A particular problem with fingerpicked acoustic guitar is picking up all the subtleties of the strings with your microphone.
If your guitarist is really picking quietly it’s hard to get all that softness loud enough for the listener to appreciate it.
One Mic Can’t Rule them All
You can’t get a good acoustic guitar without recording it with a microphone. One decent condenser on the 12th fret usually does the trick. It combines both the highs and lows in such a way as to capture the full sound of the acoustic guitar.
But even with a nice microphone at the 12th fret, sometimes you won’t pick up all the subtleties of someone plucking very softly.
That’s when an unlikely candidate can help you enhance the sound of the fingers.
Use a DI for Enhancement
Many acoustic guitars have pickups that work great in combination with a microphone. Use the guitar’s line output to add the string sound to your miked up acoustic.
The DI sound on its own doesn’t sound great. It sounds somewhat brittle and toppy, but used with a microphone it can boost those delicate tones.
Plug it into your interface alongside your microphone and use both signals during mixing.
Beware of Time Delay
If you’re using both a microphone and a DI make sure you’re avoiding phase problems. The signal from the DI travels faster than the microphone signal, especially if the microphone is a little farther away.
This might not cause a big problem, but just make sure both waveforms align correctly. You don’t want one waveform starting before the other because it will cause phase cancellations.
If they don’t seem to align well, just move the DI’d waveform so that it starts at the same time as your microphone.
A little Bit Goes a Long Way
Mix the DI’d sound underneath your microphone. Just a little goes a long way to bring out the intricacies of the plucked guitar.
Try this trick the next time you’re recording a quiet acoustic guitar and you’ll be surprised how effective it is to make that quiet plucking shine.
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