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Acoustic Guitar pickup

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by CopperheadRecords, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. Hello, I am looking to record acoustic guitars with a set of condensers- However, I notice that the mics don't pick up much of the string attack, and most of the people I've seen playing live whose acoustic sounds I've admired have used pickups mounted in the soundhole along with micing.

    I really like the acoustic sound on the alice in chains unplugged album, or the live led zep films...and I'd like to spend under 200 dollars.

    Thanks for your input.

    I've been looking at the dean markley pro mag series...
  2. GregP

    GregP Guest

    Dean markley pro mags are classics, but they're really just low-output single-coil pickups, much like you could find in an electric guitar. Prone to hum, though because they're low-output you might not immediately notice.

    I'm no expert... I'm just a numpty with a home setup. But I have some experience with magnetic soundhole pickups and with my own little tinkerings, and I think your best bet is to experiment with mic position instead. One mic for the body of the sound, and another mic specifically angled and EQd to emphasize pick attack... blend to taste.

    Sometimes the low-tech stuff is overlooked. The quickest and best way to emphasize the sound of the pick (if that's what you're after) is to use a lighter pick. You can get some downright flimsy picks that sound very percussive because they're not generating much volume from the strings but are generating a tonne of noise as they flick over the strings like a playing card through bicycle spokes. ;)

  3. Boswell

    Boswell Distinguished Moderator Resource Member

    Apr 19, 2006
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    There is a big difference in miking technique between a live gig and a studio recording. Most of us who have to make both live and recorded sounds work for acoustic guitars use a careful blend of the signals from the pickup and from microphones. You take tracks from both.

    One big pain with recording a live performance is that, for visual reasons, the sound engineer is very constrained in the type and positioning of microphones. In the studio, I routinely use a pair of LDCs in M-S as my close-in main guitar mics, although I sometimes encounter guitars that are better captured with SDCs. On stage, I'm lucky if the artist will let me put more than a single SDC anywhere near the instrument.

    In the live situation, I would use a different blend of pickup vs mic for FOH sound than in the final recording, if only to reduce the chance of feedback. Also, there is a surprising amount of direct sound from the instrument, particularly the zing of pick on string that you referred to. This can be brought up in the recorded mix by balancing in more microphone and less pickup. Also, what a lot of engineers don't realise is that it's important to delay the pickup signals by about 1 millisecond to avoid phasing effects with the microphone signals.

    In terms of pickups, I try to avoid using piezo types. The most versatile type I have found is the sort that have both magnetic coils and a small electret microphone on a gooseneck. The gooseneck can be bent around to find the least ugly sound.

    In the studio, I used to attempt to record an accurate representation of the performer's sound, but it turned out that many artists didn't want that. Instead, they wanted a sound that is actually never heard live - more zing, more string attack, less instrument body sound, some controlled finger squeak, but no mistakes, no fret buzz. This is partly to do with vanity and partly to emulate the acoustic guitar sound that comes out of Nashville studios these days. From the engineering point of view, you have also to consider what will best cut through a mix when playing with other instruments.

    So it comes down to experience and experimentation. Budget for a considerable amount of time trying out different microphone types and positions. Listen to the sound in the control room where you can't hear the direct sound from the performer, but always keep in mind why you are making the recording and how it will be heard.
  4. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    There are a lot of different types of acoustic guitar "pickups". It's actually a very competitive field in which technology advances very frequently. Generally, you will find that employing two types of "pickups", together, yields best results, and affords you greater flexibility for both live and recorded sound.

    Personally, my least favorite pickup for acoustic guitar is the magnetic soundhole pickup. Even combined with mics or other "pickup" types, there are combinations which do a much better job of capturing the true sound of the guitar.

    Keep an open mind about under-saddle transducers. True, some suck, but some are very good, especially when combined with other types of "pickups". Technology has come a long way in this area, and they don't all go "quack-quack" anymore.

    I'm not a fan of the condenser mics which are installed inside the guitar. For live sound, they are the most proned to feedback, and for recording, you'll do much better with a good mic placed outside the guitar.

    Here's a link to a very good comparison project which may be very helpful to you:


    *CHEERS* Tommy !

    *CHEERS* Chris !

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