Acoustic Guitar Mics & Techniques?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by MMazurek, Oct 27, 2000.

  1. MMazurek

    MMazurek Active Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Been playin w/my little Martin D-1 trying to get that GREAT guitar sound (to record into a gtr/vox mix).
    Been playin with Sure SM81's, 414's, Oktava 012's. Tryin a few different pre/Eq's, and then into Distressors. (also have an AKG SolidTube, Blueberry, and a Lawson L47MP on the way)

    Either I CAN get the sound I want and haven't found it yet (technique advice needed), or there's an ULTIMATE mic set I MUST HAVE to do this.

    Or of course both.

    Trying out the little Oktava's for a week. Was 'talked out of' trying the Neumann KM184's.
    Earthworks maybe? Schoepp's? B&K(DPA) too much $$$ for now.
  2. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    This is a tough one to answer.

    First, what is it you consider to be "that GREAT guitar sound"? Kinda like "what color is best?"

    I wouldn't hesitate to use any of the mics you mentioned (unless I knew there was a $10,000 mic sitting idle nearby, and even then maybe not).

    80% player/guitar/performance
    10% room
    8% placement
    .5% mic
    .5% pre
    1% not f'ing up after the pre / God smiling upon you / good karma

    That said, where would you estimate the bottleneck in quality is most likely to be? Can you describe what it is about the sound you're getting that is not pleasing you?
  3. MMazurek

    MMazurek Active Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Just lookin for that nice warm/wood natural guitar sound. Mostly chords as opposed to picking. What I hear that I don't like is harshness in the top end.

    Moving the mic/mics around a bit, I can control boominess and get a nice mixture of high & low end.

    The guitar has one week old strings. Not old, not brand spankin new.

    My environment is humidity controlled, so the guitar itself sounds lovely. (not too dry) The room is controlled for reflections, yet not as dead as a typical vocal booth.

    That's why I asked about mics maybe. Something with a really smooth top end. I'm using nice pre's, so I don't think it's that.

    One other possibility is the sound through the headphones (Sony 7506). I'm recording myself in this case, so I'm not listening through the monitors, just the phones. Maybe I've got to record a little, playback, do over, etc...

    I usually think the 7506's sound pretty smooth though (not hyped up top).

    Thanks in advance for any help.
  4. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Ok, only the 414's stand out to me as "not too smooth top end" (harsh hi mids actually).

    Kick whoever told you not to listen to 184's.

    And still, I'd pick up the 81's out of the whole lot first.

    Try this:
    Get someone to sit in your chair and play your guitar for you (gasp!). Move your head around the room til you find the position it sounds best. Put the mics there.

    (BTW, what are the mic pre's? Just cuz they're good doesn't neccesarily mean they're the best for the job.)
  5. MMazurek

    MMazurek Active Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    I'm fiddling with a pair of Amek 9098's w/EQ, a dual Manley tube pre, a dual channel TLAudio tube pre/eq (EQ-2).

    I found my harsh top end problem. Improper gain staging and some leakage into a vocal mic (Blue Blueberry). Backed off a little gain on the pre. Hit the Distressor a little softer. And angled a SM81 slightly downward (angled toward hole a little) with the vocal mic angled slightly upward. Put a 414 near the bridge area and blended.

    HUGE difference!!!

    Spaced 81's worked well too, even more natural. (not blending two very different mics I guess)

    You like the KM184's???
    What are your favorite applications for them?
  6. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Usually (but not limited to) a spaced pair...
    Overheads, room on guitar cabs, etc.

    I definitely wouldn't shy away from em on acoustic.
  7. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Oct 5, 2000
    This is a set-up I've been having great results with lately, and it's very inexpensive. Mic the bridge with a Shure SM81. Mic the body of the guitar with an AKG 414. More you head around the guitar to find the best sounding place to position them. I've been using the ssl 9k's mic pre, but putting a Berhinger Dualfex (which I endorse) or a Ampex Aural Exciter on the insert of the SM81 to bring out the even-order upper harmonics of the strings. Sometimes I switch mic pre's, sometimes I'll compresses the 414, just depends...

    [This message has been edited by e-cue (edited December 30, 2000).]
  8. Kick whoever told you not to listen to 184's

    Got That Right!

