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Question: Which tonewood combination is (in your opinion) best for recording?
Rosewood - 5 (38.5%)
Mahogany - 7 (53.8%)
Other (please specify) - 1 (7.7%)
Total Voters: 13

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Author Topic: Which tonewood combination is best for recording?  (Read 2091 times)
kwakatak
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« on: September 16, 2009, 06:13:54 AM »

I must admit that I've always loved the lush overtones of rosewood guitars, as well as the look of a nice set of rosewood for the back and sides. Unplugged and playing alone, I've been in heaven with both of my rosewood guitars. For strumming and fingerstyle pieces that call for a lot of sustain I just can't help but love the overtones of rosewood. I especially like how I can hear how the notes play off each other and how the final note in a song changes to an almost harmonic echo of the original note.

That being said, I've recently become enamored with the clear yet warm tone of acoustic guitars. I must admit that I initially shied away from mahogany because I never really cared for the look of the wood - especially when artificially dyed with a darker stain. Alone and unplugged, I find their "ambient" tone to be more "direct" with individual notes remaining clear and defined, though with the right type of bracing (which I'll explain in a bit) the sustain and overtones still seem to be there, albeit a bit subdued.

Now with regards to recording, using a microphone with my rosewood guitars has been difficult. The type of music I'm having trouble with in particular is solo acoustic fingerstyle stuff, both cover songs and original compositions. Either with bare fingers or with a thumb pick I can't find the right intensity to play the bass notes. At the same time, I also have trouble keeping the upper melody clear No matter what I do, I can't find the sweet spot, even with a large condenser microphone and find myself "cheating" by blending in the signal from my K&K Pure Western mini on my OM-03R to try and get back some of the mids that have gone missing. I don't know if it's mic position or gain/level settings but it sounds like my guitar is in the bottom of a deep dark pit.

Now for my personal experience. Lately I've been visiting a friend who has a Zoom H4 and two guitars which are nearly identical. They are OM-size custom guitars and are virtually twins save for the fact that one has cocobolo (which IMO is tonally similar to rosewood) back & sides and a redwood (spruce) top, the other having mahogany back & sides and a cedar top (which I know also deeply skews my interpretation as well.) No matter what I try, the coco/red sounds like it's lost in an echo chamber whereas the cedar/hog just cuts right through clearly and sounds "sweet" to boot. I find myself reaching for the latter guitar more and more. I'm curious to see if others have similar observations between these two tonewoods or if I'm just doing something wrong while recording?
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Neil

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BenF
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2009, 08:55:09 AM »

Neil, I love playing my rosewood F-III the most, but admit that I find the recorded voice of my Sapele OM-03 is superior.  I am not qualified to explain why, it is just my opinion of the two guitars I own, which are similar sizes with two different tonewoods.  I use a Zoom H2 recorder usually positioned about 2 feet from about the 14th fret.
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Ben
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jeremy3220
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2009, 11:53:43 AM »

The best sounding guitar is the best guitar for recording. Don't confuse 'easier for recording' and 'better for recording'. The OM-45(rosewood) that Mississippi John Hurt recorded with helped create one of the best recorded guitar tones ever. Some big Martin rosewood dreads have also made some great recordings. Mahogany probably is easier to record but not necessarily better.

You should try moving the mic further from the guitar or off axis from the soundhole. Both changes will make it sound less like you are listening from inside the guitar. Of course when you move the mic back you will picking up more the room, so if your room sucks that'll be a problem. Also a SD condenser will probably be easier to record guitar with than a LD condenser; it should be more detailed and not so bassy.
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Mitchell
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2009, 12:11:15 PM »

Of course when you move the mic back you will picking up more the room, so if your room sucks that'll be a problem.
That's a very important point that gets overlooked by folks just getting into recording. Room treatments/space account for much of how a recording sounds. But, of course that leads to more money... rolleye
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BenF
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2009, 12:28:21 PM »

The best sounding guitar is the best guitar for recording. Don't confuse 'easier for recording' and 'better for recording'. The OM-45(rosewood) that Mississippi John Hurt recorded with helped create one of the best recorded guitar tones ever. Some big Martin rosewood dreads have also made some great recordings. Mahogany probably is easier to record but not necessarily better.

You should try moving the mic further from the guitar or off axis from the soundhole. Both changes will make it sound less like you are listening from inside the guitar. Of course when you move the mic back you will picking up more the room, so if your room sucks that'll be a problem. Also a SD condenser will probably be easier to record guitar with than a LD condenser; it should be more detailed and not so bassy.

