What is the Best way to Record Acoustic Guitar in your Home Music Studio?


Recording electric guitar is a lot less tricky than record an acoustic one. Recording acoustic guitar is similar to recording vocals and. By the word itself, you have to achieve excellent acoustics to maximize the tone of your acoustic guitar before capturing the track. Let’s dive into this article and learn the best ways to record acoustic guitars and more in our home music studio.

There are a couple of ways to record acoustic guitar at home. If your acoustic guitar has pickups, you can plug the jack directly into the audio interface and capture the sound directly without the use of a condenser or dynamic microphone, which is the more natural way. You can also try recording the hard but better way, which is using a mic to capture the real acoustic sound of the wood. The latter will require a lot of effort, such as acoustic treatment and mic positioning, but it will surely sound better if you get the technique locked down.

USING AN AUDIO INTERFACE

To record an audio instrument such as guitars or vocals, you will need an audio interface to translate the audio for a computer to capture and save. You can record directly into the mic of your laptop or computer, but it won’t sound as good as it would be using an audio interface. Particular VSTs can emulate the sound of an acoustic guitar. However, you can’t really emulate emotion when you play the real thing. AMPLE GUITAR is an example of an acoustic guitar virtual instrument that you can download for free. You can record the tracks using a MIDI controller, or program the tracks with the MIDI editor. Before moving on, let’s discuss the difference between a MIDI track and an Audio Track.

With an audio interface, you can choose to record a guitar using a mic, or you can record the guitar directly if your acoustic guitar has pickups and an output jack. In my opinion, I like how the acoustic guitar sounds when you use a mic to capture the sound. You can hear every dynamic, feel, and RAW emotion better when you use a mic to capture the essence.

Here are examples of audio interfaces suitable for recording acoustic guitar:

IK MULTIMEDIA iRIG PRE HD

(price: $99.99)

Besides the compact size, it can record fantastic audio.  It can also connect it to your mobile phone and record music wherever you are if inspiration strikes. This audio interface is a small but powerful interface for computer and mobile recording.

Key Features:

  • Headphone jack
  • Amp output
  • Guitar input
  • LED indicators
  • Gain control

M-AUDIO M-TRACK 2×2

 (price: $99.99)

This device is a high-quality signal capturing audio interface. It is compact, so; it won’t take a lot of space on your desk, and you can also use it for mobile recording. The low-noise feature is essential for getting the most out of your record.

Key Features:

  • Two inputs
  • XLR input
  • Crystal power preamp
  • ¼” guitar input
  • 24-bit/kHz response

FOCUSRITE SCARLETT SOLO

(Price: $99.99)

This brand has been well-known throughout most professional music producers. It has low latency, a preamp, and outstanding qualities for its low price. The 24-bit sample rate is best for recording guitars and vocals.

Key Features:

  • Two inputs
  • XLR preamp input
  • ¼” guitar input
  • Indicator lights for levels
  • Gain Control
  • 24-bit sample rate

AUDIO TRACK

An audio track is a type of track that you record manually using your voice or an instrument. You cannot edit audio tracks using the piano roll. However, you can speed it up or slow it down by adjusting the BPM or beats per minute on your DAW. You will usually need an audio interphase, or a USB microphone to record an audio or instrument track straight to your computer.

Recording an audio track is much more challenging to execute because you will have to adjust the levels manually. For vocals and other acoustic instruments such as a guitar, piano, or acoustic drums, you will need to learn the techniques to capture the sound perfectly. You will also need a suitable mic to record them, unlike on a MIDI track, you can use the editor to arrange the note very accurately.

Audio tracks may be more challenging to execute, but organic instruments will always sound better than samples. A musician can translate their emotions when recording a track using the real instrument, rather than a computer. However, it is not a bad thing to mix audio tracks with MIDI. Music is art, no matter what type of method you choose to create your sound.

MIDI TRACK

A MIDI track, on the other hand, is a track that you can program using the MIDI editor or piano roll. MIDI tracks are virtual instruments you can control by using a MIDI controller. Virtual instruments are sampled instruments that you can use digitally as stand-alone software or VST. MIDI instruments can emulate almost any actual instrument such as piano, synths, orchestra, and drums. These days, a lot of music producers, especially home music producers, opt for MIDI because of how convenient and inexpensive they are compared to the actual organic instruments.

What is good about MIDI tracks is that you no longer need to carry or purchase heavy instruments. You can record a whole song with just your computer and a USB mic for vocals. In fact, you can even create an entire song using only your phone. As long as you have the right knowledge, software, and tools, you can create music using any medium.

