Tips and tricks – Recording Acoustic Guitar

Posted on Posted in Recording

How to effectively mic up an acoustic guitar is one of the most asked questions in the recording field.

Many well equipped studios use multiple microphones, maybe even 5 or 6, at various positions and then audition each one to find the best microphone or combination to use. This tells me that either they’re not quite sure how to do the job, so throwing a lot of mics at the problem should get a result, or, more kindly, that’s their system for getting more options to explore and capture that great tone.

Most authoritative sources, either websites, magazines, forums or books will recommend the “point it where the guitar neck joins the body” approach, which is very popular and does work fairly well, although I’ve always found a little tweaking with a plugin like the Nomad Factory BT AnalogTrackbox to be necessary, mainly adding subtle tone shaping overdrive, eq, compression and high pass filtering.

Last week, when we needed to redo a guitar track with a very nice Martin D28, I remembered something I had read in one of the textbooks we used to use in the audio engineering course at Vandersound, David Miles Huber’s “Modern Recording Techniques”. Huber recommends using a condenser mic (or xy stereo pair) above or below the sound hole, slightly off axis and between 6 to 12 inches away. I set up a Rode NT1 (the old version) below the sound hole facing upwards towards the strings, a few degrees off axis (facing the neck side rather than the bridge) and at the recommended distance.

Wow! The sound was beautifully balanced (in a less than perfect room) and it was the first time I’ve recorded that guitar with no tweaking needed afterwards. I made no e.q. adjustments or processing except to add a touch of compression, just for a little dynamic control (which I probably didn’t need). Way better than the neck/body joint method and all with just one microphone. My new go-to guitar miking method. Worth sharing.

As the artist pointed out, facing upwards from the bottom of the guitar put the heavier and more energetic wound bottom strings further away and the thinner top strings closer to the microphone, creating a more even string balance. Could be right there. Give it a try & let me know how you went. (Email rick at rickveneer.com)