"The Best Way to Record Guitar?"
One of the most frequent questions asked on any music orientated web site is: "How do you mic-up your guitar?
Answer: I've read a lot on this subject and as usual, I found about as many different opinions as I did experts. This is how one expert [not myself] does it with great success.
First of all, you need to get a proper microphone. Most people just use the voice mic that's provided where you're playing and that will work, but not give you the fidelity you need to really get all the sound your acoustic guitar has to offer. Condenser cardioid, unidirectional mics with a small diaphragm & flat frequency response are best for close miking of your guitar - because they have less bass boost than other directional types when placed close to the guitar.
If you have the bucks, the AKG C480B, DPA 4011, and the Neumann KM184, are considered to be about the best. These will run you from maybe $800 - $2200 USD.
[note from Dec]
Always remember that any mic., cheap or expensive, will sound totally different when set 3 inches offset from the sound source...think about it?
The more reasonable for most budgets and stage use are the Shure SM81, AKG C1000S, and Audio-Technica AT3528. These will run from maybe $250 to $550 USD. The recording/sound engineer I work with advised me to get the AKG C1000S. I paid about $250 USD for it and I am very satisfied with it.
If you are only going to use one mic (and most sound dudes, whether in recording studios or live, will only offer one) position it as follows...
I position the mic between the sound hole and the edge of the guitar body approximately 3 inches away to start off with. This reproduces fingerstyle and quiet playing great. You can hear all the harmonics and nuances that make acoustic guitar what it is. If I need to play louder or adjust volume, I back off a bit. You can experiment to see what you like personally. To get more bass, bring the sound hole a little closer to the mic. Depending on the set up, you may experience feed back when you do this - so be careful with the sound hole thing.
If you have the pleasure of using two, hopefully, identical mics, place one at the 12th fret and another by the bridge. There's a [ 3 TO 1 Rule Of Thumb ] for distances. If you mic for instance 5 inches from the guitar, the mics should be 15 inches apart.
And now, a major note from Dec:
When you want to have 'size' with an acoustic guitar sound, or a solo classical/Spanish guitar sound, then you have to be aware of the different mic. positions.
The bass sound will always come from the round hole...so the mic., that will give the bottom end, should be as close to the round hole as possible.
The 'top end' sizzle sound will always come from the mic. placed towards the 'nut' or the 'knobs' end of the guitar. Again, you must experiment 'with earphones on', to find the best spot.
The ultimate 'size' of the sound, assuming that there is no other instrument being 'heard' at the same time, will be from the third microphone. Check out most photographs of the great, massive rock guitar players and you will find that they have a 'third' microphone placed, say, twenty feet away fron their amps....
So, in acoustic terms, that means you would have a third microphone up in the furthest corner of the studio ceiling. You may think this is crazy....but check it out...you will be astonishied. You have to use a good quality consenser mic. [they are very powerful, and pick up at long distances].
The ultimate 'huge' acoustic or Spanish sound:
Use three microphones. One close by the sound hole for the bass response. Then one up the neck for the sizzle top end. Then the third mic. up in the corner of the studio for the 'size'. By balancing the three mics you can arrive a the biggest acoustic sound you will ever hear...usually only usable in solo perforances - or for a 'singer plus one' song. You can customize your own postitoning for the stereo sound you prefer.
The acoustics of the Studio:
Of course, all this theory is dependent on the ambience, or acoustics of the studio.
A major ambience trick:
I prefer a totally 'dead' studio for all my work. That way I can adjust the ambience or acoustics of the studio to suit the occasion. I store large sheets of hardboard so that I can place those sheets underneath the acoustic guitar player's feet. I also have large mirrrors that I can place around the player. That creates a very brittle, bright area around the mics. I will set the microphones to pick up 'all-round' [if they have the facility]. That way, you can cheat - and get a large, expensive studio sound.
Of course, we always forget how accurate a good quality reverb unit can be - when we read the manual and set it up right....guitars can sound very accurate when placed in the right reverb environment.....'small hall', 'canyon', 'cathedral' etc. check it out.
And while you're at it, you should check out our guitar players' resource page...probably the best around: just CLICK HERE
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