5 Simple Mic Techniques For Capturing Your Acoustic Guitar
Any person could slap a microphone near an acoustic guitar, hit record, and capture an ok recording. If you’re one of these people, you’re limiting yourself and compromising the quality of your recordings.
Check out these 5 simple mic techniques for capturing your acoustic guitar. These techniques will take your acoustic guitar recordings to the next level!
1. Aim at the Fretboard & Guitar (Mono)
If you’re using just one microphone and recording in mono, then you should try this classic technique.
Most amateurs mess up their recordings by putting a microphone too close to the guitar and directing it at the guitar’s sound hole.
This can cause too much bass to build up and leave the recording feeling “boomy” and unnatural.
Aiming the mic where the fretboard meets the body is a tried and true method that engineers have used for countless recordings. Set up your mic stand about a foot away from your guitar and point the mic somewhere between the 12th and 15th frets, right where the body and fretboard meet.
This will make for a clean, natural-sounding recording that does well for all types of playing: strumming, intricate fingerpicking, slapping, and more.
It’s worth mentioning that this technique is by and large the most common practice among engineers and has been used on countless records and famous artists. You can’t go wrong with this method, so give it a try!
2. Angled Towards the Body (Mono)
This one relies on your ears and is less “specific” than the method above.
Again, when doing this technique, you’ll want to stay away from the soundhole. The closer you are to a source, the louder and boomier it is.
This is based on the “Proximity Effect” in science. So, as you continue through these methods, keep in mind how close you are to the guitar with the microphone.
For this technique, You’ll want to set up the stand 2 to 4 feet away depending on the guitar, strumming or picking style, and overall vibe you’re going for. You’ll then point the mic towards the body of the guitar so that it picks up more information than just the fretboard. Once you’ve done this, the real fun begins with changing the angle of the microphone.
This is where your ears will come into play. Do you angle the mic down towards the guitar? Or lower it and tilt it up at the guitar?
Perhaps try running the microphone parallel to the guitar but angling it slightly towards the guitar. There’s a ton of different options at your disposal, and you’ll need to use your ears to find the sweet spot of the guitar. So get creative, move around, and dial in that perfect tone.
3. Roomy & Distant (Mono or Stereo)
This technique isn’t recommended if you don’t have a treated space, but then again… what are the rules for anyways? You’re an artist, for crying out loud, so experiment!
This method is best used with a condenser microphone. Try placing your microphone at least 4 feet away and turn up the gain on your interface. You’ll notice the microphone (assuming it’s a condenser) picks up the room and air around it.
This is a great technique for adding ambiance to certain tracks or perhaps going for a moody sound. It should be used sparingly because it introduces a lot of grain and noise, whereas the same effects can be applied through reverb plugins.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying this simple technique. Who knows, you might be the next Billie Eilish for your out-of-the-box technique.
4. X/Y Technique (Stereo)
Who says you have to use just one microphone?
Using 2 or even 3 microphones is common and often used in studio setups around the world. And why should expensive studios have all the fun?
Bedroom artists too can utilize stereo microphone techniques if you have two microphones and an interface with multiple inputs.
If you do have two microphones, you should give the X/Y method a try! This is done by placing the capsules of two microphones over each other in a criss-cross pattern as close together as possible. The reason for placing these near each other is to avoid phasing.
Stereo techniques generally will yield a “wider” feel in the mixing process since both mics have captured different sources of the guitar.
Think of multiple mics as different paintbrushes being able to capture different parts of the guitar. The X/Y method allows both the brightness of the fretboard AND the body of the guitar to be caught through the criss-cross pattern.
There are a number of other dual-microphone techniques, including setting up mics in different parts of a room, aiming one at the body and one at the neck, setting one angled up and the other down at the guitar, and much, much more.
These are generally more advanced but worth researching once you get comfortable with the other methods listed here.
5. Line-in Direct
Lastly, you can always capture your acoustic guitar with the pick-up that’s already in your guitar. After all, most pick-ups are just small microphones!
This technique isn’t recommended because guitar pickups simply aren’t able to fully capture your guitar’s tone. If you have the option to use a condenser microphone or something more ‘sensitive,’ you should absolutely use it.
But sometimes, you don’t have that option, and you have to lay guitar tracks fast. Open up a new audio track, plug in your guitar to your interface via a ¼ inch cable, “arm” your track, and start recording!
You’ll generally need to reduce the gain pretty significantly, and it’s worth applying compression and EQing out any low, bassy frequencies. This technique is great for quickly recording demo tracks and ideas.
Other Tips Outside of Microphone Techniques
These 5 techniques are more than you’ll ever need to get good, quality recordings no matter the situation you find yourself in. When you record acoustic, always trust and rely on your ears. They won’t lie to you.
Good gear is essential as well. If you’re able to invest in one good condenser and one good dynamic mic, you’ll be able to run 10+ different recording methods.
Also, don’t skimp on your guitar.
If your guitar sounds bad, mixing it won’t sound any better! Check out Taylor, Martin, and Gibson acoustics or this guide if you’re interested in buying a quality guitar.
Lastly, make sure your playing is clean and skillful. You can have all the gadgets, but if you can’t produce a clean, error-free recording, then it’ll still always sound off to you. All these factors make up a good recording.
So get out there, and try out some of these techniques. Happy playing and creating!
Also Read: How to Record Guitar in FL Studio
Charles is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGuitarJunky.com. He helps aspiring musicians get started at becoming real musicians by providing expert insights and reviews on recording gears and other musical instruments. He’s more into jazz, rather than rock, and more of a guitar guy than a piano guy. A fan of chromaticism technique, he’s fascinated by the musical works of Stevie Wonder and George Harrison. Follow Guitar Junky on Instagram, and Facebook.
Keeping Track, Recording Acoustic Guitar