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Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

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Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Mon May 21, 2018 3:14 pm

I currently have a spare vocal mic (the AKG D5) which is terrible for my voice and style. It's a perfectly decent mic, but not applicable for me and it's dead weight in the studio.

I need a decent all round dynamic mic for guitar amps and acoustic guitar to go along with my better vocal mic (Sennheiser e835, a bloody great mic) so was going to part-exchange the D5 for an SM57.

I'm already familiar with the use of a 57 on amplifiers, but I wondered what is the best way to apply it to an acoustic guitar (steel string, not nylon)?

I found a great article on the SOS archives which says the 57 is good for a percussive sound (I tend to do blues licks). I'll try and read the full article this week when I'm not in the office, but for now does anyone have any recommendations?

If anyone wants to recommend an alternative mic instead of technique, the budget is the SM57 price - going up to £100 max.

Cheers, all :wave:
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby blinddrew » Mon May 21, 2018 4:18 pm

Does it have to be a dynamic or would you consider an sdc?
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Mon May 21, 2018 4:29 pm

I plan to get a condenser mic further down the line, but when it comes to guitar amps, I immediately thought "SM 57".

The acoustic is more of an afterthought, and I want to limit my collection to two dynamics and one condenser as an absolute limit (I don't use acoustic drums).
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby blinddrew » Mon May 21, 2018 4:35 pm

To me that seems a strange collection... but each to their own. :)
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Mon May 21, 2018 4:38 pm

blinddrew wrote:To me that seems a strange collection... but each to their own. :)

How do you mean? The only having three mics or the dynamic/condenser mix?

The reason I did that was to economise. My other half doesn't share my enthusiasm for recording, and she's a lot more important to me than mics!!!
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Mon May 21, 2018 4:39 pm

I'm willing to adjust that rule, but I'm not an expert and don't know the best mix of mics!
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby blinddrew » Mon May 21, 2018 4:59 pm

It all comes down to what you're going to be recording/playing. I totally recognise the challenge of working on a tight budget, it was the combo that slightly strange to me, but they're all just tools for the job so it will all depend on the job in question.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby The Elf » Mon May 21, 2018 5:01 pm

I don't think that the D5 and SM57/58 are significanty different enough to be bothered spending money on upgrading from one to the other. If anything I think that the D5 is actually a better mic than the SM58 at least.

I would use the D5 anywhere you'd consider using a 57 and I doubt you would find it lacking. Keep that money in your pocket.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 9:27 am

blinddrew wrote:It all comes down to what you're going to be recording/playing. I totally recognise the challenge of working on a tight budget, it was the combo that slightly strange to me, but they're all just tools for the job so it will all depend on the job in question.

Got it now! Thanks for the explanation. You're right, it's all about the job in question, and I think my plan does fit my intentions for now. I already have the two dynamics (after Elf's comments) so the third will definitely be a condenser.

I can always sell a dynamic and get another condenser, but it all depends on the job at hand! I really don't want to give up my beloved Sennheiser e835. It's like one of my children! ;)

The Elf wrote:I don't think that the D5 and SM57/58 are significanty different enough to be bothered spending money on upgrading from one to the other. If anything I think that the D5 is actually a better mic than the SM58 at least.

I would use the D5 anywhere you'd consider using a 57 and I doubt you would find it lacking. Keep that money in your pocket.

Thanks Elf, you just saved me at least fifty quid! I vaguely recall you recommending the D5 to me some time ago, and while it's not suitable for my voice, I'm glad you say it's as good as a 57 for recording anything else. So I'll keep it, and use it for virtually anything except vocals.

Do you have a recommendation how to record acoustic with the D5? I still need to read that article so feel free to tell me to RTFM! :headbang:
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue May 22, 2018 10:05 am

Getting the best recording of acoustic guitar is a matter of sitting and playing it (or, better still, getting a mate to play it) while moving the mic around and monitoring on headphones (preferably good closed back jobs in this case) to find the position that picks up the best balance. A D5 (or any dynamic) won't capture the 'air' a SDC would but should still give usable results.

Start pointing the mic at the neck/body join from about 12" away, angle or move it towards the soundhole for more LF and away towards the neck for more HF. This is a good one to try on live gigs. Other starting points are pointing at the bridge from below (or above), maybe a couple of feet away, again the bass comes from the soundhole so adjust to taste or above or below the soundhole. Try them all, then do some test recordings (the headphones won't provide total isolation from the acoustic sound of the guitar) and pick what works well for you.

