How to Choose the Best Mics for the Guitar
Whether acoustic or electric, recording studio or live concert, there are several factors to consider when miking your guitar. In this Shure guide, learn what to keep in mind when selecting the best microphone for guitar.
When miking a guitar, there are countless options that you can explore to capture the authentic sound of your instrument or shape the tone into something entirely different. Looking for microphone recommendations for both electric and acoustic guitar? We've got you covered!
From carefully placed condenser microphones charged with picking up every nuance of your classical guitar to rugged dynamic mics that can withstand the full force of a powerful guitar amplifier, Shure has mics to meet your needs.
2 great mics for acoustic guitar:
- The PGA81 Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone
- The SM81 Condenser Instrument Microphone
2 great mics for electric guitar:
- The SM57 Dynamic Instrument Microphone
- The KSM313/NE Dual-Voice Ribbon Microphone
Dynamic vs. ribbon vs. condensers
Three types of microphones that are commonly used for guitars are dynamics, ribbons, and condensers. These mics all work great on their own and can yield even more options when paired together.
Dynamic microphones are the classic choice for miking electric guitar cabs. They can handle high sound pressure levels and capture a high amplitude, resulting in an aggressive sound source's "smooth" recording. The frequency response for dynamic microphones is a lot narrower, and the pronounced mid-range focus complements the tonality of the electric guitar well.
Ribbon mics have a little more weightiness and a sense of depth to them. As a generalization, ribbon microphones tend to be darker compared to dynamic and condenser microphones. Ribbon microphones are smooth and forgiving with their ability to soften the edges. They can make a guitar sound natural as if you are in a room with the amp.
Finding the sweet spot is critical for these mics. They can bring some weight to the low-end and lower midrange and some overall body that may need a bit of carving when placed in a tightly packed mix.
Ribbon microphones are also a good option for miking a guitar cabinet.
Condenser microphones offer a wide frequency response and low noise characteristics. These mics tend to be super precise and clear. With these mics, you want to avoid dropping or banging it, recording a sound source that's too loud for the diaphragm, or storing it in extreme weather conditions.
Generally speaking, condenser mics are better for acoustic guitars.
How to mic an acoustic guitar
The acoustic guitar is a relatively small sound source, so typically, one microphone can pick it up quite well. The majority of the sound from an acoustic guitar comes from the soundhole and the guitar's top. By positioning a microphone in front of the guitar, you can improve the overall sound.
This sound will vary as a function of the microphone distance from the soundhole and its orientation to the guitar's top. The sound will be louder with more bass the closer mic is to the soundhole. And the sound will be softer and thinner the farther away the mic is to the soundhole.
The proximity effect will also increase the bass response at close distances. To capture a more balanced sound, we recommend pointing the microphone right where the guitar's body meets the neck.
A full-size microphone can be positioned on a stand to give the desired sound. An alternate approach is to mount a miniature microphone directly on (or in) the guitar using a clip or holder. This clip or holder keeps the microphone at a constant distance and allows freedom of movement for the performer, primarily if used with a wireless transmitter. In either case, you must take care to position the microphone to avoid interfering with the guitar player.
Recommended acoustic guitar microphones
The Shure PGA81 is a discreet, professional-quality condenser instrument microphone that can be used to capture audio in several environments for multiple applications such as acoustic instruments, percussion, and more. The PGA81 features a cardioid capsule with the same durability and performance attributes as other Shure microphones.
The Shure SM81 is one of the most rugged condenser mics available and has two switches on the handle for maximum control. One switch allows you to adjust the frequency response to reduce wind noise, room noise, or proximity effect. The other switch reduces signal level without altering frequency response to prevent loud instruments like guitar cabinets or close-miked drums from overloading the microphone.
How to mic an electric guitar
There's a bit more experimentation with miking an electric guitar through an amp. The main thing to remember is that the closer the mic is to the speaker's center, the more brightness you'll get. Moving the mic outward away from the center of the speaker will give you more bass.
If the mic is pointed directly at the center of the amp, you'll get more clarity. If you point the mic off-center, the more diffused the sound will become.
As for the mic's distance away from the amp, the further away the microphone is, the more room tone you will get.
Recommended electric guitar microphones
One of the most popular dynamic microphones on the planet, the versatile Shure SM57 provides tremendous clarity, making it perfect for the electric guitar, snare drums, kick drums, and more. The cardioid dynamic instrument microphone offers clean reproduction of amplified instruments. The flat grill allows you to place the mic close to the amplifier.
The KSM313/NE has two distinct sounding sides of its polar pattern. The front side is warmer, thicker, and richer. However, the backside offers a much more open and brighter sound. The KSM313 has a highly durable ribbon element for increased resilience at extreme volumes.
Shure: The Perfect Choice for Your Miking Needs
Whether you're looking to mic a drummer or an entire choir, Shure can equip all of your sound needs. Contact us today to get started!
Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:
How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System
How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments
How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist
Shure's Central Hub for Houses of Worship
How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pastor
How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship
How to Choose the Best Handheld Mics for Worship