Recording of acoustic guitar with several microphones

By | April 4, 2021


When I make recordings out on the “field”, I also have to improvise as the equipment I want is not always in place.

There are as many ways to place microphones as there are people who place them, so just because I write these different tips does not necessarily mean that it is the only way to do it, it just means that I have tested a lot of different microphones and their placements, and I like what I hear when I perform the following tips.

I want to tell you about how you can record acoustic guitar with several microphones, where each of these microphones and its placement gives an excellent sound to use alone, but of course it becomes a maffier sound the more microphones you use, but the risk of phase errors increase exponentially the more microphones you use. (See at the bottom of the page for current articles on phase and phase errors).

Five microphones
I use in this tip five microphones: two condenser microphones with small diaphragms type Neumann KM84. A large diaphragm microphone, type Neumann U67 and finally two band microphones type two Royer or two KM84s.

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Neumann KM 84 and Neumann U 67

484159604_RoyerLabsR122_MKII.thumb.jpg.92369e4a85168e5439fae90366012315.jpgRoyer R-121 MK II

We start by placing the person and her guitar in a room that is preferably 6-7 square meters in size, and which is quite subdued. If an absolutely perfect room is not available, which it very rarely does, then we have to create it. If you have a room that is too large, try to delimit it by placing the guitarist against a corner, or if possible, place slightly higher chairs with blankets hanging over them around where he is sitting. The main thing is that you try to dampen around so that you do not get a lot of reflections that bounce in the room.

Position the microphones as follows:

  1. Select a condenser microphone (small diaphragm) and place it at the 12th band on the guitar neck. Aim it straight at the neck with a distance of around 15-20 cm.

  2. Then place a condenser microphone (large diaphragm) right next to the first microphone. Aim it in the same way, and be very careful that they have exactly the same distance to the neck.

  3. Place the other capacitor microphone (main diaphragm) at the same distance, but place it at a 45-degree angle to the stable on the guitar. Measure the distance so that you get these identical between all microphones.

  4. Place microphone 4-5, that is, two condenser microphones with small diaphragms type Neumann KM84 or two band microphones type Royer above the guitarist, in X / Y position about 20-30 cm above the head.

Then it’s time to listen. Put a Low cut filter on all microphones except on the large diaphragm capacitor microphone which is to stand for body and heat. You can easily cut up to 300-400 Hz on the two small diaphragm microphones, which sit against the neck and stall, and depending on how much you want to feel the room, you should probably take at least as much on the X / Y pair above as well , maybe more – It depends on what acoustics you have in the room, and you have to turn on the EQ until you think it feels good. Just keep in mind that if you record with an EQ, it is much easier to cut off, for example, bass, than to create it afterwards if it has already been cut off.

Also remember to get a good signal level, so that there is not too much noise or the like that makes it sound worse than it needs.

It is important that the guitarist sits still, and in the same position at all times when playing, otherwise there is a risk that the sound “goes in the stereo image” because there are parallel stereo flicks. Tape a little on the floor so that the guitarist can put his feet on the marks so you know he is sitting right every time. It’s good if the guitar’s volume is even throughout the song.

Recording on five separate channels
Now you can record on five separate channels, and when the sound comes back, pan the large diaphragm microphone in the middle. The two small diaphragm microphones should be fully panned left and right, respectively, and finally the two microphones located above, you should also fully pan left and right.

The great thing about this lineup is that you have a lot of opportunities. It is of course an unnecessarily large set-up, if you are now just going to record a little “ring-rack”, but if the guitar is to be load-bearing, this gives you opportunities to make it as big or small as you want. You can keep the middle mic a little warmer and the two side microphones a little more treble-rich and thus get a really wide stereo image. If you want it warmer and narrower, of course you lower the side microphones.

Color with the overhanging microphones
You let the two overhang microphones “color in the room”, and a good way to use them is to add effects to these mics. For example, if you want a little reverb, delay or something else – this way the guitar feels warm and close but still has a nice reverberation from some reverb or delay.

About song recording, microphone placement for guitar and piano and about phase errors
Previously, I have made a tip on how you can work when recording a song that you can read here: To think about when recording a song, and a more general tip on how to think in general when placing a microphone – including when to record an acoustic guitar with a microphone, at the 12th band if you want it a little more treble-rich, and at the stable if you are looking for a warmer and slightly more bass sound, and also tips regarding piano which you can read here: The importance of right microphone placement.

Regarding the subject of phase and phase errors, Studio Jon Rinneby’s article Phase recommends. How good it sounds, as well as the blog post Fasfel and how to avoid it by the Studio member “Trombonisten”.