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Recording An Acoustic Guitar On A Shoestring Budget
By Joe Lapinski
Sound engineering is an art form. Just like the painter who simply needs a brush, a canvas, some paint, and a vision, a recording artist can create a great sounding recording with minimal resources.
First, finding a good space takes time and experimentation. Ask yourself: “What do I want this recording to sound like?” Sometimes a large living room is a good place to start for a big, warm sound, while a bedroom is good for something up-close. Both rooms contain furniture that will help minimize unwanted echo – unless you want a natural echo. That’s up to you!
Next is microphones and placement. For an acoustic guitar, I recommend a mid- to large-diaphragm condenser and/or a tube mic – or two of each. These will help capture the detail of the guitar with a wide frequency range. They are versatile, and when combined and positioned properly, create a wonderful conditions for the mixing phase.
Right out of the gate, you probably aren’t going to find the best position for your mic. Record samples of each position and note whether you like it or not. I recommend taking pictures so you can reposition the mic(s) as accurately as possible in relation to the sound you’ve chosen. You need to listen carefully. What sounds best? Is this the sound I’m looking for? If not, move to a different room or reposition the mic(s) more radically. Try one microphone 5″ to 7″ from the sound hole of the guitar and your second microphone about 2 ft. to 4 ft. from the sound hole. This will give you two varying tracks to work with in your mixing phase. Placement is really up to you.
After graduating from the school of mic placement, think about investing in a higher-end microphone preamp. The prices may scare you at first, but a really nice preamp will bump your recorded sound quality substantially. Some professional recording engineers would choose a high-end preamp over a high-end microphone if necessary.
Whether you have high-end gear or not, your only concern should be creating the best possible recording.
Joe Lapinski has been performing, writing, and producing music in St. Catharines, ON for the past 12 years. He is the founder and chief of Yummy Recordings, runs Into The Future Studios, records and produces a variety of music from folk to rock, and works on projects from theatre sound design to film soundtracks. He is the current musical director for Suitcase In Point Theatre Company and is a co-founder of In The Soil: Niagara Homegrown Arts Festival.