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How do you mic an Acoustic Guitar?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by tplyons, Oct 20, 2004.

  1. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Assuming most of you have mic'ed an acoustic guitar at one time or another, what's the best way to position the mic so it's clear but not harsh, deep but not boomy? What mic would you recommend for under $100? I'm looking at the Shure SM57, and will probably eventually buy a Sennheiser e609. Would either of these be good for the application?
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    For close miking, aim the mike at where the fingerboard meets the body. Too close to the soundhole gets boomy. Adjust to taste.

    Like bimplizkit write, condensor mikes are best if you want that "airy" sound but dynamics can work fine, too.
  3. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I hang in a USENET recording group, and we do compilations every year or two. Hands down, the Marshall 603 is the most popular inexpensive small condensor mike in the group. I've personally never used one, but I am impressed with what I've heard on recordings. The Senn 609 is meant for side-miking guitar amp cabs, which it works pretty well for, but would be an odd choice for miking acoustic. A looser pickup pattern is generally nicer for acoustic, in my experience. If you want to step up from that Marshall, be prepared to pay triple (or more) the money to get much meaningful improvement.

    Brian's recommendation is spot-on, but a room mike is a nice addition in many cases as well. A 57 (or three) is always a handy thing to own too. :cool:
  4. Two words:

    Two mics.

    Get a couple, one over the headstock and aimed at the body, the other just behind the bridge and aimed at the fretboard. Mix to taste. WONDERFUL sound. We just did that in recording class last week with 2 SM57s, sounds like velvet. 2 SCX-25s were just that much better, but @ $1000, I don't think you could afford them.

    Rock on
  5. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    Good thing you did not post this question at a recording website. Mic placement and mic choice is definately a matter of taste and opinion, and we all know about opinions. You may get a 100 "have to" methods and what works for you may be discovered by accident. It seems like every acoustic guitar I have mic'd I have done something different for. As said before a good place to start is taking your condensor, aim it at where the neck and body meet, cock the angle of the mic so its at about a 45 pointing towards the body. That almost always where I begin. You may also try the same angle except move the mic up the neck and point it at the 13th fret or so (still pointing at the body too). That will help if you want to get a big more fret noise and such.

    Alot of the quality of the sound is going to come from the room it self. Find either the "deadest" sounding room, or one in which the guitar sounds great. Obviously most of us are confined to a particular space, I am just throwing out ideas. One of my favorite acoustic gtr. sounds i got was with an Octava 012 ($100.00 at Banjo Center) aimed straight at the guitar from about six feet away. It was a total fluke. One musician was in the iso booth, working on something and the guitar player was in the "big room" listening with headphones. Can't remember why the mic was up, but I figured it would be a good opportunity for a scratch track, so I hit record. It sounded great. Never touched the take. He had a nice guitar and played well and the room sounded great. In a bad room it would have sucked ass, well at the very least not fit.

    So I'll stop rambling. My advise is to expiriment and do the best you can with what you have. Multiple mics is cool, but if have no experiance work with one untill you can get good results with that one before you add a second. If it sounds good it is good. Have fun.
  6. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Every time I try it I end up putting the mic somewhere different relative to the guitar. I use the nt-3 rhode a lot actually. Comes out OK.
  7. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I get pretty decent results from a Marshall 603 and a Sennheiser MD421. I almost never use two condenser mics for recording an acoustic instrument, it's always a combination of a dynamic mic and a condenser mic. I will also record the pickup if it's not a Fishman. :)

    As far as placement goes, I find that there are some general things which work but it tends to vary with the guitar, player, and room. Because of that I always have the person play for a couple minutes while I cover one ear and listen at different points with the other ear to see which places sound the best.

    While I'm doing this I'm considering how my mics respond to different things, and how I can best use this to obtain the sound I'm trying to get. For instance the 603 has a nice off-axis response, which is good because it has such a wide pickup pattern. So I like to try using it from above, maybe over the guitarist's shoulder or something, rather than right up on the guitar. The MD421 has something like five levels of low-end rolloff so I'll do the opposite with that and use it to get the "punchiness", and roll off the low end as needed to avoid boominess.

    It's important to note here that you should spend some time with each of your mics recording different things in different ways so you know how they respond. It's a lot easier to get the sounds you're after if you know that Mic A records a certain range of notes beautifully but is mediocre with other frequencies and has a weird off-axis response, while Mic B is solid across the board but doesn't stand out at all.

    Phasing issues will play a role in multiple-mic recording of a single sound source too. If you're not familiar with the hows and whys of phase problems with recording, Google is your friend. To combat it, set up one mic first and then put on headphones and move the other mic around while the guitarist plays. Make sure you're running mono into the phones. Phase issues will cause the sound to be muddy and lack low end, so it's fairly easy to tell when you've got it right and when you don't. Some audio software and some mic preamps will allow you to reverse the phase of your signal, which is a handy tool which you should use if you can.
  8. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I own a Marshall 603 and it works wonderfully for acoustic guitars.
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I did engineer work in class today for a singer/songwriter friend of mine. For the guitar (middle of the line Blueridge), we used two AKG C1000S condensers -- one pointed at the body around the back of the treble side of the bridge, and one just above where the fretboard and body join up, and an Apex condenser in the upper corner of the booth (4x6, about 10' high with acoustic padding) for ambience. Beautiful, clear sound. Incredibly pro sounding, especially considering the fact we're not a pro studio and no one involved has more than a few weeks experience in the studio (we're running the drums into a Soundcraft and the rest into a Behringer, all into Sonic Foundry Vegas 5.0 -- not terrifically pro, but some great sounds).

    Knock yourself out and experiment -- use more than one mic, too :D.