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HELP! Best Mic Placement for an Acoustic Guitar

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Kim Dela Cruz, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. Kim Dela Cruz

    Kim Dela Cruz Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    I'm new into recording stuff and for now I'm trying to record an acoustic guitar, though I find it hard to find the best placement of the microphone on it. I'm a using a condenser mic (Audio Technica AT2020). I saw Acoustic Sessions/Cover videos of artists on youtube that has some mic placement on their guitars. And of course, I try to imitate what they do, but it doesn't work for me. I know that some of them did some mixing and mastering on their posts but I'm sure that putting your mic on it's best place will help you accomplish the rawness sound of the acoustic.

    I need you're advice or some stuff such as diagram will do? But whatever it is you think that would help me would be great!

    Please go easy on me, I'm still a noob on this stuff.

    Thank you in advance!
    K. D. Cruz
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    A lot of your sound is the room in which you are recording in... especially with a condenser mic, which will pick up more of the room than a dynamic will. I'm not telling you to use a dynamic ( although you may want to consider trying one if your room is that acoustically skewed), but you need to look at your room as one of the primary factors in the quality of the sound you are getting.

    Also, the AT 2020 is at the absolute bottom wrung of the quality ladder when it comes to condenser mics. AT does make some very nice microphones, but the 2020 is their budget/entry level condenser mic. You won't get the sound out of it that you will a quality condenser like an AKG 414, Neumann TLM, or even higher quality AT models.

    Regardless, you need to consider your recording environment as well.

  3. Kim Dela Cruz

    Kim Dela Cruz Active Member

    Got that Donny! I see, well, yes my room is not acoustically treated and my stuff is not that good yet but what options can you give me or would you advice for me to get a good acoustic sound from my guitar while recording?

    K. D. Cruz
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Packing blankets hung on mic stands surrounding your performance/mic position will help to absorb some of the higher frequencies that so often plague most home rooms. This is commonly known as flutter echo, and this is likely one of the issues that you are facing when you are recording.

    "Good" is relative term. "Good" to you might not be "good" to me, or to others here who have been doing this for awhile and who have invested real money into their rigs. What is your definition of good?

    If you are asking for advice on how to make your acoustic guitar sound as good as someone like James Taylor, that's not going to happen with the gear you have now, in the room in which you are recording.

    And again, that mic you are using isn't "good". Accordingly, you'll never get a "good" sound using it. It's a cheap, ( $89) entry level, budget mic, made in China on an assembly line made up of workers who know nothing about audio quality, using the cheapest components available. Replacing it with a better quality mic will help ... a lot... and this leads to: What preamp/digital i/o are you using to get the mic signal into your DAW?

    Okay, in a nutshell, here's what you need to know - Your recording chain will only ever be as good as the weakest link in this chain:

    The link is as follows, determined by the quality of each of these things:

    The instrument you are recording ( guitar, voice)
    The room you are recording in
    The mic you are using to capture the source in the room that you are in
    The preamp/computer audio interface you are using to send the mic signal to
    The preamps and digital converters that are in that audio interface
    The monitors you are using to listen to your recordings
    The room in which you are listening to the monitors, and mixing your songs in

    If any one of those links is sub par, then the quality of the others will only ever perform or sound as good as that weakest link does.

    Getting a good sound isn't cheap. Your expectations may be far too high for the equipment you are using. If you are looking for cheap and easy answers to getting a good sound, they don't exist. There is nothing I can tell you, beyond what I already have.

    The good news is that you can always up your game. All you need to do is have the money to be able to do so.
    Kim Dela Cruz likes this.
  5. Kim Dela Cruz

    Kim Dela Cruz Active Member

    Well, you're totally right! Guess it's time for me to invest more on recording stuff. Thanks man for this!
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Recording gear has become more affordable in the last decade or so, there was a time where you'd need a minimum investment of 15 grand - minimum - just to have a good sounding 8 track tape/analog facility.

    The cost of gear has come down, much of the good gear available isn't as pricey as it used to be, but much of it is still out of reach for people who aren't looking at doing this seriously, or as a business / occupation.

    But, even these days with the price more within a feasible reach for many, if you want a pro caliber sound, you're still going to have to pay for it, and like anything else, the price that you pay is almost always commensurate with what you end up with.

