Recording Acoustic Guitar With One Mic

Before we drop the bomb on my picks for acoustic guitar mics. Let me make a disclaimer.

When writing articles for this site I always try to remember that my main objective is to try to help the people who are in the starting phase of recording and mixing.

I remember how frustrating it was to sort through all the info online when trying to solve problems and find answers to questions.

I am also aware that it is easy to get carried away in our quest to get a really great track and we can tend to overspend on gear in the process. In most cases, this is going to be unnecessary and counterproductive. As a new recordist, having access to expensive gear is, in many cases not going to make the amount of difference to your end product as you might expect anyway.

Weaknesses in the entirety of the signal chain and shortcomings in our application of details in the recording process are often going to short change our end result anyway.

So when I make recommendations, I make them using this filter.

Personally, I have invested over $50,000 in recording gear and have some pretty expensive pieces of gear.  However, many times I find myself using the low-end gear, especially when it comes to microphones.

Mixing Acoustic Guitar

So what are my choices for recording acoustic guitar? ( keeping in mind we have to mix this thing later )

I have one choice. The Shure Beta 58! That’s it….one choice.

Wanna know why?

3 reasons.

1) Because, as I stated at the beginning of this article, I don’t think that having access to an expensive condenser mic is going to necessarily get you a better result anyway.

2) If you want to stay married buying a $4000 mic to record acoustic guitar may not be the most productive way to do so.

3) A poor recording room ( which is usually the norm in a home studio ) is only going to be enhanced by a highly sensitive condenser mic resulting in a potentially poor end result anyway.

That is why I choose the Beta 58. It has enough sensitivity to pick up a good sound and enough high-frequency response to detect the subtleties of an acoustic guitar, but at the same time, its off-axis rejection is good enough to ignore most of the negative aspects of your recording environment in the process.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay any attention to where you record your acoustic guitar track but it can only help should your choices of where to record are limited, which is usually the rule rather than the exception when recording at home.

My go-to technique for recording acoustic with a 58 is this. Place the mic facing straight in at the 12th fret about 12 inches away. That’s it. Now hit record and make sure not to screw up your performance.

I know this sounds hard to believe for many of you who have tried all the crazy 2 mic setups people rave about for recording acoustic, and I am not saying these methods are wrong. I am just suggesting that is you want a simpler method that gets a result that is very solid and consistent, this one will get you there every time with very satisfactory results.

Case in point. I was listening to Dave Pensado’s show one night and he was asking the interviewee about his recording method for acoustic guitar. Apparently, Dave was pretty impressed with the fellows’ acoustic guitar tracks. Much to Dave surprize, the guy he was interviewing said: “ I use a Shure 57 for all my acoustic tracks”. Dave hesitated as if to suggest that he thought the guy might be pulling his leg in an attempt to make a funny.

Then Dave recovered and said “ really? “. The guy then very seriously said. Yah….. I just find that the 57 has a way of focussing in and finding the ideal set pf frequencies that make an acoustic guitar sit right in a mix without a lot of EQ and final tweaking after the fact.

Keep in mind that a Shure 57 and a Shure Beta 58 are a very similar mic and I believe have the same diaphragm or at least a very similar one. The thing I find about the Beta 58 that I prefer it over the 57 is that it has just a bit better high-end frequency capture than the 57. That adds a bit of sweetness to the sound in my opinion since an acoustic guitar’s pick attack is a distinct element in the sound of the instrument and what helps distinguish it in the mix.

Best Mic For Recording Acoustic Guitar proof

A first-hand story also comes to mind to support my opinion of this mic choice for acoustic.

I was at a friend’s professional studio one night and he was in a rush to get a track finished for a client and he had to redo an acoustic guitar track. He was complaining that he had to redo the track because the original just sounded so bad he couldn’t get it to sit in the mix right.

I asked him how he had originally recorded it and he said he had used an over the shoulder, 2 mic technique with a ribbon and a condenser mic. $7000 worth of microphones just so you have a frame of reference.

I asked him if he had a Beta 58. He said he did. So I told him to throw it up 12 inches out from the 12th fret and record. He thought I was nuts but since he had a very limited amount of time to get finished before the next session came into the studio he didn’t have a lot of options. The 2 mic option was definitely off the table since it would take longer to set up than he had to record the track.

So he took my advice out of sheer necessity.

The next day he called me up during the mix session and said. “ Holy shit man…….that acoustic guitar is amazing. I didn’t even have to EQ it and it just sits perfectly in the mix.” 

I would be willing to bet he records acoustic with a Beta 58 more often now.

And maybe you should record acoustic guitar with a Beta 58 too!

Save yourself a ton of money and a bunch of grief and b go get yourself a Beta 58. It works for acoustic and makes a damned good all around mic for many other applications as well.