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Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby BJG145 » Fri Feb 07, 2020 12:52 am

I'm sure this has been answered a billion times; if you reply: "Use Google" I won't take offence.

Any recommendations for a good mic, not hugely expensive, for recording acoustic guitar...? (Yamaha steel-string. They have an AKG414 which they like for vocals, but they're not sure if it's giving the best results on their acoustic.)
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby MOF » Fri Feb 07, 2020 2:45 am

Small diaphragm (pencil) mic’s are often used on acoustic guitars. Who are ‘they’ you refer to?
You don’t mention a budget but Rode NT5 is at a reasonable price, higher up but not exorbitant is the Neumann KM84.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri Feb 07, 2020 5:55 am

Well...it's worth demoing something else, but I'd say that if you're putting a 414 up on an acoustic, at least an EB or a B-ULS and it's not basically good, the problem is the guitar or the position, not the mic. Why? Because the 414 is a very versatile mic for these sorts of instruments. It's unexciting, it's not the best possible choice for any given recording, but it consistently works well. It's a Swiss army knife mic. At the same time the majority of acoustic guitars, regardless of cost, aren't well suited to studio recordings. They don't close mic well, due to the way peaky resonances project from the body. Generally we want that very close mic'd sound and the guitar just doesn't work. That's typically a far more significant change. The time.to change the mic is when you basically like the sound you're getting, you'd happily live with it, but you've got the funds to go for the excellent over the good. If it's not really working, you change the guitar, or the position. But with positioning, as above, we usually want it close, and actually the spots that work are typically going to be in a fairly small area somewhere near where the neck joins the body, perhaps above or below the neck, perhaps pointing towards the body a bit, perhaps not. Obviously those positions are infinite in reality, and little changes do make a difference
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby adrian_k » Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:45 am

As Jack says a C414 ought to give acceptable results. If you haven’t already tried, before spending any money get someone to play the guitar and monitor on closed back headphones while slowly moving the mic position and direction. You might find a mic position until you get a sound you like. Small changes can make a difference.

Another approach might be to record in stereo, especially if the guitar will be exposed. I use a pair of SDCs in XY for this.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby CS70 » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:22 am

What Jack says. The C414 is definitely up to the job... no need of getting a guitar-specific mic imho. The position in the room, the position of the mic with respect to the guitar, the guitar and of course the playing are far more critical for the sound you get.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby BJG145 » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:56 am

OK! Thanks for the advice...
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:04 am

I'm not going to argue with the esteemed Mr Ruston obviously, but if you've got access to one it's worth trying a ribbon. I find that the natural response tail off at the top end and strong proximity effect mean that you can get quite close and have a very 'full' sound without having string and fret noise overwhelming things.
It's not the sound you'd want in a busy mix of course, but it can work nicely for a much more isolated instrument.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:42 am

It's also worth trying different types of guitar strings to help fine-tune the sound. A lot cheaper than buying a new mic. There's an interesting article in this month's Guitarist on the subject.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:32 am

BJG145 wrote:They have an AKG414 which they like for vocals, but they're not sure if it's giving the best results on their acoustic.)

Hmmm... if you can't get a great sound with a C414 then either it's in the wrong place, or the guitar doesn't sound right to start with -- and this last possibility is often the real problem. Some guitars really just don't record well, and some player's poor techniques are mercilessly revealed when recording.

But before dismissing the C414, try to less conventional positions with it. Down by the tail if you want a warmer sound. Over the shoulder if you want something that sounds more like the way the player thinks it should sound.... etc
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Feb 08, 2020 9:02 am

blinddrew wrote:I'm not going to argue with the esteemed Mr Ruston obviously, but if you've got access to one it's worth trying a ribbon.

Ha that's FAR too generous! Argue at will my friend.

So ribbons...they can sound good. There are some issues...they can have too much proximity effect to close mic, and coupled with less top end, they can be boomy. Secondly, depending on the specific model, they can require a lot of clean gain, and if it's a gentle part A LOT of clean gain. Thirdly, they can, again depending on the specific mic, be a little dark. Now, that is sometimes a get out jail free card on a really zingy guitar, or a strummed part with new strings etc, BUT what I generally find is that the sound people have in their heads is a drier, less resonant and zingy instrument, with a brighter mic. The overall effect is different...the capture, the interaction of the early reflections in the room etc. So yes, a ribbon might work, but it's still probably not the first port of call in fixing this problem.

