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Is there any overwhelming advantage to recording acoustic guitar with two or more mics? As a general principle, would better engineer's prefer that everything come together on one mic, or would they prefer to have two or more sources to work with?


Davedog Tue, 11/02/2010 - 17:39

As many sources as it takes. I'm not saying that more than one source is the better way, it always depends on the environment, the guitar, the player and THEN the gear needed. A quiet acoustic guitar, played in a finger-picking style in a very dead room, will benefit from a couple of mics and a preamp with lots of noiseless gain. A loud acoustic played with heavy strumming style strokes in a loud and echoy room will benefit from one judiciously placed small diaphram mic with a pre with a lot of headroom and a compressor.

For my use, generally, I like a large-diaphram mic at the 12th fret with a small diaphram condenser over the players shoulder in a similar location as their ears while playing. This position sorta captures the nuances that the player is hearing and reacting to while tracking and can be very interesting.

A lot of people use only small diaphrams on acoustic guitar and I will from time time, but it is always dictated by the guitar and style of playing.

I will add LDC of choice is a Neumann pretty much captures all that any guitar can be.

anonymous Tue, 11/02/2010 - 18:04

Interesting post. Thanks. I do not have a wide array of mics, just two EV676's (which sound remarkably different from one another) one EV 664, and an Apex 415, which looks very much like a U87, but at $120 new, I trust it does not sound like one. :tongue: Edit: I just found a Shure PE 585 with some rooting around, and also a small EV mic that has no number. It looks like it is for talking, as it is only about 3" long, and has a factory string on it, as if to be hung around the neck.

It is interesting to read how you imply some general differences between LDC's and SDC's. Can the distinction be summed up in a sentence or two?

BobRogers Tue, 11/02/2010 - 18:49

A lot of this depends on the songs as well. If you have a lot of tracks being mixed, multiple mics can contribute to mud. At least I'm able to create a lot of mud with too many mics. With a simple guitar and vocal song multiple mics on the guitar can add the feel of a real room and a lot of detail.

anonymous Tue, 11/02/2010 - 20:14

I would say 90% of what I want to do is one acoustic, bass, and drums. I do not think that is a lot of tracks, but I do want the acoustic to cut through the mix. I have now tried all of my mics for some clean low end at the 12th fret or so (including my Apex 435 which I mistakenly thought was a 415) and surprisingly, a Realistic mic (made by shure) 33-1070B XLR connection was the best of the lot. At first, I tried to get the bass from the darker mics, but it seems to me that if the pair of mics are too dissimilar in sonic signature, they do not blend all that well. Does this sound like a fair statement or generalization?

The 33-1070B has a punchy middle and respectable low end, so it seemed to pair well with the 664

TheJackAttack Tue, 11/02/2010 - 21:49

The sonic signature of the mic's have to compliment each other. That might mean a LDC + SDC wisely chosen or it might mean a more or less matched pair of SDC. I think you need to save your pennies for some better mic's. Set your Santa list on two SM57's and two Rodes NT5's. At this point I think you're fighting your gear instead of learning it.

Davedog Tue, 11/02/2010 - 23:00

Diaphram size is only part of the equation. Mic amp voicing is another and also the mounting of the diaphram as well as the surrounding material contribute to the overall sound of the mic.

In considering the source to be mic'd, we have to know the characteristics of the mic(s) being used to capture that source. The size of the pattern as well as the frequency response within the parameters of that pattern are all important, especially in a multi-mic situation. Having complimentary frequency response between two different mics on a single source will certainly make this job easier but if such is not available, one has to find the ANGLES that two differing mics will capture the source without getting in each others way by competing or nulling particular areas of sound.

This is the fun part of recording. Experimenting! Finding something that works where it shouldnt and in ways that it wasnt designed to work.

So, realize that even a movment of 1" off axis with ANY mic pointed at ANY source, will alter its capture of certain frequencies. Perhaps you will discover something about even the least likely mic in your collection and somewhere down the road when you are being interviewed by some recording magazine about your hit sound, you can tell em it was a Radio Shack mic!! And the prices on fleabay will escalate accordingly!

