So this was both the pain and joy of my week. Recording the acoustic guitar.
Normally, I don’t change my strings often. It costs money and takes time, and I’m not performing often enough to keep them fresh. So all of my guitar scratch tracks are normally done on pretty well-worn strings. This week was my Record-Acoustic-Guitar week, so I changed my strings on Sunday. I figured the difference in sound would be miraculous, but once I got to recording, it sounded awful! It was so surprising, and so frustrating.
New strings have a lot of high harmonic content to them. When you’re listening in real life, you would think of them as sounding brighter and fuller than old strings. But in putting a microphone about 8 inches from the strings, which is what I normally do, it catches a ton of very specific high frequencies that are impossible to EQ out because they vary incredibly depending on the chord you play, and how you pick.
I spent a good 5 hours cumulatively testing out different microphones, different spots, different angles, different distances. I eventually settled on using a condenser mic about 18 inches away, the guitar hole facing the mic, but the mic off-axis of the hole, looking partway up the fretboard. This position has a fairly heavy low end, so it’s good for the songs where the guitar is more alone. Even still, any slight change in the angle of my guitar would alter the sound dramatically. I had to keep pretty still and memorize the posture that I was sitting in to make it work.
At the end of the week, I was happy with the results. I didn’t get everything recorded that I wanted to, but I got everything done that I needed for our recording session on February 25th with the string players.
Oh, this specific guitar has a good story to it too. Might as well share it.
This is an Alvarez Yairi from 1980… possibly manufactured a year or two before, but my dad bought it for my mom in 1980 when they were first married. I guess my dad was 22, and my mom was 18. I suppose it was well out of his price range, but he really wanted my mom to have something special. My parents had a rough financial start in their early years before my dad joined the army. At some point, he ended up selling it to his sister’s husband so they could make ends meet. My uncle wasn’t a guitar player, but he thought he’d learn sometime. He didn’t. It stayed under my uncle’s bed for about 20 years, untouched.
One year at Thanksgiving or something (maybe 2000ish?), my dad asked his brother-in-law if he still had it. He did, and brought it over. My dad played it and he was so amazed with the rich, deep sound that it had. He was a Major in the Army by then, had a bit of disposable income, so he bought it back from my uncle.
So, in a way I think of it as a sort of a family heirloom. It’s my mom’s guitar. Her middle name is Gail. I had thought for a time that I would call my album “Gail’s Guitar” or “Gale’s Guitar” as a tribute to her. There’s very much a wind theme throughout the album, which fulfills the pun. But the album isn’t really about wind, nor is it about a guitar, so, I love you mom, but I’m not naming the album after you and your guitar 🙂
Next week is mostly event production work for me, so not as much fun music stuff. But we do have our first big session to look forward to 😀 Next Friday I’ll be posting about a lot of what went into preparing for that upcoming session.