How To Record Acoustic Guitar Without Background Noise | Decibel Peak

how to record acoustic guitar without noise

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One of the biggest difficulties when it comes to recording acoustic instruments is the presence of ambient noise/background noise. If your recording space isn’t as controllable as you’d like it to be, then you’ll definitely want to learn how to record acoustic guitar without background noise.

If you think learning how to record acoustic guitar without background noise is impossible, then you’ll want to think again! If you’re using the right type of microphone, it’s easy to record acoustic guitar with background noise. I’m talking about dynamic (moving-coil) microphones, of course! We’ll even consider implementing another option further in the article, so you definitely won’t want to miss out on that!

Eliminate background noise by using dynamic (moving-coil) microphones to record acoustic guitar

If you’ve been using any other type of microphone (condenser and/or ribbon), you’ve most likely been having difficulty recording acoustic guitar without background noise. It’s not the fault of the microphone, but rather the result of recording in less than adequate recording environments.

I’m talking about your bedroom/apartment or even outside.

Does that mean it’s impossible to record in these locations?

The difference with dynamic (moving-coil) microphones is that they’re MUCH less sensitive and the polar pattern is unidirectional. Dynamic (ribbon) microphones are bi-directional by nature and condenser microphones could be either one (even omnidirectional at times).

Either way, it’s much easier to get professional results with moving-coil microphones.

Are there any disadvantages to using this type of microphone though?

Well, it really depends on the specific microphone you’re working with. However, it’s generally understood that the transient response and the frequency response will suffer.

The difference is that you’ll be placing your dynamic (moving-coil) microphone in close proximity to your acoustic guitar. That means that the transient response won’t suffer as much, but you’ll be prone to things like the proximity effect (more bass).

Certain moving-coil microphones are also limited in their frequency range.

For example, the Shure SM57 goes from 40 Hz – 16,000 Hz.

That’s why I don’t recommend that specific microphone for recording acoustic guitar. You’ll be losing some of that “sparkling” high-end and it won’t sound as “big”. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better out there!

The AKG P5 S is the best/most affordable microphone to record acoustic guitar without background noise

The microphone I personally use to record acoustic guitar without background noise is the AKG P5 S. It’s not spoken of very often, but I believe to have found something that’s better than both the Shure SM57/SM58.

Why is it better?

  • More affordable
  • On/Off switch
  • Extended frequency response (40 Hz – 20,000 Hz)
  • Supercardioid polar pattern

For the purposes of recording acoustic guitar without background noise, you’ll want to take note of the extended frequency response and the supercardioid polar pattern. The supercardioid polar pattern provides even more isolation than the cardioid polar pattern (like the SM57).

That means that the microphone will pick up even less background noise.

However, there’s no compromise because you’ll still benefit from the acoustic guitar’s full frequency spectrum which is usually only achievable with condenser microphones. Ribbon microphones are still pretty dark, so they’re not ideal.

Think of the AKG P5 S as the perfect middle ground!

It’s perfect for your bedroom/apartment studio and I’ve even used it outside with great success. It’s also ideal for stage-use whether it’d be for acoustic guitar, vocals, etc…

Just remember that these microphones were designed to be placed VERY close to the sound source.

The closer, the better!

Eliminate background noise by using magnetic pickups to record acoustic guitar

One of the options few have considered is to simply use magnetic pickups designed for acoustic guitars. Just keep in mind that these will only work with steel string acoustic guitars (you’ll need to look into piezo pickups if you’re using nylon strings).

Some of them require you to modify your guitar and others don’t.

The main disadvantage is that you’ll obviously lose much of the acoustic guitar’s natural characters because these pickups capture the strings more than the actual guitar. It may sound too much like an electric guitar, but somewhere in the middle if done correctly.

It’s even possible to combine both methods!

What I mean is that you could use the pickups and the microphone together to get the best of both worlds. However, you’ll need to consider using a DI box for the pickup or an audio interface that includes high-impedance (HI-Z) inputs.

Either way, I talk about all this in more detail in this article.

If you think microphones are really not an option for you, then using these pickups might be your best bet! Which ones do I recommend?

The Seymour Duncan Woody is the best/most affordable pickup to record acoustic guitar without background noise

Out of all the acoustic guitar pickups I’ve seen, the Seymour Duncan Woody seems to be the easiest to implement without the need to modify your acoustic guitar. It fits inside the soundhole of most acoustic guitars and looks pretty subtle.

It’s also one of the most affordable options I’ve seen on the market.

Since these pickups only capture the vibration of your strings, you can forget about that background noise. In other words, you could record in any environment without worrying about any of the ambient noise ruining your recording.

One of my favourite parts about the Woody is that the output jack is on the pickups itself, so no need to drill any holes in your acoustic guitar.

It also comes in different models.

It’s possible to adjust the height of each individual pole piece on one of them.

They’re also great for stage-use. The risk of background noise and feedbacking is virtually removed, so it makes it much easier to set up. It’s especially true if you’ve got lots of other microphones/speakers operating in the same space.

Either way, I like having options.

I think the Seymour Duncan Woody is worth considering if you’re looking for an alternative or for a solution to an “impossible” problem.

Other ways to eliminate background noise while recording acoustic guitar

Now that we’ve got the actual hardware that we need to record acoustic guitar without background noise, you may be wondering if there are still more precautions we can take. The short answer to that is YES.

You can… 

  • Close the door
  • Record during the day
  • Rent an office/studio
  • Use sound-absorbing material
  • Use noise gates

These may seem obvious to some, but I just wanted to point all of that out.

Most of the “background noise” musicians complain about is usually:

  • Ventilation
  • Neighbours
  • Appliances

I’m telling you, by using either dynamic (moving-coil) microphones and/or acoustic guitar pickups, you’ll be eliminating 99.9% of all that noise.

Noise gates can be used during the post-production stage, but only as a last resort!

Bottom-line, if you’re just looking to get the job done (recording acoustic guitar without noise), you’ll be more than satisfied with the AKG P5 S and/or the Seymour Duncan Woody.

If you’re really passionate about sound though, you may eventually want to provide yourself with a better space to work in. It’s that simple!

How I personally record acoustic guitar without background noise

I like to keep things simple. I haven’t worked with acoustic guitar as much as I’d like to, but I’ve used the AKG P5 S exclusively to record all my acoustic guitar tracks up to date. I’ve tried with the RODE NT1-A, but it was WAY too sensitive.

Ideally, I’d combine both dynamic (moving-coil) with condenser microphones.

It’s the best way to get the best of both worlds, but it’s not always ideal. At least you’ll always have the dynamic microphone to rely on and the condenser could be used during the mixing stage. If it’s too noisy, you can always scrap it.

That being said, I’ve been meaning to try recording acoustic guitar with one of my Samson C02 condenser microphones in combination with the AKG P5S.

I think they’d sound great together!

I’m not a really big fan of the pickups though. I think it kind of defeats the whole purpose of having an acoustic guitar. At that point, you’re better off using some sort of acoustic simulator pedal/effect because that’s what it ultimately sounds like.

It’s acceptable, but not worth it for serious acoustic guitarists!

That being said, I’ll be leaving you with a list of products to check out. We’ve covered them in this article and I’ve also reviewed most of them, so be sure to check that out as well!

AKG P5 S:

Seymour Duncan Woody HC:

Seymour Duncan Woody XL:

If you enjoyed learning how to record acoustic guitar without background noise, consider checking out some of my other articles on recording acoustic guitar at home. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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