How to Record Awesome Acoustic Guitar at Home

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♪ [music] ♪

Hey, Scott Hawksworth back with you here, and in this video I’m going to be talking about how to record acoustic guitar from home and make it sound great.

So the first thing, before I get into actual mic positioning and things like that, I wanted to address was first of all whenever you are recording any instrument, any instrument that needs to be tuned, you should make sure that before every take, it is completely in tune.

Now, some people might say, “Oh, that’s too much, you don’t need to do that,” but there is nothing worse than having a fantastic take and then you go to listen to it and you were slightly out of tune, and it can be a very, very frustrating, depressing thing.

So whenever you sit down to record your acoustic guitar, make sure you tune it, make sure it’s tuned and it sounds good.

So then the second thing I wanted to point out is one of the differences between acoustic guitar and, you know, maybe recording an electric guitar, where it’s plugged right into your audio interface and going right into your computer, is that the acoustic guitar, by its very nature, especially when you’re using a microphone to record it, is going to pick up more of your room. And so acoustic guitar, how it sounds on your recording, can be affected a lot more by what kind of treatment you have, how the room sounds, and things of that nature.

So in general, my suggestion is, if you are recording acoustic guitar, try to find a place that has good acoustics, that sounds really good, and if you have, you know, your home studio, and you’ve added some treatments and things, then that means that, hey, maybe your acoustic guitar could sound pretty good there. But the main point is, is realize that acoustic guitar recordings are going to capture more of the room, by its very nature, if you’re not directly plugged in.

So, that said, now onto the actual recording positions and how you might go about this. So the first thing to understand is what I’m using here is I have a studio condenser microphone, cardioid pattern. It’s a wide diaphragm so it’s designed to, you know, pick up everything in the front and then kind of casting a wide net there, and typically, probably one of the most common ways that people record an acoustic guitar is they set it up so that the front of the microphone is facing the hole in the guitar here…

And it’s roughly 6 inches away. So it’s like right up in that acoustic guitar. Now, this creates a sound that is very in-your-face. It can sound really good but it also creates…What you’ll have is that you’ll have a lot more of the lower frequencies picked up, you’ll have a lot more of a boomy sound when you have this recording here because you’re picking up…

Realize, you know, you have all this area where the sound is going in the guitar, and then it’s all coming out of this hole here, and you’ve got your microphone right up in there. The microphone is right up in there, picking all of that up. So that may… Some people feel that, “Oh, that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the best sound, because you may get some muddiness there, you may get some extra boom that you don’t want. You may have to use high-pass filters in the mixing stage, and it may be frustrating for you.

So that’s the first position that people will generally record in, and I just want to record in this so you can hear how that sounds. If I may give a disclaimer here, I am not a guitar player, I do not consider myself a guitar player. I can strum a few notes and some chords, but I am no Eric Clapton. I am a piano player, so please forgive me for not being the best guitar player here, but for our purposes I think this will go just fine and you’ll be able to hear what it sounds like.

And now I’m going to record in the first position, again, about 6 inches away, with the microphone pointed right at the hole of the guitar, here we go.

♪ [music] ♪

And that’s the first position.

Now, the second position that people will use, maybe they don’t like that boominess, that it doesn’t sound really good to them. What they’ll do is they’ll record right at the 12th fret, and why they do this is because that can give it a more airy sound, and you’re not getting everything right from the hole in the guitar here.

Now, the problem with this is that it can be too airy, and it can sound almost thin and not really full, and you kind of lose some of the fullness of the acoustic guitar, which is something that some people don’t want. So that’s a downside to this, but it can be really good, especially depending on the project, if you want more airy-sounding acoustic guitar, you don’t want so much low end, you can record here.

So now let’s listen to what this sounds like. And again, we’re still about 6 inches away from the front of the microphone here. Here we go.

♪ [music] ♪

Now, maybe you can hear the difference between those two positions, but definitely a little more air in it, a little less of that boom, but some people don’t like that, and that’s what leads us to a third position. And this position, actually, I came across from Graham Cochrane of The Recording Revolution, and this is how he says he records all of his acoustic guitars.

So what you would do in this position is instead of 6 inches, move it back another 6 inches, so you’re about a foot away at this point. So I’ve moved the microphone further away. Instead of saying I’m going to be pointed right at the 12th fret or I’m going to be pointed right at the hole of the guitar, what you do is you turn the microphone just a little bit, and you do it in such a way…

And I’m going to scootch here to make sure that I’m properly focused here, and you do it in such a way that the microphone is going to pick up… It’s kind of more to the side almost, in terms of facing the hole in the guitar, and it’s pointed more towards the 12th fret, but the idea is that you’re picking up everything between there, so you’re still getting some of that boom, you’re still focusing on the 12th fret, but you’re not getting…

You’re not facing one or the other, you’re kind of getting a nice mix of both, and this gives a different sound, so let’s listen to that.

♪ [music] ♪

Now, the last position that you can choose is to say, “Okay, I am going to point it at the hole in the guitar, but instead, I’m going even further back,” and here I’m about maybe a foot-and-a-half away, so I’m pretty far away from the acoustic guitar here, and let’s just see how this sounds.

♪ [music] ♪

And there you have it. One key point to make here, when you discuss if you want to record 6 inches away or really close. If you think about how people listen to acoustic guitar when, you know, you’re playing it in a coffee shop or somewhere, no one is actually going up and putting their ear 6 inches away from that acoustic guitar.

There is always a little more space that remains in that sound, so why might you think…So, why would you necessarily want to record 6 inches away? No one is actually putting their head right up against it, so if you were capturing the sound, why would you do that? I still think there’s a lot of value in it.

I know Coldplay, they record their guitars really pretty close, and again, you can fix those issues, if there is any boominess or unwanted mud or things like that, you can, yeah, get a high-pass filter in there, you can EQ it, you can make it work, but if you don’t want to do that, if you want minimal production and plug-ins and things like that, perhaps trying the third way, the way that Graham suggested, is the way to go.

♪ [music] ♪

So that’s how to record acoustic guitars that sound great. Those are the positions that I think really work well, and go out there and make some great music.

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