Guitar

DIY Album

Recording & mixing guitar : My own recipe


Even if there might be a perfect way to record electro-acoustic guitar and electric guitar, I assume mine is not perfect. Below I explain the way I recorded and mixed the acoustic and electric guitar on the album, with extremely cheap gear and stuff.

What I used for the recording itself :

  • USB soundcard (E-MU tracker pre, probably the cheapest one ever) with two Jack/XLR input and a stereo output for direct monitoring (i.e. without latency).
  • Headphones
  • Korg ToneWorks Pandora Box (a very cheap multi-effect device that I got from my guitar teacher Yann-Guirec Le Bars almost for free, some years ago)
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The USB soundcard, the headphones and the Pandora Box
  • Of course a Laptop (Mine is 2GHz AMD Athlon Dual Core, 4GB RAM, Windows 7-32bits)
  • Microphone : Behringer B-1 (Also used for percussions and vocal, actually for all the instruments of the album !)
  • One microphone stand.
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The microphone listed above.
  • 2 Jack cables, one XLR cable
  • And the music recording software, the wonderful Cubase SX3 !!

Of course the microphone has to be put in a suitable way next to where the right hand will touch the strings… Listening carefully with isolated headphones can help to find the best setting.

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Microphone setting for acoustic recording

Okay, now let’s talk about the recording itself, for acoustic guitar first. I record two mono tracks, one with the microphone and one from the Pandora Box.

01
Two guitar tracks

The upper track is the one from the microphone, the lower is that from the Pandora Box. See for each track the routing I used (Microphone on right-in, Jack on left-in).

Then, each track will be doubled. Jack track 1 will be sent to the right output, and its copy to the left output. Then Microphone track 1 will be sent to the left and its copy to the right. The levels of the two copies have to be reduced in order to separate them in the stereo output. I also add a time delay of say 15-20ms to those two tracks to enhance the stereo effect.

02
Then both tracks get doubled, a time delay of 15ms is added to the two copies.
03
The mixer shows the routing and levels used for each track…

And of course, basic effects such as compression should be added to each track…

04
“Multiband compressor” effect.

Reverb, delay, flanger etc… are also possible, only your ears can tell you what is missing, in case something is actually missing !

And what about electric guitar ? Let me show mine :

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My electric guitar ??

Yes, I know, this is not really what we can call an electric guitar, I have a nice Kort electric guitar but I left it in Brittany, we have to reduce the amount of luggage when travelling from Brittany to Istanbul ! But here is the Pandora Box, EXTREMELY helpful ! So, Pandora has a stereo output, I use a special cable to split it in two mono outputs that will be connected to the soundcard as follows :

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The way Pandora is connected to the soundcard, see the two thin cables on the left.

Then, I only use two tracks, one for each mono output. From Cubase, one is sent to the left output, the other to the right. Some examples of what it sounds like here or here !

I used exactly the same kind of procedures for electric baglama and electric ‘ud. For acoustic ‘ud I only used the microphone and two tracks.

Well, I’m quite satisfied of the result so far, even if this surely has to be improved ! Would you have any useful advice, please let me know, all suggestions are welcome 🙂 !
§ Yann

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Musicians' Diary

No, I’m not a bass player !


A recurring problem for me in Istanbul is when I need to buy new strings for my folk guitar. In Brittany, most guitar players that play Breton music commonly use hard strings (usually Martin medium) whereas in Istanbul you can almost only find Light strings, despite of the large amount of music shops available. Therefore, I usually have to buy my strings from Brittany or from the web.

Playing hard strings has various consequences :

  • First of all, such hard strings can make guitar playing be very painful for your fingers.
  • The guitar itself has to be strong enough to stand resulting strains.

But look, this is what I have found last week in a Breton music shop :

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My new guitar strings !

Yes this is even stronger than Medium strings (gauges are between 0.13 and 0.56), these are HEAVY strings, yes (gauges range from 0.14 up to 0.59) !

You may say, “this starts to sound like bass guitar strings !”. Indeed, I used to play with a combination of guitar and bass strings (using a bass string as lowest D, but this is now over !

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The blue thing is a piece of pen cap that I cut in order to enable my guitar to stand the bass string that you can see on the picture !

Let’s go and try my new HEAVY strings, my fingers and my guitar have to get used to 🙂 !

§ Yann

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Musicians' Diary

Using oriental instruments ?


Music instruments that were (and are still) most commonly used in Breton music were bombard, biniou (breton bagpipe), treujenn gaol, (actually a clarinet), accordion.

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Bombard (left) and biniou (right), mostly played together

More recently (i.e. in the 70’s and after World War II), new instruments like guitars, Irish wooden flute, bass, violin, Scottish bagpipes were introduced.

Treujenn-Gaol
Treujenn Gaol (Breton clarinet)

In Astrakan Project, I mostly play stringed instruments. You may have noticed that I use guitar, but also Turkish ‘ud and bağlama (commonly called saz in western Europe). One may think this is to give an oriental flavour to our music. This might be partly true, but I don’t think this is the main reason.

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‘ud

One good reason is of course the fact that we currently live in Turkey, where ‘ud and bağlama are commonly used, so why shouldn’t I use them, temptation is so huge ?

But another good reason is that these instruments enables to play “more notes”, including the so called “commas“. In Breton music, we do have “commas” (see here for further explanations, for musicologists only !), yes, but they tend to disappear with the introduction of guitar, accordion and Scottish bagpipes for instance. You can play any note you want on a ‘ud, and almost any on a bağlama (even if there are frets).

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Bağlama

When I play a breton tune, I feel closer to the truth (?) when I use the ‘ud than when I use the guitar, I think that’s a good reason for using oriental instruments !

§ Yann