3 Ways to Spice Up Your Acoustic Songs with Spire

By D I Hughes, Spire Contributor | February 26, 2019

acoustic songs

Some of the world's most vibrant and iconic songs are acoustic. From Jim Croce's “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” to Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon,” Death Cab For Cutie’s “Follow You into the Dark,” and beyond, acoustic songs are a powerful force. But when it comes to recording, bringing acoustic songs to life can be tricky.

With Spire Studio, recording acoustic songs that have depth and warmth is easier than you might think. To demonstrate, here are three ways you can spice up your acoustic songs with Spire Studio, complete with sound clips.

Before we delve any deeper into our acoustic song recording tips, here are two acoustic song excerpts—the original mix, as recorded and the final result, after panning, dynamics and additional effects have been applied.

Here is the original idea which includes a verse, chorus, and instrumental section, pre-mix:

And, to put Spire Studio’s acoustic song-making capabilities into perspective, here is the end demo:

1. Panning

When it comes to bringing an acoustic arrangement to life, panning is a critical element as you are essentially using the stereo space in your songs to pop them into life, create warmth, and make your arrangements more exciting.

Using Spire’s Visual Mixer, I placed the song in its entirety on loop and used my fingertips to move each track into different spaces, listening carefully with my headphones until I landed upon the best stereo balance possible.

To add cohesiveness the vocal section in particular, I panned the main vocal slightly to the right and the backing vocal section further to the left; I also placed the lead guitar section slightly to the left to bestow it with definition by filling the space between the rhythm guitar and the backing vocal.

When it comes to your own acoustic songs, you should let your creativity be your guide, using this panning approach as a workable blueprint to place each your tracks into the perfect spot in the stereo spectrum and season your track with a little sonic spice.

2. Dynamics

Alongside panning, dynamics (the volume of individual tracks within your mix) is pivotal to spicing up your acoustic songs and bringing them to life.

In the original recording, you’ll notice that everything is very flat and most parts clash with one another, but with a little visual mixing, the overall sound changes dramatically.

To further enhance the panning, I set the vocals down in the mix, keeping the core rhythmic track in the very center (both in terms of panning and dynamics) to serve as the song’s anchor, allowing the additional parts to weave around it harmoniously.

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After gaining a perfect balance between the rhythm and vocal tracks, I decided to make the lead guitar line the centerpiece of the arrangement by cranking up the volume and placing it as high in the mix as possible.

When you’re recording your acoustic songs, by pushing up individual parts at opportune moments in the arrangement, you stand to highlight the subtle, majestic and poetic tones of a particular part or melody, stopping the listener in their tracks and giving your tune a whole new depth in the process. As long as the rest of the parts are well balanced, this simple yet effective dynamic technique will work wonders—give it a try.

3. Effects

When it comes to acoustic songs, subtle use of studio effects can go a long way. In both versions of the example track, I have applied Spire’s professional studio effects to spice up the overall sound, tone, and feel of the song.

In these tracks, I’ve used the Acoustic Shaper and Intimate Vibes Space to give the song warmth while accentuating the nuance of each note and chord performed within the track.

The main difference, effects-wise, between the original and final version of the excerpt, is that in the latter of the two, I added a percussive clapping track which I added a large dose of Warm Voice reverb to with the view of giving the track more flow and edge.

When adding effects to tracks within your acoustic songs, the more experimental the better. But, to get the best results, you should start with a subtle application of a particular effect and try out a few different options before you hit the record button. The take home here is: don’t be afraid to use effects in your acoustic recordings, they are your friend—all you need to do is conduct a little trial and error and acoustic success will be yours.

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