The acoustic guitar is one of the essential components of contemporary music. It is nearly impossible to imagine a foundational instrument in modern music other than an acoustic guitar. It is the starting point for half of all musicians, and the basis for countless tunes. When recording your acoustic guitar, you have to consider a lot of things in order to achieve the best possible recording. This ensures you get that perfect track you are aiming for. Here are some suggestions to help you make your recordings sound better.
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Choose the Right Recording Space
It’s crucial to consider how the room’s acoustics will affect your recording before deciding where to set up the microphones. When attempting to influence the acoustics of a room, a general rule of thumb is to always keep in mind that a room with many hard surfaces (such as a bathroom or church) will have many reflections, resulting in a more spacious and characterful sound. On the other hand, the guitar’s sound will be more contained in a recording if you do it in a bedroom with lots of furniture, as the furniture will act as a sound absorber. The best tool you have here is your ears, so listen to the guitarist play in the room to determine the best sound and then arrange the guitar and microphones there.
Know Your Microphones
It is also important to carefully choose the mics you will be using before you start setting up. The most frequent choice is a pair of condenser mics since acoustic guitars are sensitive instruments that typically contain much high-frequency information.
Learn About Mono and Stereo Recording
Using two microphones is stereo recording, while using just one microphone is a mono recording. What distinguishes these two and when to employ one over the other may be on your mind. Here’s a few pointers to remember when choosing the setup of your microphones.
In Mono sound recordings:
- There will be no more phasing problems.
- Easy to set up.
- Great for recording guitar parts to thicken up an arrangement.
In Stereo recording:
- Incredibly helpful for improving the overall soundscape of your mono recordings.
- Develop a complete understanding of the instrument.
- Essential in songs with sparse arrangements, where the acoustic guitar takes center stage.
Decide Where to Place the Microphone
These are the most typical pitfalls people encounter while recording an acoustic guitar. Knowing these pitfalls will help you avoid similar errors when using a microphone.
Holding the microphone up to the sound hole.
We can assume the source of the noise is here. While it could make it logical to put the mic in the sound hole, doing so will likely result in a ‘boomy’ sound that won’t be fantastic and will be tough to mix.
Getting the mic as close to the guitar as you can.
The proximity effect, excess fret noise, and missing out on the guitar’s natural connection with the space are just a few problems that might arise when placing the mic too close to the instrument. The guitar sounds best when placed about 6 inches away as a starting point for further tweaking.
Staging a Mono Microphone
Frets 12 through 14
Most microphones sound natural and well-balanced when placed between 6 and 12 inches from the 12th and 14th fret. Try moving the microphone closer to the neck to get a thinner sound or closer to the sound hole to capture the pick or finger noises.
The tone captured by recording the guitar’s body will be more resonant and bass-heavy than the previous method. In many cases, this method works well with a vocal recording featuring a singer with a higher-pitched voice.
Stereo Microphone Placement
Spaced Pair (A/B)
Phasing will be more of a problem with the spaced pair method than with the coincidental pairings. Use the 3:1 rule to prevent phasing from detracting from your mix: at least three times the length of the guitar should separate each microphone. Start by positioning a microphone 6–12 inches from the 12th/14th fret and the bridge. Achieve a balance where each mic can stand on its own. It’s common practice to hard left and right pan each guitar mic when mixing the sound.
X/Y is another common method. For this method, you should position the microphones so that their diaphragms are touching as little as possible to prevent phasing. Both mics need to be angled at a right angle to one another. You wouldn’t pan these as far as the separated pair during the mixing procedure.
Record Through D.I
Many songwriters will begin the composition process by recording with the D.I. input. This is because it is more convenient in laying down tracks. However, since you’ll be using the instrument’s pickup exclusively, the recorded acoustic guitar sound may be more natural than it is. The room’s acoustics make the guitar feel at home and sound like it was meant to be played there.
To create convolution reverb, one simply fires a succession of frequencies into a room, records the resulting impulse response, and then applies a filter. Using this method, you may recreate the space’s acoustics exactly as they were during recording. A high-quality convolution reverb like Space Designer in Logic X or Space in Pro Tools will help your D.I. recordings feel more organic. Even if you already have microphones, bringing a D.I. gives you more tonal variety to play with and blend in.
When recording a song, you have to consider the role of the acoustic guitar. To get the most out of a stereo mic setup, use it for a featured portion; for added depth, use a mono mic. Finally, when recording acoustic guitars, don’t be afraid to experiment. With these tips, you will have an idea of how to set up your studio, or you room, before you start recording. Have fun!