Reverse Engineer Your Project!
Step 1 to capturing a good performance is to think like a producer. Below is a list of questions that you can ask yourself that will start you on your path to getting the best performance possible from your acoustic guitar:
What role will your acoustic be playing in this particular track?
Will it be the primary focus, adding thickness, providing rhythm, etc?
Should the guitar be dull, bright, punchy, dynamic, etc.?
How close do you want your instrument to be to the listener?
What does your recording environment sound like?
Tricks Of The Trade: Miking Techniques
Generally a safe bet is to use one large or small diaphragm condenser mic in either of these 2 positions:
The 12th fret, 1-2 feet away from the guitar and pointed at the guitar. See Figure A
This option will give you a good balance of string and body of the guitar.
If you are looking for more bass you can try miking the body, of the guitar approximately 1-2 feet away and pointed at player’s hand. See Figure B.
A tighter/warmer sounding room will give a more accurate picture of the guitar and bring it closer to the listener.
Once the best sounding position is found it is a good idea to mark 2 lines on floor with gaff tape that document both the player’s angle to the mic and the microphones angle to the player. See Figure C. This will matter if there is any possibility of needing to punch/blend multiple takes together. Also it will be extremely helpful if you are recording somebody new to the studio experience or have to engineer yourself.
If your guitar has a built in DI you can take another signal from this. I generally am not a fan of the sound quality of a DI’d guitar but sometimes it can help to blend into the signal if you need a little more clarity on the top end.
If you have a couple extra Mics lying around and you are looking for a more distant sound to capture ambience you can set up a couple of room mics. Room miking technique can really depend on the room you are recording in. Today we will use 2 AKG 414 microphones with a figure 8 position in Blumlein Configuration. The mics will be positioned in front of the guitar and about 12 feet away. See figure D.
Note: There are many other ways to record a guitar but this will provide a good safe start.
Quick Mix for the Acoustic Guitar
I like to break the guitar up into different section based on frequency.
0 - 70hz - Rumble
70 - 150hz - Bass
150 - 550hz - Harmony
550hz - 2khz - Melody
2khz - 4.5khz - Twang
4.5 - 9khz - Attack
9 - 20khz - String Noise and Air
Some problem areas to check.
Up to 70 hz or higher depending on how much bass you’d like in your track.
100hz - If the guitar feels a little muddy, bassy or boomy you can remove in this area.
300hz - Acoustic guitar can also get a little boxy or unclear in this area.
800hz - This is the “tinny” area of the guitar that can sound cheap and clutter vocals.
2.5 - 4khz - Area that can make instrument sound harsh.
5 khz - You can add more attack and bite to notes.
8khz and Above - You can add or remove string noise. Too much will make guitar sound shrill to little will make guitar sound dull.
Generally speaking if your looking to preserve or enhance the transient (attack) of a signal source it is a good idea to use a compressor with a slow attack and faster release.
For acoustic guitar I enjoy either some sort of Hardware or software version of an 1176 with a ratio of 4.1.
Order: Generally speaking I like to use 2 equalizers. One before the compressor which is used to handle problem areas of the of the sound and then one after the compressor used to sculpt the overall tone of the guitar.