In a live masterclass at Sweetwater Studios, the renowned producer and engineer, Warren Huart, shared his insights on small diaphragm and large diaphragm microphone techniques for acoustic guitar recording. We’ll break down his key tips and tricks to help you achieve the best results in your acoustic guitar recordings.
The Magic of Small Diaphragm Microphones
Warren started by emphasizing the unique advantages of small diaphragm microphones. These tiny mics work wonders in reducing excessive low-end frequencies that can sometimes be problematic with larger diaphragm mics. For acoustic guitar recording, small diaphragm microphones help focus on the nuances of the instrument without overwhelming low-end frequencies.
One essential tip Warren offered was to angle the microphone away from the soundhole, which can be prone to boomy resonance. By pointing the small diaphragm microphone towards the guitar body instead, you can capture the beautiful percussiveness of the strings and body, making it ideal for arpeggios and a lively acoustic guitar sound.
Warren also shared a valuable trick used by the BBC: capturing the sound of the guitar’s body. By pointing the small diaphragm mic at the body, you can achieve a distinct percussive quality in your recordings, creating a unique and dynamic sound.
But here’s the kicker – you don’t need a high-end microphone for this. Warren mentioned that even budget-friendly small diaphragm mics can work wonders. Their lack of excessive low-end makes them perfect for acoustic guitar recording, simplifying the recording process.
Going for a Pop Sound with Large Diaphragm Microphones
Warren also delved into using large diaphragm microphones to achieve a more “pop” sound for acoustic guitars. To do this, he recommended placing the large diaphragm mic between the 12th and 14th fret, a few inches back. This positioning helps capture a fuller, more rounded acoustic sound, making it perfect for pop-style recordings.
While large diaphragm microphones can be used in the same positions as small diaphragm mics, they provide a different tonal character, emphasizing the high frequencies and producing that classic rhythm acoustic sound. The key is to get close to the instrument, ensuring a dynamic and well-defined sound.
Warren also noted that mid-range-focused microphones tend to work best for acoustic guitars, especially when paired with preamps that have EQ capabilities. Adding a bit of mid-frequency boost can enhance the overall sound.
The Right Acoustic Guitar Matters
Warren shared an interesting insight regarding the choice of acoustic guitar for recording. He suggested that small body acoustics, like Triple O’s, can work wonders in a mix. These smaller guitars naturally produce a balanced sound that doesn’t require much post-recording work. So, when selecting your guitar for recording, consider opting for a smaller body acoustic for a smoother recording experience.
Techniques for Recording Acoustic Guitar and Vocal Simultaneously
The discussion also touched upon recording acoustic guitar and vocals simultaneously. When capturing both elements, Warren recommended using a dynamic microphone for the vocal to minimize bleed from the guitar.
However, he stressed that perfect phase alignment isn’t always necessary. Sometimes a slight phase misalignment can be beneficial, adding character to the sound. The key is to experiment and trust your ears to find the sweet spot.
To reduce guitar bleed into the vocal mic, Warren suggested having the singer strum and groove a bit while singing, allowing for a more natural performance. He also mentioned using techniques like placing a paper towel on the guitar strings to minimize string noise.
Experimenting with Multiple Microphones
For those who want to get more creative, Warren discussed experimenting with multiple microphones. Placing a small diaphragm and a large diaphragm microphone together can yield an interesting stereo image. He recommended trying different positions, such as XY configurations or pairing mics at different points on the guitar. The key is to listen and adjust to achieve the desired sound.
Warren also touched on achieving a wide stereo image with multiple microphones, emphasizing that it’s challenging to make the sound dramatically wider, as the guitar remains the central source. However, this setup can add depth and dimension to the recording, making it more engaging.
Vocal Mic Placement
If you’re recording a vocalist along with the acoustic guitar, Warren advised using a dynamic microphone for the vocals. Position the microphone slightly off-center to minimize acoustic guitar bleed. Experiment with the microphone’s null point to achieve the best results. Vocal and guitar tracking simultaneously can create an authentic, dynamic sound.
Whether you choose small diaphragm or large diaphragm microphones, experiment with different mic positions, and remember to trust your ears. The right acoustic guitar choice and smart techniques for capturing vocals alongside the guitar can lead to remarkable recordings. So, go ahead and apply these tips to elevate your acoustic guitar recording game.