Recording acoustic guitars

October 17, 2009 4:26 PM

Thought I'd share a technique I've stumbled upon....

I've been working on an acoustic track and when it came to the solo I was struggling to make it stand out in the track without just sounding like someone had pushed a fader up. So I thought....try recording it in stereo and see if that works... What I did was to position one mike on a boom about 4 inches from my right ear and a little in front of my head, and another about 12- 18 inches away from the soundhole and slightly towards the neck end of the guitar. The "head mic" was done because that is, I guess, where I actually hear the sound of the guitar - I don't listen to it with my ear against the soundhole (if I could do that I'd be in the circus!). In terms of the "soundhole mic" I've found that if you use heavy guage picks like I do when soloing (I use much thinner ones for strumming) you need to be quite a distance away from the mike because the proximity effect really picks up an unpleasant "thud" caused by the pick. I put both mics through a Korg TP2 tube pre-amp with a little compression and a modest amount of gain. Result - captures a very pleasing, natural sound and it needs absolutely no EQ or other treatment. I'll upload the result when I've finished the track.

The mics were a Rode K2 tube mic (the "head mic") and an AKG C3000B for the "soundhole mic". The guitar is a custom Martin D-28

Anyone else got any tips of this sort?
posted by MajorDundee (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Huh. I just read about the mic-beside-your-ear technique a few weeks ago. Still haven't tried it. I'm NEVER happy with how my acoustic tracks sound, it's like a constant search to find a good sound. Think I'll have to try this. I only have one large condenser, though; my other mics are shure 57's and a 58. Look forward to hearing your result.
posted by chococat at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2009

I've had the same frustrating experience. Now and again I've managed to get a good sound (a track I uploaded a while back called Hidden is a rare example) but, twat that I am, I didn't take a note of settings etc and couldn't reproduce it faithfully. It's comparatively easy to get a decent electric guitar sound (with an SM57 for instance), but acoustics are an utter bastard in my experience and the whole thing seems to be really sensitive to choice of mic(s), mic positioning, room reflections, atmospherics, etc etc. Going on experience, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if this "head mic" thing might have just been a lucky shot - next time I do it it will probably sound shit!
posted by MajorDundee at 3:31 PM on October 18, 2009

I like a small-diaphragm condenser on my acoustic guitar most of the time. I usually just aim it at the 12th fret (or the end of the fretboard if I want a little more thump). Works pretty well. If I want stereo (which is rare), I'll use two (cheap) SDCs in an XY pattern, usually aimed near the end of the fretboard.

(I think this is an example of the mono mic setup, and this is the stereo setup, on guitar and banjo.)

Obviously, most of my acoustic guitar tracks wind up in dense mixes where they're mostly around for sparkle or jangle, and my guitar sounds pretty lousy on its own anyhow, but I like SDCs on acoustic guitars in general--you get a little extra sparkle and detail you wouldn't necessarily get with a large diaphragm.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:26 PM on October 18, 2009

I like a bit of buzz to guitar tracks, and I read about how Neutral Milk Hotel recorded their guitar tracks, and one of the things was placing their mic right on top of the top lowest strings, to get a bit of a distorted sound. But I don't know much about recording, so maybe the effect of such a mic positioning is exaggerated.

I like the idea of the mic by the ear. I look forward to hearing this track whenever you put it up.

Myself, I generally like recordings to pick up more than just the sound of the instrument, per se.
posted by Corduroy at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2009

I use two samson C02 pencil condensers, one set about a foot away from the 12th fret, another set the same distance from the bridge. On the mixer, I bias the 12th fret mic to treble and the bridge mic to bass/mids. If I'm singing, I mount a large-diaphragm condenser on the center post of the mic stand.
posted by The White Hat at 11:30 AM on October 24, 2009

As far as miking goes I point a mic at where the neck meets the body. An LDC gives you a more forward sound I find then an SDC. I like using dynamics a lot if the pre-amps are decent.

I'm way into mixing pickups with the live mic sound. Any type of contact mic works if there is no built in pickup. The pickup gives a way hyped out acoustic sound that responds well to eq and other effects.

I find that compression is huge with getting a good acoustic sound. When using a stereo technique it can be a great idea to compress the two channels together. A fast attack will bring out the notes the guitar is playing while a slower one will bring out the percussive sounds of the strum. A faster release setting can make an acoustic sustain very nicely by 'pumping' the signal.
posted by dagosto at 4:31 PM on October 26, 2009

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