So, you’ve got a good-sounding guitar, you’ve placed it in the right spot in the room, and you’ve picked the right mic for it. Where do you put the mic?

Mic placement can have a dramatic effect on how the guitar sounds in the recording. (Remember how mic placement transformed a floor tom into a kick drum?) A great guitar can sound absolutely horrible with the wrong mic placement. On the flip-side, a mediocre guitar can sound better than it is if you find the right mic placement for it.

There are two main factors to consider with mic placement – distance and location and today we’re simply talking about mono mic techniques, that is, using only one microphone.

Distance

People tend to focus solely on where to point the mic, at the expense of thinking about how far away to place the mic. Distance is just as important as location, in my opinion.

We automatically tend to think the microphone needs to be really close to the guitar to capture that warm, upfront sound. So we place the mic 3-6 inches away. That can work, but it can also be more problematic than anything. Placing a mic really close to the source brings into play a phenomenon called proximity effect. I’ve written on this before, but it simply means that the close you place a directional mic to the source, the greater the bass response of that mic.

Translation: Mic too close = Guitar too boomy.

You may think that moving the mic 12 inches or more away from the instrument would make it sound too thin or roomy, but just try it. I’m always surprised by how great it sounds, even from 12-18 inches away.

12th Fret – The “Magic” Spot

Every guitar is different, but I’ve found there’s one spot on the guitar that usually gives me a nice, balanced sound. If nothing else, it’s a great starting point. It’s the 12th fret.

For some reason, pointing a mic at the 12th fret usually captures plenty of low end from the sound hole, and plenty of brightness/fret noise from the neck. After placing the mic on the 12th fret, play with the angle a little bit. It’s like a natural EQ. Angle the mic towards sound hole if you need more bass. Angle it towards the neck if you need less bass. This is really effective and MUCH better than slapping an EQ plug-in on it later.

That’s not to say the 12th fret is the ONLY place you can mic an acoustic guitar, but if you’re just starting out, it’s a great place to begin. As always, experiment, experiment, experiment.

What’s your favorite place to mic an acoustic guitar with one mic?

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  • CamBam

    A great way to determine how you should place a mic on an acoustic instrument is by thinking “where is this instrument supposed to be heard”? In other words, place the mic like it was a person listening to the guitar (or other instrument). For the acoustic guitar, the mic should be placed a little farther away. Acoustic instruments are meant to be heard in their ENTIRETY, so place the mic where it will capture the instrument in its entirety. Obviously, room noise and other things will come into play, but use this concept as a starting point and then adapt it.

    • You’re absolutely right.

    • Caleb

      Sometimes the guitar may sound great to the players ears. Simply placing a mic over the musicians shoulder pointing down into the guitar will produce a nice smooth sound. Providing, as CamBam said you give the instrument the space it needs to develop. There are times I have seen the instrument have to be changed out to get the right sound you’re looking for. Bottom line is if you can’t hear it you can’t record it.

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  • Anonymous

    When micing in mono, I also generally place the mic around the 12th fret for a balanced sound. 

    If I’m looking for a percussive, bright sound (dense pop mix etc.), I like to mic somewhere between the bridge and the back end of the guitar, about 1 foot away, pointing toward the player’s hand. 

    Another cool method is the “over-the-shoulder” approach to capture the sound the player hears. I would position the mic horizontally roughly in line with the player’s right ear, and angle it towards the neck. 

  • Joshua Jacoby

    My go-to setup for acoustic is 2 SDC mics, one 8-18″ from the 12th fret, and one roughly 6-12″ pointing straight down toward the nut. 

    I adjust distance depending on the character of the guitar – that’s where proximity effect can be a nice advantage, especially when a guitar is extra bright.
    Almost every time I need to record an acoustic, I try something different, just to see how it’ll sound, but I always seem to come back to this setup.