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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Feb 08, 2020 11:23 am

Yep, notwithstanding the fact that i seem to prefer a darker tone than most on acoustics, I was really just thinking that if a 414 wasn't cutting it for some reason then it might be worth looking at something very different.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby CS70 » Sat Feb 08, 2020 11:34 am

Yesterday I listened to the old 80's hit of Billy Idol, "Sweet Sixteen" - and this thread came into my mind.. If you listen to pop records where the guitar is an active instrument - the tone varies so much.. there's everything from a full bodied guitars to just a thin, extremely high passed strumming (like Billy's), using super thin, bendy strings or thick, hard ones, no pick sound and loads of pick sound, dark, light, everything really - it seems that any combination of possible exists and can works in the context of the piece :) The one constant among these is that the guitar is played well - with just the right amount of movement, dynamics and articulation in the rhythm playing.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:22 pm

Another thing to try is switching the mic to omni if the room allows. You might find this opens up the sound nicely and gives you more of what you're expecting. But the raw sound of the guitar is everything with acoustic guitars. Put a Martin D28 or either of my top-end Taylors in the chain and suddenly any old mic will do. (But I wouldn't recommend a ribbon tbh.) I use an Audio Technica 2020 permanently set up as my acoustic guitar mic and it gets very nice results. Pretty cheap mic.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby The Elf » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:53 am

As ever, I'll add that I think terms of dual mic's for acoustic guitar. One mic can sound very loney and thin, unless it is supported by other elements to create some stereo width in a mix.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:01 am

I Like to use an end firing mid sized diaphragm , actually two of them.....
(I have moderately well known liking for certain models of Groove Tubes Mic, now sadly harder to find since fender bought the company and immediately binned everything but the valves )

One aiming up the neck, the other at the rear behind the bridge .

placement is key, and how you treat the channels .
this should not be considered and XY stereo arrangement, with hard or wide panned positioning.

about 3 feet out (very -ish ),
and panned such that the perceived image is the right "size" for the guitar in the stereo field...

this often means panning , for a central image, say (in DAW terms ) -3 on rear of bridge side , + 3 on neck side... , if you want to position the image left, then move the centre relationship so that say, you have -10 on rear of bridge side, and -4 on neck side...


there is always a certain amount of latitude with the precise settings, but the fundamental guiding principle is that the guitar is about 3 feet wide in real life.

so consider the size of your presented sound stage for the overall mix, and adjust the guitar part such that it presents a realistic width of source in that sound field.

Basically what I'm saying is that multi Mic techniques can be very useful to bring out the overall tonality of an instrument, but the guitar is NOT 12 feet wide.

Single cardioid or hyper cardioid Mic any closer than 4-5 feet typically misses some of what we perceive as the sound of a guitar... and an omni can get a bit too roomy ...

so for intimate detailed sounds, a bit closer with a pair of mics to get both ends in to the image works wonders.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby rggillespie » Mon Feb 10, 2020 8:42 am

'Basically what I'm saying is that multi Mic techniques can be very useful to bring out the overall tonality of an instrument'
I totally agree with this point. I was using a 414 on its own and didn't really feel it sounded much like what I was hearing whilst playing. Despite moving it about and experimenting with positioning I was always a little unhappy with he recordings, then I read somewhere about using two mics. I now use the 414 about 6-8" inches away pointing at 12 fret and added a reslo ribbon pointing at the lower bout. It works a treat for me, everything's fuller sounding and present. Perhaps worth experimenting a two mic set up?
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Feb 10, 2020 11:12 am

As always, be careful to check 'mono compatibility' when using two (or more) mics.

Spaced mics can sound great in stereo, but when combined in mono the different time-of-arrival of sound to each mic can result in colouration which may or may not be acceptable. If necessary, adjust the position (distance) of one mic until an acceptable mono sound is achieved.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby BJG145 » Mon Feb 10, 2020 11:21 am

This is all great info, thanks.

Would a matched pair of Rode NT5s be worth considering to make a start with stereo instrument recording...? And would the NT55s be different/better in that role...?
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby The Elf » Mon Feb 10, 2020 11:34 am

BJG145 wrote:Would a matched pair of Rode NT5s be worth considering to make a start with stereo instrument recording...? And would the NT55s be different/better in that role...?
Go for the NT55s if you can justify it - the pad switch and omni option are worth the extra money. The NT5s are fine, though.
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Re: Mic for acoustic guitar recording?

Postby BJG145 » Mon Feb 10, 2020 11:58 am

OK, cheers...so, would you use omni mode on these if you were using them for a stereo recording, or would that be to increase their versatility in other applications...? (It's going to be acoustic guitar mainly. A pair of NT55s seems to be double the price at Thomann.)
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