Record Acoustic Guitar Like the Pros

Record Acoustic Guitar Like the Pros by Brent McCollough

Acoustic guitar is a pretty common instrument nowadays. It’s in just about every song you’ve ever heard in your entire life, so chances are you’ll have to record one at some point. Here are some tips to get you started.

1) Find the Right Guitar

  • Make sure that the guitar you choose for the recording is naturally bright enough, warm enough, or good enough for your recording before you commit to it.
  • Try out a couple different guitars and pick the one you like better for the track.
  • A lot of the time, it is useful to use an acoustic guitar that has pickups in it so that you can blend the clarity of the direct signal with the microphone signal to give it a fuller sound.

2) Find the Right Microphone

  • I normally either use a large diaphragm condenser microphone or an SM57 on acoustic guitars. Both achieve a really nice sound. The large diaphragm condenser microphone captures more of the air and sparkle, while the SM57 is great for a warmer more focused sound.
  • Once again it would be beneficial to try both and pick the one you like best. They will all sound pretty similar at first, but after a while you will notice the subtle differences between the two. When comparing, make sure that both are at the exact same volume so that that does not affect your decision.

3) Commit to a Position for the Guitarist

  • It is a good idea to make sure the guitarist is comfortable. Usually a stool is perfect for recording acoustic guitar, but some guitarists prefer to stand.
  • Just make sure whatever the guitarist prefers that he will be able to stay steady with minimum rotation or movement of the guitar as this will affect the recording.

4) Set Up the Microphone

  • Most of the time, you want to stick to a natural sound. Acoustic guitars were made to be heard best from the sound hole, so it’d be a good idea to place the microphone anywhere from 1 foot to 4 feet away pointing directly at the sound hole for a nice warm natural sound.
  • If you’d like to hear more strumming, you can experiment with placing the microphone a bit closer, but I do not recommend placing it extremely close to the strings or it will sound very unnatural.

5) Record the Performance

  • Before you record, make sure that the guitarist is comfortable with the song. If he/she does not know the song and cannot perform the song well, you have wasted your time.
  • Make sure to have as little room noise as possible when recording (air condition, fans, running water, etc.) because it is almost impossible to eliminate these noises after the fact.
  • Check and see if the guitarist is comfortable and be prepared to record at least 2 takes. Give him/her a trial run, and record it anyway just in case he/she nails the take. You never know!
  • If you do more than 3 takes in a row and are still unsatisfied, it may be helpful to take a short break and come back to it afterwards. If the guitarist still isn’t doing the track justice, tell him/her to work on the song for a couple days and come back to record it or hire another guitarist and repeat the process.

This is a cover of Clarity by Zedd that I recorded in my bedroom using the techniques I explained above. I pointed an SM57 directly at the sound hole and positioned it a foot away.

If you’re wondering how I achieved the vocal sound in this recording, check out my other free article: Record Vocals Like the Pros.

Hope this helps! If you’re interested in investing in my Record Like the Pros program, click here. If you feel like you aren’t quite ready yet, scroll up to the top of the page to download my free eBook: An Introduction to Professional Home Recording and enjoy more useful tips on achieving a professional sound at home!

Can’t wait to see you on the other side!

-Brent McCollough


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