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Hearing the sound of an acoustic guitar is always a treat, and an audience can definitely appreciate and hear the when the right microphone technique is applied to an acoustic guitar for both recordings and live performances.
However, miking acoustic guitar sound can be difficult to get just right. Wondering about the right microphone placement, different mics, and recording techniques you should use and apply to get the best sound out of your acoustic guitar home recording? Here are some mic techniques sound engineers utilize to get perfect guitar sounds every time.
While there are a ton of mic types out there that are fantastic for different types of recordings and getting good sound out of other instruments, an acoustic guitarist should know that condenser mics are the way to go when it comes to getting the best and most realistic sound out of their acoustic guitar.
Generally speaking, a condenser microphone is a better choice over dynamic mics for the guitar in this case, as dynamic mics aren’t capable of capturing the subtleties and nuanced sound of acoustic guitars as well as a condenser mics. Both large and small diaphragm condenser mics are worth looking into, but keep in mind that a pencil condenser microphone is better for stereo miking while a large diaphragm condenser is more for mono techniques.
Generally, however, either style of condenser can work, as spaced pair stereo recording can mix and match small and large format condensers together.
There are many tips when it comes to setting up a microphone for recording, but now that you know what single microphone you need to capture the best acoustic guitar sounds in the right recording environment, it’s time to know what tips and techniques to apply to get the most balanced sound out of your acoustic guitar.
When setting up your acoustic guitar mic, the first thing to keep in mind is to avoid keeping your mic position directly in front of the sound hole. Placing your mic in front of the sound hole over-amplifies the sound waves from the guitar and washes out detail because of how much more bass frequencies are coming out through the sound hole.
Instead of placing your mic at the sound hole, placing the single cardioid mic about 12 to 16 inches away from the 12th fret captures high end and gives you good guitar sound every time. This applies to single-mic guitar recordings as well as coincident pair and X-Y stereo technique. However, you also need to consider phase issues and comb-filtering with more than one mic. A rule of thumb is to make sure the distance between the mics is three times that of the distance between the mics and the instrument, as this will defend your recording against phase issues.
We’ve already told you that a condenser mic is the best choice for recording acoustic guitar. But when stereo miking your guitar, it’s also key to note that if you want to capture both the high brilliance and low-end warmth of your acoustic guitar more effectively, one microphone might not always be enough.
Consider using a matched pair or a spaced pair when you want the left and right channels to sound identical.
Before anything else, investing in a good quality acoustic guitar is the first step to getting great sound in a recording. Even with the right mic, if your guitar doesn’t have the tone that you’re looking for from the get-go, even the best mic or audio interface won’t be able to improve your sound source.
When miking an acoustic guitar, sometimes you have to sacrifice the absolute best spot in order to let the musician play uninhibited. Placing your mic in front of the guitar in a spot where the acoustic guitar player feels uncomfortable could actually affect your recording even more than the mic placement itself.
First and foremost, make sure that the guitar player is comfortable and in a position to perform their best. Sometimes, sacrificing the perfect microphone placement will actually get you a better overall sound when the musician is confident and can play to the best of their abilities.
Miking acoustic guitar can be a bit of a challenge when you don’t know exactly where to begin. However, knowing the basics of your guitar and how your mic captures its sound is the start to consistently good-quality guitar recordings. If you want perfect sound out of your acoustic guitar every time you turn on your mic, remember these simple tips to start with and get to pro-level in no time.