Interesting, points taken, thanks Jeremy.
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Ben
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Queequeg
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2009, 12:51:29 PM »

Hey Neil. First off my ears are now too old to make clear distinctions between the two, but I agree with Jeremy. And one of the reasons the D28 redefined what it means to be an acoustic guitar and became the flagship of Martin's fleet is because it records pretty darned well, so I can't really believe that mahogany will by default always sound superior on playback. Certainly there are sonic distinctions between these two most common tone woods, as you have elucidated them rather well here.
If you can't get that bass intensity that you are looking for from your OM, invest the time required to get used to a thumb pick or else get yourself a bigger guitar. [We know that you have been lusting after that (H)D35.] I have a Larrivee OM and I can't coax the bass I want from that guitar, nice as it is.
I don't think that you ever played my SD60 which is gone now or my SD50, but those guitars just roar like nobody's business. I am again in possession of the HD28 I bought new for myself in 1986 and gave to my son in 1999. I'm keeping it for him while he finishes school in Savannah. I learned to love that guitar again but it doesn't have the deep resonance of the SD Larrivees.
(All that being said, I'm mostly playing my L-05MT these days, but that only serves to convolute this conversation.)
Over and out.
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kwakatak
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2009, 01:18:09 PM »

Thanks guys, I guess I should've said "easier" instead of better. It makes me sound like a n00b even though I've been home recording for about 5 years now. Rule of thumb for me has always been mic at 12th-14th fret from 18" away and pointed a little toward the sound hole but not directly at it. I start from there and move the mic around to suit but for some reason I'm still getting too much bass. The LD condenser  (Studio Projects B-1) is my first "nice" mic (even though I have a budget-priced Shure PG57) but my friend's Zoom H4's two small condenser internal mics seem to work better.

Q, yeah the HD-35 still gives me GAS but I've only got 1/3 of the price saved for and the money's burning a hole in my pocket. There are a D-16GT and a D-16RGT in that store that I could probably pull the trigger on now but I want something a little nicer for a long term investment. I used to like the tone of the L-03 but the OM-03R won out. Now I'm thinking of an L-05. I never tried one but word is that there's a new Larrivée dealer in town.
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Neil

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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2009, 01:56:20 PM »

I've never tried to record using wood. These days I use a digital recorder. YMMV. Keep us informed. 
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jeremy3220
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2009, 03:35:11 PM »

Thanks guys, I guess I should've said "easier" instead of better. It makes me sound like a n00b even though I've been home recording for about 5 years now. Rule of thumb for me has always been mic at 12th-14th fret from 18" away and pointed a little toward the sound hole but not directly at it. I start from there and move the mic around to suit but for some reason I'm still getting too much bass. The LD condenser  (Studio Projects B-1) is my first "nice" mic (even though I have a budget-priced Shure PG57) but my friend's Zoom H4's two small condenser internal mics seem to work better.


Yeah the LD will pick up more bass rumble. I suggest pointing the mic at the 14th fret or maybe even above the sound hole toward the waist.
 Also if the bass you are talking about is really low like around 100Hz or less you can roll a lot of that off. I always felt bad about cutting it but my recordings sounded a lot better after I got over that.

That's a very important point that gets overlooked by folks just getting into recording. Room treatments/space account for much of how a recording sounds. But, of course that leads to more money... rolleye

Yes, I think the room has more influence than the mic, pre-amp, and interface combined(assuming your equipment is the typical home recording sort). Talent is important too.

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BenF
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2009, 03:38:46 PM »

Talent is important too.

Aha, now I know what the problem is 
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Ben
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sdelsolray
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« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2009, 02:24:43 AM »

I don't think there one best wood or best wood combination for recording.  There are simply too many factors involved, many of which are subjective.  Still, one recorded guitar may sound better than another with the same mics, front end, room and mic placement.  Change that front end recording gear, and the other guitar may sound better.  Next, consider the variations involving the guitars - different builders, body styles, etc.  Add the variables and music styles as well as player techniques.

It may be more difficult to record one guitar than another.  By that I mean there may be fewer mic placements that work well, or it may take a certain mic/preamp combination to pull the best representation of that particular guitar out.

I have many guitars, mic pairs, preamps, etc.  Between different preamp pairs, different mic pairs and different guitars, I have 930 different combinations available.  Multiply that by 7 different paired mic positions and there are about 6,500 different setups I can do with two mics.  Of course, I haven't tried or used every possible combination but each I have used is different than the others.  Differences are vary from subtle to significant.
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AZLiberty
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« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2009, 09:10:27 PM »

There is no good answer.  It is going to depend on what you want.
I don't think you can beat rosewood for rich lush overtones in a fingerpicked piece, mahogany will give you clarity (so will Walnut)

On my album, 14 of 16 songs were recorded using my OM-03R, the other two were recorded using a Guild (mahogany 12-string)
One of the songs was originally recorded using the rosewood OM, but I decided I wanted a "brighter" sound, so we rerecorded it with the Guild.

Usually you will get better results if you aim the mic at the top of the soundboard, or say the 12th to 14th fret in my experience.


If your recording sounds "muddy" switch to mahogany.
If your recording sounds "jangly" switch to rosewood.
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kwakatak
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« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2009, 05:29:38 AM »

There is no good answer.  It is going to depend on what you want.
I don't think you can beat rosewood for rich lush overtones in a fingerpicked piece, mahogany will give you clarity (so will Walnut)

On my album, 14 of 16 songs were recorded using my OM-03R, the other two were recorded using a Guild (mahogany 12-string)
One of the songs was originally recorded using the rosewood OM, but I decided I wanted a "brighter" sound, so we rerecorded it with the Guild.