    If this is just a hobby for you, and you're just doing this for fun, then you can get by with mediocre gear - and that's fine, if you are happy with that sound, then do it and have fun - many are satisfied with a sound that isn't "pro". They just want to be able to record some songs of their own and share them with friends or family, and there's not a thing wrong with that.

    I've done the same thing with making candles. Around the Holidays, I'll make a few dozen nice candles as gifts for friends and family. But that doesn't mean I'm ready put the investment in to start an actual commercial candle-making company. ;)

    The thing is, you've posted your questions to a forum made up primarily of audio professionals - professional engineers, editors, musicians, arrangers, midi orchestrators, producers - which means that we do this for a living, so it's often difficult for us to tell you how to get by "on the cheap". Something that sounds "good" to your average home recording hobbyist, can sound downright nasty to those of us who live this craft, day in and day out.
    We take it pretty seriously... We've spent much of our lives ( and our money) doing everything we can to sound as great as we can, so it's hard for us to lower our standards.
    Please don't take offense to that statement. It's not your fault, and it's not our fault. We just don't "think" the same way as those who do this as a hobby, nor do we hear things the same, either. ;)
  7. Kim Dela Cruz

    Kim Dela Cruz Active Member

    I totally understand your point. And I'm thankful to get stuff like this because it helps me learn a lot. I have high respect to pros whose been in this industry for a very long time and has good reputations. I'm a songwriter and I did rent different studios for couple of times to record some of my songs. Well, I also wanna learn how they do those things that's why I decided to build my own home studio. I'm not expecting to get the same exact quality sound from those pro studios that I rented but I just wanna record some rough recordings for demos and I also wanna understand how they do it and someday I also wanna build a good quality studio that has treated rooms with great quality mikes and stuff where I can record my own stuff with my band and also help some other bands here in our place. I also understand that pro studio gears are too much to compare to mine, of course, but I bought some entry level recording stuff because I don't wanna buy things that I don't really know how to use yet.

    I also chose to post here because I know people here are pros, thus, I will gain right information than those forums that may mislead me into wrong ones.

    Going back to my question, I just wanna know where to place the mic, regardless what mic I'm using, on the guitar. Will it be facing the neck? the sound hole? Bridge? I know it may sound stupid to ask but yeah, I really wanna know why they place it here and there.

    I really appreciate it man! Honestly, I'm also serious about these things that's why I'm determined to learn more.

    PS: Sorry if my english is bad, it's not my first language but I'm doing my best to express everything understandably.

    K. D. Cruz
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Keeping in mind that the closer the mic is to the guitar in general, the more of the guitar you'll pick up and the less of the room sound. If you were to place the mic at a distance of about 6"-9" from the guitar, this would get it close enough to the instrument to pick up mostly the direct sound, and still give you room to play it. If you can get it closer without it being in the way, then try that. It's going to be a lot of trial and error for you at this point - with the low quality mic you are using, and in the untreated room you are recording in.

    The closer the mic is aimed to the hole, the more of the resonance of the guitar you'll get - and sometimes, this can be too much low end - it depends on the sound you are after. Aiming the mic more towards the bridge will get you a more present sound, less low frequency proximity, and more of the "jangle". Aiming the mic towards the fretboard can also be beneficial, if you are looking for a nice intimate sound where you'd like some finger/fret noises to creep in.

    Your AT2020 is a single position/ cardioid model ( there is only one type of pickup pattern on the mic) and, it's a side-address mic, meaning that the diaphragm of the mic is on the side of the mic, not on the top. (it should be marked as to where the "front" of the mic is)

    This video, at 5:00 in, explains single-mic ( mono) recording for acoustic guitar that is a decent general overview. Keep in mind that they are using an old ribbon model mic, which is NOT a condenser. Ribbon mics, especially older models, don't have the high frequency reproduction capability that modern condensers do.. and, ribbon mics are also figure 8 in their pickup pattern, meaning that they pick up from both the front and the back of the mic. So, while you don't have a ribbon mic, what they are doing (at around 6 minutes into the video) that is good information to know, is moving the mic in an effort to locate the "sweet spot"... which is the position where the acoustic/mic sounds best to them. There's nothing wrong with doing this, and in fact, it can be a very useful method of finding the best-sounding placement and distance, regardless of the mic you are using.

    Also, as mentioned previously, don't discount using some packing blankets surrounding you... this will help to tame a little of the hi-frequency ringing that most "bedroom studios" can present.


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