Recording Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic guitar is the go-to instrument of so many singer songwriters that it warrants a dedicated discussion on how to successfully record it. As in all recording situations, the sound of the source is the most important factor in getting a good result. Even more important than the sound the quality of the instrument itself, is the skill of the person playing it. If your guitar doesn't good, the best mic in the world isn't going to help it, most likely, it will exaggerate the problems. Here's some simple tips that should help. STRINGS Put some new strings on your guitar before you record. Play them a bit, stretch them out, even put them on the day before if you can. New strings can really benefit your recording, and by breaking them in just a bit you can lose some of that new string over brightness and cut back on the squeaks a bit too. A short break-in period also makes the guitar easier to keep in tune through several takes of the song. TUNING Use a tuner to make sure you're in tune. Tune often, after every few takes. And retune every time you move the capo! The capo will put your guitar slightly out of tune each time you move it. BUZZES Some string buzz comes from poorly set up guitars, so its a good idea to have a guitar repairman check out your guitar every once in a while to make sure it's set up properly. Some say twice a year, when the heat comes on and when the heat goes off. (humidity changes) I take mine in when I feel the action start changing or I hear buzzing on some of the strings, I have too many guitars lying around to take them all in 2x a year so I go by feel and I keep masking tape on the cases with the date of when they were last adjusted. Some buzzes come from the fingers on your left hand hanging over the neck and touching the strings unintentionally. You can only fix this by practicing and being aware that you're doing it. SQUEEKS Those squeaks caused by sliding up and down the neck changing chords just seem to get louder as the tracks are compressed and eq'd further down the recording process, so try to be aware of them and minimize them at the source if you can. They can be very difficult to remove later and become very annoying. MICROPHONE CHOICE If you have the luxury of a good recording space, and you're recording the guitar solo, that is without other instruments at the same time, go for a condenser or ribbon mic to get the biggest most beautiful sound. Softer fingerpicking will also record better with a more sensitive mic. Dynamic mics often require too much gain from the mic pre in these situations, raising the noise level too high for desirable results. However, they can be very useful in rejecting other sound sources, such as when the player is singing at the same time. MONO OR STEREO? If the guitar is going to be a main feature in the final mix as in a guitar and vocal track: -use 2 mics, left and right of the guitar. I suggest at the base of the sound hole (4-5 inches away, again not directly at the sound hole, try an angle), and around the 12th fret, same distance away pointing down the neck toward the sound hole. The mics should be about 12-15 inches apart as well. There are many other options, just about every engineer you meet will have a different favorite technique. If the guitar is going to be one of many instruments in the mix: -a single mic is all you need. Just about anywhere in front of the guitar will do, try placing the mic about 4-12 ”in front of the guitar and avoid placing the mic directly in front of the sound hole because it gets too boomy there. Also try putting the mic around the 12th fret aimed down toward the sound hole. There’s no right way, so experiment! DI The DI(direct input) is handy to have. While it rarely sounds as natural as a well placed microphone, it can really save you because it's an isolated source of the guitar sound. It's particularly useful if you're getting bleed from other instruments or you're recording a vocal at the same time.
SUMMARY Keep your guitar in good playing shape. Change your strings and tune often. Practice and learn to listen carefully to your recorded tracks. Don’t fret too much-buzzes and squeaks are just a natural part of the sound of the guitar, so don’t go nuts trying to take out all the little noises, they’re part of the fun.