Do you want to find out how to record and mix an acoustic song from scratch? If you do keep reading this tutorial. I’ll explain all you need to know and have to record and mix a beautiful acoustic song, just like the experts.

For your convenience, this guide is separated into three parts –

  1. Preparation
  2. Recording
  3. Mixing

Preparation

Before we start, we need to understand –

What Is An Acoustic Song

Technically, an acoustic song is a song that isn’t produced with electronic amplification.

But, today, we usually think of an acoustic song as a song that only has vocals, an acoustic guitar, and a piano.

Check out this Youtube video of the acoustic versions of the top hits of 2020.

What Equipment Do You Need

Some people will tell you that you have to have expensive equipment and a super high-quality studio in order to make great music.

Well, I have to disagree.

Sure, it will certainly help if you can put acoustic treatment in your room, and buy expensive pieces of equipment.

But, it’s by far, not the most important factor.

I would say that the number 1 most important factor is the artist’s performance.

So, don’t get super freaked out of buying expensive equipment.

Now that we got this out of the way, this is what you’ll need.

A microphone

The microphone is the most important piece of equipment that you need to purchase.

The microphone can make or break recordings because it’s the part that picks up your performance, and determines the quality of the recording.

And it’s basically impossible to add frequencies that don’t exist in the original recording.

So, my recommendation – if you’re a beginner, spend most of your budget over your mic.

There are a couple of different kinds of microphones you can get.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones are the most recommended kind of microphones for recording vocals, acoustic guitars, and pianos, and therefore, they are the best microphones for recording acoustic songs.

People like condenser microphones so much because of their bright, balanced sound, and because of their sensitivity to details.

Condenser Mics Price Range – 50$ – 2500$+

My recommendation – A mic that costs 150$ – 500$ can absolutely give you amazing results, so there is no need to rush into buying a super expensive mic, unless you’re a professional producer.

A great microphone at that price range is Rode’s NT1 Microphone (the one in the picture above).

I’ve bought this microphone a couple of years ago for my home studio, and I use it in almost all of my recordings.

It has a bright tone that suits the vast majority of vocalists perfectly, and it has also gave me amazing results when recording instruments (such as acoustic guitars).

Check out the Rode NT1 out on Amazon.

Check out this video of Jasmine Thompson using the Rode NT1 to record a cover to the song “I See Fire” of Ed Sheeran (go to 0:35 to hear her with the guitar).

Check the Rode NT1 out on Amazon.

So, should you always use a condenser microphone?

No.

Even though condenser microphones usually fit everything, they might not be the right when you record loud signals such as snares and guitar-amps.

Moreover, since condenser microphones have such a high sensitivity, you shouldn’t use them in places where there is a loud noise in the background.

For example, if you want to record the acoustic guitar and the vocals at the same time, but you still want to use two microphones (we’ll explain later why), you shouldn’t use a condenser, because each part will also pick a significant interruption from the other part.

So, what should you do in such cases?

Use other types of microphones.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are much less sensitive than condenser microphones.

And therefore, they’re perfect for recording loud signals, and for using on stage.

Dynamic microphones have a unidirectional pattern, and therefore, they only pick up sounds in the direction where they’re pointed to.

And therefore, they’re great for recording the acoustic guitar and the vocals at the same time, while using two different mics.

Dynamic Mics Price Range – 20$ – 1000$+

A great dynamic microphone at that price range would be AKG’s D5 microphone.

This microphone was the first microphone I’ve ever bought. I’m actually still using it today, and I’m not planning to stop.

It has a deep powerful tone that gives the recording a warm full feeling. Plus, it’s really inexpensive.

Check the AKG D5 out on Amazon.

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon microphones were used almost everywhere in the 50’s and 60’s, but today they aren’t as popular.

Since they’re really fragile and expensive, people have just stopped buying them.

But, they produce warmness better than any other kind of mics.

So, you should consider purchasing one of these if you’re heading towards a professional career.

But, if you’re not, you should definitely just get a condenser or a dynamic microphone.

Ribbon Mics Price Range – 500$ – 3000$+

A great ribbon microphone that I’ve been able to use and love is the Royer R-10 microphone.It

It’s suitable for vocals, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, pianos, and more.

And, it has a warm but super balanced frequency response, that will probably fit in your mix easily, and sound great.

Check the Royer R-10 out on Amazon.

Conclusion

Condenser mics are usually the best for recording vocals and acoustic guitars.

Therefore, for an acoustic song, condenser mics are usually the perfect match.

An Audio Interface

The audio interface is the 2nd most important piece of equipment you should get.

It’s the part that converts the signal that’s coming from your microphone to the audio tracks in your DAW.

Audio Interface Recommended For Beginners –

In my opinion, the best audio interface for beginners would be the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

Check the Focusrite Scarlett Solo out On Amazon

Check out the company’s overview –

Scarlet Focusrite Solo On Amazon

Audio Interface Recommended For Intermediates –

If you want a bit want to record two elements at the same time, you should go for the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 out On Amazon

Check out the company’s overview –

Scarlet Focusrite 2i2 On Amazon

Audio Interface Recommended For Pros –

If you want total control, the ability of direct monitoring after effects, and the ability to switch between multiple preamps, you should get the apollo twin interface.

