Many artists new to recording acoustic guitars only think about placing microphones in front of their guitars.
However, the the savvy engineer and producer all know that you can do a number of things to enhance you session even before it begins.
In this excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with Rich Tozzoli), we’ll look at the 7 steps you (and the artist) can take when prepping for recording acoustic guitar.
1. Change The Strings
It may seem obvious, but putting on a fresh set of strings may help alleviate any potentially problematic issues such as tuning and a lackluster tone.
Don’t let them be lazy about this because unless you’re going for a dull sound, a fresh set of string will make the instrument resonate stronger, and therefore sound better to the microphones placed around it.
Recordings are snapshots of time, and you won’t want to listen back after that magic performance and wish you had a clearer, brighter sound because you didn’t change your strings. With an electric guitar, you can compensate slightly for dead strings by turning the treble up on the amp.
No such luck when recording an acoustic, unless you choose to run it through an amp, of course. Also, fresh strings will hold the guitar’s tuning longer, which in turn will make for a smoother recording session. You can even put a little graphite from a pencil in the nut slots to let the strings move a bit easier.
Don’t forget they should keep wiping their strings down during the session, as the dirt and oil from your fingers, as well as the simple oxidation of the air, will shorten their useful life.
The type and thickness of string you use, which will also be dictated by the type of instrument you play, will also alter the tone of your guitar.
2. Tune It Up
Make sure they tune their guitar with as precise a tuner as you can get your hands on, and check to see that it’s intonated correctly. They can do this by tuning each string, then playing it’s harmonic at the 12th fret, and then by fretting each string at the 12th fret.
All three should register ‘true’ on the tuner. If they don’t, you know your intonation is off a bit, so either fix it first or be prepared to work around it.
3. Listen To The Guitar
Have the artist just sit quietly with the instrument and play it for a few minutes. Listen closely for any buzzes on the neck, since they signal positions you want to avoid if it’s an issue that can’t be immediately fixed. Get a good feel for how the instrument really sounds so you can compare it to the recording when you hear it played back.