Usually you will get better results if you aim the mic at the top of the soundboard, or say the 12th to 14th fret in my experience.


If your recording sounds "muddy" switch to mahogany.
If your recording sounds "jangly" switch to rosewood.

I dunno. I just got a CD-R from my friend who let me use his H4 and I got to listen to the tracks a week after I originally recorded them. My impression is that cedar/hog OM actually has some pretty clear overtones. The coco/redwood OM is bass-heavy as well, but I think I had the mic too close (in order to minimize room noise.) Normally I put the mic just where you said, at a distance of about 14"-24" - I actually got some "boom" even though the mic wasn't pointed at the soundhole. I chalk that up as inexperience on my part with condenser mics. My 57 never gave me that problem but it lacks the sparkle of the LD mic.

One thing is for certain, though: BOTH these guitars are much clearer than my OM-03R. They're giving me GAS, but my list is already long!
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Neil

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« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2009, 05:39:07 PM »

i prefer the sound of my cedar/irw Webber when recorded with my H4 internal mic's in a "dry" area of my flat, and perfer the Larrivee OM19 wher there's alot of natural reverb.. like recording in the shower faceing the tile walls.... it may be spending more time with the H4 & the OM03R to discover where the best locations are in your home?

d.

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tadol
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« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2009, 05:57:20 PM »

I need a bigger shower -

Tad
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« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2009, 10:53:32 PM »

cedar/hog OM actually has some pretty clear overtones

Cedar topped guitars tend to do that.  bigrin
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« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2009, 10:58:51 PM »

Where in the frequency domain are you getting too much bass?  What type of microphone and preamp are you using?  Describe the size and shape of the room.  My CAD M-177 LDC microphone has a high pass switch with the knee at 80 Hz.  I ALWAYS have this engaged when recording my acoustic and when recording vocals as well.

I also try to break up the low frequency room modes with a GOBO I made years ago.  It does a pretty good job.  I put eggcrate foam on one side of it so that It can also double as part of a 'booth' when recording.

Try to keep back away from any wall in your room if you want to avoid coupling with the primary room modes.

Riffing on something pointed out above, if you really had a way to just compare the two tonewoods with everything else held constant (string life, design and manufacture of the guitar, who built the guitar, who fit the neck to the body, who glued it up, etc. (which there isn't a way to do this unless you are the manufacturer), the fact of the matter is likely mic placement, pre-amp choice and settings and a host of other factors would have a larger effect on the sound of the recorded guitar.  Neither tonewood is going to be more forgiving or 'easier' or 'best' - the frequency spectrum content of both tonewoods in a similarly designed and manufactured and played guitar will be minimal in comparison to other factors - like is your mic in the exact same place in the room each time you record, or does it have the possibility of being placed one or two feet around?  One foot is the half wavelength of 562 Hz - meaning that you can move from a peak at a standing room mode to a node in the same mode at 562 Hz, just by moving the mic 1' in the room itself, regardless of how it's set up relative to the position of the guitar.

If you are possibly setting up where the mic is 2' different then before, then you are looking at 1/2 of that frequency, or 281 Hz - which is right in the region where your axe can sound boomy or not boomy - if you've got some room modes that line up at that frequency, you can really overstate the bass response of the instrument simply with mic placement in the room itself.

Have you ever tested what kind of room modes your recording room has right now?  It's not that hard to test.  PM me if you'd like some instructions - I can send you some test .wav files which will help you with this.
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« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2009, 12:35:33 AM »

I have to say Mahogany.  The few recordings I'm pleased with (using the recording gear I had at the time) were on a Mahogany guitar (Larrivee OO-05). But, and this is a big but, I'm thinking half (or most) of the battle is the recording gear and process itself. This new Zoom H4 I bought seriously gives what it gets. If cedar over rosewood has given me muddy recordings in the past, this H4 doesn't. So, I'm leaning toward giving guitars their due and placing any blame on the recording part of the equation.
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obe-wan
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« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2009, 01:54:45 PM »

Hey Kwak,

Ive got an OM-03R and like you struggled along with a Large Diameter Condenser Mic for a while. Then I finally got a Shure PG81, a relatively inexpensive small diameter condenser mic. Made all the difference. Its the cheap mans alternative to the much favored SM81. Another thing i can suggest is pointing the mic towards the 14th fret area from slightly below the center line of the guitar, that might reduce the amount of bass you're picking up. But i really think your fighting the design of the mic right from the start. Once you get the small condenser you can use that at the 14th fret, and also position the large condenser about 3 feet away from the lower bout and mix them, Ive done this and got good result.

Good luck !


Cheers, Scott.
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« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2009, 07:33:28 PM »

Thanks, I'll definitely try a small condenser mic or even a pair. I've been thinking of getting a Zoom H2 or H4 too though.
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Neil

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