The sound makes the music – how to record your guitar

By Markus Stelzer

In Part I of this series, we introduced five tips to help you improve the quality of your YouTube videos. In Part II, we deal with the sound: We will show you how to record your guitar.

Before each recording you have to first look for the right equipment. There is a certain basic equipment setup that is needed to record audio sources. This includes:

  • Microphone
  • Microphone stand and microphone cable
  • Audio interface
  • PC with recording software
  • Monitors or headphones

Microphone

Depending on your needs, a suitable microphone must be selected for the audio recording. A distinction is made between the two microphone types: the dynamic microphones and the condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones are robust, but have a low recording sensitivity. Therefore, these microphones are not suitable for recording low signals. Dynamic microphones can be used, for example, for recording electric guitar amplifiers, snare, basedrum or brass.

A decent recording micro is available from about 50 €.

In contrast to the dynamic microphones, condenser microphones have a higher sensitivity, which means that even soft sounds can be recorded without problems. A distinction is made between the two different types: the large diaphragm microphones and the small diaphragm microphones. For the recording of acoustic guitars, large-diaphragm microphones with cardioid characteristics are best suited. In the case of microphones with a cardioid characteristic, the sound is best recorded from the front and the worst is recorded from behind.

Audio interface

The audio interface is the interface between micro and PC, starting price 30 €.

After selecting the microphone you will need an audio interface to connect the microphone to the PC. When selecting an audio interface you should consider some points. I would recommend getting a USB audio interface, which is connected to the PC via USB. This is the simplest connection between the audio interface and the PC. The interface must also have a phantom power supply to power the condenser microphone. At least one microphone input, a separate instrument input and a headphone output should be built onto the audio interface.

Prepare the recording

Before you can start recording, the recording equipment must be connected correctly. The audio interface is connected to the PC via USB, then the microphone with the associated cable is connected to the microphone input of the audio interface. If the guitar has a pickup, connect it to the instrument input of the interface. There are a lot of opinions on the correct positioning of the microphone.  It usually only helps to make some test recordings with different positions and to choose the best for you. A good basic rule, however, is not to place the microphone directly in front of the sound hole. Before the recording, it is still necessary to determine whether fresh strings should be wound up and whether the guitar is tuned properly.

Guitar recording

You can download audacity for free

A large number of different recording softwares are available for recording with the PC. Often an appropriate recording software is included with the purchase of an audio interface. If this is not the case, some free alternatives exist, such as Audacity. In the following, a general procedure for recording is presented without taking any particular audio software.

Guitar recording
How you position the microphone, that is taste. Simply test different positions.

If you only record with a microphone, you create a mono file, with two microphones or a microphone and a pickup on the guitar you should think about recording in stereo. Before each recording, check the levels, which should ideally be in the yellow area. For peak volume, they may also be briefly in the red range. Then you can start the recording. A compressor and / or a reverb can be used as required. The compressor makes quiet sounds louder and attenuates loud sounds. Due to the lower dynamics, the overall loudness of the recording can be increased without producing a distorted sound. We will talk about how to use a compressor correctly in Part III of this series.

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