Shure SM57: Is It Right for Acoustic Guitar?

Whether you’re considering purchasing a new Shure SM57 or have one lying around, and you’re wondering how it performs in recording acoustic guitar, this article will explore the capabilities and comparisons with alternatives like the AT2020 and Rode NT2-A.

The Shure SM57 is a dynamic microphone so it’s not going to sound perfect, but it’s good enough if you don’t want to buy another mic just to record your guitar.  The sound is a bit too bright and brittle on some songs, but when you’re in the studio and you have all day to experiment with mics, you can achieve some decent results.

However, there are many other choices that will make your recordings sound better. If you’re looking for an affordable solution to get started recording an acoustic guitar at home or in a small studio space without breaking the bank, the AT2020 might be a budget alternative worth checking out!

can you record acoustic guitar with shure sm57

Getting the Most Out of Your Shure SM57 for Acoustic Guitar Recording

The Shure SM57 is really a great tool to have in your studio, and if you already have one in your arsenal then by all means, go for it. Bear in mind how big of a difference mic placement can make and I’m sure you’ll be able to get some decent quality recordings.

There is one other scenario that I can think of where it would be totally fine to record acoustic with Shure SM57. Outdoor recording, where you care less about the sensitivity of the microphone and more about resistance to sources of noise and even portability and durability.

If you already have a Shure SM57 and want to use it for recording acoustic guitars, you’re in the right place. While this dynamic microphone may not be the first choice for some acoustic recordings, with the right techniques and settings, you can achieve impressive results. 

Mic Placement Techniques for Acoustic Guitar

Positioning for Brightness

If you prefer a brighter sound, try positioning the SM57 closer to the 12th fret of the guitar, around 6-8 inches away. This spot tends to highlight the guitar’s natural harmonics and overtones. Experiment with different angles and distances to find the ideal brightness for your specific guitar and playing style.

Positioning for Warmth

For a warmer and richer sound, consider placing the SM57 closer to where the neck meets the body of the guitar. Aiming the the Shure SM57 microphone slightly towards the soundhole but not directly at it can help capture the lower frequencies and the guitar’s full body. A distance of 6-12 inches can be a good starting point.

shure sm57 microphone for recording acoustic guitar

Best for Outdoor Use

Using Equalization (EQ) to Shape Acoustic Guitar Sound with Shure SM57

Using an equalizer with the Shure SM57 might help you shape the sound when recording acoustic guitar, allowing you to cut harsh frequencies or enhance body.

Cutting Harsh Frequencies

The SM57 might introduce some harshness in the upper mid-range, especially when recording bright-sounding guitars. Using an equalizer, consider cutting a few decibels around the 2-5 kHz range. Subtle adjustments can make a significant difference, so start with a gentle cut and adjust as needed.

Enhancing Body

If you find the sound lacks depth, try boosting the lower-mid frequencies around 100-250 Hz. A gentle boost can add warmth and fullness. Be careful not to overdo it, as excessive boosting in this range might make the sound muddy.

Pairing Shure SM57 with Other Microphones for Acoustic Guitar Recording

Using SM57 with Condenser Mics

Pairing the SM57 with a large-diaphragm condenser microphone can provide a more comprehensive capture of your guitar’s sound. While the SM57 focuses on the mid-range, the condenser can capture the subtler nuances and the airiness of the guitar. Experiment with the positioning of both mics to find the perfect balance.

Blending Techniques

When using multiple microphones, like the SM57 and a condenser, balancing their levels is crucial. Spend time adjusting the volume of each mic in your recording software or mixer to create a full and balanced sound. A good starting point might be to have both mics at equal levels and then adjust according to taste.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Acoustic Guitar Recording with Shure SM57

Feedback Issues

Ensure that the recording room is acoustically treated or free from reflective surfaces that might cause feedback or unwanted reflections. Using headphones instead of speakers during recording can also prevent feedback issues.

Phasing Problems

Phasing occurs when two mics capture the same sound source at slightly different times, causing destructive interference. If using multiple mics, including the SM57, make sure they are phase-aligned. One way to address this is to follow the 3:1 rule, where the distance between the microphones should be at least three times the distance from each microphone to the sound source.

Maximizing the Potential of the Shure SM57 for Acoustic Guitar Recording

The Shure SM57 might not be a conventional choice for recording acoustic guitars, but with the right approach, it can yield surprisingly effective results. By focusing on mic placement, EQ adjustments, blending with other microphones, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can make the most out of this versatile and durable microphone. Embrace the unique characteristics of the SM57 and find the sound that fits your musical vision. Whether you’re recording at home or in a professional studio, these strategies can help you unlock the potential of the SM57 for your acoustic guitar recordings.

Audio-Technica AT2020: The Alternative

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a professional-quality studio mic for recording acoustic guitar that comes at the same affordable price, offering superior transient response and a wider dynamic range. It’ll capture even the softest harmonic tap and let you go all out with your rhythm strumming!

Additionally, it works great as a vocal microphone if you’re planning on singing or talking as well. So if you’re looking to buy a new microphone for your home studio, and Phantom power isn’t going to be an issue for your use case, then I recommend you consider the AT2020 instead.

Best for Budget Studio

audio technica at2020 microphone

Rode NT2-A: The Premium Option

If you’re still reading, then I assume you don’t already have an SM57, nor are you looking for a budget microphone to record your sweet guitars with. That’s why I saved the best for the last. I have recommended the Rode NT2-A for vocals before, and I’ll recommend it again here simply because it’s a great studio microphone all around.

I have been using mine for years and I’ve used it mostly on acoustic guitars and vocals in all of my releases. Of all the microphones that I’ve used, Rode offers the best value for money.

Editor's Pick

rode nt2a studio condenser microphone

So Can You Record Acoustic Guitar with Shure SM57? A Comprehensive Summary

Choosing the best microphone for recording acoustic guitar is an essential decision that can significantly impact the quality and character of your sound. The Shure SM57, while not a conventional choice, has shown its potential for capturing distinct tones with proper techniques and adjustments.

This comprehensive guide has explored the Shure SM57’s capabilities, providing insights into mic placement, EQ shaping, blending with other microphones, and avoiding common pitfalls. By embracing the unique characteristics of the SM57 and implementing the strategies outlined, you can unlock a versatile and durable option for your acoustic guitar recordings.

But the journey doesn’t end with the SM57. By considering alternatives like the budget-friendly Audio-Technica AT2020 and the premium Rode NT2-A, you have a wide range of options to fit your specific needs and budget.

Whether recording at home or in a professional studio, understanding your tools is key. The Shure SM57, along with the other microphones discussed, can be a valuable addition to your recording arsenal. Invest the time to experiment and find the sound that fits your musical vision. Your acoustic guitar recordings deserve the attention to detail and the right equipment to truly shine!

calvin with rode nt2-a asmr microphone

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 1 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?