Mixing Acoustic Guitar
In this tutorial I’ll show you what to do after recording an acoustic guitar to help it sit well in the mix and cut through. The first thing you need to look at before mixing an acoustic guitar is whether it’s a rhythm section or just a solo.
If it’s a solo then use a reverb and delay to push it at the back of the mix. If it’s the rhythm section then you can choose to push it a bit upfront but make sure it doesn’t clash or overpower the vocals and other sounds in the mix.
The problem a lot of people face when mixing an acoustic guitar is getting the right level, frequency balance, eq and compression. So to help you solve this problem I will share 3 things that will help you mix acoustic guitars easy.
Recording Acoustic Guitars
If it’s not good from the source then you’re going to have a problem when mixing. If your room is not acoustic treated then I would advice you to buy an acoustic guitar pickup instead.
If you have both a mic and a guitar pickup then try both and see which one gives you good results. Always record in mono for a punchy and clear guitar sound, this will also help avoid phasing problems.
Acoustic guitars always sound good when they’re live just like brass sounds. Some good plugins like Native Instruments are trying hard to bridge the gap but I still prefer recorded guitars as compared to midi programmed ones.
Keep It Natural
Find a good balance for the acoustic guitar in the mix by using the level fader. If you still struggle to get it to sit in the mix by adjusting the volume then that’s when you’ll need processing.
If you have a busy mix then you might need some heavy processing but if the music doesn’t have a lot of sounds then keep it as natural as possible.
Processing or Mixing Acoustic Guitars
If you can’t find a good balance for the guitar then you’ll need some processing to help it sit well in the mix, especially if it’s a busy mix.
What comes 1st between eq and compressor will depend on the sound but if it needs small eq adjustments then it doesn’t matter which one comes 1st. Most of the time you’ll need to clean the guitar 1st using an eq then compress after to keep the volume constant.
But I always start with the compressor then after I determine which one will come 1st in the insert chain.
If your song has got instruments dominating the low-end such as the kick and bass then cutting everything below 100Hz on the guitar might make it thin but it will make space for the kick and bass to dominate that frequency range and help avoid any low-end rumble as well as mud.
If the acoustic guitar is boxy or boomy then a cut around 100Hz – 300Hz will get rid of the boominess. Cutting from 1kHz-3kHz might make space for the vocals and make the sound more transparent and open. To help the guitar cut through the mix then a boost at 10kHz might do the trick. You can also boost the 5kHz-7kHz range to add presence to the guitar.
Use effects reverb as a tool to push the guitar upfront or back in the mix. Also use a distortion effect or bitcrusher to add some dirt and warmth to the guitar.
For compression use a slow attack to help the transient come through unaffected. The key to mixing acoustic guitars is to keep it as natural as possible.
Hope you found this mixing tutorial useful, feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions. I always respond 🙂
And good luck with mixing your acoustic guitar.