How to Record an Acoustic Guitar in Stereo

There are a lot of guides on the Internet explaining how to record an acoustic guitar, but many home studios have a problem when the acoustic guitar is the main focus of the song; it sounds flat, lifeless, or simply not full enough to stand with some of the great acoustic recordings of all time.

One way to solve this issue is to record the acoustic guitar in stereo. Here’s a quick guide for making a perfect stereo recording of an acoustic guitar.

Selecting Microphones – Before you start setting up microphones, it’s important to note that when making a stereo recording of any instrument, including the acoustic guitar, you’ve got to deal with a problem that you wouldn’t have if you’d just used a single microphone: phase cancellation.

Phase cancellation is an audio problem that results from sound hitting two microphones at slightly different times when they’re recording the same audio source. It’s unpleasant to hear, and it needs to be avoided. The trouble is that modern microphones are very different from one another, even if they’re the same model and make. In order to really capture a stereo recording of an acoustic guitar without dealing with nightmarish phasing, you’ve got to either use phase correction software (many modern programs like Adobe Audition and Pro Tools can do this), or, better yet, use what’s called a hand matched pair of mics. These mics are tested at the factory to ensure that they hear sound the same way, and will process it at the same time when placed the same distance from your sound source.

So, plan on looking for a hand matched pair of condenser microphones that can pick up a guitar fairly well, if you can afford it. If you can’t, then at least use the same make and model of microphone, as the difference from mic to mic is likely less than it would be from one brand or model to another.

Microphone Setup – There are several ways to mic an acoustic guitar in stereo, such as the XY method, where the mics are crossed pointing in different directions, or you could put one mic towards the neck and one towards the acoustic guitar’s body. Experimentation is key, as you’ll never get an idea of what miking techniques work on the guitar that you’re recording otherwise. One constant, though; keep the microphones the same distance from the guitar. If one is farther, you’ll have issues to correct in the mixing process.

Panning – Don’t hard pan the microphones to either side of your stereo recording. The acoustic guitar will sound best with the mics panned to somewhere between 40% and 75% to each direction, and you’ll get a nice, unique stereo sound. Be sure to correct for any phase cancellation that occurred, and then add a touch a reverb and listen to your track. Doesn’t your acoustic guitar sound nice?

Do you have any other tips for making a stereo recording of an acoustic guitar? Post in our comments section below.