Whether you’re soundchecking before a livestreamed performance, demoing new tunes, or laying down basic tracks for your upcoming bedroom-pop masterpiece, it all starts with selecting the best mic for recording acoustic guitar and vocals.
Choosing the best mic(s) for acoustic guitar and vocals comes down to two basic questions:
- Should I get a USB or XLR microphone?
- Do I want to use one microphone or two?
In this blog, we’ll break down the similarities and differences between USB and XLR mics to help you select the best microphone for guitar and voice so you can sound and look your best regardless if you’re performing on IG Live or making an album at home.
We’ll take a quick look at what each type of microphone has to offer, run through two techniques for recording acoustic guitar and vocals, and check out a few of the unique features that make Blue Microphones especially suited for the task.
USB or XLR?
The main difference between USB and XLR microphones is the cable. That’s it. USB microphones connect directly to the USB port on your PC, tablet, or mobile device. Meanwhile, XLR mics require external preamps to boost their signal to an appropriate level for recording, but their circuitry and components are identical to their USB cohorts in audio and build quality.
If you’re recording your own music for the first time, you’ll want a microphone that’s easy to use, compatible with your recording device, and is ready to go whenever you are. Or, if you’re already savvy in the recording studio, it’s worth it to invest in a microphone with advanced features like onboard vocal effects or a studio-grade XLR connector for use with pro audio equipment.
USB microphones are perfect for livestreaming or capturing the sudden spark of inspiration because their plug-and-play design eliminates the need for additional equipment, so you can start rolling and get good takes quickly.
If you have a little extra setup time, XLR mics give you the flexibility to use outboard studio gear, like compressors. Or you can use two microphones with an audio interface or mixer to make multitrack recordings where each microphone gets its own “track” in your recording app.
Blue Spark SL condenser microphone.
One Mic or Two?
How to Record Acoustic Guitar and Vocals with One Mic
Using just one microphone to record acoustic guitar and vocals is a great way to capture the energy and passion of a live performance.
With one microphone, your guitar and vocals will be recorded onto a single track, so it’s important to carefully position the mic for the ideal blend between the instruments—in this case, vocals and guitar—and the room acoustics.
Start with the microphone 12 to 16 inches away and pointed at the 12th fret, close to where the neck meets the body, and raise the mic stand halfway between your face and the guitar.
Experiment with both the vertical positioning (for the blend between guitar and vocals) and the distance between the microphone and performer (for direct vs. room sound) until you achieve the desired mix.
Placing a microphone closer to the performer will emphasize the direct sound, while moving it farther away creates a “roomier” sound as the mic picks up the natural reverb in your space. To bring out the vocal, simply raise the mic stand. For more guitar, lower the microphone.
If your recording still sounds too echoey, you can adjust the microphone’s pickup pattern to choose how much ambient sound is captured. For example, the Yeti features four distinct polar patterns to help you cut down on unwanted reverberations.
In cardioid mode, only sources directly in front of the mic are recorded. Stereo mode uses two capsules for a wide and realistic sound image that’s great for recording acoustic guitars. Omnidirectional mode picks up sound equally from all directions—perfect if you like reverb—and Bidirectional mode records from the front and rear of the mic, which is great for dialing in a little bit of natural reverb, but not too much.
If you’ve found a mic position and pickup pattern you like and your guitar and voice still sound too boomy to your ears, back off the mic a bit. If you sound too far away, take a step towards the microphone. Once everything sounds good, check your levels so that you’re not hitting any red lights, and you’re ready to record!
How to Record Acoustic Guitar and Vocals with Two Microphones
If you prefer to record acoustic guitars and vocals on separate tracks, using two microphones allows for extra flexibility when it’s time to mix your next Spotify single.
To record vocals and acoustic guitar at the same time with two microphones, start by grabbing your favorite guitar recording mic.
Many recordists like to start with a small-diaphragm condenser–like the Hummingbird– pointed at the 12th fret placed between 6-12 inches away, but feel free to use the microphone and position that sounds best for the song.
Vocals are tricky because no two singers are alike, but large-diaphragm condenser mics–the Dragonfly, for example–are a good choice for vocalists because their wide frequency response and detailed sound are ideal for preserving the nuances of an exciting vocal take.
