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Author Topic: The McGuinn opinion: Mics alone for the guitar. Forget pickups!  (Read 2541 times)
djsonovox
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« on: September 21, 2007, 06:42:27 AM »

When you take a peek at the HOW TO PLAY 12-STRING video, Roger McGuinn says you just can't get the real sound of a guitar from any pickup system. He says the real tone of the acoustic guitar can only be captured by a good mic.

Well, what do you think?

I still like pickups for their ease of use when playing live. The multiple source pickup systems impress my ears as having the best sound. If it has a mic in addition to a mag element or  transducer, then well, all right--for me, it's solid enough to gig with.

I've read there are reasons why a mic in a guitar can never be the same as a mic in front of the sound hole; a matter of vibrating length required to generate the lower frequencies. The sound box isn't long enough for the waves, but the form the proper length beyond the body of the guitar. Sound and physics people, what's the scoop?

I've tried some gigs with a just one mic for both voice & guitar, and it was great!
I employed a large diaphragm condenser, an AKG c3000 going into an Ultrasound 50 watt amp. The way I miked it was like this: Halfway between the mouth and the sound hole. I just played and sang, with my face projection across the sound hole. The stings tuned the voice and the voice tuned the strings. It all sounded sweeter. I've noticed this effect while playing piano and singing live, too; weak frequencies and inaccurate notes cancel, as similar notes get strengthened.

But for ease of performance, it still seems simpler to plug in the onboard pickups.

It's great when it works, best in solo gigs at lower volumes. Maybe the physics of this makes live gigs sound better than isolating all voices and instruments as individual tracks, overdubbed separately. I know that the Doors LA WOMAN album was cut live with a lot of leaking around, and when the Fabulous Thunderbirds cut GIRLS GO CRAZY they stack up the amps in a half-circle and sang it live...and these two albums have a great sound and a solid groove and that special excitement.

Doug Jones

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Dale_I
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2007, 08:40:34 AM »

If I played alone, in an acoustic environment, or maybe recording, I might agree. However, there is just no way I could run a mic to my acoustic and end up with anything but major bleed from everyone else and major headache for the board guy. I would say that it is all dependant on what will work in the situation you play in.
Besides, you couldn't get me to stand still that long! I'm a mover...
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2007, 01:41:24 PM »

I use mic's only.I really do not like that in your face sound or tone from om board systems,But I'm old and fat and play sitting down.
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2007, 06:22:55 AM »

I should add that I play in a very contemporary worship team. There is a dedicated electric lead player and a dedicated acoustic player. I bounce back and forth as needed. Keyboards, bass, percussionist, (real) drums, singer and usually three back ups round things out. Occasionally a full choir. I don't think mic's are an option in an environment such as this.
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« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2007, 02:39:57 AM »

To answer the physics question, or at least provide an analogy.

It's possible that the hole in the body of a guitar allows the cavity of the guitar to act like a Helmholtz resonator ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmholtz_resonance)

This is basically the same phenomenon as the low frequency generated when you blow across the top of an empty Coke bottle - much lower frequency than wavelengths that can fit in the bottle itself.

The air in the hole vibrates almost as if a solid body, on the trapped air in the bottle, which acts like a spring.

In the soundhole, that air vibrates back and forth as well, actually behaving like a speaker somewhat.  So a mic placed a ways back from the hole will pick up those lower frequencies.

-Scott
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« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2007, 03:59:38 AM »

I played thru a mic both live and during service with a full band.Its a bit more work but for me its the only way to fly.
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2007, 06:14:17 PM »

I was trying to think about what was funny with this comment from Roger McGuinn and it finally struck me - I like Roger's sound, but it always hearken's to the 12 string jangle he got while in the Byrds.  Electric guitar that is.  Can someone more familiar with his back-catalog give an example of a song where he used an acoustic 12 string.

Now to add fuel to the fire, he's a product endorsee for something called the 'janglebox', basically what sounds like a couple of compressors in series with a pretty narrow band-pass filter.

Here's the link to the 'janglebox' product that Roger endorses:

http://janglebox.com/

I can duplicate that sound pretty simply with some EQ and then a couple compressors in series.  I'll report back with examples soon.

-Scott
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« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2007, 06:17:05 PM »

Rob,

What kinda mic do you use for the guitar?

Justin
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2007, 07:28:38 PM »

I was trying to think about what was funny with this comment from Roger McGuinn and it finally struck me - I like Roger's sound, but it always hearken's to the 12 string jangle he got while in the Byrds.  Electric guitar that is.  Can someone more familiar with his back-catalog give an example of a song where he used an acoustic 12 string.

Now to add fuel to the fire, he's a product endorsee for something called the 'janglebox', basically what sounds like a couple of compressors in series with a pretty narrow band-pass filter.

Here's the link to the 'janglebox' product that Roger endorses:

http://janglebox.com/

I can duplicate that sound pretty simply with some EQ and then a couple compressors in series.  I'll report back with examples soon.

-Scott

He started playing acoustic 12 string well before electric and continued to play it thru out career. He also always compressed his Ric with two tube compressors in series since early Byrds stuff. He's basically any acoustic folk musician, Guitars and Banjo, that picked up Electric after Beatles came out. I'm not sure off the top of my head, but I'd say there's quite a bit of studio stuff with 12 string acoustic.
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2007, 07:56:27 PM »

If you can locate a copy of the 12 String Story on Horizon records (Vol. 2) he does an instrumental on 12 called "Ramblin' On."

