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How to Record Guitar: A Quick Guide

Published: Thu November 12, 2009  News Feed

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Recording guitar is a common enough studio task, but getting it right - specially at home studios - require some good know-how. Check this guide with the best tips to get started!

How To Record Guitar: a quick guide

Guitar is one of the most common instruments in the western world. However, capturing it's various tones can be, by turns, very frustrating and incredibly rewarding. knowing what you want to achieve from the guitar is one of the most important things, because different recording techniques will give you different results - it's a matter of knowing what will be right for the song.

We'll separate this guide in two parts: recording acoustic guitars, and recording electric guitars.

Recording acoustic guitars

To start with, it's always important to use a new set of strings. It's one of the simplest, but the most important step to getting the sound right. Old strings will sound dull, fresh strings will sound brighter and give you a brighter sound.

The other thing you need to know, which not everyone recording at home does, is to get some good sound insulation. The room where you record will have a massive impact on the final result, because the sound bounces on the walls - that's why any proper recording studio ever, will always have great acoustic treatment. Of course, you don't need to go crazy about it, and there are simple and affordable solutions, such as the Auralex Roominator kit. The SE Electronics Instrument Reflexion Filter is another great tool to help you in these matters.

If you're really serious about your recording, and have the money and the space, we can't recommend Vocal Booths enough. They are the best solution for creating the perfect recording environment, short of going into an actual studio!

How to mic an acoustic guitar There are many different ways of mic'ing an acoustic guitar, and it depends on what you want to achieve. Here's a breakdown of the most common points you should pay attention to:

  • If your song has a sparse arrangement, you'll probably want a fuller, warmer sound - and the best way to achieve this is by using two mics when recording your acoustic guitar.
  • If the mix, on the other hand, is busy, it'll be easier to just keep it simple and use one mic when recording your guitar.
  • The best mics to record an acoustic guitar with are Condenser Microphones. What you'll want will be Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics, to be more specific. Know all those great acoustic tracks you know and love, from Bob Dylan to The Beatles to Oasis? That's what they all used!
  • If you're using just one mic, NEVER place the mic bang in front of the acoustic sound hole - this is not the best placement at all! It'll give you a muddy, bass-heavy sound.
  • If you're just using one mic, the best position is 15cm away from the guitar, in front of the 12th fret.
  • If you're using two mics, you'll need to follow the "3-1 rule": the distance between the mics should be at least 3 times the distance between each mic and the guitar. In another words - if each mic is distant 15cm from the guitar, the distance between mics should be at least 45cm.
  • If you're using two mics, place you at the base of the guitar, pointing towards the sound hole, and place the 2nd mic right up the neck - even as far as the 5th fret. this way, the mics will capture a wide range of tonalities which you can then mix later.
  • For more balanced results, when using two mics, the best bet is to use Stereo Matched Pairs
  • And don't forget! When recording direct to your computer, you must use a good Audio Interface where to plug your mic.

Recording Electric Guitars

Recording electric guitars takes a completely different aproach, since you'll be dealing with much greater sound pressure levels, coming from your speaker cabinet.

Again, you'll just need some good Acoustic Treatment, as the room where you'll record will affect the final results dramatically. Raising the amp from the floor, using an Amp Stand, can help you, too.

recording electric guitarThe best mic when recording an electric guitar, to get a good sound from your speaker cabinet, will be a dynamic microphone. Dolphin Music has a great selection of Instrument Microphones, of which the Shure SM57 is the most commonly used mic when recording electric guitars.

Experiment, to fin dthe best spot to record your guitar - place the mic towards the edge of the speaker cone, and then move it towards the centre, for brighter sounds.

If you're using more than one mic, you may use a condenser microphone a few feet away from the amp, to capture more of the room ambience.

If you don't have great mics or a great amp, there's nothing wrong with using just an amp simulation box, such as the popular Line 6 Pod. Check some affordable Line 6 Pod solutions here.

It's good to keep your mixing options open, and have the option of a wider tonal variation, by DI-ing the guitar and splitting the signal, so you can both mic the amp and record the signal straight through an amp simulation tool such as the Line 6 Pod.

Remember to always use a good audio interface and you're on your way to achieving great results! Good luck and have fun!

Check the new GUITAR RECORDING section of our website, with all the best gear to record your guitar, including microphones, interfaces and audio treatment solutions.

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