In Parts 1 and 2 we spoke about microphone placement & techniques for room microphones, drums, bass and electric guitar. In part 3 we delve into the world of acoustic instruments, specifically the acoustic guitar. As mentioned in the previous two articles microphone placement is all about knowing what you’re wanting to capture, in other words having some idea of what you are trying to achieve with the end result. This will strongly determine where you choose to place a microphone or what technique you choose to utilise.
When we look at an acoustic guitar we can break it down into three main sections – the body, the neck and the headstock. Each of these parts of the guitar generates a different sound. You can hear this by placing your ear close to these sections of the guitar. The sound coming from the body of the guitar will contain more low end and warmth. It will also be the loudest part of the guitar due to the close vicinity of the sound hole. Moving our ears up to the 12th fret we can notice that the sound gets thinner and the tone changes. As we keep moving we find that the sound up near the headstock is the thinnest and the tone is different again. One of these sounds may be preferable for the application, but this does not necessarily mean that one is better than the others.
Thinking back to part one we discussed the difference between close miking and room miking. In a nutshell when you have a good room it is preferable to capture that sound. In this case you would set up a combination of both room and close microphones. The position of the room microphones would be determined by finding the sweet spot in the room. This can be done by simply walking around the room while the guitarist is playing until the sound is best to your ears. When close miking an acoustic guitar is good to capture more than one sound so that they can later be blended in the mix. Some of the more popular miking techniques include placing one microphone at the sound hole and another at the 12th fret. An additional microphone may be set up over the shoulder of the player. The purpose of this third microphone is to pick up what the guitarist is hearing while they are playing. Stereo miking techniques such as those mentioned in Part 2 can also be used.