Advice on how to position for tracking at home (ac guitar and vocals)


New member
Hello to everybody.

I would like to track acoustic guitar (steel string) and vocals (baritone like) at home.

I track into the living room and treating it properly it's not an option.

It's 5x6 meters and the lay out is like this:

I'm planning to play the guitar and sing in the area where there is the woman:

should I do it faced in the same direction where the woman is facing - towards the angled bookshelf, or in the opposite direction, towards the center of the room?

Mics: SE8, SP C1, SP TB1, AT 3035

The pc for tracking will be on the right side of the woman, just in front of the bookshelf near the piano.3D.png

Can you hang a duvet or comforter over the bookcase? Just a couple of spring clamps, take it down when you are done. This will help absorb some of the reflections coming from behind you - facing out into the room is the best. I had a similar set up until I made some 2'x4'x4" traps that are easy to move around, store away if needed.
I thought that it would have been better to face towards the angled booshelf,
as I see that all the reflection filters made for tracking vocals are to be put
behind the mic, so that you are singing into an angle (or a rounded one)...

I could try to make a couple of DIY panels with polyester fiber sheets. I can make them 4 to 12cm thick and
cover them with a piece tacked of cloth and ask the wife to add some nice drawing.

But ergonomically, having the tracking PC on my left it wouldn't be practical.

I setup a small rack with all the gear, on top of which there is the pc display 50cm wide too.
For me it would be practical to play in front of the rack with the two mics that I use (neck and bridge)
placed right at the sides of the rack. But that would mean having the thing just 30/40cm in front of the guitar,
and that would create unwanted reflections, I can imagine: what do you think?
Echoing @mjbphotos - You want to be facing away from the corner. You have a good size space so it will be some distance before your voice and guitar reflections get back to the space behind you and reflect into the mic. Put the moving pads, duvet covers or your own dense material behind you in that corner. But, you might get away without. Really, you have to experiment.

I don’t understand at all your concern about having mics in front of the guitar and creating reflections. The distance you place the mics and how you arrange them should be to capture the best sound in the space. Earliest reflections are probably off the floor if a hard surface (cover with a rug) and ceiling, which you can’t do anything about. And, by facing away from the corner the walls’ early reflection points are much closer to the plane parallel to the mic bracket so very little sound energy is hitting there vs the direct sound. You may not even have to mic that close though vocal probably requires it.

You might try just a single mic in the guitar if singing. There’s going to be bleed and more mics don’t lessen that. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment.
The killer feature is a simple one. What do recordings in your space sound like? We're quite good at suggesting fixes for problems, but do you actually have a problem? What I mean is the room - the key features will be the surfaces, the carpets, curtains, people, furniture that trap, reflect and absorb sound. Some folk have wooden floors and hard walls and these sound totally different to deep pile carpet, big leather sofas and bookcases?

If your room is pretty nice sounding when you are in it, how silent is it? Computer fans aircon, noise from outside? A modest room can have minimal impact with close miking and be audible when you mic from further away, so you can adjust distances.

You say "I would like to track ......." have you tried it and don't like it, or are you one who likes to plan in advance? I'd do a recording and have a listen to different distances, mics and locations in the room. If you want second opinions - slap them up so we can hear.
@rob aylestone
I have already tracked a few times and I didn't dislike it but in the last weeks I changed the setup from analog mixer (Mackie 1202 VLZ PRO) + digital recorder (Edirol R4 on an SSD) to a Focusrite 18i20 + Intel NUC 8i5 PC (pratically silent).
The new one gives me some more option for placement so I started thinking if I could improve anything.
But I know I don't have "golden ears" and when differences are subtle I'm always in doubt about which way it suonds better.
I understand how generally sound reflection and diffusion works and that in any room you can end up having resonances that
will add and modify the original sound but my knowledge is still limited so I asked some advice.

Following your advice I have attached two clips I recorded: one singing towards the center of the room and the other in the same
position but singing towards the middle of the cornered bookshelves. I don't hear much difference.

The mic is a Studio Project TB1 (LDC cardioid) and I sang at about 20cm away, slightly off axis to avoid pops.
The room is 3m high and the mic was at about 1.2m from the floor and 1.3m from the corner.

I also have a SP C3 (LDC cardioid/omni/8), an SE8 (SDC, cardioid) and an AKG D5 (dynamic hyper).

I wonder if singing into the back of the mic, the null point of cardioid pattern, would let me "listen" the sound of the room, in a way.



  • Test voice to center.mp3
    1.2 MB
  • Test voice to corner.mp3
    1.2 MB
There's not a lot of difference between the two samples. I hear a bit more room in the "to corner" sample. It just has a touch of slap. I would probably choose the one to the center, and then add a touch of reverb. Either one could be ok with instrumental accompaniment.

To listen to the room, you might try using a single hand clap, or a clicker. Then you can hear (and probably see) the echoes clearly. I once thought of using my entrance hall with carpeted stairs going up, and open entries to two rooms on the side plus a hallway going towards the den/kitchen. I thought it sounded lousy when I sang there. I did a couple of claps, and there were echoes everywhere.

