how do i get clean acoustic guitar track edits?

hello all i am a newbie at sound recording and editing as you all may have already guessed but i have finally gotten myself a decent audio recorder/mic, although i don’t think the zoom h1 is what most of you might consider a good mic for recording acoustic guitar tracks and vocals, but correct me if i am wrong. anyway, as soon as i got home today i tried recording a few guitar tracks on it and they sounded great! but that was before i brought them into audacity to remove any background noise that the zoom h1 might have picked up and well… it made the tracks sound just crappy! so i tried normalizing, equalizing, compressing, hard limiting, and adding reverb to them (i know a bit of what they do so i figured i’d be fine). they sounded fine after that but it still had that annoying buzzing background noise only it was clearer now (might’ve been due to the normalizing). anyway, my question is is there any other way to remove background noise other than the noise remover? also, is there a better workflow for editing acoustic guitar tracks than the one i use and just mentioned? thanks! any and all help is appreciated and welcome

Fantastic. Best to leave it alone then isn’t it?

it made the tracks sound just crappy!

The tools all help and create damage at the same time. It’s up to you to balance the two. If the performance doesn’t need any help, then leave it alone!

He who equalizes least, equalizes best.

That’s an H2 with, as near as I can tell, very little help.


I think the Zoom recorder should be pretty good… It’s going to be far better than your average “computer mic” or the mic built into a laptop. Portable recorders are super-handy and you don’t have to worry about “computer problems” when recording…

If Noise Removal is making things worse, you may not be able to make much improvement. Noise removal is not always perfect and you can get artifacts. Solo acoustic instruments are difficult to record, because they are “dynamic” and during the quiet parts the signal may not be strong enough to mask (drown-out) the noise. If you end-up mixing-in more instruments, the sound becomes more dense and background noise is less of a problem.

If the buzzing is 50 or 60 cycle line-frequency hum, you can try notch filters at 60Hz, 120Hz, and maybe180Hz. (or 50, 100, 200 if you live in Europe, or somewhere the line frequency Is 50Hz), But with a battery powered portable recorder and an acoustic instrument, I’m not sure where the line hum would be coming from… If the noise has a particular frequency or pitch, you can try to filter-out that pitch with a notch filter.

It’s important to find a good quiet place you can use for your “studio”. Most studios are “dead” sounding (no natural reverb) and reverb is added later. But with certain instruments like a guitar, a “music room” with good reverb can be nice. Most home studios are too small for nice sounding natural reverb, and you should probably try to find a dead room, or add sound absorbing “stuff” to the room (carpet, drapes, upholstered furniture, pillows, etc. You can’t remove “room sound” (natural reverberation), so it’s easier to start with a “dead” sound. (Acoustics & soundproofing is a complicated subject but there are some quick and easy things you can do.)

so i tried normalizing, equalizing, compressing, hard limiting, and adding reverb to them (i know a bit of what they do so i figured i’d be fine).

Depending on what you’re looking for, don’t go too crazy with the processing & effects… You did say you wanted “clean”. I’d start with the ideal philosophy that a good recording doesn’t need any processing (assuming a good mic, in a good location, a good instrument, and a good performance in a good room).

There’s nothing wrong with normalization. It’s just a volume change.

In reality, you are probably going to need some compression to get reasonable volume without clipping (distortion). Most commercial recordings have quite a bit of compression, and modern popular music has TONS of compression. It’s not easy to get the same “loudness” with a home recording without getting noticeable distortion, so don’t worry if your recording isn’t as loud as your CDs & MP3s. (Some rare jazz & classical recordings don’t use any compression.)

And, since you probably don’t have the perfect room, you’ll probably need some (artificial) reverb. There are all kinds of reverb plug-ins available and if you can’t get a good natural-sound from the one that comes with Audacity, you may have to look around a bit.

I wouldn’t use hard limiting at all. That’s basically distortion, but it’s not the “good distortion” you get from a nicely overdriven electric guitar amp. Guitar players tend to prefer tube amps which tend to soft-clip as opposed to solid state amps that tend to hard-clip. (Although, you can build a solid-state amp that acts somewhat like a tube amp.)

Equalization should mostly be used to correct for “errors”, especially if the microphone is a little too “bright” or a little too “dull”. Or, if your instrument seems to need “a little something”. Except, it is common practice to filter-out bass (say below 200Hz) on everything but bass guitar or kick drum.

[u]Here[/u] is an article about recording acoustic guitar. The mic placement information may be helpful. If the Zoom recorder will attach to a mic stand, you can use a boom-stand to get the recorder close and in good position for good tone and a good strong signal to mask more of the room noise.

awesome sounding video! i think this sound may just be what i am trying to achieve with my h1. all i need to do now is figure out how i can do that exactly. would appreciate a few pointers, thanks!

i already know a bit about mic placement and room acoustics but thanks! i’ll read up more on it though when i can. oh and btw i might post my recordings in a few hours or tomorrow for u guys to give a quick listen and perhaps maybe u can let me know what i did wrong? i think i’ll be able to learn faster that way. i really appreciate the help.

I have another idea for you to try… A Noise Gate kills the sound completely when the sound fall below a preset threshold, ideally, when there is nothing but background noise.

Unlike Noise Removal (or “Noise Reduction”), most of the time it’s not doing anything to the sound and most of the recording is completely untouched.

The problem with a noise gate is that it often sounds unnatural when everything suddenly goes dead-silent. But with guitar, you can apply the noise gate, and then add some reverb. The reverb might just hide the opening/closing of the gate. It’s usually the sudden closing of the gate as a note’s decay is trailing-off that’s distracting. The attack often covers-up the sudden opening of the gate.

The noise gate in Audacity’s effects menu is called “Gate”.