I recently did an acoustic recording of a wonderful hand made archtop guitar that I have for sale. The recording was to be used in the video you see below. It occurred to me while recording that many of the guitar players and luthiers who subscribe to my blog might be wishing they had a relatively cheep way to get a high quality recording of their guitars too.
I decided to share with you how I did the audio recoding you hear in the video below, in hopes that it might help any of you who are looking for a solution in that area. While I can’t say that my recording is the ultimate masterpiece or anything, I felt it was good enough for me to share how I did it. Maybe it will at least be a starting place for you to improve your system and get an even better sound, then maybe you can share your technique in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
How To Record Your Guitar
The system I used was very simple and was fairly inexpensive, but before I even begin to talk about the equipment I used to do the recording I should mention a few things about the guitar itself that are far more important.
Starting with a great guitar is obviously a big advantage. If you love the way the guitar sounds naturally then the challenge is simply to capture its voice in the recording in a way that is accurate and true. If you are a luthier that is recording his own guitar, then you have another great advantage. You know the guitars voice on many levels, and you can use this understanding to make sure that it does in fact get captured accurately. It is all too easy to get so involved in the mic, and the recorder, and the playing, that the quality of the guitars voice gets overlooked.
Finding The Best Mic Placement
I start by having someone play the guitar, then slowly walk around the player while listening to the different frequencies present in different locations as it leaves the guitar. Each guitar will be different, so be sure to really listen each time. I usually know right away when I find the spot I like. I tend to like the guitar mic to be about 2 feet from the guitar, but this depends on the room and other variables. If you don’t like the sound of the room, or if you need more signal level, you can move the mic in closer to the guitar too.
Choosing the Right Mic For Your Guitar
Every mic is like a different color in an artists palate. Choose a mic that favors the sound you like and that helps you capture a true picture of what your guitar sounds like. I like ribbon mics like the Royer Labs R-121 Ribbon Microphone, because they are so warm. My all time favorite mic and still one i hope to own one day is a Neumann U87 . I was able to use these mics and others like them when studying audio recording at Webster University under famed audio engineer Bill Porter (Known for recording Roy Orbison and Elvis ) when I was in College earning my Bachelors of Music degree in Jazz Studies / Audio Technology. Unfortunately in my guitar shop I can’t justify spending that kind of money on my mics, I don’t do enough recording, and the dust factor in here could ruin a high end mic, so I was forced to find a substitute that I could get a satisfactory sound from at a lower cost.
The Blue Yeti USB Mic
After a lot of research, I decided to go with the Blue Microphones Yeti Pro with the Blue Radius Shock Mount (as seen in the video). This is a very inexpensive mic that can be plugged in directly to the USB port of your computer or in my case my Apple iPad 2 . I find this mic to be a little crispy sounding, but for the price, and simplicity of it, I think it sounds really good. It also saves me a ton of money because I don’t need a separate interface to convert the XLR input into a digital signal. Though I should mention that the Blue Yeti Pro mic does have stereo XLR outs that work very well if you have the appropriate equipment to use it with.
For the recorder I used the iPad 2 and an app called Fire field recorder, which if I remember was only about $5 in the app store. This app is super easy to use and does have a few complex things you can do with it, but for me, I just want to use it as simply as I can and capture only what the guitar actually sounds like in person. (After all I have guitars to build, so I have a super limited amount of time to spend on this stuff.)
One other thing to note is that when using the Blue Yeti or Yeti Pro with the iPad you need to use a Belkin Powered USB Hub and the camera connection kit to run the phantom power. The iPad is not able to power the mic on its own, so the USB hub is the workaround. It does take away from the simplicity of the setup a bit, but overall I still think it is a relatively simple solution for getting a fairly high quality and accurate recording of your guitar.
After I have the track recoded I can adjust my output levels to make sure things are in balance and then export it to Dropbox, and then I’m done. Very simple, and if the mic placement is chosen correctly the results can be very very nice for an ultra simple and inexpensive setup.
If you have any tips on how to record an acoustic guitar, please share them in the comment section below, thanks! – Tom
This entry was posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 5:48 pm
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