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?