Apollo Twin On Amazon

I’ve been using this audio interface in my home-studio for a couple of years now, and it is absolutely fantastic.

Also, check out this video of universal audio, that explains how to use the apollo twin’s Console 2.0 –

Check out UA’s Apollo Twin on Amazon.

A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

A DAW is a software that allows you to record, edit, and produce audio files.

Best Free DAWs

There are a couple of great DAWS out there, some are free, and some are not.

The free DAWs include fewer features than the paid DAWs, but they’ll do what it takes to record and an acoustic song just fine.

Check out this video of the best free DAWs out there.

Best Paid DAWs

Even though paid DAWs might be a bit expensive, they give you a lot more features, and they are way more comfortable to work with.

Check out this video that tells you how to choose the best DAW for you.

Recording

How To Record An Acoustic Song Properly

Recording an acoustic song properly can be done in many ways.

In this guide I have broke down each of the main methods used by recording engineers today.

First, you have to know the basic principal of Multitrack Recording.

Multitrack Recording

This is by far the most used and modern recording method.

It was first invented in 1955, and its whole idea is to record each instrument on a different track.

This method gives you much more control over the sound of the mix since it lets you process each instrument individually.

Therefore, it will allow you to get the best sounding mixes.

You can record the elements either at the same time (which isn’t recommended) or at different times (which is super recommended).

How To Setup The Mics

Setting up the mics right is one of the most important things that you need to do in order to get your recordings to sound how you want them.

There are a couple of variables that determine the sound of the recording.

Recording Room Choicement

Picking the right recording room will save you a whole lot of time mixing and get you better results than you’ve ever imagined.

Whether you’re going to record in a professional recording room or your home studio, you have to find a place the treats your voice well.

Things To Consider When Picking The Room –

  • The Singer’s Voice –  Each person has a room that goes along great with his voice.

    Try and experiment with different places until you find the best for your singer.
  • The Genre You’re Recording – Depending on the genre, you might want to change your recording room.

    When recording hip-hop, for example, you might want to record in a very dry studio, so you get the super close, warm feeling.

    But that might not be the case for pop or jazz songs.

    You should record in a room that’s quite dry, but not too dry (the dryer the place the less reverberation it makes).
  • Your Budget – If you have a limited budget, you might need to settle for the recording room.

    But, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get great recordings.

    Just try to work with what you already have, and find the best room you can reach out to.   Remember that in the end, the most important things are the singer’s voice and his talent.

Placement In The Room

This is something lots of people forget to take care of, but it’s a significant key for a great recording.

Every room has its own “sweet spot”, and it would be best if you record in this exact spot.

There are two guidelines for positioning microphones:

  • Don’t place the microphone in the exact center of the room – There is a buildup of standing waves that will sabotage your recording.
  • Stay away from walls or reflective surfaces – There will be lots of reflections coming to your microphone.
  • Don’t ever record near corners – The corners are the place where all the bass and muddiness tends to come to, so it’s best if you stay away from there.

The best spot to position your mic is usually slightly off the exact center of the room.

This way, you’re not interrupted by the standing waves (which are boosted waves of certain frequencies), and you’re also not facing a bunch of reflections.

Distance From The Mic

The distance you keep from the microphone has a massive effect over the low frequencies of the vocals.

Basically, the further away you go from the microphone, the less boomy and muddy it will sound.

But don’t go too far away because if you do you, you might lose the power and the body of the vocals.

Usually, it’s excellent to keep about 4-6 inches away from the microphone, but its best if you try and experiment with different ranges.

Height Of The Mic

The microphone height also determines the sound of the vocals.

There are two variables to consider here – high frequencies’ direction and bass response.

High Frequencies

Since high frequencies emit in a downwards cone, a microphone positioned below the lips will sound brighter than a microphone placed above the lips.

Bass Response

Since most of the bass centers in the chest, a lower mic placement will increase the bass response.

Conclusion

As you lower the microphone, you increase both the high frequencies and the bass response.

So, to get bright vocals with strong bass response, place the microphone below the lips.

And, to get vocals with a dominant mid-range, place the microphone above the lips.

How To Configure Your Pre-amp / Audio Interface

Depending on what audio interface/external pre-amp you have, you’ll have to configure the pre-amp a little bit differently.

But, never mind what pre-amp you have, you’ll always have to try to achieve one goal – don’t distort the vocals.

Distorted recordings cannot be fixed post-recording, and they can absolutely ruin amazing recordings.

To make sure that the vocals won’t distort, tell the singer to sing the loudest part of the song, and level them until you have at least 6dB of headroom (this means the absolute peak is -6dB).

Depending on your external pre-amp/audio interface, you might be able to compress the vocals or eq them a little bit.

My recommendation – don’t record the vocals with effects on.

In my opinion, it’s pointless and risky to print something like compression down from the beginning, because once you do it, you can’t change it.

Mixing

How To Mix Vocals And Instruments

Mixing the vocals and the instruments is a crucial action to take when making a song.