    I have used the 184's on acoustic guitars a lot, works great. I like to XY them pointing at the 12th fret 12 to 15 inches away, always works good as a starting place. Further back more room, closer less room. Also, taking my good ear <grin> I point it toward the guitar and move around till I find the sweet spot, there you have it.

    Find by auditioning mic's/pre's a mic hopefully with a small pattern and good side/rear rejection point it up and the 184's down spread L/R in the mix and your in hit land.

    I've used the 9098, Neve with some kind of tube comp. One thing that I try not to do is use more than one tube in the signal path, you can get too much of a good thing.

    The first time that I work with the Pultec style EQ, it was kinda like that acoustic guitar sound that I could never get, I found. It works great so I bought two of the Langevin EQPI-A's from Manley. It will dial in a snare as well but in using them you have to twist all the knobs till you find what your looking for, the whole thing really don't make any sense but it works.

    Try those KM 184's!

    David L. Black
    Owner, Engineer , Producer
    Old House Recording Studio - Gastonia, NC

    [This message has been edited by (edited October 30, 2000).]
  9. MMazurek

    MMazurek Active Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Thanks David, I just picked up a Summit EQ-200A (their pultec style dual eq). I've used it on Vox, bass, and final mix so far and LOVE it. It IS wierd to use, but because of the cleanliness of it I feel I can crank away to find a sweet sound. It seems you have to do extreme boosts & cuts then roll back to reality.

    I'll try it on my guitar too.

  10. Try the Lawson one click from Omni, very nice on my Martin D35. I also really like the old AKG C61 small diaphram tube condenser on acoustic. They work with the 451 caps like the CK1 or CK28. If I'm going for a bright sound I'll use a CK1, if I'm going for a more natural sound I'll use the CK28 capsule.

    Mark Plancke
  11. lwilliam

    lwilliam Active Member

    Oct 6, 2000
    Santa Clarita, CA USA
    Home Page:
    I think only one person came close to my recommendation: the guitar and player make the MOST difference in the sound.

    Try switching to heavier gauge strings. I've found that switching from 011's to 013s (high E) makes as big a difference in the sound as mic placement or mic choice. Don't even try 009's or 010's on an acoustic unless you want a very thin, cutting sound.

    The pick (thin, thick, nylon, stone, etc.) also makes a HUGE difference in the amount of initial transient and the sound of that transient.

    Thicker picks will warm up the sound. Thinner picks will give you more of the "attack" or "click".

    Stone picks are actually extremely warm-sounding.

    Just my $.02...

  12. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Don't forget metal picks and finger picks (including fingernails if you're really dedicated).
  13. Steve Sklar

    Steve Sklar Guest

    I'm using a different approach and getting a great sound. Of course the gtr is a superb sounding (and gawguss) Larrivee...any ways, I'm using 2 Oktava MK012s in an XY pattern near the neck body joint, just 2-3inches out. One picks up more high strings, the other more lows. These are running into a Mackie board for lack of better preamps, but the Oktavas are ok like that. I then position a Groove Tubes Tube Condensor(old one, upgraded, not sure of the model)a couple feet away from the body, after listening for the sweet spot. This also picks up more "air" and room sound. I run the GT through a pre cuz it sounds a bit thin/harsh through the Mackie.

    Using mostly the MK 012s with some GT for body really gives a fine sound!

    Good luck,
  14. Tymish

    Tymish Guest

    One of the nicest acoustic guitar tones I've come up with was using a spaced pair of Shoeps and a U87. One Shoeps near the bridge, one somewhere up the neck (it took some time to find the right spacing). Then I set up the U87 in Cardiod near the sound hole to fill in the tone. Great image and sound. Doesn't always work in a busy mix, but for basic acoustic mixes sounds huge.
  15. Jay Kadis

    Jay Kadis Guest

    If you want an exotic recipe, try Schoeps BLMs (or PZMs) angled about 110 degrees (like ORTF but right together*) about 4 feet from the guitar (panned hard left/right) and a TLM-193 about 2 feet aimed at the lower part of the body (panned center). The BLMs get nice stereo and some room while the TLM-193 gets the low end. The player's voice is flanged like crazy, but the guitar sounds big and focused. This worked well on both steel and nylon guitars of different body sizes. More info at:

    *The BLMs were mounted on 2' square 1/4" thick plexiglas plates, which were placed together.

