Merlin Smith

Acoustic Guitarist

Merlin Smith on SoundBetter

My speciality is fingerstyle acoustic guitar. If you really want me to make your track stand out then allow me to put my signature style within it and I can promise you piece will stand the test of time and shine amongst other generic content. I am also able to produce my own music after studying production for 3 years at University

I started off the first few years playing mostly electric guitar, so I am well versed in many electric playing techniques as well as with creating interesting sounds using slides, volume swells and dive bombs. As I began to show more of an interest in acoustic playing I have now managed to develop a style that can completely transform a piece of music by using intricate chord phrasings and complex arpeggios. I can guarantee that with my style of playing on your track it will most certainly stand out against other generic guitarists. I do not currently have many credits to validate my claims, however this is due to me spending all my time creating my own material and writing my own albums.
I also spent approximately 4 years studying music production and music technology where I learnt to produce my own music and also started experimenting with recording techniques and even invented my own binaural recording methods.
I am currently offering my services for a lower price simply to start collaborating with others, however if you have any reservations then please take the time to listen to my music or watch any of my videos of which I have over a hundred on my YouTube channel. I'm happy to take on any job from basic guitar tracks to challenging and complex composition input. I also have access to high quality recording gear so am able to create remotely and send anything over.

Would love to hear from you. Click the contact button above to get in touch.

Interview with Merlin Smith

  1. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  2. A: I'd say my 2nd album. I wrote, played, recorded and produced everything. I'd say I'm especially proud of it just because I put so much work into it. It was written over years and I really feel in terms of songwriting it was a big step up from my first one and I really started to discover what songs I did particularly well at writing. I also used some playing techniques that I don't think had been used before, which created some really cool sounds on the guitar without recording tricks.

  3. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  4. A: My 4th album, as well as trying to refine some binaural recording techniques and also lots and lots of YouTube videos. That's a constant though, I'm always doing those.

  5. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  6. A: Naa, sorry.

  7. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  8. A: I prefer analog but can only afford digital :(

  9. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  10. A: That everything will be played to the highest of standards, higher than even the best studios can offer.

  11. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  12. A: Making something that lasts forever. That sounds cringe but it's true.

  13. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  14. A: Can you play this? Can you play like this person? Can you make it sound like this? The answer is yes to all, the only variable is time.

  15. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  16. A: That anyone who's done a quick 'guitar for dummies course' can do it and that the guitar part is just sort of this small part of the overall song that is expendable, which in some cases it may be. However I feel a good strong well-written part can make or break a song. If you don't believe me you can just take a look back through musical history and see how many iconic songs start with a catchy riff or beautiful picked acoustic.

  17. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  18. A: What do you want done? Do you have a reference track for me? How many creative liberties can I take? How complex would you like it?

  19. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  20. A: If you know exactly what you want then tell me and tell me not to deviate from that vision, I'm more than happy to oblige. However, if you want a collaboration and to have my sound blend with yours, give me a rough idea of what you want, a reference track and leave me to it. I don't feel you'd be disappointed with the result.

  21. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  22. A: guitar, my toothbrush, laptop, solar powered charging thing, a lighter

  23. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  24. A: I really took an interest in doing music professionally around 16 when I began to attend music college. I then went on to get really focused on the production side of things at around 18, at which point my guitar playing had become more acoustic focused. Over the next few years I had gotten enough material together that I was able to write an album, and whilst studying learnt how to produce it to a high level. This has basically been the pattern of my work for the last 3 years. Just writing music, recording it then bringing out an album. Have just finished my 3rd which was a covers album and am now working on the 4th to hopefully be released in 2022

  25. Q: How would you describe your style?

  26. A: Some songs I write sound like a kind of relaxed ASMR acoustic guitar track you could listen to on a summers evening, however the music that seems to come most naturally to me that I always feel a pull towards is this sort of dark Tim Burton-esque classical style guitar playing. I'd say you could play most of my songs over a scene in Sleepy Hollow and it would kind of fit in.

  27. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  28. A: Probably Danny Elfman. I didn't realise it until recently but his sort of macabere style of composing has really had an influence on my music. I feel we would make some dark sounding cool stuff together.

  29. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  30. A: Record it well to begin with so that you don't have to overly-produce in post. Like when a photographer takes a photo they try and get the best shot they can, then do some minor editing and colour correction etc. Just how you can always tell when a photographer has gone really over the top adding filters to a bad photo, a trained ear can always hear a badly recorded guitar that has attempted to be masked with way too many effects.

  31. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  32. A: I'd say mostly fingerstyle acoustic guitar, however I also spend a lot of time creating instrumental covers for YouTube, however this is more just for fun and a bit of a challenge than as a true artistic expression of my own work.

  33. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  34. A: Finding anywhere but the usual place to play chords, then layering this up with harmonised arpeggios. In my YouTube guitar covers you will see a lot of this done.

  35. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  36. A: I try my absolute best to come up with chords and picking patterns that have never been done before. On the face of it this sounds like a very difficult task, however I have spent a long time building up the hand strength and learning my own patterns to phrase very complex chords that I don't even know the name of. I try to 'fight mediocrity tooth and nail' as Chet Atkins once said.

  37. Q: What's your typical work process?

  38. A: It starts with rehearsing. I'll practice until it is as good as I can possibly get it as no amount of post-production can edit out bad playing. Once I feel I'm ready to record and all set up I'll sit down and get as many takes as necessary until I feel I've captured the best recording I can get. Sometimes I'm on form and this happens within one or two takes, however other times it can take into the double digits, and even then my perfectionism takes over and I'll spend the next few hours listening back to all the takes and isolating what I perceive to be flaws (a string buzz, a slight flat note) and decide if it's good enough to go through production. If I feel the track is as flawless as I can get it, I then go on to EQ and compress, then add on any effects. I try to limit the amount I do in post as I feel if you get the recording right from the source then it sounds much better than having a poor recording that has clearly had a lot of work done to it. The mastering process for acoustic finger style then just basically involves bringing levels up a bit and making it smooth with some gentle compression.

  39. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  40. A: My main DAW I work with is Logic, however I sometimes dabble in Pro Tools, and I then run out into a basic Sapphire interface, not entirely sure which one it is. When it comes to Mic's I'm always using my C414, which is normally perfect for just a guitar, however if I want a really padded out mix I may run a DI from my Maton guitar into an AER compact 60 amp, then may use my ribbon mic and do a stereo recording technique which is normally the mid-side technique. My studio isn't static as I like to make use of ambient recording spaces. Don't think any plugin can beat a natural reverb from a hallway or bathroom. I only have digital plugins and no outboard hardware, however I almost always run through a J37 tape saturator plugin and maybe a CLA-76 compressor or SSL Bus Compressor.

  41. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  42. A: Tommy Emmanuel for his technical playing ability. It's hard for me to think of a playing technique I use that I didn't derive from him. Then I'd say Chet Atkins from an arrangement perspective. Whenever I'm running out of ideas on how to do an interesting arrangement of a song I just listen to his version of 'Heart Of Glass', I think that is a masterclass in how to completely transform something into an instrumental cover but also keep it interesting.

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: In all past collaborations I have been the main acoustic and electric guitar player and producer, however this has only been on projects with friends and other musical collaborations in which I have a significant input as opposed to being just a session player for hire.

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Merlin Smith // The Ballad Of Old Clicky Fingers

I was the Songwriter, Guitarist and Producer in this production

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Gear Highlights
  • AKGC414
  • Maton EBG808 Artist Acoustic
  • Mackie CR3's
  • Fender Stratocaster
  • Maton SRS70C Acoustic
  • Se Electronics V1 Ribbon Mic
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