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Recording and mixing acoustic guitar can be deceptively complex. The instrument produces a wide range of frequencies that must be accounted for in your mix. Additionally, depending on the sound you are looking for, you may want your acoustic to sound anywhere from a warm and rich centerpiece of a song to a relatively thin sound that’s deep in the mix just to add a little character to your recording.
Whatever your desired sound, keep in mind that it is likely you will never mix your acoustic the same way twice, though there are some tips that can help you get started.
Use a High-Pass Filter for the Acoustic Guitar Mix
EQ settings will likely vary greatly as you record various acoustic tracks, but you’ll almost always want to add a high-pass filter to your track.
The high-pass filter cuts all frequencies below a certain point on a track, and though this point will vary from track to track, you’ll typically want to put it somewhere between 100-350 Hz, with 200 Hz being a good starting point.
This cuts out the low end sounds produced by an acoustic that typically manifest themselves in a rumbling, boomy sound. This is the kind of thing that you may not notice at first, but once you cut the low frequencies, you’ll notice you have a much cleaner sound, that will result in a cleaner overall mix.
Other EQing actions will depend on your track, though adding a slight cut to the low-mids and perhaps a small boost to the highs. Though these actions aren’t always required, it’s good to experiment with both on your guitar tracks.
Easy on the Compression
Often, a very small amount of compression is all you need for an acoustic guitar, particularly if you’ve found a good EQ setting and want to maintain a natural sound. Still, a slight compression will bring out some of the natural harmonics of the instrument, as well offering you a track that’s a bit smoother (if that’s what you need in your overall mix).
With that said, sometimes you need a different acoustic sound, such as an overly compressed track that sits deep in the mix to provide a bit of depth, you’ll probably want that track to be very even. Keep in mind, that a high amount of compression often will accent the quieter noises of acoustic such as finger noise and the aforementioned harmonics, both of which can be desirable under certain conditions.
Be Careful with the Effects
“Ideal Tone” for guitar, particularly for acoustics, is one of the most subjective topics in music. So any advice on EQ and compression must be filtered throughout your own thoughts on what you want your track to sound like. Perhaps this is even more true when it comes to adding effects.
If you’re looking for a natural acoustic sound, it is usually best to go with as little additional effects as possible, and sometimes to add none at all. Typically, a little reverb will go a long way if you want a slightly bigger and/or roomier sound, and often you can leave it at that.