Acoustic guitar on stage

There are so many different types of acoustic guitars available today: 6-String, 12-string, nylon string hollow-body, semi-hollow-body, some with pickups some without, and each one will have its own characteristics.

Watch this guy playing semi-hollow body nylon telecaster thin line Acoustic Electric Guitar

Whenever a band’s stage volume is robust I prefer to use the electronic pickup inside the guitar first.

Using the guitar’s internal pickup rather than a microphone helps with separation by minimizing the amount of bleed from stage sounds like percussion, guitar amplifiers, and other instruments. These sounds will also reach the pickup but at a much lower level. Sometimes even a vocal sound will reach the pickup.

Stage Monitoring

Secondly, the internal pickup will help with stage monitoring. You will be able to get more headroom (level) before feedback when having the sound routed back to the wedge monitor. There is a limit though-when you start to hear a howl this is the sound of the body of the guitar resonating due to the sound waves from the wedge monitor being reproduced, vibrating the guitar body and moving around inside the guitar then being reproduced again by the pickup. If you have some tone control on your acoustic guitar pickup like low, mid, and highs, make an adjustment to help smooth out the hot spots.

Microphones On Acoustic Guitars

When using a microphone to capture an acoustic guitar for live sound I found that the microphone of choice really depends on the sound of the guitar and the sound the player wants to hear.

Microphones-On-Acoustic-Guitars-1

  • A large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone works well in most cases, particularly in the studio where you have the option of placing the microphone at a distance to capture the most natural sound of the guitar. However for live music, depending on the band lineup, this opens the door for other sounds to bleed into the guitar microphone and somewhat limits the amount of stage monitoring you can achieve.
  • A Hyper-cardioid microphone will work well, allowing minimal bleed as long as you choose just the right angle. The right microphone angle is relative to the sound you want to get. Moving the microphone closer to the sound hole then closer to the bridge will yield some very different results. Experiment with the microphone angle until you find the right sound.

Then there are times when a good old dynamic microphone like a standard SM-57 seems to work the best. Keep in mind that you will not be able to stop all the bleed but minimizing it really helps.

Best Of Both Worlds?

At times you may want to use both the pickup and a microphone. The pickup can give you the up-close sound of the strings and more headroom in the monitors, while the microphone helps to capture the instrument as a whole and includes the sound of the body of the guitar. When using this technique you may hear some phasing due to the different distances of the pickup and microphone in relation to the strings.

By moving the microphone around and varying the levels between the two signals, you can achieve a good, workable combination.

This article was written with the assumption that the acoustic guitar is set up and tuned properly. Remember, no matter how good the microphone is or where you place it or how you utilize the pickup it will not correct intonation.

Keep Your Cables In Shape

The signal from your pick up is the signal you want to reach the DI box that goes to the mixer and the same signal you want to have at the input of your amplifier if you’re using one.

One worn cable in the setup can destroy a perfectly good guitar signal.

Walking on cables, which happens, eventually wears out the effectiveness of the shield, this is something you may not notice for some time.

If you use a lead cable for too long it can even become microphonic, that is to say, it becomes hypersensitive to vibration.

Keep all your contact points clean including the input and output jacks on the guitar and any pedals in the setup. Check for cracks and wear and replace bad cables with the best you can afford.

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