The PreFlyte Sessions has songs like THE ONLY GIRL and YOU SHOWED ME and MR. TAMBOURINE MAN. all on acoustic 12.

On the Byrds CD, TURN TURN TURN I think that's him on acoustic 12 doing HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE.

There's a featured 12-string solo acoustic arrangement of 8 Miles High mixed with mock-Back on LIMITED EDITION called "ECHOES."

Roger McGuinn's home pace has more info and links plus a store to buy Limited Edition online.

DJ
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« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2007, 02:36:11 AM »

Justin mostly Shure SM 57's both new and old.Oddly enough I got a gift from a friend of a large diapham MXL from Guitar Center that I used a lot for indoor playing.But mostly SM 57's.
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« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2007, 03:18:56 AM »

I think McGuinn is right.  I have a really nice K&K setup in my Larrivee, but just using a mic sounds 10 times better.  It's not that hard to stand still, or sit down for that matter, once you get used to it.  It's what people had to do for years before the pickup option ever came along.

Take the fact that in most recording situations by professionals there is only a mic used to record the guitar and you really have your answer.  Recording engineers know what they're doing and they only want to record acoustic guitars with mics most of the time. 

I used to be a "worship leader" and the bleeding over bit is all hype.  Most mics, at least the good ones, are made to pick up the sound within a certain range, which is relatively close to the mic itself.  I think some people actually believe the "bleeding over" thing, but some folks just don't want to stand still and use it as an excuse.  

I think it's money well spend, and better spent, when a person gets a good mic to carry around and doesn't invest in a fancy pickup system for their guitar. 
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djsonovox
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2007, 11:16:59 PM »

Well, duh! Silly me.
Of course there's scads of 12 acoustic tunes on his Folk Den stuff, available online or on CD though his website.

DJ
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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2007, 06:05:44 PM »


I used to be a "worship leader" and the bleeding over bit is all hype.  Most mics, at least the good ones, are made to pick up the sound within a certain range, which is relatively close to the mic itself.  I think some people actually believe the "bleeding over" thing, but some folks just don't want to stand still and use it as an excuse.  



I don't know.  I've done simple recordings at home with a Shure 58 for vocals and a Sennheiser e835 for my guitar.  You can hear vocals on the guitar track and guitar on the vocal track.  I just have a hard time believing that drums wouldn't bleed over if an acoustic guitar can.
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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2007, 09:18:19 PM »

Bleedover definitely happens. Live performance may not matter. Recording is a different story. If you do everything at once,live, may be ok. If you're not gonna keep everything when you recorded multiple instruments at the same time, unwanted  sounds could be present. Mics on acoustic are almost always gonna sound better, if circunstances permit.
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« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2007, 09:42:41 PM »

The fact that microphones can "feedback" indicates that there is "bleedover".

Careful microphone selection (construction, pickup pattern, off-axis rejection characteristics) and placement can make the difference between bliss and disaster on stage.
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« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2007, 10:08:49 PM »

Careful microphone selection (construction, pickup pattern, off-axis rejection characteristics) and placement can make the difference between bliss and disaster on stage.

And, placement of PA speakers, monitors, etc, etc. We just went to in ear monitors and solved a bunch of problems that, although managable, took up a lot of time.
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« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2007, 01:02:36 PM »

If you have a built in pickup, you do not have to use it. You could use a mic. If you don't have a pick up, you have to use a mic. If I am recording, a mic is the ONLY way to go. If I am playing out with drums and electric instruments, I will never use a mic. This has nothing to do with bleed or moving around but has everything to do with being heard. I cannot lead the band if they can't hear me. There are instruments that do well with a mic, but the acoustic guitar will get lost pretty quickly if the only sound is miced. I think if I was at a coffee shop playing folk music by myself I could make the statement that a mic is the only way to go. Perspective will change your attitude.
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2007, 11:46:53 AM »

I attended an Earl Scruggs concert last week (great concert BTW).   Randy Scruggs and Jon Randall were playing acoustic guitars.  The were both using pickups,  but they also had mics.  During solos they'd get closer to the mics,  for extra volume,  and better tone.   While playiing rythym they'd move away from the mic.  It sounded great,  and the "pickup" tone wasn't a problem with the guitar just sitting in the mix.  Some of Earl's family members are customers of mine.  I'm going to find out through them what kind of mics they use.   
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« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2007, 07:45:39 AM »

Mics definitely will give you a more accurate representation of the sound produced by the guitar in an ideal situation, but the point is that live performances generally follow murphy's law.  A pickup cuts down the number of things that can go wrong (and yes most acoustic players don't like standing still so that's also part of the reason).  I've been doing sound engineering for live performances for about five years now and pickup malfunctions happen a lot more rarely than problems arising from mics. 

I'd also like to point out it's not fair to compare what a recording engineer in a studio does compared to what the sound guy would do in a live scenario since you're talking about entirely different equipment setups.  Yes a sound engineer would rarely use a pickup, but a sound engineer might be willing to throw a U87 in front of an acoustic in a studio and there's no way that anyone is going to risk a three thousand dollar mic for a live performance.  You also have the option of using multiple mics at different locations around the guitar in a studio (which is what a good engineer in a studio will usually do since different parts of the guitar produce different tones/sounds and you get a much better recording if you mix them together) and there's no way that a live performance in a full band setting would work if the acoustic guitarist was completely surrounded by mic stands and wires snaking all around.
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