This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 – Recording Acoustic Guitar – The Zen of Shimmering Guitar from the ebook Recording Strategies – Planning the Perfect Session. Get your copy here.
First things first. A crappy sounding guitar is always going to sound like a crappy sounding guitar.* If you’re serious about recording guitar, then make sure you have an instrument worth recording.
*Actually, there is one exception to this rule. Kurt Cobain managed to make an out-of-tune shitty sounding acoustic guitar sound amazing on not one, but two songs. “Polly” and “Something in the Way” were both recorded with his pawn shop guitar, and they sound awesome.
But you’re not Kurt Cobain so stick to a good, in-tune guitar.
Before you even hit record, do this. I’m not kidding. If you don’t do this then your acoustic guitar will suffer for it.
- Re-string your guitar. - If you’re recording an acoustic that has had the same old strings for the last two years, they’re going to sound dull and muffled. All the high-end is lacking and that sheen of brilliance has gone and is never coming back. Restring it and suddenly the instrument will come back from the dead. Some people like old, dead strings but I don’t recommend it. You can always cut a little brilliance from your recording during mixing, but you’ll never add brilliance to an already dead sound.
- Tune your guitar – Do I really need to say this? Before you start recording guitar, please tune it. And if you’re working with a capo, make sure to tune the guitar with the capo on. Some capos tend to pitch the guitar a little sharp or flat so tuning with the capo on is recommended.
Different Characteristics of the Acoustic Guitar
You’ve probably heard an acoustic guitar a hundred times before. You know what it sounds like. But have you ever wondered how each part of the instrument makes up the sound you hear when somebody is playing it? The brilliance of the strings, the resonance of the wood, and the amplification of the body all contribute to what you perceive to be an “acoustic guitar sound.”
That’s what you have to keep in mind when you point your microphone and start recording. Your microphone is going to pick up the certain characteristic of the area where you point, so getting the best soundscape possible into your microphone is your best bet for a great acoustic guitar recording. And this doesn’t only apply to acoustic guitars, but really all instruments.
Different Spots on the Acoustic Guitar
The acoustic guitar can “roughly” be divided into three different sonic spots….