For a vocal starting position, have the vocalist make a fist and hold it in front of their face and place the microphone on the other side of their fist. If the vocals sound muddy or have too much bass, increase the distance until things clear up. Take a moment to check your levels, make sure all the meters are green, and you’re good to go.
Blue Yeti Pro USB/XLR microphone.
Best Mic for Streaming Acoustic Guitar and Vocals
Now that we have a good idea where to put the microphone, let’s have some fun and talk gear. Here are a few of the best mics for acoustic guitar and vocals you can toss in your laptop bag for on-the-go streaming and recording.
Yeti: the #1 USB Microphone
With its smart blend of simplicity and versatility, it’s no surprise the Yeti is a favorite microphone among livestreaming singer-songwriters. Its external controls for headphone volume, mute, microphone gain, and pickup pattern make soundcheck a breeze. And the built-in headphone jack means you’ll never have to ask for vocals in the monitor. Oh, and if there’s a duet on the setlist, Bidirectional mode picks up sound from the front and back of the mic, so those harmony parts will sound great.
Yeti Pro: Record Master-Quality Audio
The Yeti Pro elevates the Yeti’s already impressive fidelity to 24-bit, 192kHz high-definition lossless audio for impressive master-quality sound. Consider it the Mt. Everest of USB microphones. With its dual XLR breakout cable, the Yeti Pro can make quick USB recordings at base camp, connect to your phone or tablet for streaming, or scale the summit to the recording studio, where its XLR connectivity allows for use with high-end preamps and audio interfaces.
Ember: Sleek Design, Open Sound
Visuals matter when you’re streaming. The Ember uses a compact, side-address design that keeps a low profile on camera–to keep the focus on you, the star! Its custom, medium-diaphragm capsule excels at capturing crisp vocals, and warm, full acoustic guitars. The cardioid pickup pattern rejects sound from the sides and rear, so you’ll be heard loud and clear without distracting room echoes. Its XLR connectivity makes it ideal for use with studio gear which can dramatically improve the audio quality of your broadcast.
Spark SL: Broadcast Quality Audio
Where’s the crew? The Spark SL brings Blue’s legendary studio sound to your Twitch livestreaming gig with custom JFET electronics, discreet Class-A circuitry, a 100Hz high-pass filter, and a -20dB pad for a sound so polished, viewers will think you hired a production team.
Blue Hummingbird small-diaphragm condenser microphone
Best Mic for Recording Acoustic Guitar and Vocals at Home
Why might you use one microphone for streaming and another for recording? Easy. Streaming is primarily a visual medium, and since most of the videos in your newsfeed default to “mute,” your performance needs a visual element to slow the scroll and captivate your audience.
Each of the microphones in the previous section features a compact design to keep a low profile onscreen so your overlay, lighting, and music can take the spotlight. But when the cameras are off, anything goes, and you can bring out the large-diaphragm condenser mics without being concerned about cluttering the screen.
Let’s check out these microphones for recording vocals and guitar at home.
Hummingbird: Perfect Placement–Every time.
The Hummingbird’s compact build and unique swivel design make finding the sweet spot on your acoustic guitar a cinch. Simply sweep the capsule between the 12th fret and the soundhole until you find the perfect position for a dynamic guitar sound with sweet, singing single notes and rich, balanced chords.
Dragonfly: Suited for Voice and Acoustic Guitar
The Dragonfly’s silky sound comes courtesy of its extended high end, contoured midrange, and enhanced low end. This large-diaphragm condenser excels on acoustic guitar and vocals in a one- or two-mic setup thanks to its cardioid pickup pattern, which prevents unwanted bleed and rejects room sound.
The Bottle: When Only the Best Will Do
Blue’s flagship microphone, The Bottle, is compatible with eight interchangeable Bottle Caps that deliver distinct pickup patterns and tonal characteristics. Warm and vintage. Modern and crisp. Detailed and transparent. All in one microphone. The Bottle features discrete Class-A circuitry with a hand-selected vacuum tube, and hand-crafted components for unmatched precision and accuracy.
Once you’re comfortable with the art of recording vocals and acoustic guitar at the same time, you can apply these same techniques to get a great tone out of any instrument. And since you’ll be using microphone placement and pickup pattern selection to get a great sound from the get-go, you’ll spend more time making music and less time “fixing it in the mix.” For more recording tips, check out our blog.