Tips and tricks – Recording Acoustic Guitar

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. 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 good channel strip plugin (e.g. Brainworx bx_console series, Waves Scheps 73, Nomad Factory BT Analog TrackBox etc)¬† to be necessary, mainly adding subtle tone shaping overdrive, eq, compression and high pass filtering.

When we needed to redo a guitar track¬† recently 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.

Nice! The sound was well 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. Much better, in this case, than the neck/body joint and all with just one microphone. Worth sharing.

In the artist’s opinion, facing upwards from the bottom of the guitar puts 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.

Naturally, the above setup is ideal for the particular player and instrument. He plays fingerstyle and prefers a slightly darker tone. When recording my Taylor I find that two mics setup as an xy stereo pair gives the best results.