Once you’ve got a great-sounding guitar in a great-sounding spot in the room (and don’t underestimate how important those two steps are), you’re ready to pick your mic.

If you only own one microphone, your choice is easy. 🙂 If you own several, here are some tips for choosing the right one.

Condenser Mics

95% of the time, I use a condenser microphone when I record acoustic guitars. Condenser mics, as opposed to dynamic mics, tend to capture much more detail, particularly in the high-end. They’re also fairly sensitive, which means they capture the subtle nuances of an acoustic guitar much more effectively.

Because they’re so sensitive, though, they can pick up more than you want them to. It’s part of the trade-off of having a nice condenser mic.

Large-Diaphragm Condenser

For years I always used a large-diaphragm condenser on acoustic guitar. I would just use one of my favorite vocal mics. These tend to work well. They’re sensitive, but not overly sensitive. If you can own just one mic, make it a large-diaphragm condenser.

Small-Diaphragm Condenser

Recently I’ve been using small-diaphragm condensers on some of my acoustic tracks. These “pencil mics” have a much smaller diaphragm, so they’re even more sensitive than their large-diaphragm counterparts. This makes them especially sensitive to sounds like pick noise, finger noise, the musician breathing, etc.

They can provide an incredible amount of detail. But it can sometimes be too much.

Dynamic Mics

I rarely use dynamic mics on acoustic. But sometimes they’re perfect. If your guitar is super bright, a dynamic might tame things down a bit, since it doesn’t “hear” as high as a condenser. Also, if you simply have a bad-sounding room, and you can’t really fix it, a dynamic will pick up less room reflections because it’s less sensitive.

The downside to dynamic mics is that they need a lot more gain from the preamp. If your preamp doesn’t have enough gain, you may end up with a recording that’s too quiet or a recording that has a lot of preamp noise. (Preamps get noisy when you have to crank them all the way.)

Know your Mics

Regardless of what type of microphone you choose (I’ve used ribbon mics with good success in the past), you need to know what your mics sound like. For example, my tube microphone tends to hype the 2-3 kHz range. I always keep this in mind when recording. If I think that will hurt rather than help the sound, I reach for a different mic.

What do you think? What’s your favorite mic for acoustic guitar?

  • chad b

    Hi! Great site! I have a matched pair of km-69, kinda like km84, and I have a guy who plays super percussive, country blues style.  The vibe is only there when he sings and plays.  My bleed from his vocals on these little guys are huge… Any suggestions?  

    • At that point, your only real option is to mic the guitar closer than you normally would, and angle the mic down away from his mouth towards the guitar. The guitar tone won’t be as good (due to proximity effect), but you might get better separation.
      With that said, keep in mind that the bleed might not necessarily be a bad thing. If you can still make the mix sound great with the bleed, then I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Michal

    Hi Joe – what do you think about recording from a built-in mics/pickups? I have a Seagull Mini Jumbo with a built-in pickup and built-in microphone. Would generally recording off an external large-diaphragm condenser be more beneficial (I know I should try and decide for myself 🙂 Would I care about the sound of the room that much if I only get my sound from the built-in mics/pickups? Thanks!

    • I say try both and blend ’em. See what you like best.

  • A pair of km56’s.
    yum!!

  • I have a used a few mics on acoustic guitars, but of all the mics, I found the one mic that provides trhe broadest clarity range is Blue’s Spark. It’s worth so much more than it costs in my opinion. I just bought a U87 and a Kiwi and I love the spark much more on AG’s.

  • Frank Adrian

    Best microphone type for acoustic? Either LDC or SDC depending on tone. The darker your guitar, the more you want to use an SDC to bring out the highs. The brighter the desired tone on the track, the more you want to use an SDC. In most cases, acoustic guitar has too much muddiness that you have to EQ out anyway. As such, I’ll start with an SDC and, if that sounds too strident, switch to an LDC. Alternately, you can blow another channel and a bit of time miking with both an LDC and SDC and throw away the LDC track.