How to record a nylon string guitar

By | April 3, 2021


The nylon string guitar, just like other guitars, can be used in many ways – not least in recording contexts. This versatile instrument can advantageously act as a solo instrument as well as an accompaniment guitar, not to mention fingering and picking. Furthermore, the nylon-stringed guitar, just like the steel-stringed and electric, can be used as a rhythmic reinforcement and pusher. Something I personally love and probably use a little too often, if the truth is to come out. In fact, the acoustic guitar is not entirely different from the tambourine in this respect, although the instruments naturally differ considerably in other respects. They can both create movement and energy, without you for that matter thinking that they are there.

With that said, versatility (rightly) also places demands on the player. It goes without saying that a classic solo piece requires a completely different sound and recording technique, than a guitar that lies and simmers in the background. Nevertheless, the nylon-string guitar can be played and sounded in very many different ways – with or without nails, with different types of plectrums, not to mention string selection and the instrument itself. In other words, it is not possible to completely guard oneself when it comes to recording this wonderful and multifaceted work of wood art.

Microphone selection
With the above in mind, we therefore slip unsolicited into the choice of microphone. Here I usually think like this: The more space the guitar should take in the mix, the “finer” microphone should be used. In practice, this usually results in the solo instrument being enriched with a capacitor-microphone in mono or stereo, while the accompaniment guitar has to make do with a dynamic microphone. The reason for this is that the solo instrument usually requires, or rather feels good about, a larger frequency range. Here there is room to excel, which of course should be used. Regarding the accompaniment or picking guitar, the conditions are different. Admittedly, the instrument should sound satisfactory, but at the same time it should stay in place and not clash with other instruments in the mix. Here, the dynamic microphone is better suited, since the sensitivity and recording of the top and bottom are generally less than with a capacitor microphone. In the endowment, this generally means that a guitar recorded with a dynamic microphone is easier to place in the mix, than a guitar recorded with a capacitor microphone.


The dynamic microphone Shure Unidyne III 545SD is a clear favorite on nylon string guitars and amplifiers.

The distance
There is an unwritten rule (which today has turned into a universal truth) that you should place the microphone about 10-20 cm from the guitar, obliquely facing the sound hole and twelfth band. A good starting point for capturing as much of the guitar as possible, without picking up unnecessary room noise. This is not to say that this rule must be followed to the letter. Personally, I prefer to mic a little further away, to get away from the natural turbulence of the nylon guitar and because I like the sound of my room. Here it is important to listen. The closer (the sound hole) you place the microphone, the more bottom you get, thanks to the proximity effect or proximity effect as it is also called. A desirable effect in some contexts, in others not. Nevertheless, I advise you to experiment with different placement (of the microphone) to capture more or less string sounds and touches. Sometimes, for example, you want more of the sound of a harrowing plectrum, rather than the sound of the guitar itself. Then it is better to think about placement, rather than at a later stage try to steer the sound you want to eat, using an equalizer.

Eq and compression
Unfortunately, it is difficult to give any general eq tips regarding the nylon string guitar, much due to the above mentioned factors. A guitar can sound in very many ways, not to mention liking and taste. Despite this, there are still some frequency ranges that may be well worth a little extra look at. To begin with, you rarely need anything below 60-70 Hz, especially not if it is accompaniment guitars in a mix, then you can cost yourself to use a high-pass filter all the way up to 200-300 Hz to remedy unnecessary bottoms. . Furthermore, the range 100-350 Hz is particularly sensitive and often overrepresented if you have not been very careful with the recording. A dip here can do wonders to lighten the sound and leave room for other instruments. If, on the other hand, the guitar lacks heat, you can try increasing it to around 200 Hz. There is a wonderful core to take advantage of around 600-700 Hz, just as 2000-3000 Hz can both make the guitar painfully intrusive or delightfully clear. If the song is difficult to hear, this is where you should go back to leave room. 6000 Hz highlights string sounds and strikes, while air and luxury look forward from 10-12 kHz and up.

Old strings and crap microphones
Finally, I want to strike a blow for the use of old strings and crap microphones, especially when it comes to recording drifting background guitars. This is because “redundant” frequencies and harmonics then become less prominent, which makes the instrument more easily placed in the mix. In addition, it can contribute to a more interesting character. Furthermore, a soft plectrum (in my most personal opinion) is preferable when it comes to driving and fast comp, or no plectrum at all.

Tips on microphones

  • Shure SM57. Or even better Shure Unidyne III 545SD (vintage)
  • Line Audio CM3 (in stereo)
  • Neumann KM184

Or any microphone really. Not too often, it is precisely the coincidences, the limitations and the unexpected that create the most interesting mixes.

Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!

Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips