Got a mic and an interface? You can record professional-sounding acoustic guitar tracks from your bedroom by closely following these simple steps. Get started!
There’s nothing quite like a strummed acoustic rhythm guitar part to drive a song, or the expressive nuances of a finger-picked solo. However, to take full advantage of what acoustic guitars can do, you need to record and mix them properly—so let’s get started.
The easiest way to record guitar is by taking a direct output from its onboard electronics (e.g., a piezo pickup mounted under the bridge). Patch this output to your audio interface’s instrument input—done! The main disadvantage is that this approach doesn’t capture the full sound of the guitar body.
A more complex option is using one or more mics to pick up the guitar’s strings, body, and interaction with an acoustic space. This approach requires mic stands with booms, so you can attach the mics securely, and position them in relation to the guitar. But before you can place your mics in position and start recording, you need to decide what kind of mic to use.
1. Microphone Types
The three main microphone technologies used for recording guitar are:
Dynamic mics. These are rugged, require no power, have no internal preamps to generate hiss and are popular for live use. They can sound less “bright” than condenser mics (see next), and don’t have the same level of detail. They’re often used for recording guitar amps.
Condenser mics. These are the go-to mic type for recording acoustic guitar. They require power, which is typically +48V. The voltage from an audio interface or mixer travels up the mic’s cable to the mic. This power source is called phantom power, because there’s no visible power supply—just the cable that makes the audio connection. (If a condenser mic doesn’t seem to be working, make sure the input to which the mic connects has phantom power turned on.) Compared to dynamic mics, condenser mics can be more sensitive to nuances, have a more open sound, and are somewhat more fragile.
Ribbon mics. These have a warm midrange, and aren’t as bright as condenser mics. Unlike older, fragile ribbon mics, modern versions are more robust. Despite their expense, they’ve become increasingly popular for recording acoustic guitar, especially for stereo.
Condenser and dynamic mics are further differentiated by the size of their diaphragm (the thin membrane that moves in response to sound waves). To generalize, large-diaphragm mics are more sensitive than small-diaphragm mics, but the tone is somewhat less bright. You might choose a large-diaphragm mic on nylon-string guitar or ukulele, and a small-diaphragm mic on steel-string acoustic guitar.
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