  16. Screws

    Screws Active Member

    Feb 16, 2001
    Home Page:
    Acoustic Guitar sounds are almost as personal as voices. I got a great sound last week with a Crown PZM mic stick in the middle of a metal music stand. (The black thingys) I angled the stand about 45 degrees off the vertical and positioned about 10 inches facing the area behind the bridge. I ran it into a Peavey VMP-2 preamp farily hot with no eq and it was nice, clear and full with a nice hint of air around it.

    When I doubled the track, we tried an AT 4051 condensor aimed at the lower front lobe (gee, we did a frontal lobe-otomy) and the character, though very different from the PZM track) gave an awesome stereo spread.

    Oh, the joys of discovery!
  17. Garth

    Garth Guest

    For what it's worth Ive been having very good luck with a KM 84 on the bridge and a TLM 103 at the 12th fret about 10 inches away. I keep trying other setups and keep coming back to the two Neumanns.

  18. Will Russell

    Will Russell Guest

    Most of the time I use 2 KM84s in a T bar, one pointing toward the bridge, one pointing to where the neck and body meet. Nice balanced image, not too stereo.
  19. GY

    GY Guest

    I notice this original post is quite old, but the subject is always relevant.

    I've been recording for a project that requires a lot of nylon and steel string acoustic guitar overdubs. I'm the player and my son is the assistant. I'm not so sure that choice of microphone is as critical as the placement of guitar and mic in the room. I primarily use a Shure SM-81 with excellent results. I've also used a Crown PZM and Shure KSM-44 with similar results. The PZM was placed on a hard surface (live) wall of the studio. The guitar was about 2' away at a slight angle (try both neck toward and away from the wall). If I have the tracks, I also put up a AT-825 stereo mic overhead to blend in. Move the stereo mic around for the desired blend and always check for mono compatability. Please post your results!

  20. mylescdavis

    mylescdavis Active Member

    Feb 14, 2001
    SW France/East Devon UK
    Home Page:
    To add a few cents to the thread, here are a bunch of comments.

    First, what's the role of the guitar in the song? Acoustic guitar sounds rank just behind drum sounds in the category of stuff that's fun, but misleading, to get by themselves - unless you're going to use them by themselves. If you spend lots of time and energy getting a big, luscious acoustic sound, and it's not a very wide-open track where the acoustic is the main attraction, you'll have to spend as much time making it smaller when it comes time to mix. Double tracking the part in mono (with 2 different guitars or 2 different mics) will often give you nice stereo stuff for small, "backgroundier" parts.

    The first thing drives the second - what kind of sound. Beggars Banquet vs. big shiny strummy stuff vs. Richard Thompson. Is this supposed to be bright hi-fi stuff or dirtier. What's the part, where does it sit, how much is it there in terms of structure. Most bottom end goes away from acoustic guitars in mixing unless, again, this is a solo guitar or guitar-and-voice treatment. This is where a lot of the comments earlier in the thread come in handy. I use 451s (bright!), C60s or 61s are nice, KM84s are nice but bright as well. Ribbons can be great, especially if the guitar itself is bright.

    You can also use large diaphragm guys, too, as the gentleman pointed out in his Lawson tip. With the Lawson, the omni/cardioid proportion will also give you an eq change as well as more/less room. Which is another thing to keep in mind - many acoustics don't really open up until you're a few feet in front of them - archtops, especially. Moving back a bit from the guitar gets rid of proximity effect stuff - a big issue on dreadnaughts like yours - and also eliminates the 15-foot-high guitar thing you get out of the speakers when the mics are jammed up to the box.

    Finally, don't worry about using phones. If you're working by yourself, what else are you supposed to do? One very effective way to address all the stuff you're talking about it to work with one mic at a time. Set it up a foot or 18'' away from the box, a little below eye level, pointed toward the center of the body. Now, put your phones on (hopefully ones you've learned the ins and outs of), roll tape (or disk, sorry), start playing, and rotate your sitting position a little at a time. You can call out what you're doing in the process. As Fletcher is fond of pointing out, 1/2" of mic movement in front of a speaker is meaningful, and the same is true here. You can get an astonishing array of sounds out of one guitar and mic, and this is one way to really find out what that range is.

    Sorry to go on so long, hope this is helpful.


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