What are some effective micing techniques for the Guitar?
I will be giving an overview of a number of modern techniques and microphones used to record acoustic and classical guitars, as well as advice on how to gain the best results through one's own patience and preparation.
Overview of microphones used to record guitar
Small diaphragm condenser microphone
- This type of microphone is more often than not the preferred type of microphone for recording acoustic guitar due to its sensitivity to high frequencies and ability to pick up great transient detail (such as fret and finger picking noise)
- They are usually used in identical pairs to capture stereo audio.
- Example: Samson C02
Large diaphragm condenser microphone
- This microphone can be used in a number of guitar recording applications, but more commonly for acoustic guitar when one wishes to capture the overall room or environmental sound. This can give the guitar performance a live feel.
- It can also be used to record electric guitar amps, usually paired with a dynamic microphone; where after the 2 tracks are usually blended together.
- Example: Behringer C01
- This microphone is typically used for recording electric guitar amplifiers due to their ability to withstand very high SPLs (Sound Pressure Level)
- They can be used on acoustic guitars but are not preferred due to their lack of ability to pick up fine, transient detail that condenser microphones are good at capturing.
- Example: Shure SM57
- Guitar pickup: By simply plugging the guitar straight into a recording interface, with a DI box before the interface to convert the impedance of the guitar. One can use the built in pre-amplifier of the guitar to record the acoustic guitar without any microphones. However, this usually gives a much less detailed and natural sound than what a microphone can capture.
- Single microphone technique: A small diaphragm condenser microphone would be preferable for this technique. Ideally, one would place the microphone at about the 12th fret, where the most balanced frequency presence is located. Then, one would either make exclusive use of that one track, or record the same performance twice and panning each track left and right in the mix to create an artificial stereo effect.
- XY technique: This technique is used to capture a stereo image of the guitar, while avoiding phase issues (the same audio signal being slightly out of time with the other) It ideally uses 2 small diaphragm condenser microphones, placed at a 90 degree angle to each other at roughly the 12 fret, with the 2 microphone heads on top of each other, almost touching.
- ORTF technique: This technique is basically the inverse of the XY technique. The 90 degree angle is now formed with the backs of the microphones almost touching. It is believed to create a very wide, realistic stereo image of the guitar. It is more prone to phase issues than the XY technique.
- Spaced pair: This technique uses 2 small diaphragm condenser microphones, spaced apart along the guitar. Most commonly, one will be close to the headstock and one will be either at about the 12th fret or to the right of the sound hole (avoiding too much bass resonance from the sound hole) It is the most prone to phase issues.
There are many types of micing techniques for guitar. All of them are effective in their own way, but there are no rules. It all comes down to a matter of experimentation, and ultimately finding which technique gives you the sound you want for your guitar recording. After all, recording is an art form.
Written by : Duran (Port Elizabeth, South Africa)
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )