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How to Record and Mix Acoustic Songs with Spire Studio

by Charley Ruddell, iZotope Contributor September 26, 2019
Spire Studio is a great tool for recording acoustic instruments

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Don't forget to download this article's Spire session file directly to your iPhone or iPad, and explore our final mix in the Spire app! Spire Studio hardware is required for projects to open on Android devices. 

It’s easier than ever to be an electronic or electric-based DIY musician with user-friendly DAWs and compact hardware, but what if your genre relies on acoustic instruments? Acoustic music is getting left behind in the technology boom simply because most acoustic instruments require microphones and appropriate sound-proof spaces, something many current programs cannot provide. It’s an unfortunate situation for a genre that predates the electric guitar by a few hundred years.

Acoustic music—which includes, folk, singer/songwriter, Americana, and many other genres—is everywhere, whether it’s the franchised concert series based around being “unplugged,” or the current hit singles that are heavily acoustic. The issue at hand is the demand for acoustic music is high, but the supply is reserved for artists with enough capital to afford studio time or expensive recording equipment. 

With that, not only is Spire Studio affordable, but it’s perfectly suited to produce top-quality acoustic projects. Spire Studio’s omnidirectional condenser mic, optional XLR inputs, and bountiful recording effects can make acoustic song recordings sound professional and authentic within the confines of your own space. 

I'm going to break down the ins and outs of Spire Studio to show you how it can assist you in your acoustic journey. Whether you’re using your own mic or using Spire’s, you can create an all-acoustic song using Spire Studio’s featured effects.

Acoustic instruments
Acoustic instruments

Record your foundation first

Whether your song’s foundation is the guitar, piano, or a percussive element, it’s important to get that down first. In this case, our foundation is a guitar. 

This example was recorded using Spire Studio's omnidirectional condenser mic, and the guitar is running through the Acoustic Shaper Space for that crisp-sounding natural reverb. If you are also planning to use Spire Studio's mic, we’ve got you covered on where and how to place it. If you’re using your own microphone, plug it into the back of the Spire Studio console in channel one. Some mics need phantom power, so make sure to do some research on your own mic. If it does need it, press the phantom power switch on the back of the console. 

Try your best to find a quiet place to record. Place your mic close to your instrument and record as many takes as you need to get the perfect one for you.

Top Tip: Try doubling, or even tripling, this foundation track by recording another identical take to the first; this gives your track a substantial boost of body in the stereo field. 

The example below is three separate tracks that are panned around the stereo field.

Foundation

Add rhythmic textures

Once your foundation is in place, sprinkle in rhythmic textures to reinforce the beat. A simple tamborine, shaker, or other percussion instrument will work just fine. 

When mic’ing your rhythmic track, keep the Spire Studio mic about a foot away while you record; you’ll get a nice natural room sound while doing so. Feel like spicing up the rhythm track further? You can play with the metronome to create complementary rhythms. 

Listen to the example below for some rhythmic reference.

Rhythm

Plan your secondary parts

Writing secondary parts to accompany your foundation will bring life to your track. If your foundation in the mix is dead center, try panning your secondary parts to create a larger stereo field and make your project more interesting and fertile. 

A great way to add flavor to your parts is to use Spire Studio’s Spaces for great-sounding natural reverb. Warm Voice and Acoustic Shaper are both ideal options for acoustic instruments. Try either one to get the sound you’re looking for.

Having trouble coming up with additional layers? You can always refer to our layering guide for some inspiration. 

Secondary

Mix with intention

Acoustic music, particularly folk music, like the sample we’re building, benefits from a mix that presents the instruments in their purest form. It’s important to mix the instruments so they feel forward and intentional. 

You’ll want to bring your foundation tracks forward and centered. Pan your secondary parts to create a larger stereo field, and tuck in your rhythm tracks to simply compliment the song’s natural rhythm. 

This mix looks and sounds like this, for reference.

Our final acoustic mix
Our final acoustic mix

Final Mix

Conclusion

Recording and releasing music within the confines of the acoustic world may seem like an overall challenge, but it’s entirely within the realm of Spire Studio's capabilities. By experimenting with mic placement, using Spaces to record your instruments, and mixing with intention, you can forget worrying about studio time or maxing out your credit card with expensive gear. Simply sit down with your Spire Studio and hammer out a professional sounding and meaningful acoustic song.

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