Saturday, November 14, 2015

Recording A Singer-Songwriter

Recording an acoustic guitar can be tricky. Add a vocalist to that equation that wants to sing and play at the same time and now you have a post apocalyptic situation. Well, it could be if you're not careful. I am gonna give some tips for this scenario that could be a lifesaver, and as usual there will be a video to go along with it. (I love audio/visual, it's how I learn best)

Comfort Is King


The very first thing we need to accomplish is to make the vocalist comfortable. This can make or break your recording session. An uptight singer will not deliver their best performance. Here are a few things you can do for the artist to make things go a little smoother.

• Set the vibe (i.e. Lighting, aroma, and temperatures to name a few)
• Ask the artist if their more comfortable without you in the room
• Make sure to have room temperature water on hand
• Singers are the most vulnerable to self esteem issues so tread lightly

The Obvious Is Often Overlooked


These things are blatantly obvious, and so for whatever reason, they seem to be overlooked more than  not. (I am guilty!)

• Place the artist in a chair that doesn't make noise, or have them stand
• Have them remove rings or any other jewelry that may cause noise while performing
• Tune up, tune often, & between every take
• Use a pop filter on your vocals
• Monitor on good headphones and record a few practice takes before ever committing to a real take

Mic Placement


One of my mentors conveyed to me a great tip for approaching mic placement. He said, "Think of the microphone as a flashlight. Wherever that beam is pointed, is the area that will be recorded." So a pencil condenser will give you a narrow "beam" and a large diaphragm will be more like a regular flashlight beam. The farther back you move it the wider the beam will get and vice versa.

It also should be duly noted  that depending on a microphones polar pattern it will have area of rejection, where sound will not be picked up as much. (That is unless it is an omni-directional mic)
These areas of rejection can be utilized to your advantage. For instance, with a cardioid pattern microphone you can aim one mic with the "beam" facing down and away from the vocalist toward the guitar, and the other pointing straight up just under the vocalists voice. This will accept and reject exactly what you want it to with minimal bleed.

We Got A Bleeder!


One of the biggest issues with recording a singer-songwriter is that horrible bleed. Unfortunately, there is no way to effectively remove all of it. Don't let this detour your session however. Some of the tips that have already been given will dramatically improve your recording. I am a realist though, and so I wanted to make sure you knew that this issue will not go away. It doesn't have to stop you either. In fact with just the right amount of bleed you can achieve a more natural sound. This is where making the vocalist comfortable really come into action, you can't tune vocals that have even the slightest amount of guitar bleed without them sounding awful.

Experiment With Everything


I love to get out a mic and move it all around a room will listening to a performance. I love to move the pencil condenser all around an acoustic guitar to get that time I am looking for. I even like to have more than one mic on an artist at times to get two of the same take with different mics to pick which one works best. In short, I love to experiment! It is through this avenue that you will learn more than what a video, a blog post, or a podcast could ever teach you. And I'm my opinion it's fun! I hope this article has helped, if it has let me know. If you have a tip or two that you'd like to add to this list, leave it in the comments section below. Have a blessed day. Later!