In this post you will learn 3 acoustic guitar recording techniques essential for capturing the most realistic sound from your instrument.
As we begin let me remind you that recording in the home music studio is a very relative objective. In other words, we each have different tastes and musical style preferences.
My encouragement here would be to find an industry standard recording that fits your musical tastes or preferences. Also find a mix that resonates with your personal recording goals. Once you have discovered these two things then use them as your reference point.
Though you may not have access to the same level of equipment found in a multi million dollar studio, you can still achieve a professional sounding result.
So lets look at the first of our three acoustic guitar recording techniques.
START WITH THE SOURCE
Your guitar must sound good acoustically or it will be far more difficult to attain a quality recording. The financial value of your instrument is not the deciding factor here. For the demonstration tracks later in this post I am using an inexpensive Samick Greg Bennett Design, model D-5CE.
You do not need a $10,000 Taylor to achieve a professional sounding acoustic guitar recording.
That said, it is important to fine tune your instrument before attempting to record it. Make sure you have a new set of strings. Give attention to the string height or action. If it is not set properly there will be unwanted buzzes and rattles when you play. Too high of an action can also cause intonation problems and tonal issues the higher up the neck you play.
Tune your guitar before you attempt to record it as well. This may need to be double checked before each take depending on how well your instrument stays in tune. If you're using a capo, make sure to place it correctly on the guitar. Often missed placed capos cause the tuning to go sharp.
KNOW THE PURPOSE OF YOUR ACOUSTIC GUITAR TRACK
One of the most critical acoustic guitar recording techniques is knowing what you intend to include in your final mix. What is the purpose of the track going to be within the finished song? Is the acoustic guitar a filler track or the primary instrument? Does the track need to be very dominate or just sit in the background of the mix?
Knowing the answers to each of these questions will help you determine the best way to record. For example, if the acoustic guitar is the primary instrument then you may want to record and mix it in full stereo. If done correctly, a stereo acoustic track will typically be fuller than a mono one.
If the acoustic guitar is more of a background filler, it might be appropriate to record it in mono. Or pan the stereo track off to one side of the mix. There are many different ways to capture and process your acoustic guitar track. Knowing where you want the acoustic track to land in the final mix will help determine how you need to record it.
EXPERIMENT WITH MIC PLACEMENT AND PICKUP SETTINGS
Learning effective acoustic guitar recording techniques often requires experimentation. Each instrument has its own unique sound. That sound is also shaped by the playing style of the recording artist. Each mic and pickup used to record also produce a distinct sound. I've included some images and audio files below demonstrating some of the acoustic guitar recording techniques that I often use myself.
I am recording my 10-year-old Samick Greg Bennett Design, model D-5CE. The pick-up and pre-amp is stock. The two microphones I am recording with are an ADK A-51 and a Shure Sm137 Condenser Instrument Microphone. Please note that these same acoustic guitar recording techniques can be applied with any microphone and pickup combination.
Mono track with pickup and A-51 blended.
This type of track may work well if panned to the outside of the mix for a fill guitar. The A-51 is placed where the neck meets the body about 3 inches away from the guitar.
Mono Track (Strumming) Mono track with pickup and AKG A-51 Blended (Strumming)
Mono Track (Finger Picking Rhythm) Mono track with pickup and AKG A-51 blended (Finger Picking Rhythm)
Mono/Stereo track with SM137 and A-51 blended, no pickup.
This type of track may also work well if panned to the outside of the mix for a fill. The A-51 is the same as above but the pickup is no longer in the mix. Note the position of the SM137 from the pictures. The two mics blended together without the guitar pickup, in my opinion, give a much more natural sound.
Mono Track (Strumming) Mono track with SM137 and AKG A-51 blended (Strumming)
Mono Track (Finger Picking Rhythm) Mono track with SM137 and AKG A-51 blended (Finger Picking Rhythm)
Stereo Track (Strumming) Stereo track with SM137 and AKG A-51 blended (Strumming)
Stereo Track (Finger Picking Rhythm) Stereo track with SM137 and ADK A- 1 (Finger Picking Rhythm)
Hopefully these acoustic guitar recording techniques have been helpful to you. I'd love to hear any thoughts, questions, or comments you may have. Please add them to the section below.