How To Record Your Guitar – What To Do and What To Avoid

How to record your guitar

So, you’re finally ready to record some songs! While you could spend a bunch of money by going to a professional studio, you can always do the job yourself.

But how? What do I need?

All you need is patience, basic recording gear, and someone to walk you through it. That’s exactly why we decided to write this article. We will go through the basics, dos and don’ts of recording your guitar, whether it’s acoustic or electric.

Let’s get started!

1. Is Your Guitar Set Up Correctly?

While this tip may seem as an obvious one, chances are that there are some of you that didn’t think of it as important.

Sure, you are going to mix and master the recording afterward, but why bother with trying to cover up that fret buzz if you don’t have to?

All that hard work practicing the songs, and setting up the microphones correctly falls in the water if your instrument doesn’t sound the best it can.

Not only will you achieve a better sound, but it will be much easier to play as well.

You should be able to set up your guitar all by yourself, but if not, don’t worry. Look it up online or just go to a professional to do it for you. This means getting a fresh pack of strings as well!

2. Room Acoustics Are Important!

Unless you plan on recording your guitar via a DI box, you should consider acoustically treating the room you’re working in.

The downsides of recording in a room with bare walls are noticeable when talking about electric guitars, but are downright obvious when you try recording an acoustic guitar. Feel free to check out our article on acoustic treatment for your home studio

If you have money to spend, investing in pre-made acoustic panels is an easy way to make sure your recordings don’t have the unnecessary and annoying reverb and echo.

On the other hand, there are cheap and effective DIY solutions for this as well.

Simple foam padding on the walls can go a long way in terms of making your recordings sound like they were made in a studio, not a church hall.

You can even put a thick, heavy blanket on the amp cabinet. This way, you will avoid the muddy low end in the mix, and the overall result will be much cleaner and natural sounding.

So, once you’ve managed to get rid of the unwanted noise, echo, and reverb, it’s time to talk microphone and amp positioning!

3. Microphone and Amp Placement

So, you’ve got the room prepped, it’s time to record and get to the mixing, right?

Well, there are a couple of things that have a great impact on the sound that you should have in mind.

  • Isolate the amp

You know how you can hear yourself playing your electric guitar unplugged if you rest a part of it on your closet? Well, the same thing happens with your amp in contact with the floor.

The vibrations produced by the amp get amplified and modified through the floor and can mess up your sound, especially in the low-end register.

An easy way to deal with this problem is to simply have your amp sitting on a couple of layers of thick blankets, or thick rubber sheets if you happen to have some.

While your amp may look like it’s ready for a north pole expedition by the end of this article, trust me, you will see a definite improvement in the sound clarity!

  • How do I position the microphone?

Before actually setting the rig up, you should at least have a rough idea of the sound you’re trying to achieve. Both the angle and the point at which the microphone is facing the speaker greatly impact the part of the sound spectrum that gets the most attention.

If the mic is facing straight at the middle of the speaker cone, lows and highs are getting the most definition.

The more you stray from the middle of the cone, the more mids you get.

If you angle the microphone outwards, at around 45 degrees, you get less of the higher mids, and if it points at the same angle but inwards, you get the opposite result. Check out the video below for a more in-depth explanation.  

When it comes to acoustic guitar recording, there are various methods you can choose from. Dynamic or condenser microphones, direct recording or room placement...

It all depends on the gear you already have or the money you can invest in new equipment. While this is a topic that can be covered by a standalone article, for now, you can think of the hole on your acoustic guitar as the amp speaker cone, and apply the tips we’ve already mentioned.

At the end of the day, it’s all about knowing what kind of sound you want, and experimenting with different angles and positionings.

4. Where Do I Set The EQ?

Bass, mids, treble. Where should you set up your sound? The guitar, amp, or in the DAW when you start mixing?

The main idea is trying to get as good of a sound while you are recording, to leave less work when you are mixing.

However, you shouldn’t modify the sound too much. Loads of bass or highs can sound bad when recorded, and can’t be easily managed with when mixing.

Leave the EQ as flat as possible and adjust the audio signature while mixing! 

That’s why moderation is key. Personally, I like to leave the amp EQ as flat as possible, with slight adjustments on the guitar.

Set the sound up so that it’s comfortable for you to play while you’re recording. You can always modify the audio signature while mixing, but trying to fix a muddy sound due to excessive EQ tinkering on the amp can get obnoxious and hard.

5. Should I Just Get a DI?

After reading the previous tips, you might think that simply getting a DI for recording your guitar is a hassle-free option.

It all depends on your personal preferences and the sound you’re trying to achieve.

Using microphones and amps definitely contribute to a more natural sounding result.

While you can record acoustic guitars this way (if they have their own pickups), trust me, the sound is way better if you use a mic- amp setup.

If you’re into experimenting with different amp presets, prefer a tight sound over a natural feel, and simply want to be able to edit every little detail in your DAW of choice, then go for a DI.

There’s no right or wrong here, just what you want the song to sound like in the end!

We hope that you found this article as helpful! By following these simple steps, recording your guitar shouldn’t seem as too much of a hassle anymore.

Thank you very much for reading, and we will see you in the next one!

About the author

Glen Parry

My name is Glen Parry. I've been in the audio world for over 15 years. This includes guitar, keyboard, ukulele, speakers, headphones and everything else that comes with it. I spend all my free time on music production and jamming with friends. I hope to use this site to share my experience and help anyone looking for solutions to audio related problems.

2comments
Max Chiossi - December 15, 2017

I’ve always had problems with mic placement. The thing is that the other aspects tend to be permanent, that is, you don’t really have to experiment much after you’ve got them right the first time; this does not happen (to me) whenever I’m setting up the mic to record, even if it’s a really short thing.
I will spend 10 or 20 minutes getting it “right”, only to then record a 30 second riff or lick. It always drives me loco!

Reply
    Glen Parry - December 18, 2017

    Haha, yeah I know what you mean. I always underestimate the time it takes to get the little things right. The perfectly recorded track at the end is worth it though, isn’t it?

    Reply
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