Recording Acoustic Guitar

any tips

Hello, I have been trying to record my acoustic guitar playing with no luck. I always seem to get a terrible sound. I have a shure sm57 also an sm58. when I plug my mic to my computer, my acoustic guitar sounds very low. I also have a zoom pso4 which I use to connect my mic and then plug that into my pc, but then the signal sounds too loud and almost sounds like an electric guitar. can someone give some tips on recording acoustic guitar? I was told not to use a pickup, but I’m thinking of trying it out. Thanks Jason

Seems to be two issues. Firstly, a lot of sound cards need a mixer or something. Plugging directly in works, but you do not have pre-amps and good control over levels. For me, a small Behringer mixer with 4 mix inputs and 2 stereo inputs plugged tape out into the stereo line in input of my MAudio 24/96 card works well.

Also, for a more natural sound (and certainly more sensitive) use a small diaphram condensor microphone instead of a dynamic like Sm57 or SM58 if you can. But if not, I’d say stick with the 57.

For the Zoom pedal… 1… Zoom pedals sound horrible… 2… sounds like you are mismatching impedance levels…

But I’d guess main issue is you need something with pre-amps and the ability to control what you are feeding into your sound card… Get a mixer… only a couple of hundred NZD here… and should be even cheaper if you are in USA.

I assume you’re attempting to record in NTrack.

The thing you need to watch out for is the recording levels. Make sure you’re not going into the red. But also make sure you’re recording a loud enough signal.

So, before you start recording, open the recording meter and start playing. Play the loudest you think you’ll get to during your song and watch the meter. Let it approach the red, but not set off any clipping.

I had a ps04 for a while and had no problem with it. That unit has a dial where you can adjust the recording volume. Check the manual. Sounds like that is the issue there.

There’s much advice on the web about where to position mics for acoustic guitar and also the question of how many mics.

For starters just put one mic about a foot away from your guitar not directly facing the soundhole. I sometimes point the mic towards the fretboard near the soundhole.

Check my music out by clicking on the www below and you’ll hear some variations of what I do with recording acoustic guitar.

1. Start with a good sounding guitar set up properly and played well in a good room. (Had to say that sorry! :) )
2. Like the others said, you probably will want to get a small mixer with decent preamps, or a stand-alone preamp, and put that to the line in on your sound card.
3. The 57 will work, but you’ll have to experiment a lot with placement and almost certainly have to use a lot of EQ, rolling off the low end, that sort of thing. I agree with the sd condensor thought as well.

Of the two mics that you have, use the SM-57.

Don’t do the obvious thing and point the mic at the soundhole - you will get a terrible “boomy” sound.

Instead, point the mic in the area of the 12th fret, and move your guitar around a bit until you find a sound that you like.


If you do not have access to a mixer you can use a tape deck as the preamp.
I have done this using a old deck with 2 mic inputs.
I used the rca outs on the back , I also had to set the record button to on to get the signal to go out the jacks to the sound card.
Line in generally works better than mic in on consumer sound cards.
Good luck.

As you have seen here, it cannot be emphasized enough about mic placement. No one suggestion may provide a sound that appeals to you. Everything is limited by the acoustics of the space you record in. It may sound tedious, but, it would do you a lot of good to have a friend move the mic around for you while you listen.

Another position you could try is having the mic pointing toward your front, over your shoulder. I have even seen photos of a mic pointing to the lower bout behind the bridge.

All in all, your sound is affected by the guitar, mic, room, and acoustic. You need to experiment so you will know in the future, when you record the A/Gtr where to set up your mic.

Hello, I’m not sure what a mixer is. is this to boost the signal? I thought they were used for mixing two different instruments together? also, can someone recommend a small diaphram condensor mic that’s not too expensive? Thanks Jason

I recomend an MXL 991, and a mixer is 1. A way to boost a microphone signal and 2. A way to route and mix audio signals.

I’ve got a Berhinger MX802A (I think that’s what it is). Google for that and you’ll get an idea. perhaps? :) Anyway, you get what you pay for.


Hello, I’m not sure what a mixer is. is this to boost the signal? I thought they were used for mixing two different instruments together? also, can someone recommend a small diaphram condensor mic that’s not too expensive? Thanks Jason


I was told not to use a pickup, but I’m thinking of trying it out.

what type of pickup do you have?.. if it’s a piezo bridge pickup, you’ll most likely get a thin, “tinny” sound… as for the pickups that you insert into the soundhole, they’re a little better… and if you’re lucky enough to have the new taylor expression system, it “may” sound great… i say “may” because i’ve never heard a recording using that new system…

if you have enough inputs, you may try using the pickup as well as micing…

by far, micing using small diagram/pencil condensers is preferable… although, as aforementioned, there is no standard rule that says, “put mics here, you sit here”… it’s a hit or miss that requires experimentation… i know, it sucks the big one, and can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s worth the effort in the end…

if you have a low budget, the cheapy-chinese condensers will keep you happy… think mxl and behringer… check ebay as well, you’re likely to find some deals there… you’ll certainly want to avoid using the “mic in” on your sound card… otherwise, you’ll never get a good clean signal… with an inexpensive mixer, you can just plug the mic/pickup into channels, then run out of the mixer into “line in” on your sound card, usually using a standard Y cable (RCA to 3.5mm stereo)… of course, the quality of the card will play a determinate part in your results…

let us know if you still have questions!..


I’ve experimented using an sm57, studio projects B1, and small diaphram condensermics. sometimes using two of them to give a feeling of distance. I’ve also used a yamaha ag stomp box on my acoustic/electric which gave me interesting results.

The other day I wanted to remember a song that popped into my head so I ran over to my computer and just used the mic that was there - a sennheiser e835 and kept it about 2 feet away from the guitar and I strummed and sang. I can’t believe the warm sound I got! I will definately be trying that one again.

BTW, lately I’ve been plugging the mic into an ART preamp and then go from there into the soundcard. It’s giving me a warmer sound.

Oh yeah one more thing, don’t forget to have fun figuring all this out! I find that half the fun in recording is the experimenting.

HERE is an excellent thread on the subject over at Audiominds.


Hello, I know this sounds lame, but I’m not sure which is the line input on my computer. on the front are a bunch of inputs, which are from left to right -headphones,mic,stereo-AUxin,L,R,video in. then in the back are 3 inputs that look like the ones in front but no sign on any line input… Thanks Jason

seems to me that the stereo aux-in is your line in

re: isaac’s comment about in-hole pickups (here follows a crude joke…kidding) - has anyone here ever used one that really sounded as good as a mic? I have one and it is fun to run the acoustic through distortion pedals, but it really doesn’t sound like an acoustic should sound.

Quote (TomS @ July 27 2005,12:23)
re: isaac's comment about in-hole pickups

I've used one, but it just sounds like an electric guitar - probably because it works exactly the same way as an electric guitar: the strings vibrate in the magnetic field of the pickup to create an electrical signal that is then amplified.

My Martin has one of those thingys under the bridge. It sounds pretty good live, and is acceptable for recording scratch tracks and such.

My alvarez has a piezo pickup and a pretty decent set of controls to tame that tinny sound some warn about. Used together with the Yamaha AG stomp preamp, it makes for a great live sound and sometimes a great recording sound.

I once owned a magnetic soundhole pickup and it sounded too muddy!

I have been told that there is one company that makes the best acoustic pickups around - L.R. Baggs, I Beam model

here’s an intersting place to look for more info that I found while searching audiominds (thanks learjeff)

Wow, that’s a cool webite, soul&folk!