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The acoustic guitar is more difficult to record than it looks. Simply pointing a microphone and hoping for the best doesn't always work. But as we can hear from this extract from Big John McNeil performed and recorded by Steve Alexander, if you have a good player, good guitar, good acoustic, good mic and good technique, the results can be outstanding.
Here is how it was done, in Steve Alexander's words...
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Thanks for the opportunity of explaining how my CD 'Acoustic Flatpick Guitar' was recorded. I chose a studio that had hardwood floors and was in an 'L' shape. We set up 2 Audio Technica microphones (large diaphragm for the top of the guitar and smaller diaphragm pointed at the 12th fret of the neck side) and my chair at the bottom corner of the 'L' with my guitar pointed toward the longer arm. The room was lively and had a nice ambience. The recording was done to a Macintosh computer. I used two guitars, a Morgan dreadnought and a 1954 Martin D-18. The Martin is very expressive in some frequency ranges, so I used that for some of the lead work, but I mostly used the Morgan (www.morganguitars.com).
More important to me than any equipment is the temperament of the engineer. He was a guitar player and very supportive throughout the session. It is also important to be emotionally connected, 'in the moment' and not feeling any pressure but 'playing it like you mean it'. I had warmed up for several hours before recording with scales and stretching exercises but was not going for a 'perfect performance', just one that felt good.
I should note at this time that I had recorded several times in large studios in Nashville with great musicians. They are very relaxed and casual and try to get the tune in 1 or 2 takes. If it takes longer to get the groove, spontaneity often is lacking. I determined to try for that same feel. But also for this project, I wanted simplicity so I could re-produce the recordings live. I was not playing for musicians as they are not mainstream buyers of music. I was playing for 'amateurs' - people that love this type of music and will buy it for their collections. When I recorded with a full Nashville session band, it was impossible for me to re-produce the songs live. And it is still hard enough with just 2 guitars and an acoustic bass!
If anyone is interested in more info, visit my blog : acousticflatpickguitar.blogspot.com
Roland Canada Ltd.
T: 604.270.6626 ext 105
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The CD, by the way, is called Acoustic Flatpick Guitar by Steve Alexander. Contact Steve directly to buy your copy,