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The 'Recording Secrets' Library Of Microphone Positions:
Acoustic Guitar

The following audio examples were recorded with professional guitarist Matt Harvey at London's renowned Livingston Studios using a set of SE Electronics SE4 end-fire condenser microphones kindly provided by UK distributor Sonic Distribution. All the mics were recorded through the resident SSL desk's mic preamps directly into Pro Tools without any signal processing. The microphones were set up in the main wood-panelled live room of Livingston's Studio 1, and for each microphone setup we recorded passes with three different guitars: a Taylor ('Gtr 1'); an Art & Luthiere ('Gtr 2'); and a Huss & Dalton ('Gtr 3').


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MULTIMIC SETUP 1

This microphone setup used 12 SE Electronics SE4 microphones. Two of the microphones (mics 'D' and 'H') had omnidirectional capsules fitted, whereas the other ten mics all used a cardioid polar pattern. In addition to recording separate passes for each of the three gutiars, we also recorded a couple of extra passes of the Taylor guitar to show the impact of some DIY acoustics tactics on the miked sound: for the first set of files ('Reflect') we placed a number of hard surfaces behind the player to bounce more of the instrument's rear dispersion back into the mics; and for the second set of files ('Absorb') we used absorptive baffles, quilts, and carpets to soak up some of the room's natural early reflections. These setup variations can be seen in action in the pictures below (left to right: 'Gtr1'; 'Reflect'; 'Absorb'):


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

To allow easier comparisons, I'll present the mic signals from Multimic Setup 1 in smaller groups, each with its own diagram and audio-files table.

  • Miking Distance: These examples show how miking distance affects the timbre captured via a cardioid microphone when addressing the guitar from two common miking angles.


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

Mic Gtr 1 Gtr 1
Reflect
Gtr 1
Absorb
Gtr 2 Gtr 3 Polar
Pattern
Distance Position/Angle
A WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid 20cm A little above the level of the strings, angled slightly downwards towards a point just above the sound-hole
B WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
45cm
C WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
90cm
E WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
20cm On the level of the fretboard, angled slightly inwards towards the 12th fret
F WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
45cm
G WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
90cm


  • Spotlight Sweep (Horizontal): In these examples, a cardioid close mic is swept across the guitar horizontally (from bridge to frets) to show how different regions of the instrument produce different timbres.


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

Mic Gtr 1 Gtr 1
Reflect
Gtr 1
Absorb
Gtr 2 Gtr 3 Polar
Pattern
Distance Position/Angle
I WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid 20cm On the level of the fretboard, angled slightly inwards towards the bridge
J WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
On the level of the fretboard, directly in front of the sound-hole
E WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
On the level of the fretboard, angled slightly inwards towards the 12th fret
K WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
On the level of the fretboard, directly in front of the 5th fret


  • Spotlight Sweep (Vertical): In these examples, a cardioid close mic is swept across the guitar vertically in front of the guitar's sound-hole to show how the timbral balance changes.


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

Mic Gtr 1 Gtr 1
Reflect
Gtr 1
Absorb
Gtr 2 Gtr 3 Polar
Pattern
Distance Position/Angle
A WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid 20cm A little above the level of the strings, angled slightly downwards towards a point just above the sound-hole
J WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
On the level of the fretboard, directly in front of the sound-hole
L WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
A little below the level of the strings, angled slightly upwards towards a point just below the sound-hole


  • Cardioid Versus Omni For Close-miking: These examples show how the captured sound in two common close-miking positions changes depending upon whether you use a cardioid or an omnidirectional polar pattern.


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

Mic Gtr 1 Gtr 1
Reflect
Gtr 1
Absorb
Gtr 2 Gtr 3 Polar
Pattern
Distance Position/Angle
A WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid 20cm A little above the level of the strings, angled slightly downwards towards a point just above the sound-hole
D WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Omni
E WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid On the level of the fretboard, angled slightly inwards towards the 12th fret
H WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Omni


MULTIMIC SETUP 2

This microphone setup used 10 SE Electronics SE4 microphones all with their cardioid capsules fitted. The same three guitars were used, each one being recorded by all 10 mics simultaneously.

  • Further Multimiking Options: These files demonstrate a variety of alternative mic positions you might consider when multimiking an acoustic guitar, and I've also demonstrated how two of the microphone pairs might be used to generate a bit of stereo spread. To hear the impact that phase relationships can have on a multimiked acoustic-guitar recording, import the WAV files into your DAW system and listen to how each of the tight pattern of mics 'B', 'C', and 'D' combine with any of the other mics.


(For a higher-resolution image, click here. Photo courtesy of Chris Korff at Sound On Sound magazine.)

Mic Gtr 1 Gtr 2 Gtr 3 Polar
Pattern
Distance Position/Angle
A WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Cardioid 30cm A little above the level of the strings, angled slightly downwards towards a point just above the sound-hole
B WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
On the level of the fretboard, angled slightly inwards towards the 12th fret
C WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
35cm
D WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
40cm
E WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
30cm At the tail of the instrument above the level of the fretboard, pointing down towards sound-hole
F WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
At the tail of the instrument below the level of the fretboard, pointing up towards sound-hole
G WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Above and very slightly in front of the instrument, by the player's left ear (as seen from the audience)
H WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Above and very slightly in front of the instrument, by the player's right ear (as seen from the audience)
G+H WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Mix of mics 'G' and 'H', panned slightly to give a little stereo width
I WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
In front of the guitar's 12th fret, pointing towards the sound-hole
J WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
In front of the guitar's 12th fret, pointing towards the 5th fret
I+J WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
WAV/MP3
Mix of mics 'G' and 'H', panned slightly to give a little stereo width


FURTHER READING

  • To read more about recording and mixing acoustic guitar, check out this Sound On Sound magazine article, to which the above audio examples directly relate.

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