FWIW not many people use a dynamic to record and acoustic guitar but I believe the venerable SM57 is often the goto for live bluegrass bands guitar pickers.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 10:11 am

Thanks Sam for the excellent and informative response. I'll try out all those.

I understand your comments on dynamic mics for acoustic, and I already have my eye on an MXL V67G for vocals which I assume would also be decent on an acoustic.

But until I get that the D5 will have to do.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue May 22, 2018 11:08 am

:thumbup:
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby blinddrew » Tue May 22, 2018 11:20 am

As part of some experimentation a year ago when I was trying to find a way to get a satisfactory recorded sound* from my acoustic I did try sticking a D5 and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I found that by keeping the mic relatively low (height-wise) so that it was angled slightly upwards, roughly pointed at the lower front lobe of the body, about 12" from the guitar worked pretty well. I could actually get quite a surprisingly controlled sound even pointed quite near the soundhole because the LF roll-off is quite pronounced working at that distance.
Your guitar, room and playing style will, of course, be completely different, but if you're not happy with what you're getting from Sam's approach then this might be an alternative to try.


* frustratingly I'm still not happy with any of my recordings, need to get our guitarist over at some point and get him to try and imitate my playing style whilst I listen properly. Which is a long way of saying 'I'm still not very good at this malarky so take what I say with a pinch of salt.'
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 11:23 am

Thanks Drew!

It's going to be a nightmare finding another guitarist to experiment with so I'll probably have to go DIY!

Having said that, it's a bank holiday weekend this week! I've already got plans to do some basic acoustic treatment in my studio, but if I get time I might do some experiments. I've got a song I've wanted to record for ages. Could be a good chance.

...Unless someone does a barbecue this weekend. I can't resist those!
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby The Elf » Tue May 22, 2018 11:26 am

garrettendi wrote:Do you have a recommendation how to record acoustic with the D5? I still need to read that article so feel free to tell me to RTFM! :headbang:
If I'm only using one mic, I'm on the neck side aiming for the octave fret and angling the mic towards or away from the sound hole, as I feel necessary. If I need more body I will move the mic away from neck and closer to body, still aiming at 12th fret. Usually the mic is closer to neck side.

Often I put up a dummy mic directly in front of the sound hole for the guitarist to aim for, because otherwise, as soon as they see the mic near the neck, they consciously, or sub-consciously, turn the guitar face towards it.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 11:27 am

The Elf wrote:Often I put up a dummy mic directly in front of the sound hole for the guitarist to aim for, because otherwise, as soon as they see the mic near the neck, they consciously, or sub-consciously, turn the guitar face towards it.

Could be a useful trick that!
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby The Elf » Tue May 22, 2018 11:30 am

garrettendi wrote:
The Elf wrote:Often I put up a dummy mic directly in front of the sound hole for the guitarist to aim for, because otherwise, as soon as they see the mic near the neck, they consciously, or sub-consciously, turn the guitar face towards it.

Could be a useful trick that!
Put the largest mic you have up as the dummy - bigger mic = grabs the guitarist's attention!

These deviant tricks I have learned from bitter experience! :mrgreen:
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 11:33 am

Just as an aside, how do I account for different body shapes and profiles?

My main acoustic is a parlour style, but the Missus' is a more conventional dreadnought style.

Would I mic the two differently?
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby desmond » Tue May 22, 2018 11:39 am

Someone needs to invent a robotic mic stand with some proximity sensors that can execute a predetermined set of moves (run by smart phone probably, maybe also with voice control) so that one person can play and monitor the audio, while the mic stand moves the mic around until you find the sweet spot.

You could bake in some predetermined positions as presets, so you'd place your stool and the stand in approximate spots, sit down, hit your "Sweet Spot" position preset and the stand puts the mic there relative to the guitar correctly everytime.

Kickstarter, anyone..? ;)

Seriously, once you find the sweet spot for any guitar+mic combination, it's relatively easy to get there from that point on - it's finding it to begin with that takes a little bit of effort.
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Re: Best way to use a Shure SM57 on acoustic guitar

Postby garrettendi » Tue May 22, 2018 11:41 am

desmond wrote:Someone needs to invent a robotic mic stand with some proximity sensors that can execute a predetermined set of moves (run by smart phone probably) so that one person can play and monitor the audio, while the mic stand moves the mic around until you find the sweet spot.

You could bake in some predetermined positions as presets, so you'd place your stool and the stand in approximate spots, sit down, hit your "Sweet Spot" position preset and the stand puts the mic there relative to the guitar correctly everytime.

Kickstarter, anyone..? ;)

You could download presets from famous studios... It'd be like having a studio technician come and do it for you!
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