Whether you are a seasoned pro or an absolute beginner when it comes to recording acoustic guitars, here are 10 snippets of advice that will help you get a better recorded sound. You can find that tone you always dreamed of if you take some time out to do it the right way
1. Try a different guitar
Whether you choose from your extensive collection, or you borrow a guitar from a friend, it’s worth trying at least a couple of different guitars when recording: they can sound radically different.
2. Practice makes better
This is obvious. If you know what you’re playing and you’re playing it confidently, it will sound better by default. If you don’t, it won’t and all the tonal ‘trouble’ you’re having will snowball.
3. Be aware of reflections
What’s beneath you, to your sides and above you when recording? For example, you’ll notice that recording on a hard floor sounds very different than when you’re on a thick carpet, because of the reflected sound (or not) coming back to the mic. Experiment, listen, learn – you don’t have to kill the reflections, but you do have to be aware of what they’re doing.
4. Sometimes, lo-fi works
Jez Williams, Doves: “Sometimes, in the studio, I like the [acoustic] guitars to sound quite trashy, like an early Bowie sort of sound, and you can get that by using dictaphone microphones, and blending it with an expensive mic signal. It puts a load of middle crunch on it.”
5. Try a different pick
If you’re layering a strummed rhythm part, try using a thin PICK (plectrum). Different thickness picks can have a remarkable effect on tone, so before you stampede for the EQ knobs or buy that expensive mic, first try shelling out 79p on a thin pick.
6. Try an X-Y crossed pair
A step on from basic mic techniques, take two cardioid mics close together, around 90-degrees to one another, around a foot from the guitar. Point one towards the neck/ body join, the other towards the soundhole: a classic Nashville recording technique. Rode makes a single mic for the job, the NT4.
I have placed another blog posting showing different configurations of mics that may help you out. The little things sometimes make the biggest changes.
7. EQ gently
If you find you’re needing to EQ things radically, you probably have a fundamental issue with mic choice and placement. Get that right in the first place and you’ll save yourself a great deal of work. But…
8. Cut bass
You might like your acoustic all fat and bassy. It can be good when solo, but it’s a problem in a band mix because the acoustic may clash with the bass. Try rolling off frequencies below 100Hz, creeping up to around 350Hz to taste. Notice how mixing just got easier? Remember to use your EQ a little bit at atime. You should not have to be to drastic as you think. I am all for experimenting but you do not want to make something to booming then you have no headroom in the rest of the mix.
9. Flock of seagulls?
If you’ve ever tried to mic up a guitar with brand-new strings, you’ll know all about finger noises: we call them seagulls. To avoid them, get a good few hours on the strings before recording. Coated strings (such as Elixir Poly- or Nanoweb) can reduce squawks too.
10. Just feel it
The most over looked yet most important factor is if your not into it your not going to make it sound good. Just relax maybe take a break. If it is somehting for someone else see if you cannot do something to make it your own or find something in the song that is cool. Just chill. if your not into playing the acoustic and your head is not in it, walk away and try it again later.