Recording Acoustic Guitar, Violin, Ukulele, Cello & Other Stringed Instruments
Royer ribbon microphones record acoustic instruments beautifully. They translate the body, warmth, and tonality of the instrument with no shrill highs ever. From acoustic guitar, ukulele and mandolin to violin, cello, harp and virtually any stringed instruments, Royer ribbons capture the tone and feel like no other microphones can.
LA session multi-Instrumentalist Andrew Synowiec on recording 9 different acoustic instruments with a pair of R-122 MKlls.
Brighter Recording on the Back Side
With Royer R-Series microphones, the back side records a little brighter than the front if the mic is 3 feet or closer to the instrument. When recording on the back side (recommended for acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and other instruments that are close-miked), be sure to flip phase at the mic pre to achieve forward-polarity recordings.
Comparison – recording on the front and back side of an R-122 MKll phantom powered ribbon mic.
Comparison – recording on the front and back side of an R-121 ribbon mic.
Ribbon Mics and EQ
Ribbons take EQ exceptionally well. With acoustic instruments, it’s good practice to roll off low end at about 100 Hz to reduce rumble. Boosting at 10-12 kHz adds a nice sparkle that helps an acoustic guitar cut through a dense mix. Even with drastic EQ’ing, Royers will always stay smooth in the highs.
Acoustic guitar and vocal, both recorded on a highly EQ’d R-121.
When single miking an acoustic guitar, a great position is 8 to 12 inches off the 12th fret, with the mic aimed at the soundhole.
Note: Due to proximity effect, the closer to the instrument you place the microphone the warmer the sound will be. For a brighter tone, back the mic off a little, an inch or two at a time until you like the balance.
Here are a few ways to record acoustic guitar using 2 or more mics.
R-122 MKlls on acoustic guitar, in the mix and soloed
Andrew Synowiec recording four different acoustic guitars with his standard two R-122 MKlls on a stereo bar.
Recording Acoustic Guitar (Taylor and Martin)
Recording Nylon Sting Guitar
Recording 12-sting Guitar
Recording Baritone Guitar
One ribbon mic about 12 inches off the body delivers a warm, natural-sounding ukulele recording.
Recording Ukulele on a pair of R-122 MKlls
The violin benefits more from ribbon microphones than almost any other instrument. Ribbon mics record violin extremely naturally, with no shrill highs. Classical violinists generally record at a distance of three feet or more above the instrument. Fiddle players are usually miked closer, 15 to 24 inches from the instrument.
Rachel Barton Pine records Bach using a pair of SF-2s
The Foghorn Stringband plays bluegrass gathered around one SF-24 stereo ribbon mic
Tim Crouch plays Soldier’s Joy on the fiddle with one R-10 ribbon mic plugged into Royer dBooster for additional level.
R-122 MKII on fiddle, in the mix and soloed.
Royer ribbons are unmatched in picking up the gorgeous tonality and texture of the cello.
Ben Sollee playing cello and singing on an R-122
Skylar Grey – All Will Be Forgotten. Multiple takes of one cello recorded on an R-121
Winona Zelenka plays, with recording engineer Ron Searles talking about how he records her using R-122 ribbon mics.
Two R-10s on mandolin, in the mix and soloed
A pair of R-121s or R-122s over a Dobro captures all of the body and the detailed highs without sounding piercing or thin.
Randy Kohrs using a pair of R-122s on Dobro, on a Jim Lauderdale session, soloed Dobro first, then in the mix.
One R-121 or R-122 12 inches in front of the Bouzouki is a good starting position.
A pair of R-122’s is a great multi-miking solution.
Duet & Ensemble
These videos show successful ribbon microphone positioning on two or more musicians.
One R-121 on acoustic guitar, cello and vocal
One SF-24 active stereo ribbon mic with The Foghorn Stringband gathered around it playing bluegrass. This is an old-fashioned recording method that works beautifully.
