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James Rose

What mics I should use to record my acoustic guitars? 

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I have a small home studio and am looking to use acoustic guitar a lot more in my recordings... I thought it would be interesting see what you guys are using to get the job done. Can you guys help me know what mics I should use to record my acoustic guitars? 

Thanks in advance

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Is there a microphone that records better than another at that proximity to the guitar? I know quality of microphones varies but at such close range I would think it to be very nuanced. That said, the arrangement/placement of the microphones is actually more important to my experience than most other aspects. I use a Shure SM58 on the guitar as well as a Zoom Hr recorder. The SM58 handles the job pretty well but being a home recording hack with little to gain (in every sense) over it by spending a lot more isn't something I'd do. Now, I do see some people placing two small diaphragm condenser microphones in an X-Y pattern in front of the guitar, and some use a single large diaphragm microphone (Studio-1, et al), achieving equal results (in my ear). I think the mods here are studio techs by trade and can lay it all out better than my novice experience can. I will say that the Zoom H4 recorder gives very fine results with its onboard X-Y mounted small diaphragm condenser microphones. Like the SM58, I place  it at the 12th fret, pointed towards the sound hole, and it never fails to faithfully capture my playing, such that is it.

 

Let's be clear on one point, though. The quality of the sound starts with the quality of the guitar.

Edited by Idunno
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Hi and welcome to the Forums. The standard method is to use two good large diaphragm condenser mics, one pointed at the 12th fret and the other at the soundhole.

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At the sound hole?

You can certainly try it, but that’s usually going to be really boomy sounding...

And why LDC’s? Small diaphragm condenser mics are as commonly used on acoustic guitars as large diaphragm models, if not more so. They’re usually less expensive too, if that’s a concern... but if all you have is one or the other, use what you’ve got and experiment!

I do agree with the 14th fret recommendation. You can angle it a bit towards the sound hole, but I normally would not suggest pointing a mic right at it. If all you have is a single mic, that’s a good starting point. 

 

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I like a ribbon mic or small diaphragm condenser pointed at the 12th fret, and another small diaphragm condenser pointed down at the guitar from over my left shoulder, each recorded onto their own track so I can process them separately.   

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My favourite mic to use on acoustic guitar is the Shure SM81. I usually point the mic at the fingerboard around where the neck and body meet, from about 8-12 inches away. I find this approach to give a very balanced tone. I'm not a huge fan of miking the sound hole. I used to mic the sound hole in my beginner recordings, which didn't sound great nor was it very usable. I think most small condenser mics would be sufficient; I've also used mics like Rode NT5 and Rode M5 and they do nicely. It really depends on the sound profile of the acoustic guitar as well. One guitar can sound drastically different from another guitar, some may be warmer sounding, some may be brighter sounding. So the choice of mic should compliment the characteristics of the guitar. You should also keep in mind the role of the instrument within the song mix.

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5 hours ago, Phil O'Keefe said:

At the sound hole?

You can certainly try it, but that’s usually going to be really boomy sounding...

And why LDC’s? Small diaphragm condenser mics are as commonly used on acoustic guitars as large diaphragm models, if not more so. They’re usually less expensive too, if that’s a concern... but if all you have is one or the other, use what you’ve got and experiment!

I do agree with the 14th fret recommendation. You can angle it a bit towards the sound hole, but I normally would not suggest pointing a mic right at it. If all you have is a single mic, that’s a good starting point. 

 

I'd also recommend a good preamp with phantom power and XLR inputs. 1/4" inputs are noisy IME.

Edited by kwakatak
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A month ago this was SOP, approved by Phil (warning links to HC Political Party, click at your own risk):

Quote

Small diaphragm condenser pointing at the 12th fret

Large diaphragm condenser pointing at the sound hole from the other direction

Balance to taste, and watch the phase between the 2 mics.

Apparently the wind has shifted (or perhaps Mercury is in retrograde) and it's now a no-no. Who knew?

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I've always thought 2 small condenser mics (12th fret and bridge) and a touch of large diaphragm (in the room but not close to the guitar) was the most common approach. 

Pointing anything (especially a large diaphragm condenser) right at the sound hole close to it is going to woof like a St Bernard. 

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On 2/22/2020 at 3:31 PM, davie said:

My favourite mic to use on acoustic guitar is the Shure SM81. I usually point the mic at the fingerboard around where the neck and body meet, from about 8-12 inches away. I find this approach to give a very balanced tone. I'm not a huge fan of miking the sound hole. I used to mic the sound hole in my beginner recordings, which didn't sound great nor was it very usable. I think most small condenser mics would be sufficient; I've also used mics like Rode NT5 and Rode M5 and they do nicely. It really depends on the sound profile of the acoustic guitar as well. One guitar can sound drastically different from another guitar, some may be warmer sounding, some may be brighter sounding. So the choice of mic should compliment the characteristics of the guitar. You should also keep in mind the role of the instrument within the song mix.

Great advice davie! :philthumb:

I have the advantage of owning a heck of a lot of microphones (and have recorded a heck of a lot of acoustic guitars over the years), and I try to pick the mics and the placements to accentuate the positive qualities of the particular instrument I'm recording, and that will give us the sound we want for the track and the way we're going to use that acoustic in the mix. For some things, you might want an acoustic sound that's nearly paper-thin and wispy just to get the zing of the strumming for a particular purpose in a dense mix, while for other things you may want a full-range sound that brings out every detail of the guitar. No single mic or placement is going to be optimal for both, just as no single guitar is going to be able to nail every type of cool acoustic guitar sound. 

 

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14 hours ago, DeepEnd said:

A month ago this was SOP, approved by Phil (warning links to HC Political Party, click at your own risk):

Apparently the wind has shifted (or perhaps Mercury is in retrograde) and it's now a no-no. Who knew?

 

What I "liked" the most about that post is the "pickups sound like @$$" part of it. :lol:  Remember, that was a thread asking about pickups on acoustics for recording purposes. 

I also seriously doubt that Anton (a 2-time Grammy award winning engineer who I have a lot of respect for) is pointing his mics directly at the sound hole. More likely, he's coming in from behind the bridge and angling the mic slightly in that direction - again, putting the mic directly in front of the sound hole and pointing it right at it is usually a recipe for a overly boomy sound. However, I have done some recordings with mics in an XY stereo configuration where the mics were roughly in front of the sound hole and about 12" or so away, but with the XY configuration those mics were not pointed at the sound hole, but rather, towards the bridge and neck / body joint. 

 

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