What To Look For In an Acoustic Recording Guitar

Can they be played like standard guitars?
Sure. Certainly. Of course. They were chosen because of their balanced tonal ranges, and their clarity throughout those ranges.

Admittedly, guitars that are chosen and/or modded to be recording instruments play somewhat differently than most off-the-rack factory acoustics. They are usually more sensitive, and generate clearer tones. They often have a more focused low-end response, so the mic's don't get into a boomy bottom end.

What are the important differences?
The fast and simple way to explain the differences between acoustic recording guitars and personal instruments is to describe how an acoustic recording guitar is used in most recording sessions. Then,
the differences in acoustic recording guitars can be understood from
a practical viewpoint.

Acoustic recording guitars inhabit a different world.
When recording, acoustic guitars have to function in a different environment than "everyday guitars."

During recording sessions, everything affects an acoustic guitar. From the size and shape of the room you recording in, to your location in that room. As well as each piece of gear in your signal chain. And this is not even close to the whole list. Since it's impossible to cope with everything all at once, it's important to focus on priorities. And the first priority is to focus on headphones and microphones.

For acoustic recording guitars, headphones are the whole world.
Nearly all acoustic guitar recordists use headphones. Otherwise known as "cans." It's that, or no way to hear what is being recorded. Studio monitors would obviously bleed into the recording. So we live in headphones when recording. This requires a certain amount of sonic adaptation. When we are focusing, the cans are our whole world.

If headphones are the world, mics are the universe.
The microphones provide the recording signal for the rest of the recording system. Playing acoustic guitars into whatever recording system you are using is part of an interactive process. When recording, you are no longer projecting audio waves out of the soundhole to vibrate the air in a room (or the outdoors). The mics, and what they are connected to, become your entire universe.

It's not about what you want. It's about what the mics want.
For recording guitars, this means an acoustic guitar that can give the microphones clearly defined tones within their capabilities. In other words, tonal clarity. You're mainly focused on how the guitar performs
when it's in front of microphones.

Does the guitar have presence?
What is "presence?" Does the acoustic guitar generate enough interest and authority to attract and then continue to hold attention? If so, that's when an acoustic guitar has good presence.

A summary of what to look for in an acoustic recording guitar.
Well at least the important basic stuff. How will it play into microphones! Each note clearly ringing (resonating) up and down the neck. Yet mixing together into a good sounding unified chordal sound. With a mix that has an even balance throughout all of its registers. Nothing sticking out.

And yet having enough stamina to not "break up the sound" when being played with force. Whether playing chords or single note leads.

That's a lot to ask for. And a lot to listen for. But these instruments are out there.

Fortunately, not everyone wants a clear balanced acoustic guitar. Just us recordists.


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