Recording an acoustic guitar alone can be a daunting task at first. When you’re used to recording in a studio or with professionals, matters are much more manageable. Start recording alone, and you’ll find that there are a whole lot of considerations to keep in mind.
If you want to learn how to record acoustic guitar independently, whether at a recording studio or at home, follow this article.
How to Record Acoustic Guitar 101
You have your guitar, mic, and all kinds of recording equipment. What else do you need to do? Here are detailed steps.
Choose the Right Place
There are some key considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right place for recording. First, whether you’re recording in your bedroom, garage, or studio, you should select the quietest place possible. At least choose a location with minimal background noise.
You should aim at a place with carpeted floors. Wall clothes are also recommended. On top of that, you may choose a place with wall racks or bookshelves.
Try not to record in a place with large parallel surfaces that may reflect sound. Also, naked walls aren’t recommended because they may add some reverb. Lastly, try to stay away from high ceilings, especially if the room is small.
Choose the Right Guitar
To choose the right guitar for recording, you need to consider what sound you’ll play and how you want it to come out. For example, you may select a classical nylon string guitar or a western guitar with steel strings; that’s up to your preference and the music you’re playing.
Steel-string guitars have more upper mids and trebles, and they cut right through the mix. On the other hand, nylon string guitars are more on the low end, and they have softer attacks.
The size of the guitar is essential to consider. Bigger guitars result in richer and brighter sounds.
Choose the Right Microphone
There are two types of microphones commonly used for recording acoustic guitars: dynamic and condenser microphones. The choice should depend on the sound that you want to achieve.
Whether you’re using a nylon-string or steel-string guitar, a condenser microphone will be your best option because these guitars have nuanced sounds.
Here, the choice remains between the small diaphragm and large-diaphragm condenser mics. Large-diaphragm ones will catch all the sounds around your room, which may be a two-edged sword. Meanwhile, small-diaphragm ones are more capable of pinpointing sound spots efficiently. They generally have an excellent transient response.
You can still use dynamic microphones with acoustic guitars, but they’re less sensitive. So, you’ll need your mixer to provide more gain.
Choose Your Polar Pattern
Most guitarists choose cardioid patterns when recording acoustic guitars because they have solid off-axis sound suppressing. Generally, polar patterns dictate how your microphone will pick up signals from various directions.
When you choose the correct polar pattern, you make sure no unwanted sounds find their way in your recording.
You’ll find most condenser mics equipped with cardioid polar patterns.
Place the Microphone Correctly
The microphone placement may make or break your recording session. If you want to get a balanced sound, aim at placing the mic 12 inches away from the guitar. If you’re aiming at low-end sounds, you can have the mic closer to the guitar’s soundhole. But bear in mind that it shouldn’t directly point at it.
You may also place it behind the guitar’s bridge to get low frequencies.
Choose Your Recording
Are you going after mono or stereo recordings? Stereo recording makes your signal deeper and more profound. It’s also the better option when you’re recording in a mix of instruments but want to put emphasis on the guitar sound.
Stereo recording is also versatile. For example, you can use a stereo setup, and when you need a mono sound, you can just mute one of the microphones. Alternatively, you may blend the signals of two microphones in the XY technique
Tips for Recording Acoustic Guitars
Now that you know the fundamental aspects you need to keep in mind for acoustic guitar recording, some tips and tweaks will up your game. Follow these tips for the best result you can get out of your guitar.
Try the XY Stereo Technique
The XY stereo technique involves blending two signals by having two mics recording your sounds. Doing it correctly can significantly improve your sound, but that’s if you line them up properly.
Firstly, experiment with different locations. Start with placing both mics close to each other, and then put them further apart. Most sound engineers go for the spaced-out location, placing one mic near the bridge and one mic near the 12th fret.
Move Your Mic Away From the Soundhole
Most beginner guitarists think the best place for a mic is near the soundhole. Most of us did it at first; let’s face it, it’s the most intuitive place!
However, you shouldn’t put the mic near the soundhole because it blasts out bass frequencies constantly. You don’t want your sound details to be washed out or faded, so it’s better to move the mic away. Remember that the soundhole has a lot of sound waves going through it, so it’s not the best place to put a mic.
Try Different Sizes and Types of Mics
With recording microphones, the more you experiment, the better. Try different types of mics. Most sound engineers indeed go for condenser mics, but a dynamic mic may be better for your guitar and your sound goals. Again, it depends on the results you want to achieve.
If you choose condenser mics, try both large diaphragm and small diaphragm ones to see their sound textures. Small diaphragm mics will generally result in a more accurate sound, but you’ll never know until you try for yourself.
To Sum Up
Recording acoustic guitar is all about making the right choices. If you choose the right place, guitar, and mic, you’re halfway done. Next, it’s time to experiment with different techniques and mic locations for the best results you can get.