswell Mini K47 mic. It's not an expensive mic. About $300. Similar to the NT1 you are using. It only has a cardioid pattern. I didn't use a fancy mic pre amp. Just the one built in to my Eleven Rack. Not bad but, not incredible either.

I recorded this in a 14' X 14' bedroom with drywall for walls, and a 12' ceiling. Wood floors with no rug. Nothing but a bed a, a dresser, and a bunch of audio gear. No acoustic treatment at all, anywhere. The acoustics of this room are horrendous for recording. I had the mic about 6" to 8" from the guitar about where the neck joins the body.

This is 2 different playbacks of the exact same part of the song. I duplicated the un-compressed track and then compressed it and pasted it after the original so they would playback in succession.

This may give you an idea of what a compressor can do for the sound.

Getting the guitar right up close to the mic helps a lot when your room doesn't sound as good as you'd like for it to.

Comparison

(This message was last edited by ninworks at 06:54 AM, Jun 9th, 2019)

FlyonNylon
Contributing Member
***

East Tennessee

Jun 10th, 2019 08:07 PM   Edit   Profile  

ninworks -

Thanks for the tips and your time writing a well-thought response. I messed around with mic location wearing headphones and compression and I think resulted in an objectively better sounding recording. Almost always use a compressor playing electric but hadn't messed with it in Audacity.

Still some harmonic weirdness going on which is probably the guitarist's fault but the tone of the melody on the guitar seems ring through a bit more with this setup.

Same steel string piece for comparison

ninworks
Contributing Member
*******

Middle Tennessee

Guitar Slave
Jun 12th, 2019 02:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

That does sound better. I think it would benefit a lot from using either a different mic or another small diaphragm condenser along with the NT1. Adding a little hi-end EQ might help it enough. 2 or 3 dB boost somewhere around 6kHz to 8kHz.

FDP Forum / Home Recording Forum / Nylon versus Steel




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