4 Rules of Acoustic Guitar Recording

Sometimes when you record in a home studio, an acoustic track could sound thin, harsh and muddy. Recording an acoustic guitar is not that easy and a bad acoustic guitar could bring down the quality of the entire mix disappointing you.

Here are 4 simple rules that could help you get a near perfect acoustic guitar recording.

1. Determine what role the acoustic plays for your particular recording

Knowing the role of the acoustic guitar in the particular song being recorded and its role within the context of the other tracks being recorded gives you much clarity on how to treat it in the recording and mixing phases.

The acoustic guitar will play either of the two roles in majority of the cases: the main instrument in a simple mix OR a texture piece alongside other instruments in a dense mix.

Consider recording a folk song which is mostly acoustic guitar, bass and a brush style drum kit. In such a case you need to go for as full of an acoustic guitar sound as possible to keep as much body and low end in the guitar.

However, if you were to record a pop song that features drums, bass, electric guitars and vocals, you should record and mix the acoustic in a much thinner way. The acoustic guitar in such cases then gives the song the much needed texture, brightness and energy.

2. Avoid recording with a DI

It is not advisable to record your acoustic through the internal pickup into a DI (direct interface). Often in home recordings or stage recordings like in a church, you can find electric guitars plugged into DIs. More often it turns out that such records sound horrible and unnatural.

People hear acoustics from the outside and not from within the sound hole. Hence it is always advisable to use a microphone instead of a DI. The sound will definitely be better enabling you to hear the strumming and the entire body and resonance of the guitar.

3. Back your microphone up

Assuming you followed rule #2 above, you need to place the microphone at least a foot away instead of right up on the guitar. That way you’ll get a chance to take in the full body and tone of the guitar – right from the strings, to the sound hole, to the neck, to the entire shell of the guitar vibrating.

It is common to find that the closer you get to the source like when you use cardioid microphones, the more bass buildup you’ll create creating a heavy acoustic guitar which will soak up all your mix.

Backing up your microphone eliminates too much muddy low end that you hear on home studio acoustic guitar recordings and gives you a full clarity of your acoustic.

4. Avoid stereo recording

A stereo recording no doubt is a good idea since it gives you a nice spread (in the left and right) and sounds larger than life and full.

However two potential problems could be caused: one phase cancellation issues due to use of multiple microphones on a single source and the other you miss might out on getting a single beautiful mono acoustic guitar recording.

Phase cancellation can ruin your guitar making it sound thinner and smaller. And a bunch of mono tracks panned out is way more powerful compared to stereo tracks that aren’t really helpful. It is as basic and essential as it gets.

Also, forget about the type of microphone and its placement which matter trivially and just follow the above 4 rules to get the best possible acoustic guitar recording.

About the Author Music Needs You

Music Needs are a bunch of passionate & highly experienced musicians and media professionals with a vision to disrupt the industry and bring the power back to the "artist". Our various initiatives support the independent musician and bands to get more opportunities to grow their career.

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