In yesterday's blog, we went over the basics of tracking electric guitar, and now we're turning our attention to miking acoustic guitars. While many might think there isn't much more to the process than putting a microphone up to a guitar, there are many different ways to elevate your tracks from decent to outstanding.
Finding The Right Guitar, Gear And Space
As the starting point of any session, the choice of which acoustic guitar to use can have a major impact on your end results. While not everyone has access to classic Martin, Taylor or Gibson acoustics, you can at least take the time to prepare. Be sure to tune your guitar, experiment with different pick sizes/thickness and find a spot in your recording space that is complimentary to your instrument. These small steps will give you a big advantage in the end.
Selecting The Right Mic And Placement For The Job
Throughout the history of the recording studio, many different microphone applications have been used to capture acoustic guitar tracks. Some work better than others in certain situations, but it all depends on your guitar, the room you're working in and the player. Try out some of the following methods before just throwing a mic down anywhere in the studio.
One Microphone Set-Up
Even with only one microphone, you can still capture fantastic acoustic guitar tracks. Grab a handy large diaphragm condenser microphone (whether it be a Neumann U87, FLEA 47, Manley Reference Cardioid Mic or Pearlman TM1), and set it level in between the 12th and 14th fret, near where the neck meets the body of your guitar. The space between the guitar and the mic's tilt is a delicate balance that can ultimately change the sound. Experiment with different distances until you find one you prefer, but start at least five to six inches away.
Utilizing The Blumlein Configuration
Named for the notable English engineer Alan Blumlein, this technique for recording acoustic guitars includes using two figure-8 pattern microphones in tandem. Whether using condensers or ribbon mics (AEA R84, Mesanovic Microphones Model 2, Royer R-121), the two microphones are positioned 90 degrees from one another in order to capture realistic stereo imaging. While there are many different configurations for the Blumlein Pair, this is the most commonly used of the bunch.
Small Condenser Mics In X/Y Set-Up
Another simple microphone pairing for recording acoustic guitar tracks is the X/Y stereo mic set-up. Using two small condenser diaphragm microphones like a stereo pair of the AKG C 451 B or Gefell M 300, create a v-shaped formation with the point of the v facing the guitar's neck at the 12th and 14th fret about five to six inches away. This technique of recording will offer reliable, natural sounds without having to deal with any phasing issues.
While there are many different ways to configure your microphones when recording acoustic guitar tracks, these are three simple ways to get started in the studio. Stay tuned, as we'll be further exploring the world of miking acoustic guitars in the weeks to come. If you're interested in hearing examples of the aforementioned microphones in action, check out our acoustic guitar microphone shootout.