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.
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?