Were the samples gated? The silence between phrases sounds especially quiet.
Echoing @mjbphotos - ...

I don’t understand at all your concern about having mics in front of the guitar and creating reflections. ...
No, my concern is about having the rack in front of the guitar, with the two mics on neck and bridge just at sides of the rack.
I'm afraid that the rack itself can cause powerful reflections towards the guitar and my body.
I usually place the two mics at about 25cm away from the guitar.

Facing rack.png

Were the samples gated? The silence between phrases sounds especially quiet.
Yes, they are gated at -42dB.
The room was very quiet, after I switched off the main PC and closed the door towards the kitchen (fridge and dish washing).
And being almost 1 a.m. there was no traffic outside.
I gated them because the mic itself, or the mic+pre chain, it's a little noisy, even if only at a level where you won't hear it with the other instruments (around -60dB).
Anyway, here's the gate settings:

Gate settings.png

The voice level is about -18dB RMS with a peak of -9dB.
I don’t think trapping the person in a small space makes sense, I’d reverse it and have them a bit further away facing the wall so there is space behind them. The racks on the wall will work as diffusers, but like everything in audio, you try everything, and repeat the successes. I reversed my studio layout to something a bit weird and it was better, so I stayed with weird. Trying things also trains your ears, so some people spotted the gate by listening, but you didn’t when you did it? That suggests you either didn’t notice, or figured it was better? It’s fine, but does suggest you’re over thinking some things and not training your ears? Don’t fall into the common trap of doing things because you read they must be done, always use the info as a guide.

on hear we often disagree on minor details and get quite heated, but we usually are solid on the major things. I like making these up, but you’re trying to decide on which cutting compound to use and haven’t realised the lenses were plastic. You might gather I’ve been trying to fix something this week!
In your second CAD drawing, why do you have some type of table/stand right in front of you? That WILL give you some near reflections, defeating the purpose of facing out into the room.
It is the rack with the audio gear and on top of it there is the display of the pc I'm using for tracking.
Being the engineer of myself, I have to be close to the gear in some way.
That would be the most practical placement but I too was concerned about reflections so I'm trying to find an alternative.
The two cylinders are the mics used Guitar to the corner.pngto track guitar neck and bridge.
Facing towards the corner, as it seems to suggest @rob aylestone, would let me keep the gear rack on my right side, instead of in front of me
and the samples I recorded last night seem to suggest that there are no big differences.
I will make some other test with the guitar and see what comes out.

In one of my studios, it's twenty feet to the buttons from where I record. I used to have an app on my phone but at some point, lost it and I make do with just hitting record and playing a loop until I've done enough takes. Realistically you just need to find the nice sounding place and go with it.
You don't really have to be looking at the monitor while you are recording, do you? You do a test recording or two, and set levels, then record. If you need to see it to get set up, get longer cables, put the thing on wheels, and move it once you've done that. (When I record in our "family room" I use my F8n and can't even see the thing. Works Ok.)

This is approaching the "over thinking" stage, when you could have done a couple dozen tests by now...
Sometimes, while recording, I need to read chord or lyrics (with my symbols for accents, vowel length or melody changes)
and being a little short sighted I can't have the monitor too far away.
I used to use a stand with an A4 paper songbook that with two pages open it is as big a monitor, and that's a reflective surface too.
I will try to separate the gear rack from the computer to be able to use a small table as a stand for the monitor instead of the rack itself.
In this way the only vertical surface would be the monitor and I will be able to keep it at the right distance for my sight, maybe a little angled and on the side.

I've been tracking for more than a year by now (after a gap of few years) so I'm not just thinking it over.
As I said before, I don't trust my ears so much so I'm looking for advice from more expert people and to compare my thinking with theirs.
And at this time of the day, the traffic noise coming from the big window - though sparse in time and filtered by very good specific glass panes,
would not let me do other tests with condensers mics so I have time to think it over and to come here to share my doubts and ask for your advice
without sacrificing tracking time.
Thank you.
Ok, well, I deal with outside noises, and found that it works best to just use cardioid pattern mics with the back aimed at the more likely noise sources, and deal with the rest of room problems from that point on, vs. trying to get the optimal spot and have takes marred by external noises. I.e., the easier it is to just record with "good enough" quality, the more likely it will be that I actually record.

If you have treatment or a large open space behind you, and cardioid mics, the reflections from a music stand should not be something you worry about. String quartets have music stands everywhere :).
When recording acoustic guitar, I'm positioned about 6ft (1.8m) to the left of my DAW and facing away at, roughly, a 45' angle into an empty corner. This works well once I get everything set up but it's tough checking the levels as I can't twist and lean back to see the monitor without pulling away from the mic. I find it's faster to set the input level, record a measure, adjust the level and repeat until it's where I need it. Usually takes only a minute or so.

I've been doing my recordings with a mic late in the day, after most of the road noise dissipates, and I sometimes need to block the window with rockwool insulation to catch the Fire and Police sirens on a busy evening.