The process of tracking acoustic guitars is often regarded as something fairly difficult, trust me when I say it isn’t, though achieving great sounding acoustic guitars that sound full and natural at source can be challenging. Over the course of several years I experimented with a variety of different acoustic guitar recording techniques which led me to to discover how to quickly, confidently and constantly get great sounding acoustic guitars in my mixes.
If you struggle to record acoustic guitars in your music then these simple five tips will help you to approach the process of recording acoustic guitars from a different angle.
Move Around The Room
Do you typically record your acoustic guitars in the same spot in your room? If you do and you’ve not been 100% happy with the results then try moving your recording position to a different spot in your room to a spot that sounds better. A great way to find an acoustic guitar recording sweet spot in your room is to pick up you guitar and walk around your room while playing. Listen closely to how the guitar changes in sound throughout the walkthrough of your room. When you find a spot that sounds good to your ears you should throw a microphone up and experiment with the following techniques…
Move Yourself, Not The Mic
Now that you’ve established a suitable spot in your room to record your acoustic guitar tracks you now need to get the microphone in the sweet spot, but this can be a challenge if you are tracking and playing the guitar - After all, you only have one set of hands… how on earth you do move the microphone around the guitar while playing it? Easy, get yourself a chair with wheels and move yourself instead of the microphone. Put some headphones on to enable you to monitor the changes in timbre. Also record some test takes that you can listen back to through your monitors. This “move me” instead of “move the microphone” approach to acoustic guitar microphone placement works every time for me. It’s quick, easy and reliable.
Does your acoustic guitar tracks sound too boomy or muddy? Do they sound too dense in the mix? Here’s an easy fix that doesn’t require any EQ. If you’ve got the right acoustic guitar tone coming down the microphone into your DAW but it sounds boomy try experimenting with distance between the guitar and microphone. Don’t worry too much about room tone creeping in to the recording… in most cases room tones adds a nice quality to the recording. The further the guitar is placed from the microphone the more open and natural the recordings will sound. If the guitar is too close to the mic you run the risk of capturing too much finger & plectrum noise, breathing noise from the performer and even that unnatural boomy sound, all of which are not flattering in acoustic guitar recordings.
At this point you’ve established the recording and microphone positions… great job but don’t rush into recording just yet. Double and triple check the guitar tuning, make sure there are no objects in close proximity that can be easily knocked by your foot or elbow during the performance, ensure you have enough cable length from your headphones to your audio interface and most importantly… make sure you can trigger record effortlessly from your DAW so that you don’t need to put the guitar down and pick it back up again before the performance.
The number one trick to getting the best results from any performance is confidence. Are you playing the guitar parts confidently? Are the chords held with no fret buzz? Does the rhythm of the guitar marry up with the groove of the production?
A great sounding guitar which was recorded well with considered mic placement will never make up for a performance that wasn’t played with heart and conviction. If you feel you have nailed the “technical” approach to recording acoustic guitars through the tips laid out in this article but are still not satisfied with the results you are getting you may need to go back to the arrangement stage and ask yourself a handful of questions:
Does this song or section need acoustic guitar?
Have I come up with the right acoustic guitar parts for this song or section?
Am I the right person playing the guitar in this recording?
Video Tutorial - Learn Acoustic Guitar Microphone Placement Techniques
In this premium video tutorial you will learn several microphone placement techniques and fundamental lessons which will help you to achieve great sounding guitar tracks in tracking at source.