MIDI PIANO ROLL

A MIDI piano roll or also known as a MIDI editor is used to arrange notes of a virtual instrument. It will usually look like a piano roll. The notes you will use to play different instruments are the same as the piano. It will start from the lowest C to the highest C note. You can use a MIDI controller to play the instruments, arrange the notes manually. What I would do is play the notes using a controller, then fix some mistakes in the editor. I like to leave a few errors so that it doesn’t sound robotic.

You can use the MIDI editor to create an acoustic guitar track using Ample Guitar. If you are a beginner music producer, MIDI editing and programming is an excellent skill to have. It would be easier to learn how to use the MIDI editor if you know how to play the instruments so that you can emulate the feel and dynamics, especially for acoustic guitar. However, it is not mandatory to understand how to play instruments to learn how to use the MIDI editor.

HOW TO RECORD AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR TRACK

Now that we have got all the other details out of the way let’s start talking about how to get a high-quality guitar sound using your microphone and audio interface. Good quality audio will begin from the root of the recording process, which in this case, is the instrument. Make sure you have an excellent sounding guitar with reasonably new strings.

ACOUSTIC TREATMENT

Make sure you record in a room that has excellent acoustics and also, make sure that your mic will not pick up unnecessary noise. You want to be able to pick up the right frequencies on the RAW guitar track, so EQ and mastering will be a breeze.

MICROPHONE

You will need a condenser microphone to capture the acoustic guitar sound. Make sure that you move the mic around until you hit that sweet spot, where you can capture a perfect mix of the high, mid, and low frequencies.

To capture the high-end frequencies, point the microphone by the first frets of the guitar. The low end will come from the acoustic soundhole. It is better to get the right mixture both frequencies. If you want to increase the mid-rate, you should point the mic right between the guitar’s neck and soundhole. If possible, you can use two mics to make sure you get the most out of your guitar sound. Take some time finding the right spot because it will sound better on the record if you execute the recording properly.

You can adjust the output in the DAW by adding effects such as reverb, delay, and EQ to hear the real-time output in the recording. Some professional music producers switch the guitar track to MONO as it would sound fuller than in stereo mode.

If you only have one MIC, the sweet spot will be somewhere in the middle. For two mics, you can place them in a Y position capturing the whole length of the guitar. In terms of distance, you will have to do a little trial and error to get the right range to produce the sound you want.

Here are some suitable mic choices if you have yet to purchase one:

MXL 990MIDNIGHT

(Price: $100)

The MXL 990MIDNIGHT is an excellent microphone for recording vocals and any acoustic instrument. The design is very attractive. It has a vintage look that would look good set up in your bedroom/music recording studio. It has a lot of good reviews based on its looks and performance.

AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020 USB

(Price: $129)

Unlike the original Audio-Technica 2020, this one is connected via USB and does not require Phantom Power from an Audio Interface. Because it connects to your computer via USB, you can use this mic as a second mic to capture your acoustic guitar range better.

NEUMANN U-87

(Price: $3,000)

This vintage style mic is an excellent mic that producers like Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki even tweet about buying this microphone. It is a large-diaphragm microphone that is suitable for capturing almost any vocal and acoustic instrument tracks. This mic is a classic studio microphone that has three directional characteristics, Omni, cardioid, and figure 8. The features give the mic more functions in a recording session.

BONUS TIPS FOR HIGH-QUALITY ACOUSTIC GUITAR RECORDING

  • Avoid too many low-end frequencies
  • Use a suitable condenser microphone
  • Take time in finding that sweet spot
  • Use new strings
  • If you want a brilliant tone, capture the high-end frequencies
  • Record in stereo if you have two mics
  • Record tracks in mono if you only have one mic
  • Use the double-track technique (duplicate your first track)
  • Learn about your gear
  • Tune your guitar (use a tuner)
  • Use a metronome
  • It is easier to record directly than to use a mic
  • Practice your routine or song

RELATED QUESTIONS:

  • What is the difference between a dynamic and a condenser microphone?

In recording an instrument, a condenser microphone is used for low gain instruments and vocals. Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, are better for recording rock guitar and acoustic drums. You will need to learn how to set up the dynamic microphones at their right angles to capture the right mix of frequencies.

Click here for more information on how to record electric guitar directly by using an audio interface, or by using a dynamic microphone through the amp.

  • How can I record other acoustic instruments?

Recording other acoustic instruments such as percussion, brass, or wind instrument is similar to recording the acoustic guitar. You will need the same set of equipment. The only difference will be the mic positioning. For higher gain instruments such as brass, you would probably need a dynamic microphone instead of a condenser that you use for vocals and acoustic guitar.

CONCLUSION

Recording acoustic guitar may sound simple, but it will take a lot of practice to get the right positions and DAW settings. But once you get the hang of it, it is a handy skill in music production. You can use this skill to record any acoustic instruments utilizing a microphone. It is nice that nowadays, recording music has become much more accessible to the working class, so this is our time to learn and take advantage. Do not stop learning and creating!

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