American guitar
July 23, 2011 8:11 AM   Subscribe

How do American sound technicians make a folk/blues guitar sound really pop?

I'm listening to Dave Van Ronk's On Air.  Man, his guitar really pops. The sound is so deep, so resonating. I know the crew for the album is german. But still, I associate the sound with American sound technicians. What do they do to make that miracle guitar sound, live? I'm talking mostly blues and folk. Never heard something like that in Europe! What are the techniques, the equipment, the setup?
posted by Baldons to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's German, they probably used Neumann microphones.
posted by tommasz at 8:34 AM on July 23, 2011

I can't really say this is an American sound but this is a live recording according to this source and from the bits I heard here (full disclosure: I help develop that website), this sounds like a really good mic chain.

Like tommasz mentioned, they may have had neumanns or something of similar quality to record this, but it doesn't start or stop there. The first link in the chain is the great sounding guitar and the talent of who ever is playing it. Other elements that have a huge effect on the sound are the room, mic-pre, eq and type of compressor used. All of these elements have an influence on the sound. It sounds close-mic'ed to me because the audience can only barely be heard in a few spots.

According to the Interwebs, the engineers were Volker Steppat and Peter Schulze at Radio Bremen (I can imagine that they might have had access to some really nice vintage equipment in the RB studio). From what I can see, Volker Steppat is still there and moderates a show called Hörprobe. Perhaps you can use the contact form on the website or the email address at the bottom of the page and ask that they forward your question to him.
posted by chillmost at 9:41 AM on July 23, 2011

I found Steppat's email address on this page. Just search for his name.
posted by chillmost at 9:42 AM on July 23, 2011

Good equipment is important, but where most recordings get lost is in the EQ'ing. It's all about knowing which frequencies to cut and which to boost. You have to have an excellent ear, plus some actual knowledge of the methodology/formula. And from my experience, frankly, very few people who call themselves audio engineers have that knowledge. They just kind of fiddle around with the knobs until they get something they think sounds not-too-bad. But with proper EQ'ing, you can make almost anything pop.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:16 PM on July 23, 2011

Try two condenser mics set at right angles to one another in front of the sound hole. Its called coincident X Y mic technique.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:43 PM on July 23, 2011

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