Playing an acoustic guitar is excellent, but what’s even better is having a digital recording of what you played to listen back to.
Audacity is a simple and inexpensive program that helps you do just that and can help you make your recording sound a bit nicer in the process.
So whether you’re a complete beginner or a pro just wanting to make a quick recording, knowing how to make your audio sound better in Audacity is an invaluable skill to have.
To make your acoustic guitar sound better in Audacity, make sure the room you’re recording in has good sound dampening, and that your mic and Audacity setup is correct. Then you can use effects like EQ, compression, normalizing, and reverb to change parts of the audio you don’t like after that fact.
This article will go over how you can get your acoustic guitar to sound better in Audacity by looking at things like recording, equipment setup, and tweaks you can make in post-production. Now let’s get started!
Make Sure the Recording Room Has Good Sound Dampening
The first thing you can do to ensure the recording of your acoustic guitar sounds good right out of the gate is to make sure that the space you are recording in (whether it be a professional studio or your spare bedroom) has adequate sound treatment.
This way, you’ll be getting the best possible recording of your guitar, and you won’t have to do as much work in post-production to get your guitar to sound the way you want it to.
Treating your recording room with sound dampening equipment will not only reduce the amount of echo in the room, but it will also ensure that your microphone does not pick up a lot of the sounds that can come in from outside your room.
This will enable you to record a clearer and better sounding audio from your guitar right from the start.
Treating your room for sound dampening can be done in many ways, but some of the most popular ways are by hanging moving blankets (like this Sure-Max Moving & Packing Blanket) from the ceiling surrounding the area you want to dampen sound in or by using sound dampening curtains (like these RYB HOME Blackout Noise Reduction Curtains).
Another popular choice is to use acoustic panels (like these A2S Acoustic Foam Panels) around the room’s perimeter to contain the sound and stop it from bouncing around too much.
It is also good to note that you should not only treat your walls but your floor and ceiling too. You can use sound blankets or acoustic panels for your ceiling, and carpet your floors, or simply put a rug under the area where you record your instrumentals.
Set Up the Equipment Correctly
Another crucial aspect of getting your acoustic guitar to sound better in Audacity is the setup you use for your equipment. This includes the microphone you use to record, as well as the settings you use in Audacity while recording.
Choosing the type of microphone you use can make a big difference in how the recorded version of what you play on your guitar sounds.
Acoustic guitars are intricate instruments that give off high-frequency information, and as a result that, condenser microphones are the most popular choice for recording acoustic guitar. However, dynamic microphones are also a good choice for this purpose.
You can also choose to either record your audio in mono (using one microphone) or stereo (using two microphones).
Recording in mono makes setting up to record a lot quicker and easier, removes the issue of phasing, and is useful if you want to record your guitar to add it to an arrangement of other instruments.
However, recording in stereo is excellent if you want to record a solo acoustic guitar track or if the guitar is one of the key instruments in your arrangement. It is also suitable for getting a fuller sound of your guitar in your recording and for adding depth to a mono recording (check out this relevant article for brighter guitar tone tips).
Where you place your microphones while recording your sound also makes a difference in how it sounds. One of the most popular placements is to put your microphone about 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) directed at the neck of your guitar around the 12th-14th fret. This often creates the most balanced and natural-sounding audio.
Directing your mic at the body of the guitar will give you a more bassy or mid-heavy tone and will complement a singer with a high register voice very well. For recording in stereo, the most common setup is to have one mic directed at the neck and one at the guitar’s body.
Another popular method is to place the microphones perpendicular to one another (with their diaphragms as close as possible) and directing them to the area where the neck meets the body of the guitar.
Audacity Recording Settings
Now that we’ve covered microphone setup, we can move on to how to set up Audacity to record your audio.
- First, you’ll want to connect your microphone to your computer using either an audio interface or plugging it in using the USB cable that comes with the mic.
- Then you’ll need to choose your preferred input and output in Audacity. Your input option will either be the mic you are using or the audio interface you are using and then select either the mono or stereo channel, depending on how you are recording. Your output can either be your computer’s built-in speakers or the same as your audio input if you have headphones connected to that input source.
- Next, you’ll want to check your audio levels, to ensure that they are correctly set up. The closer your input signal gets to the ‘0’ on the monitoring bar, the stronger the signal is; however, if it gets too close to 0, your audio will start to distort and clip, which will make it sound bad. Therefore, you want to keep your audio levels between ‘-12’ and ‘-6’.
- Once all of that is done, you can start recording your guitar track by pressing the big red ‘record’ circle on Audacity or hit ‘R’ on your keyboard. Once you’ve finished playing, you can stop recording and listen back to what you have recorded.
Use Post Production Effects and Tricks
Say that you have recorded your audio, and upon listening back, you discover that there’s something not quite right about the sound. You can do a few things in Audacity to fix the issue and get your audio to sound the way you want it to.
You can use the EQ (in Audacity, it’s known as the Filter Curve) to remove some of the lower or higher frequencies in your audio if you find that they are making an unpleasant sound, and the result will be a more balanced sounding track. You can also use this to make your audio sound more warm, bright, or even thin if that’s what you’re looking for.
If you have some parts of your audio that get particularly loud at times, you can use the compressor to reduce the audio level if it becomes too loud. This is an excellent way of effecting only parts of your track, as the quieter parts of your audio will stay mostly unaffected.
If you find that the compressor has made your tack a little softer, you can use the ‘normalize’ effect to get it back to a louder level. Using this, you can set the peak amplitude (a.k.a. How loud) you want your track to hit and set it to that level. Be sure not to set it to 0, as this will cause Audacity to clip some of the louder parts of your audio. Anywhere between -6 and -2 should do.
To get your acoustic guitar recording sound a little more natural and not as “digital” as it may sound after being recorded, you can add some reverb to the track. You can play around with the ‘room size’ and ‘reverberance’ settings until you find a sound you like and what sounds most similar to what you heard with your ears as you were recording the audio.
If you want a quick guide, here is a video you can watch on how to mix your acoustic guitar in Audacity:
Knowing how to make the audio from your acoustic guitar sound good in Audacity is a necessary skill to have if you regularly use it to record audio and if you want to get the very best sound from your recordings. In any event, good luck recording your next masterpiece with Audacity!
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