Jonathan Pines, whose worked in the studio with the likes of Larry Coryell, Adrian Belew, and Wilco, joined us to discuss how to use microphones to record both acoustic and electric guitar.
Condensor microphones tend to have a little brighter and more forward sound when recording. They’re considered “active” microphones which make them much easier to use with an interface since they have 20 db more gain that helps for picking up quieter instruments. You would consider using a condenser mic when recording pop or country music so that it’s more “in your face”.
Ribbon microphones tend to have a warmer tone since they are “passive” microphones. Usually, you’d want to have these types of microphone positioned close to neck and body joint to pick up higher frequencies. When positioned further from the neck and/or below the sound hole, the tone will be warmer with lower frequencies.
How To Mic An Acoustic Guitar
Before anything, listen to the guitar your using to know how to position the mic, as well as which mic to use. For example, a Martin guitar tends to have a warmer sound which is great for singer-songwriters playing solo or alongside quieter instrumentation while Taylor Guitars tend to cut through and project in a dense production with keyboards and electric guitar. When someone is playing guitar, put your ear near the instrument and find where it sounds best and chances are that’s where you’d want to set up the microphone. Generally, the sound hole with have low frequencies, there’ll be higher frequencies near the 12th fret and a different tone closer to the bridge.
If you are looking to record a brighter, more pop oriented sound, it’s probably best to go with a condenser microphone. For a warmer tone, it’s recommended to go with a ribbon microphone. An interesting way to get a nice blend of tone, consider putting one type of microphone at the 12th fret and another near the bridge; for a brighter recording, you would put the ribbon by the 12th fret and the condenser near the bridge and for a darker recording you’d swap their positions.
How To Mic An Electric Guitar
While your first instinct is to think about which plugins and EQ pedals/racks you’re going to use to achieve your tone, the easiest approach is to dial in a flat setting on your amp, decide which pickup or combination of pickups you’ll be using, and turn the volume and tone knobs on your guitar to a desired setting. Keep in mind you can change more of your tone in the final mix.
When looking for the best placement of your mic with the amp, a good place to start is by focusing the microphone on the dust cap of the speaker in the amp. If it’s hard for you to see through the grill, point a flashlight through it to see through it easier and know where to position the microphone. The tone by default will be brighter when the mic is over the dust cap and when positioning the microphone towards the edge of the cone you’ll get a fuller sound. Alternatively, if you want to capture an interesting mix of tone and have a way of recording two mics in stereo, you can mic the dust cap with a condenser or dynamic and use a ribbon microphone towards the cone’s edge for a lot of choices of tone. If you want to get more room tone, pulling the mic further back allows you to get the sound that naturally projects from the back (assuming you’re using an amplifier with an open back).
If it’s not in your budget yet to get either a condenser or ribbon microphone to start recording, try starting off with a dynamic microphone (most handheld vocal microphones are dynamic). Dynamic microphones are a great place to start since a lot of recordings from past to present have used them to achieve great tone, although they tend to have a brighter and forward sound.Stereo input can be useful by mic the dust cap with the dynamic and ribbon towards the cone’s edge for a lot of choices of tone and mix them easily.
At the end of the day, these are great tips to get started with recording guitar; it’s all about personal taste. Play around with mic positions and different microphones to see what your ear likes best and start recording today!
sE Electronics Voodoo VR2 Active Ribbon Microphone
sE Electronics Class A Condenser Microphone