Tommy Emmanuel’s Top Three Tips for Recording Melodic Acoustic Instrumentals

Tommy Emmanuel
Tommy Emmanuel (Image credit: Future/Olly Curtis)

Tommy Emmanuel is famous for his superlative technique and matchless melodic phrasing. Here he gives us three of his top tips on how to capture the perfect instrumental acoustic guitar performance in front of a mic.

1. Find the Right Key

First, you’ve got to find the right key to make the guitar sing. If you did “How Deep Is Your Love” in D, it would sound a bit morbid. As soon as you put it in E, it lifts off and you’ve got all these open notes available.

acoustic guitar and thumb pick

(Image credit: Future)

2. Use the Right Pick

I play with a pick when I’m focused on an intimate, vocal-style melody. My D’Andrea Pro Plec pick is 1.5 millimeters thick, with a rounded tip so you don’t hear the pick, you hear the guitar. It looks like a big beautiful piece of tortoiseshell, but it’s actually made of plastic. When you use a thinner pick with a sharper edge, you hear the pick and then the guitar.

recording acoustic guitar using microphone

(Image credit: Future)

3. Play to the Microphone

When I sit in front of a microphone, I milk every bit of mojo possible out of my guitar sound. I play really gently, and use the microphone to help me be more expressive. There’s a science to maneuvering around the mic, knowing when to move up on it a bit, and when to back off.

Tommy Emmanuel 'Accomplice Series, Vol. 2 (with Richard Smith)' album artwork

(Image credit: CGP)

Buy Tommy Emmanuel’s Accomplice Series Vol. 2 (featuring Richard Smith) here.

Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel, and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at