How to record acoustic guitar
This article will cover which microphones are suitable for recording acoustic guitars and what else you need to start your musical journey.
Recording acoustic guitars is a broad field with different approaches. But the good news is that even with a simple setup, you can create outstanding recordings.
This article will cover which microphones are suitable for recording acoustic guitars and what else you need to start your musical journey. You can also watch a video we made below about how to get great results recording acoustic guitar in a home studio environment.
3 ways to use the acoustic guitar in your track
Acoustic guitars have a distinct and natural sound. You can use them in lots of different ways: there are nylon strings, there are steel strings – there is fingerpicking, there is playing with a pick, and various shapes or sizes guitars can have.
When it comes to choosing the right mic, you can follow three general approaches:
- You want to capture the natural sound of the instrument accurately.
- You want to make the guitar sound more prominent and stand out.
- You want the guitar as a tool to thicken up other instrument tracks in the mix.
Small diaphram condenser microphones capture the natural sound
Small diaphragm condenser microphones are well-suited to capture the natural sound of your acoustic guitar.
A small mass diaphragm capsule has a superior transient response than dynamic capsules or large-diaphragm condenser capsules.
Transients define the characteristic sound of your instrument. They are a short, percussive sound with a high level at the beginning of a sound event - this behavior is what we call attack.
A typical small diaphragm condenser microphone for instrument recording usually looks like a pencil and is referred to as a "pencil mic".
A model from our range, the LCT 140 AIR.
Large diaphragm add extra body and warmth
Dynamic microphones for acoustic guitar?
If you have a dynamic microphone at home, try it - maybe you have a stage vocal mic of some sort.
Many great pieces in the history of guitar recording used an effortless setup with a single dynamic microphone and got legendary regardless.
From our experience, an acoustic guitar recorded with a single dynamic microphone works well if you already have a dense mix (e.g., with e-guitars) and you want to add more thickness to your track.
Recording acoustic guitar direct vs with a microphone
Some acoustic guitars have electric pickups. In these instances, you might be wondering why you even need a microphone if you can just plug your acoustic right into the DI input on your audio interface. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using a DI to record your acoustic guitar, and it can be a creative choice to do so. But in most cases it is best practice to use a microphone when possible.
Pickups are often located under the bridge or somewhere inside the body of the guitar in order to capture the vibrations of the strings. But they will not capture all the resonance and textures produced by the body of the guitar. The result will sound artificial and “plastic”, without the natural overtones from the body. To hear what we mean, check out the video below:
Stereo recording techniques for acoustic guitars
If you want acoustic guitars to have more presence in your mixes, recording in stereo is also a viable option. For stereo recordings, you can use all pencil (small diaphragm condenser) microphones. They often come as a dedicated stereo pair.
Here are the most basic setups for stereo recording.
If you're looking for a stereo pair with well-balanced sound, check out the LCT 040 MATCH stereo pair.
Microphone position for acoustic guitar recording
To achieve a balanced sound with a single mic, place it about 30 cm (12”) away from the guitar, pointing at the 12th fret, where the neck joins the body.
4 simple rules that will help you find a great sound.
- If you're recording at home, try out different locations.
- The impact of moving the mic position just a bit can be huge!
- Aim for a balanced sound with nice highs and solid bass.
- Too much low end will lead to muddiness, whereas too many highs make the guitar sound harsh.
What else do you need?
Besides the microphone and your acoustic guitar, you need
- 1x Audio interface with XLR microphone input
- 1x 3-pin XLR cable
- 1x Microphone stand
Nowadays, we have excellent equipment that cost a fraction of the price people paid for studio equipment a decade ago.
In the end, what matters most is your song and the performance.