But, luckily for you, you’ll only have 2-3 elements to mix, as an acoustic song only has 2-3 elements in it.

Before I start explaining how to mix the vocals and the instruments, I have to explain some ground rules.

The Whole Is More Important Than The Parts

First of all, you have to understand that the whole purpose of mixing is making each element fit and compliment the other elements in the mix.

Therefore, it’s not important how an element sounds by itself.

Unless it has a solo part, what matters is how it sounds when played with the other elements in the mix.

Bonus tip: Try to minimize the times that you use the solo button. Because whenever you solo a track, you remove it from the context of your mix.

Make Intentional Choices

Even if you know how to use your mixing tools correctly, you don’t always have to use them. In fact, sometimes, you won’t have to process tracks at all.

There is no specific way of mixing, but there is a certain guideline. So, treat the information below as a guideline, not as rules.

Use Reference Tracks

Instead of doing a lot of guesswork trying to discover what sounds good and what doesn’t, just download a professionally produced track that you like, and compare your song to it.

How Should You Process The Elements

There are several steps you’ll need to take in order to mix an acoustic song properly.

Everything written in the following paragraphs is usually correct for every instrument in an acoustic song.

But, there is no specific action that you should always take. The one golden rule you should always follow is – always trust your ears.

  1. Eq Out Unnecessary Frequencies – Each and every element in your song will have some unnecessary frequencies.

    When I say unnecessary frequencies, I mean the frequencies that don’t improve the sound of the mixor frequencies that don’t add anything to the sound of the element.

    Unnecessary frequencies of an acoustic guitar – Usually, they’ll be at 0Hz – 40Hz.
  2. Reduce Bothering Frequencies – When I say bothering frequencies, I mean frequencies that bother other elements in the mix.

    If a certain frequency bothers the guitar but helps the overall mix, it should stay exactly where it is.

    A great thing to do when trying to discover bothering frequencies is to make a 5dB – 6dB boost bell band and scroll through the frequency spectrum until the issue gets stronger.

    When it does, reduce this area until the issue goes away.

    But, be careful easy to cut it too much.

    Always try to find the balance between not reducing/boosting enough, and reducing/boosting too much.

    Usually, the sweet spot will be at 3dB – 6dB.
  3. Remove Resonating Frequencies – Resonating frequencies are frequencies that are unpleasant to the ear, and therefore, we must remove them.So to fix and remove resonating frequencies from your sound – make a bell band with really narrow bandwidth, and a high gain (about +10dB).

    You need to make a bell band with a really high bandwidth, and a really high gain (about +10dB).

    After you have created it, go over your frequencies and try to find the resonating frequency that’s bothering you.

    It would really help to take a moment and decide whether this frequency sounds fat and low – (if so its probably around 200hz-500hz), or if it sounds sort of like a whistle – (if so its probably around 500hz-4000hz), or if it
    sounds kind of like a sharp air – (if so it’s probably around 4000hz-20000hz).
  4. Use A Compressor – To understand the purpose of compression and it’s parameters, I highly suggest that you check out my tutorial – How To Use A Compresoor The Right Way.
    To get the guitar to sound balanced, you want to compress it softly.

    The worst thing you can do to an acoustic guitar is overcompressing.

    Therefore, I usually set the threshold and the ratio, so I get 4dB of compression maximum.

    But, another super important thing to do is to set the right attack and release.
  5. Use Dynamic Equalizer – A dynamic equalizer might be a game-changer when it comes to tonal balance.

    But first, for those of you who don’t know –

    A dynamic equalizer is the combination of an equalizer and the basics of the compressor.

    It has the ability to compress only specific ranges of frequencies.

    The reason you may need to use a dynamic equalizer is unstable frequencies.

    For example, you might have a vocal track that includes high notes and low notes, and as a result, has loud low-mid frequencies in some notes and doesn’t have them in others.

    So, what do you do? You use a dynamic equalizer.

    Usually, you would need to set a dynamic equalizer to the low frequencies of vocals and guitars, since they’re low-end is particularly unstable.
  6. Add Reverb – reverb creates a simulation of space, so it makes your mix sound like it was played in a real space, which is excellent, as long as you don’t use it too much.

    It can also help a lot to a narrow mix, and a too dry mix.

    Another thing reverb can help with a lot is with making smooth transitions, and filling up space.

    If you want to learn more about reverb and how to use it, I highly suggest that you check out my guide How To – Use Reverb The Right Way where I explain everything you need to know in order to use reverb professionally.
  7. Add Your Special Taste (Optional) – After you’ve done all the above, it’s time for you to add your unique taste.

    In this phase, you’ll be able to make it clear for the listener why you’re a talented creative artist that can stand out from all the others.

    An example of a unique taste in an acoustic song might be a special guitar fill that you add to the song or some kind of special adlibs that you add (Adlibs are short words/syllables that you add in between the sentences).

ATTENTION BEATMAKERS!

This pack contains 50 hihat incredible patterns. We’re now giving them for free.

  

They’re worth 25$, but we want to get our website to as many people as possible, so we’re giving them for free for a limited time. Make sure you claim your copy before we take it down.

Similar Posts