December 14, 2021 4 min read
A few weeks ago, we hosted our good friend Nate Kerbin in our studio to talk shop and capture some of his beautiful tunes for a live Movo sessions video.
Watch N. Kerbin for Movo Sesions performing "A Boy and A Man and a Satellite:"
We designed the VSM condenser mic series in the spirit of great condenser mics of the past. That is, we wanted to create a condenser that could be the ultimate studio swiss army knife microphone, whether you're recording in a pro studio or looking for a condenser mic for home recording.
Producers love condenser microphones because they are so versatile. Enter any music studio, and you’re likely to find a condenser mic in the vocal booth, hung above the drums to capture the overhead sound of the kit, even facing a classical violin soloist. Condensers are highly sensitive and capture great detail and rich sound across the frequency spectrum from the low lows to the highest highs.
But just because condensers are time-tested, doesn’t mean it’s always simple to get a good sound from any source with recording with a condenser microphone.
Today we want to share some tips on how to record acoustic guitar using a condenser microphone.
Now the first rule of recording with a condenser microphone is one that we talk about often at Movo when it comes to creators and creating: there are no rules.
Recording music is about capturing your own individual creativity, artistry, and ideas, and while there may be methods that have traditionally yielded “good” results, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow those methods, or that you should be aiming to achieve those same results.
When recording, it is just as important to capture “your sound” as it is to capture “good sound.” If that means putting the microphone at the end of a long hallway, or taking the strings off and sticking the mic right inside the guitar, go for it.
At Movo, we’re all about encouraging you to use products to explore your creativity, and we’re all for pushing the boundaries. Trial and error is the best way to learn how to express yourself with recording, or with any medium.
So while we all agree there is no best way to record an acoustic guitar, in the instance of recording acoustic guitar with Nate Kerbin for Movo Sessions, our goal was to capture a very clean and natural sound, so we utilized some tried and true “best practices” to achieve this sound.
Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines, or to take these tips and run with them. Experiment until you feel you have gained a good understanding of the relationship between guitar and microphone.
Face the microphone at the fretboard just above the soundhole of the guitar:
For our purposes here, we will be focused on how to mic a guitar with a single condenser microphone. A lot of people like to mic for a stereo signal with one microphone pointed at the soundhole, and one pointed at the fretboard. So we like to split the difference and place a mic right when the neck meets the guitar.
Be wary of micing too close or too far away, find the sweet spot.
It can be tempting to place a microphone right in front of the soundhole of the guitar. That’s where the sound comes from right? While in certain circumstances this can be a good approach to acoustic guitar mic placement, sometimes it can result in too much bass in your recording. There is a lot of air moving directly out of the soundhole while a guitarist is playing, which can overpower the microphone with booming bass.
If you like the sound you get by micing close to the soundhole, you don’t want to get too close. Aim for a 6 or so inches away. The fullness of an acoustic recording with plenty of bass can sound very pleasing, however, it can be difficult to tame bass while mixing, and may leave you with a final result that sounds hollow and lacks the “sparkle” in the mids and highs that you want when capturing acoustic guitar recordings.
You also want to be careful that you don’t mic the guitar too far away. Generally, the farther away you are, the more "room" sound you will get in your signal. Micing too far away will also give you a weaker signal, and while you can always turn the tracks up while mixing, remember that you will be turning everything up, including the room sound.
Keep in mind your final mix while recording:
When recording an acoustic guitar, keep in mind what you want to the final mix to sound like. In the case of recording N. Kerbin for Movo Sessions, we knew that our final mix would be comprised of acoustic guitar and vocals. With that in mind, we could afford to allow a little more bass or low end into the guitar, since, in the final mix, there would be nothing to conflict with the guitar’s low frequencies.
If we had been recording guitar to be part of a full band mix, we would want to be more mindful of controlling the bass in the guitar signal with where we placed the microphone. Low end/bass in the guitar can overlap with “lows” in the instruments like bass and kick drum. While you can always equalize some of the bass frequencies out of the guitar, this may leave you with a mix that is "muddy" in the low end.
Always try to capture the sound you want at the recording phase, so that when it comes time to mix, you’ll be as close as possible to the sound you want.
We hope these tips will help you in your journey to capturing an acoustic guitar sound you love. Don't be afraid to step out of the box in search of the sound in your head. In the meantime, check out our guitar microphones for some options to capture the guitar sound you want. Happy recording!