John hit it right though. At some point, no matter how much experimenting you do and how much sound you find you can capture with what you have, you're going to want a little more suited gear for the job. Yes, you can pound nails with a pair of pliers.......but, why?

anonymous Wed, 11/03/2010 - 10:13

Forget the pliers, I've got a 664 that apparently doubles for a hammer quite nicely.:smile: But make no mistake, I recognize the benefit of good mics. However, at the front end, one has to budget effectively, and while new mics are in the forecast, it is a long range forecast, so I will struggle somewhat for the next little while. It might not be a bad excercise in making the best of what one has.

anonymous Wed, 11/03/2010 - 13:22

I have that book. I also have F. Alton Everest's Master Handbook of Acoustics, and a smattering of other similar titles. I also read Bob Katz's Mastering Audio some years ago, but I am still fresh in my second recording phase, and perhaps forgot some of what I read. I will look at the Yamaha book again. My understanding of acoustics is somewhat better than my understanding of recording. I once made my own QRD's, out of Drywall!! They were so heavy, I had to leave them when I moved.

TheJackAttack Wed, 11/03/2010 - 14:10

And just as a reference, an SM57 new most stores is in the $99 range and it's worlds better than those EV mic's. It is an industry standard after all. I don't normally recommend them, but the MXL 604 comes in at $99 too. Just watch the high end. The SM57's I always recommend to people. The MXL mic's are a buyer beware in my opinion. The AT4041 is probably what you should be shooting for instead. I know you said you couldn't buy mic's but if you don't the goal then you can't save either.

TheJackAttack Wed, 11/03/2010 - 16:07

No. With my mic collection it wouldn't be my first choice but it isn't terrible. Classical guitar is generally recorded with small diaghram condensers or ribbons. Steel string is more variable because of the difference in tone quality. Just my opinion mind you. And rember your reviewer likely has a whole mic locker or is repeating what he's heard about the" real" way to mic a guitar.

BobRogers Wed, 11/03/2010 - 16:47

I'll add that in live situations people use SM57s on acoustic guitar all the time. Typical application is an outdoor festival with a lot of quick changes. Of course they are making a compromise, and the 57 is being selected for feedback rejection and toughness. But the fact that it still gets used in serious live gigs tells you that the sound isn't "terrible."

Jeemy Wed, 11/03/2010 - 18:32

For classical guitar (I don't think I ever mentioned but thats actually my first discipline, I have 3 teaching diplomas) I absolutely adore the Charter Oak M900s. I've also found them very nice on steel-string acoustic, although my two main SS acoustic recording instruments (a Breedlove 12-string and a Babicz 6-string) are fairly unusual - I'd say for a short answer they have a very mellow yellow midrange which suits me (I like trebly electric guitars through bass amps, and wimpy acoustics through harsh recording chains) when recording through a fairly strident recording chain.

I tend to go with about a 9-inch placement, one mic on fretboard, and one on soundhole. i have never actually used a U87 on acoustic. as soon as my bloody vipre arrives i may look at some mono main with stereo wings.

i keep saying to you guys but nobody is biting - take a look at these schertler contact pickups. one of those with a mono omni mic in a good room and some time compensation is a godsend.

RemyRAD Wed, 11/03/2010 - 20:48

Well let's face it, in any kind of acoustic recording environment, you can have all sorts of open microphones. For instance you may have a single center Mono microphone or perhaps a stereo pair four overall pick up. XY, ORTF, MS (middle side). And then you include your stereo pair on your acoustic guitar, another one on the slap bass. These are combined with the overall pickup microphones to enhance them. Or the specific instrumental microphones are utilized as primary whereas the overall mono/stereo pair is simply there to add some ambience. You'll do it both ways throughout your career since there is no one specific way to always consistently record in this manner. And that's why having a good overall understanding of which microphones and stereo miking technique is invaluable. And a lot of that comes just from listening and doing.

Been there, recorded that.
Mx. Remy Ann David