How to Mix Acoustic Music — Part 1: Acoustic Guitar

Transcript:

Hey, what’s up guys? David Glenn, of davidglennrecording.com and theproaudiofiles.com. Today we’re going to kick off a brand new four part series on how to mix an acoustic, singer-songwriter track.

This song as got an acoustic guitar that’s picked. It has got an acoustic guitar that’s strummed, and then we’ve got a lead vocal, and that’s it. So, we’re going to get this cleaned up. Get it sounding good, and uh, ready for marketing. We’re going to use this to give it away. Kind of develop a fan base.

So, the song is called “Chosen”. It’s by one of my best friends, Jaris Cole. We’re in the process of recording his debut EP right now. And I kind of pulled these in from the radio version we’re working on so we can have some acoustics and a vocal to work with.

I’m going to hit play, and then we’ll go through video one, we’re going to cover the acoustic. Video two, I’m going to cover the lead vocal. Video three, I’m going to show you the EQ technique I’m using. Mid-side technique for sweetening up the acoustic. And then in the fourth video we’ll go over the stereo bus, and how I’m treating that with multiple plug-ins to kind of get that ready. It’s, it’s a mastered sound. Once it’s done it leaves here, it can be released, so. Hit play. We’ll dive right in.

So, keeping it simple. You’ll notice that I’ve got the lead vocal just kind of sitting at the forefront. And then I just wanted the acoustics to support the lead vocal. To give some music, and to be foundational. So, that’s kind of the mind set that I took in this.

I’m not sure that I can play this song, but the reference that I used was, Matt Nathanson, and the song is called “Angel.” So, if you want to go download that, or check it out on Spotify, I encourage you to download it, but however you want to hear that song. That’s kind of the goal for this of what I was wanting to go for.

So, this acoustic if you’ll notice, like I said we pulled this from a Pro Tools session for the radio version, but I’ve got multiple acoustic parts. These are all the picked parts, and we did it in sections for a reason, but those are going to an Oxford ACS pick. And that goes to my all music.

So, all of these acoustics parts are routed through here. And the strumming part I handled differently. I treated it with different EQ and compression and that kind of stuff. So, let’s hear the picked acoustic. Let’s actually bypass everything. I’ll show you a before and after. Kind of show you what I was thinking as I mixed this.

We track this with a 414 on an older Martin. I can’t remember the model of it, but stuck that in the, in the booth and tracked it. Let’s see through the UAD Apollo, and no plug-ins to tape. So, this is dry.

Cool. So, it’s dry. It’s just the mic. Maybe 5 or 6 inches off the guitar. I like to aim for that sweet spot just above the sound hole where you don’t get so much of the boomyness, but a little section. Let’s see, if this were an acoustic guitar it would be the section right up in here. Kind of aim the mic right there.

Maybe show you guys a picture of that, but the sound, one more time so we can AB it.

First step was to remove some of the low mid, some of the mud, and to make sure I didn’t get any of the rumble or anything. You can see right there I’m pulling out a little bit, actually quite a bit. 9 dB at 163, 400. And what I did is I would just sweep through and try to hear. If you guys aren’t familiar with the Fab Filter EQ let me show you what this can do.

So, I can zone in on the frequencies that I want to remove. So, I’ve done that with a low mids. And then let’s play quickly the Studer, love the UAD stuff. And the Studer is beautiful. We’ve got the acoustic preset. Looks like I just turned off the noise, and dialed in the input. Let’s hear it before and after.

So, it’s really, really subtle, but it’s more of a character thing. And it just feels good to run it through the tape. So moving on let’s go to the, Chris Lord acoustic. The CLA acoustic plug-in.

I love what this is doing. This is going to be quite a bit of a volume difference here, but this is going to be to brighten it up and give it some clarity.

[music]

You can already tell it’s much clearer, and then what I wanted, I lost a little bit of the bottom end in that. So, I used LA-2 to kind of add some oomph back it. 

So, I’m liking the vibe on the picked acoustic guitar. Uh, you’ll see I’ve run that through the UAD EMT plate. And more so just put that in a space. And then I put the vocal in the same exact space when we cover that in video two, but let’s take a listen to that. Before and after.

[music]

So it just kind of gives it a sense of space. And this one, I don’t want to talk too much about this. Sometimes what I’ll do is if I have a mono source, and I want it to, a little reflection of the right side or the left side I have slot delay on the left, and a slot delay on the right set up at different times.

Let’s say I have a guitar on the left, or kind of in the center I may send it to the right slot delay and just bring it in a little bit to kind of feel it on that side. Not hear it, but I just want to feel it. And in this case I’m not sure that I used too much of it, but let’s demo that. Let’s pull it all the way down, and then I’ll pull it in.

That’s the picked acoustic guitar. I’ll show you real quick the strummed acoustic guitar. I wanted to mix that a little bit differently. You’ll see, Let’s solo the acoustic there. Mute the vocal for this video.

So, nice and clear. And for those of you guys using too many plug-ins let me show you a quick little tip. A little rabbit trail. Love them. I will sometimes take the aux tracks , or the tracks themselves and scoop them up like this if you click and drag to try and limit my view of all the inserts.

Whenever I have it set up like this I like to see all ten of the inserts, but I don’t know, sometimes you can kind of trick yourself into using less plug-ins if you shrink it down. So, that may help somebody.

Let’s go similar concept, maybe not walk through an AB of every single thing, but similar concept here. We’ve got the, the low mids coming down. The Studer once again with the acoustic. And if I’m not mistaken I, love the patchwork there, went pretty much the same except I didn’t want quite as much top in because with the strumming I felt like I got enough of that with the way it was recorded. And it looks like we did not go with an LA-2.

I used the new Universal Audio 610B, and I love the tone of that. Let’s actually A/B that for those of you who haven’t heard it. Here’s the before.

So, in the track with the vocal I liked what that was doing. I actually added that on the back end. And then you can see similarly we’re routing this strummed acoustic to the EMT vocal plate again. Let’s here that without it.

I didn’t want to overdo the, the room sound on this for demos sake. Just to keep it somewhat dry, but still give it a feel and that’s video one. There’s the acoustic guitar.

If you guys have any questions feel free to message me at david[at]davidglennrecording.com. Be sure to check out more at theproaudiofiles.com. And uh, don’t uh, you’ll see video 2 coming up soon. We’re going to go over the lead vocal on this song. Lots to cover. So, we’ll check you guys soon.

David Glenn

David Glenn

David Glenn is a producer/engineer/musician based out of Orlando, FL. Credits include: Pablo Villatoro, Blanca Callahan (Group 1 Crew), Aimee Allen, and more. Learn more and get in touch at davidglennrecording.com.
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