Darlingside and friends miked up with lots of ribbons and a few condensers. For more technical info
Fab Dupont recording Will Knox and band entirely on ribbons (with a condenser on the vocals)
dBooster Inline Signal Booster
Recording acoustic instruments using non-powered ribbon microphones sometimes calls for additional level to drive your mic pre or DAW. The Royer dBooster is a super-clean, in-line signal booster designed like the front end of a high-end preamplifier. With two gain levels, it’s a great compliment to Royer R-121 and R-10 ribbon mics, as well as dynamic microphones like the Shure SM7 or SM57.
Guitarist Shawn Tubbs shows how the dBooster works
Recording Electric Guitar
Royer R-Series ribbon microphones are known around the world as the first-call mics for electric guitar. From Foo Fighters (R-121s & R-10s), Green Day (R-121s), Aerosmith (R-121s), Van Halen (R-122Vs) and Muse (R-122s) to Johnny Marr (R-121s), Dianna Krall (R-121s), Kenny Chesney (R-121s), Rita Coolidge (R-121s), Sam Smith (R-10s), Lana Del Rey (R-121s & R-10s) and countless others, Royer is what engineers choose to capture the biggest, fullest, most natural-sounding electric guitars possible.
Before Miking Up
Knowing what you’re trying to capture is important before putting a microphone up. If you’re creating smooth clean tones, miking with an R-121 alone is perfect. If you’re looking for a distorted rock tone with body and bite, or if it’s major aggression you’re after, blending an R-121 with an SM57 is legendary.
With 4X12 speaker cabinets, many times you’ll find one speaker is the best of the four. Find and mic that one. Don’t be afraid to experiment with moving the mic around – you don’t know what you’ll get until you try.
Miking Electric Guitars in the Studio
Here are a few great starting places for miking guitar cabs with R-121’s, R-10’s, R-122 MKll’s and R-122V’s. For this writing, we’ll stick with the R-121, but each of the other mics is excellent and worth your time to try out.
For the brightest sound, position the R-121 on the center of the speaker dome, anywhere from 2 to 6 inches from the grille cloth. This is the brightest position on the speaker and it’s often a perfect spot. While positioning, it’s helpful to use a small flashlight to clearly see the dome.
It’s good to know the above position and sound before moving on. Like a tone control, as you move the mic away from the center and towards the edge of the speaker, the sound will become progressively meatier and less bright.
You’ll also find that the sound changes as you back the mic away from the cabinet, often developing increased tonal complexity and low end at distances over a foot and up to a few feet away. The recorded sound at a distance isn’t as immediate and you’ll hear more of the room.
The most popular way to mic rock and pop guitars is to blend an R-121 with a dynamic mic like an SM57 or a 421. The R-121 gives you all the body and fullness of tone your speaker is producing, like what it actually sounds like in the room, and the SM57 gives an aggressive midrange and top-end bite that blends beautifully with the R-121. Dial-in your desired tone by blending the two mics to taste.
Other mics can be blended too. A nice-sounding blend is an R-122/SM57/421, and blending a condenser mic with an R-121 is common practice as well.
How to Position an R-121 and SM57
Here is Grammy-winning producer/engineer Ross Hogarth blending an R-121 and 57 on session guitarist Tim Pierce. It’s amazing to hear how much variety of tone this gives you!
It’s important to position the R-121 and SM57 properly and in phase. Ross Hogarth walks you through exactly how he does that in this educational video.
R-121’s like to see an input impedance of 1.5K from your mic pre. Even 1.2 is fine, but if the impedance is much below that you’ll start losing sensitivity and low end.
There are several excellent mic pres available – Great River, Manley, API, Neve… One of our faves for electric guitar is the Chandler TG2. It has a great overall tone, and the hi-lo impedance switch is very useful. In the low impedance setting the input impedance is only 300 ohms, which is technically a bad match with an R-121, but it wipes out so much low end that you can super-close-mic a cab and get virtually no proximity effect, leaving plenty of low end without rumble, with great mids and highs.
Listen to Kings X, with close-miked R-121’s plugged into TG2s set for 300 ohms. Using low input impedance this way is not a common practice, but you can’t argue with the sound! Engineer Michael Wagener told us he flipped the switch and after some mic position adjustments, really liked what he got. Ears before technical perfection!
Here are a few more photos of pro setups. Look and learn!
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