Recording acoustic guitar requires a totally different method than recording the electric guitar.
Since it’s an acoustic instrument – as opposed to a plugged in electric one – there are a few different techniques that you need to keep in mind when tracking an acoustic. Read on for my top ten recording tips for an easier acoustic experience
1. Use a condenser microphone
Condenser microphones are more suitable for recording acoustic guitar than the dynamic microphone. The sensitivity of the condenser helps capture the sound of the acoustic guitar as accurately as possible.
2. Avoid too much bass
It’s a common misconception that the best sound from the acoustic guitar is captured at the sound-hole. Normally, a microphone pointed at the sound-hole results in too much bass.
3. Be aware of the sweet spot
The sweet spot is at the 12th fret, normally where the neck joins the body of the acoustic guitar. Recording acoustic guitar with a microphone pointed at the sweet spot usually captures a good blend of highs, lows and mids.
4. Use New Strings
New strings are a must if you want to record a clear and brilliant acoustic guitar. No amount of mixing is going to fix an acoustic guitar with old and worn strings. However, brand-brand-brand-new strings might be a little bit too brilliant so make sure you strum the guitar for a few hours to let the sound sink in.
5. Record Direct
If you are looking for an alternative sound and your acoustic guitar has a plug, it might be a good idea to record direct. Just plug your guitar into a DI box and use some of the great guitar recording software that’s available to spice up your acoustic guitar sound. I’ve also found using an amp simulator can give you a really different acoustic rock guitar sound.
6. First Fret Brilliance
In order to capture the delicate sound of the string a microphone placed at the first fret can pick up the intricacies of the strings. This can bring a whole new dimension to your acoustic guitar sound.
7. Record in Stereo
Recording acoustic guitar in stereo will capture a much fuller and wider sound than only using one microphone. Using the X/Y technique is the easiest technique to get a wide and spacious stereo acoustic guitar recording.
8. Double-track with different mic techniques
If you are double tracking the same guitar part for added depth, try experimenting with different microphone techniques. Not only will it give your guitar parts added depth by double-tracking but the difference in sound might create some interesting textures.
Beware of phase issues during mixdown if you go this route. Combining all these different signals together might cause phase issues so keep an ear out for any weird thinning of the sound when you combine the tracks together.
9. Use ribbons for a different sound
Ribbon microphones, if you have access to them, can give your acoustic guitar sound a smoother and different sound than recording with a condenser.
10. Subtle position changes nail that perfect sound
The way recording works is that even the slightest microphone change can affect the sound. By just subtly changing the position or direction of the microphone you can find that perfect acoustic guitar sound you are looking for.
For a more in-depth look on recording acoustic guitar, I have
In addition to all the other goodies inside Recording & Mixing Strategies, my acoustic guitar recording masterclass covers:
- What you can learn from listening to four different acoustic guitars and how they would work in different genres of music
- Where to point the microphones when you want more mids, body, low-end or string sound
- How the “sweet spot” earned its name as the best starting point for recording acoustic guitars
- Why you would want to try an unorthodox technique like miking the guitar by the guitar player’s ears
- The easy “no-phase-worry” technique for recording stereo acoustic guitar
- How to make sure you get your microphones in phase whenever you use a spaced pair (for guitar or any other instrument for that matter).
Check it out here: