How to Play an Acoustic Guitar During a Recording Session

Recording an Acoustic Guitar

When recording an acoustic guitar, the quest for the perfect sound can be a frustrating one. This is because unlike electric guitars, artists still need to use a microphone when recording an acoustic guitar. However, guitarists can use certain tips and tricks to get the best sound when playing an acoustic guitar for a recording session.

Choosing the right guitar and gauge of string

An amazing acoustic guitar recording begins with choosing the right instrument. Invest in or rent a high-quality guitar from a reputable brand. After getting your instrument, choose the right gauge of string. A light gauge string is very easy to play and bend. On the other hand, a heavy gauge string produces a bigger sound. If you choose the heavier gauge string, get a professional to set up your guitar to accommodate the thicker strings.

There are three types of strings used in acoustic guitars, namely nickel wound, phosphor bronze and bronze. Each type of string produces a slightly different sound. It is important to choose the type and gauge of string that perfectly matches the type of music you want to record.

Tune your guitar

Start by tuning your guitar correctly before recording. You can use an electronic tuner or smartphone apps that help you get the right sound. Keep your tuner close when recording to tune up your guitar between song sessions.

Play in the right environment

The sound of an acoustic guitar is greatly influenced by the environment you play it in. Acoustic guitars produce the best sound in live acoustics. However, when recording in a small studio, there may be insufficient natural reverb, which affects the quality of the sound. To liven up the sound when recording in a studio, play the guitar close to reflective surfaces such as doors, solid furniture, and hard floors. The sound bounces off these surfaces and creates an audible reflection.

Getting the right pick

The thickness of the pick can have an enormous impact on the sound of the acoustic guitar. Thicker picks are ideal for layering sounds, and thinner picks can be very useful when strumming.

Choosing the right microphone

The right microphone can make a difference between an excellent acoustic recording and a terrible one. A dynamic microphone, a ribbon microphone, a small condenser and a large condenser all produce different qualities of sound. A small diaphragm condenser microphone produces the sound of the guitar more accurately. Large diaphragm condensers are ideal if you wish to include the sound of the room you are recording in. Since condenser microphones are very sensitive, you can place them a few inches from the acoustic guitar to get the best sound.

Dynamic microphones are not as sensitive as condenser microphones. Therefore, they have to be placed nearer to the guitar to produce the right volume of sound. When using a ribbon microphone, you may have to use a microphone pre-amplifier to boost the mic’s signal.

Positioning the microphone

While microphones are placed very close to the acoustic guitar during live performances, it is better to get a good microphone and set the guitar a few inches from it when recording in a studio. You can position the microphone between the body and the neck of the guitar. You can angle the microphone backwards in the direction of the end of the fingerboard, but it should not point towards the sound hole. This position is good, as it helps you balance the sound generated from the strings with the sound from the neck and the body of the guitar.

Before you start recording, try experimenting with different microphone positions. Put your headphones on and look for the sweet spot. Leave the microphone in the position where it produces the best sound.

Get lessons on microphone positioning and acoustic recording

Capturing the perfect sound with an acoustic guitar is possible with the right information. There is so much to learn, and you need a lot of practice and experience. This is why it is better to seek help from professional acoustic guitarists. These guitarists have a lot of technical know-how and expertise in all the things you need to do to produce great sound. They have experimented with different microphone positions, microphone types, picks, and guitar types. They can pass this knowledge to you through acoustic guitar recording lessons so that you can know how to prepare, set up and record beautiful music on your acoustic guitar.

Invest in High Quality Guitar Lessons

I don’t think that this can be under estimated at all. I hear so many times, guys coming into the studio who are self taught and they understand chords and what sounds good but they lack proper technique. There is a way to hold the guitar, to position your fingers and also a proper way to strum the guitar for rhythm. Anyway, I don’t want to go into too much detail but I suggest checking out for guitar lessons is you need them. They will even do Skype sessions, if you aren’t able to meet up. Also check out their Yelp and Yellow Pages listing for reviews and what not.


It is important to take the time to get the environment, pick and microphone right before recording the acoustic guitar. This ensures that the entire recording goes perfectly and that the sound is natural and accurate.

Mixing Vocals Tips From Pro Mixer Chris Lord-Alge

mixing vocals with CLA

To say that a mix is great if it doesn’t have a great vocal sound, is not true at all. You might think that you need a fancy channel strip or compressor to get a great vocal sound but it’s just not true. The truth is that gear isn’t the most important thing, it’s actually just a simple thought process.

Nobody Listens to Music in Solo

If you’ve been listening to rock music at all in the last 20 years or so, than you’ve probably come across a Chris Lorde Alge mix at some point. In fact, probably multiple times as he is one of the most sought after engineers. He always seems to know how to get big drum sounds and in-your-face vocals. Recently Chris mentioned on Pensado’s Place something that we all need to listen to.

No [listener] ever hears anything in solo. Period. So the only way to get a great vocal sound is when it’s competing with everything else in the mix.” – Chris Lord-Alge, Mixer (Foo Fighters, Green Day, Dave Matthews Band, Switchfoot)
It’s actually quite basic and maybe it’s not super obvious at first glance. What is Chris is trying to get across is that your audience isn’t going to here your vocals solo’d EVER. They are going to hear it sandwiched in with the rest of the sounds. So what’s the point in spending so much time mixing in solo? There isn’t.

Try Starting With Something Other than Your Vocal

To start it off, there is no real rule that says you should start with this or that. With that said, one thing you might try to improve your vocal sound, is to stop mixing it first. If you pull up your mixer and start tweaking in solo then when you start bringing everything in your EQ and compression will just start to fall apart.

Mixing alone is hard enough so why waste time working on something that “might” work??? This is one of the reasons why I prefer to mix my vocals last. It truly is the best way that I have found to try to get them to sit on top of the mix in a good position.?? If you have most of the other sounds mixed then when you bring in the vocals you should get a good understanding of whether or not it’s going to work or not.

Keep The Bigger Picture In Mind

Finally, my thoughts on Chris’s point about nobody hearing the vocals in solo is that it could be useful if we applied it not only to vocals, but everything else in the mix as well. In essence CLA is saying something along the lines of “Think of a listener and how they hear music – as a whole”. Us mixers, spend so much time focusing in the smallest details that we miss the forest in the trees.

So next time you sit down to mix, concentrate on the whole mix and not the individual parts. You will get to where you want to go a lot faster.

Some References on Mixing Vocals:

How to mix classic pop vocals

Mixing Vocals: A 13 Step Guide for Beginners

How to Equalize Male Vocals

Video Interview With CLA from Pensados Place:

Why Use a Compressor During Mixing?


I see a lot of people saying just how great compression is but the truth is that it’s also ruined a lot of mixes too.? The Pros use it on every mix and they understand it so let’s see if we can figure out a way to better learn it.

A crucial component to mixing our songs is compression so I’m going to break down some truths about it.

Compression Is An Auto Fader

Originally compression was created so that audio signals would go over a certain level.? More importantly, to stop it from overloading the equipment it was going into. Musically is inherently dynamic and therefore can go from very quiet to very loud at a moments notice.? Compression helps to control that.

Way before compression was invented, I’m talking the dinasour days, engineers had to manually ride the faders – Ouch!? That sucks.

Eventually humans wised up and created a device that could read the singal coming into it and determine if it was acceptable to pass through (below threshold) or if it was too? loud (above threshold) and would then turn it down automatically.? Good by Bob the Engineer!!

This is a wonderful thing to have in your toolbelt.? The ability to control the sudio in your sessions to make sure that the peaks aren’t erradically bouncing all over the place.? It can give your mixes a shine that never existed before.? I prefer this method of compression the best.


Funny enough, compression is a way to add some energy to your track.? It’s funny because we think of it as taming peaks and turning things down but by using a slow attack, you can actually turn the quieter parts up without damaging the transients, thus giving your tracks a bit more OOMPH!!!!? This can work wonders on your drums.

I like to do this with vocals and guitars.? It just adds a nice touch to the sound that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Add Some Tone or Sustain!

A couple more cool things you can do with your compressor is add some tone and sustain.? Hence why they are called instant tone machines.? Guitar needs a little more pop? No problem bust out the compressor and give it a little more energy. DONE AND DONE!!!

It’s also great to use a compressor for adding sustain to a track.? By knocking down some of the transients, and using the makeup gain knob to effectively bring up the leftovers (the tail of the sound.? You create some voodo magic that makes us think we have more sustain than is actually there. This works well for snares and bass guitars.

Use Only As Needed

As with anything else, don’t just go slapping a compressor all over the place because more often than not, less is more.? But sometimes a lot of compression is need, which is totally fine, just use your best judgement.

Using Just One Mic for Your Drums

Here’s a short little post for you that I thought I would share.? Graham from the Recording Revolution post a cool little video that shows you how to use a mono mic when you are recording and mixing your drums.

So if you rarely get to record your drums in a nice big studio space and your tracking in your a bedroom, basement or living room than you might want to take a look at this.

It’s a nifty little trick to take a? lackluster room mic (or pair of room mics) and turn them into a more studio ready sound.? So, if you’ve tried taking a mic to capture some room ambience but have failed miserably than watch this video.

The Importance of Mixing Your Music

Mixing Music ConsoleYou are a great at making songs but they lack that shine they deserve.? Most times people don’t realize just how important the mixing stage is.? You should not just focus on producing because mixing music is just as important.? The good news is, it’s the 21st century, you don’t need a mixing console.? You can do everything on your computer. YAY!!!

Let me tell you a story.? I used to never mix my own music.? Then my friends would tell me how cool my song was but they thought it didn’t sound professional.? That’s when I knew I had to do something.? I stumbled across websites like Modern Mixing and Studio Pros.? On these websites I really learned a thing or two about the music mixing process.


I don’t know, maybe about a year of reading those sites and experimenting.? I just put my nose to the stone and hashed it out.? I sat there every day and mixed because I really did want to learn the art of mixing music.?? I even tried some mastering too but I wasn’t really focused on it as much as mixing but still wanted the practice.

Actually one thing that I felt like was my biggest challenge was my lack of experience with mixing vocals but now I think I have dramatically improved.? Now when I show my friend’s my mixed songs, they are all impressed.? I love that we are living in a time where it’s possible to make high quality music.? I am really excited to see where the future goes with technology and music mixing.

I would say though that producing songs is still my first passion so I focus mostly on putting the songs together.? But mixing has now become a skill that I am forever grateful for.? I can confidently make songs now and not have to worry about them song bad.? Plus girls like a guy that can sing and play an instrument.? If I can record and make it sound good that’s a bonus.

So before I go I encourage you to visit Modern Mixing because that’s where I went to learn how to mix music.? Pretty much all the tips I learned came from him, including mixing drums, guitars and vocals.

Also, Check out this cool video of mix engineer Sam Thomas mixing music.

How Many Plugins Are You Really Using?

I’m going to ask you a serious question: how many plugins are currently installed on your computer? You know, EQ’s, compressor, delays etc. You are probably starting out with a bunch of stock plugins in your DAW just like me. I mean the newest version of Pro Tools has something like 70 plugins but please correct me if I’m wrong. Add all the other plugins I’ve purchased and I’m sitting at over 100 different plugins right at my finger tips.

So How Many Plugins Are You Actually Using?

I think that the better question is probably: how many are used in your sessions? I’ll be the first to admit that not many are being used. I mean I use one channel strip, a couple of compressor, maybe a dealy and reverb and that’s about it. Maybe throw in a couple of odds and ends and I’m probably looking at 10-20 plugins at max.

So in my case, I’m really only using about 10-20% of the plugin that are actually installed on my system. My plugin menu is filled with all these unused plugins because I feel that I “may” use them someday.

Think of Plugins Like Gear

Try to picture that software plugins weren’t invented and computers actually didn’t exist at all. You’d see racks and racks of 19” gear literally cluttering up your studio. Sure it looks pretty cool and will definitely creation but when it comes time for you to mix, don’t you think it will just slow you down?

You just couldn’t get any work done if you had to go through all your gear to patch in a new compressor or EQ every time. This is basically the same thing that’s happening when we open up our plugin menu and look for plugins. We now are confused at the long list of plugins we have to choose from and we become paralyzed by choice.

We can make our lives easier by making those decisions ahead of time…

Slim and Trim is the Way to Go

On 99% of your projects, you know you are only going to use the same EQ and compressor. You need to just admit to that fact so that you can move on and start mixing.

You can now take the next best step and hide all those plugins you aren’t going to use. In Pro Tools you can simply just move the ones you don’t need into the “unused” folder. They will be removed from your DAW (say bye bye) but will still be there incase you need them.

The only real consequence to slimming down your plugins folder is that you will mix faster. If you have fewer options during mix down, than you’ll make much quicker decisions, some of which have already been made. A funny thing starts to happen; you’ll become much more confident about the decision that you are making. On the flipside, the opposite is true when you have too much choice.

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