I am using a budget condenser microphone to record acoustic guitar. The microphone has a Cardoid pattern, and is pointing toward the end of the fingerboard (between the sound hole and where the neck joins the body). I find that I get a good acoustic tone, however the sensitivity of the microphone means that it also picks up the sound of my breathing. This can become noticeable when recording solo guitar pieces where there are no other instruments in the mix to mask the sound, particularly quieter finger style pieces. I don’t ever recall noticing this on professional recordings.

I do tend to look down at what I am playing and have tried a number of things to reduce the effect, for example: - placing a pop-shield between my face and the microphone - wearing a DIY face mask - holding my breath, doesn’t work so well for longer pieces 

Am I just a heavy breather, being too much of a perfectionist or are there some ‘studio tricks’ that people use to minimise breathing sound when recording quieter acoustic instruments?

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    Try to breath in quickly whenever you hit a note or a chord (ninja style). I'm joking of course. I don't really see a solution to that. Try to tone down the sensitivity of the mic just a bit until the breathing goes away. Or try wearing a piece of clothing as a mask while you play. Something that absorbs sound. – Panagiotis Palladinos Nov 2 '12 at 15:05
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    Or if you can't prevent it, get a second mic for your mouth (on a different track) and then use wave-cancellation to remove your breathing from the main track. :-) – Monica Cellio Nov 2 '12 at 18:00
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    I understand that some modern producers want to record everything that is audible during the recording session, especially including breathing, in order to, as fully as possible, catch the live feeling and the artist's work. You could decide to be one of those ;-) – Ulf Åkerstedt Nov 2 '12 at 18:24
  • Try breathing slowly, through a moron-like open mouth (extra points for drooling), and "cold" (deep into your bellows and back out from there, so that a mirror would not mist over). Sort of like noiseless yawning. Of course, you'll need to practice this sort of breathing independently of your playing, and then together with your playing, at first playing stuff that does not distract too much from the breathing (like when you are practising your hands semi-independently). – User8773 Mar 12 '14 at 21:36

There's a couple of things you can try:

  • Angle the microphone a bit downwards. This shouldn't affect the sound too much (which largely depends on the horizontal position, not so much on vertical angle) but slightly reduce the breathing loudness.
  • Use another polar pattern, figure-8 or at least supercardoid. These of course sound notably different (but not necessarily worse), but seperate off-axis noise much better than cardoid.
  • With some stereo setup (which you should definitely use, solo guitar sounds quite narrow when recorded in mono) you have much more possibilities. You might try some kind of AB stereophony with the mics pointing rather far away from your face, that often sounds weird but might be worth a try. What should, again, cancel the breathing greatly are figure-8 mics, which you can nicely use as a Blumlein pair.
  • Place an e.g. acrylic glass screen between your face and the mic. Not a pop screen, that's designed to let as much sound as possible pass – just not low-frequency pop noises, hence the name; but that's not what you have here.
  • The DIY face mask is certainly not the most elegant solution, but I've heard of one other guitarist who uses such a thing in the studio.
  • Probably not desirable musically, but helpful in this regard: try to make the guitar louder, with e.g. heavier strings.
  • Again musically questionable: reverb has sustained high-frequency components, which doesn't appear in a dry guitar track. Such sound will make the breathing less obvious.

Finally, as said by Ulf Åkerstedt, there is nothing in principle bad with breathing noise. Yes, it is audible on many professional recordings, and often gives the music quite a bit of extra expression.


Essentially, you will not be able to easily solve the problem if you are working alone. You need at least two people. While the performer plays the guitar (and breathes!) the second person needs to move the microphone around, or point it in different directions if it is a highly directional microphone, while monitoring the sound coming through the microphone with earphones. When the guitar sounds good and the breathing noise is minimized, you've hit the right spot. Then you can start recording.

Secondly, if the guitar has a built-in internal pickup, the signal coming from that pickup will have no breathing noise in it, although it won't sound exactly the same as putting a microphone on the guitar. So if you carefully mix together one signal from a built-in pickup along with another signal from a microphone, you may be able to get a decent sound with much less breathing noise in it.

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    A builtin pickup is also good as a reference signal for noise-gating: the idea is that you don't mix any of that reference signal into the result, but you use it as a decision-maker of what you'll filter from the "good" signal. Of course, the pickup should still cover a good frequency range for this to be effective. – User8773 Feb 22 '14 at 11:39

Okay...so I didn't change my microphones, but I solved the problem. Here are the steps I took to do so. First, I tried placing a music stand between me and the microphones so that the part that holds the music was above the level of the guitar but in front of my face. It decreased the level of the breathing, but it, by itself, didn't totally work. I then added a DIY dust mask, and, again, that helped to cut down the level of the breathing but didn't totally keep it from being heard on my recording. Finally, and this is going to sound crazy...I added a face shield (you know...one of those things you wear with the clear, plastic shield in front of your face when you're going to use a grinder or a whipper-snipper), and with all three of those things in place there was no longer any breathing that could be heard on the recording. It definitely doesn't look pretty, but it's effective!

  • Are you the same person who asked this question? If so, you should work to merge your two accounts. – Todd Wilcox Jun 22 '18 at 18:51

A cardiod is supposed to block sound from its behind. Even for a budget mic, this should be more or less the case at high frequencies relevant for breathing. So try to mount your microphone in a manner where your mouth is in line behind it while it still points towards your guitar's sound hole as much as possible (you'll likely have to use 45 degrees off-axis rather than straight on-axis but that might work well enough).

Obviously this tactic works better with a hypercardioid where the blocking direction is not at 180° but more like ±135°, allowing you to get good breath suppression while still using on-axis placement for the sound hole. But with a cardioid of reasonable quality (yes, that may be a problem) putting the actual sound source somewhat off-axis should still yield acceptable results.

Off-axis behavior at different frequencies and thus off-axis coloring is where there is much of the difference between painfully and hilariously expensive microphones.

Positioning should be even easier for a figure-8 polar pattern in a studio setting, but if you have an audience, giving it a fully open side beam might be a bad idea: with a hypercardiod, you have more of a chance of blocking out both player's breath as well as the main audience direction.

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