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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Recording Acoustic Guitars

6. FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you can find frequently asked questions: "Miking up and recording a acoustic guitar".

 


Why can’t I simply use the output from an electro-acoustic guitar?

Most piezo pickup systems do not capture the sound of the whole guitar effectively - the pickup is usually placed immediately under the bridge saddle and therefore gets most of its sound directly from string vibration. This results in a rather different sound to what you hear in the room, with harsher transients. While the onboard pre-amps found on most electro-acoustics compensate for this to some extent, and the result is fine for most live performance situations, it usually doesn’t convince in the studio. Some guitars have more than one piezo pickup, and some even have a small condenser mic placed elsewhere in the body, but even these systems generally don’t quite get there. As ever, the nature of the guitar part and the mix will determine whether this is actually important.

What’s the best way to record a singing guitarist?

The simplest approach is to place a large diaphragm condenser in front of the performer. This should be at least one metre away, so a quiet and good sounding room is important. The performer should ideally be positioned away from walls or corners to minimise bass resonance. If you don’t have access to the sort of headphone monitoring system suggested earlier, try walking around the room with a finger in one ear and the other ear facing the performer - the best sounding position is probably the best mic position.

If you need some separation for mixing purposes while maintaining phase coherence, two figure-8 microphones may be placed close together and at a 90 degree angle, pointing towards the singer’s mouth and guitar’s neck/body area respectively - this will usually achieve a high degree of separation. Room acoustics will determine how well the technique works, as the figure-8 pattern will pick up the sound of the room. Some slight bass roll-off may be necessary as low frequencies may be accentuated by the close mic positions. Of course if you have plenty of mics, then you can get ultimate control over the sound by close miking the vocal with a standard large diaphragm condenser, and using one of the other techniques previously described for the guitar.

I thought I had a great sound, but it seems to change a lot throughout the track – what’s wrong?

The essential problem is that your mics are static and your performer is not! Musicians tend to be much less animated during sound checks then when they get really stuck into their latest magnum opus, and this can completely ruin what was a great sound when you were setting up. To solve the problem, you can either persuade your guitarist to keep still, or you can get the mic to move with him. The best method of achieving the latter solution is with one of the new breed of mic stands designed to clamp onto the body of the guitar, but you can also try using a tie-clip mic attached to the instrument, or if you don’t have access to either of these and the situation is very poor, you may be better off relying on whatever pickups or internal mics the guitar has to offer.

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