Can You Record A Guitar With A Condenser Microphone?

A continuing point of contention amongst musicians and recording engineers is the question of what qualifies as the best way to record a guitar. The kind of recording quality you want to achieve is an important factor to consider when selecting the best microphone for recording the guitar.

Can you record a guitar with a condenser mic?

Condenser microphones are very good at capturing all the nuances of the attack, sustain, and tonalities of a guitar. Condenser microphones are sensitive to the details and volume of the source material hence they are capable of recording the guitar’s highest frequencies with amazing quality.

Having said that, the answer to the question of whether or not a condenser mic is the best option for recording a guitar depends on a few different factors.

In this article, we’ll look at a solid and reliable way of recording a guitar using a condenser microphone.

Recording A Guitar With A Condenser Microphone

The use of condenser microphones is ideal when recording instruments that yield a huge amount of high frequencies. It’s quite possible to include guitars in this group, but it really depends on the style you’re going for. Because of their high-end, detailed frequency range, acoustic guitars generally pair well with condenser microphones. 

Most decent condenser microphones have a frequency range that is quite broad and typically ranges from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The sound quality of a condenser microphone is significantly better than its dynamic counterpart. This is primarily a result of the low mass of the components that make up a condenser mic.

Also, the excellent transient response of condenser microphones is yet another characteristic that makes them an excellent choice for recording acoustic guitars.

Transients are the short burst of energy that you hear at the start of any sound. The loudest of transients are things like drum hits, where the crack of the stick on a drumhead sends a loud sound wave out to the microphone. 

Transients are everywhere – from the pick attack on your guitar strings to the consonants of your vocal.

Also, condenser microphones are better than dynamic mics for recording guitars because condenser mics are far more sensitive than dynamic microphones.

The mic’s sensitivity is an important quality for recording the acoustic guitar because much of the sound comes from the player’s style of strumming, picking, or the dynamics of their playing.

Here’s a Youtube video that can help you record an acoustic guitar using a condenser mic.

Types of Mics For Recording A Guitar

Dynamic, condenser, and ribbon microphones can be used to record electric guitars, but they each serve a different purpose.

Some guitarists like to turn the guitar amp loud for recording. I recommend using a dynamic mic if you’re recording a particularly loud guitar amp. Dynamic mics can record extremely high sound pressure levels (SPL) without distorting the signal.

But, as long as you keep the output to a reasonable volume, condenser mics do an excellent job of capturing detail and clarity, which works well for clean, crunchy, or downright distorted tones.

Here are some common condenser microphones for recording guitar:

(Clicking on them will take you to Amazon.com)

If you’re looking for a bit of color and a vintage vibe, ribbon mics offer a unique guitar-tone texture that can be perfect for some songs. Just remember to keep it down, as extremely loud signals can damage ribbon mics.

Why Condenser Microphones Are Better For Recording Guitars

Condenser microphones are excellent at capturing the nuances of guitars. Condenser microphones have excellent clarity and provide precise attention to detail, making them ideal for recording instruments with larger frequencies.

Condenser microphones are generally preferred when it comes to acoustic guitars. Instead of picking up noise, they emit a cleaner signal. 

Condenser mics are more versatile and can be used by musicians for a wide range of instruments.

How To Record A Guitar Using A Condenser Mic

If you want to record your guitar without feeling like the end result sounds like a muddy mess, then here’s an easy process that you can follow using a condenser microphone.

Set the right tone.

The most important part of the process is the very first step. It’s important to get the tone right at the source. If it doesn’t sound good coming out of the amp, no awesome condenser microphone or analog outboard gear will make it sound any better.

Use the tone controls on your amp and use your effects pedals to make things sound exactly the way you want. 

Experiment with different guitars, amps, and settings until you dial in a good starting point. Make sure you are happy with the tone before moving on.

Right mic placement to record a guitar.

In terms of recording a guitar, using a single microphone is the most straightforward and convenient method. It’s possible to do this by using a small or large diaphragm condenser microphone near the guitar’s neck and body. 

A microphone can be moved up, down, in, out, or rotated to change its angle.

Adjusting where the mic is pointed will change the amount of high-end in your signal. Moving the mic toward the center of the cone will give you a brighter tone while moving the mic toward the edge of the cone will give you a warmer tone.

Adjusting how close the mic is to the amp will change the amount of “room sound” in your signal. Moving the mic toward the amp gives you more “amp sound,” while moving the mic away from the amp lets in more “room sound.”

It is critical to consider a few factors when recording guitars with a condenser microphone. 

A microphone should be placed in the center of the guitar to handle the volume, and a volume level of 1 should be set for the guitar. 

The guitar’s tone must be EQ’d in order to reproduce the same pitch as the condenser microphone. 

Furthermore, the room must be treated similarly to the guitar to reduce background noise. 

Start with your placement about 6 inches to a foot away from the amp. Place it so that the mic is pointing at the speaker about halfway between its center and its outer edge. 

This placement will capture a rounded and well-balanced representation of your guitar amp. This placement will also capture mainly the direct sound from the amp and very little of the room sound. 

This is ideal for home studio users who are not usually recording in specially designed acoustic spaces.

If you move the mic towards the middle of the speaker, you will capture a brighter sound with more bight. 

If you move the mic toward the speaker’s outer edge, the sound will get darker and smoother. 

Proximity Effect

By moving the mic closer to the amp, the sound will get more bass heavy. This is due to something called the proximity effect. 

The proximity effect also dictates that moving the mic further away from the amp will reduce the low-end response.

Polar Patterns

Choosing the right polar pattern for your style of guitar playing is essential if you want to get the best recordings possible.

Also, different pickup patterns can also alter the amount of “room sound” in your guitar recordings. Cardioid patterns provide the tightest tone, while Omni mics offer a nice blend of both sounds. 

As a bonus, a cardioid polar pattern will let you use the proximity effect to your advantage. This means that the closer you are to the source, the greater your low-end response becomes.

Condenser mics that house super-cardioid polar patterns are ideal for focusing solely on a single sound source and blocking out almost all ambient sound. 

There is a tiny amount of pickup at their back end, but their ability to hone in on a guitar makes them a good choice for live recordings.

Large Diaphragm or Small Diaphragm Condenser Mics for Recording Guitar

Depending on the size of their diaphragm, condenser mics fall into one of two groups. This, along with the polar pattern, has a big effect on how well the mic works for recording the guitar.

Here’s a table that accurately depicts the main differences between the large diaphragm and small diaphragm condenser microphones.

Small-Diaphragm Condenser MicrophonesLarge-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
Diaphragm Size1/2" (12.7 mm) or less1" (25.4 mm) or more
Transient Response More accurateLess accurate
Frequency ResponseFlatter and more extendedMore colored especially in the high-end
Address TypeTop or sideTypically side
Polar PatternsAny polar pattern. Very consistentAny polar pattern. Less consistent
SensitivityHighHigh
Self-NoiseMoreLess
PriceCheap to very expensiveInexpensive to very expensive
Written by:
Amit Gupta
Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Radaudio. My passions include guitar, bass, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments that I have been playing since school.

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