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#1 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 06:54 AM

This section will cover some basic microphone techniques. I’m not even going to attempt to go into how each type of mic works as there is plenty of info on mics already available that go into much more detail than I could. So I’ll just stick to some very basic uses of the different microphone types and I’ll give some mic recommendations as well. The types of mics that will be mentioned in the lesson are dynamic, condenser, and ribbon. The dynamic and condenser are the two most commonly used.

WARNING! Ribbon mics can be easily damaged by blasts of air and are exteremly fragile. The mic should come with a list of warnings and instructions for proper care, Do NOT ignore these warnings!!! Ribbon mics can be very easily be damaged (even by closing the mic case's lid to fast... seriously!) so it is very important to follow the warnings!

This tutorial will give a few basic pointers but it is important that you experiment a lot with the mic placement as moving the mic just a little bit can made a dramatic change in the sound. So take these ideas as a general starting point and start tweaking.

Contents:
Guitar Amp
Acoustic Guitar
Vocals
Bass Amp
Drums
LINK - A Beginners Guide to Microphones
Mic Recommendations

Guitar Amp

The most common mic to use on guitar amps the dynamic mic, however the ribbon mic is probably best sounding mic for guitar amps. Ribbon mics are very fragile and can be damaged easily, so they won't last long on the road while gigging and touring, but they are great in the studio where they won't be getting slammed around like live gear often does.

When placing the mics it is often beneficial to use more than one mic at a time. If you have the inputs to record multiple mics, put up several mics so you have a lot of options during mixing. You can even change mics and blend them at different parts in the song to change the guitar sound. For starters the dynamic mic usually goes right up on the speaker cone (just inches away). Experiment with the mic placement here as moving the mic just a little bit will drastically change the sound. In general you do not want to point it at the very center of the speaker cone. This area is generally way to bright and won’t sound too good. Pointing it towards the outer edge of the cone will give a much smoother and less harsh sound. So again experiment with where you place the mic on the cone and also the distance from the cone as well. Putting two mics up close about the same distance away will give you the option to mix your guitar in stereo by panning these two mics opposite each other.

Ribbon mics usually have high SPL levels so they can take the extremely loud volume from guitar amps. The thing that destroys ribbon mics is "blasts" of air (ex. blowing into the mic). The guitar amp doesn't move air as much as something like a bass amp or a kick drum, so you should be fine to use the ribbon mics up close to a guitar amp. I haven't tried this personally, but I've read about many people who have used their ribbons close to an amp with no problems. If in doubt, put a pop filter/wind screen between the mic and the amp.

Condenser mics can also be used on guitar amps. They can be used up close and they also work great further back away from the amp as a “room mic” to pick up a little more of the natural reverb in the room in addition to the up close mic on the speaker cone. This may be less desirable if you’re room acoustics are really bad... like mine. :thumbdown


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#2 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:27 AM

Acoustic Guitar

For acoustic gutiars condensers and ribbons are the two best mic types. Dynamics do not generally do acoustics justice. They just don't have the quick response and sensitivity that the condensers and ribbons do. Condensers work great because they are typically very bright sounding and for acoustic guitar that can be a very good thing. Ribbons are more smooth and darker, so using both can be an excellent combination.

There are lots of options for miking acoustic guitars, but in general you want to avoid pointing the mic directly into the sound hole. This is usually very "BOOMY" and doesn't have a very good sound. It never hurts to try it, but there are a lot of ways to get much better tone out of an acoustic guitar.

The XY Configuration is shown below:

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The XY configuration is used to reduce phase issues if a listener listens to your songs in mono because the mic capsules are close together and the sound waves hit both mics at the almost exactly the same time, as opposed to spacing the mics where sound waves will reach one mic before the other. You can increase/decrease the angle of the mics to increase/decrease the stereo width of the instrument.

The XY method can work quite well on acoustic guitar, point one mic towards the fretboard and the other mic towards the body of the guitar. One mic will pick up the warmer sound from the body of the guitar and the other will pickup the brighter sounds from the fretboard. Experiment with the angle of the mics and the distance from the guitar. Closer will have a more direct sound with less room sound and bassier due to the proximity effect (which is explained here), while farther back will pick up more room sound and will have less bass. The XY configuration is often used with small diaphram condensers, but it can be used with any type of mic. Generally you want these two mics to be a stereo pair (in other words, two of the exact same mic) so that they both have the same frequency response.

Spacing the mics out is also a great way to mic acoustic guitar. A very good method when spacing the mics is to positioned one mic in front of and point it directly at the 12th fret of the guitar and position the other down towards the bottom of the guitar body. You can also experiment with angling the mics, for example instead of having the mic pointed directly at the 12th fret, point it back more towards the sound hole. Some good mic combinations is to use both a small diaphram condeser at both the 12th fret and the guitar body, use a large diaphram condenser at the 12th fret and a small diaphram condenser at the guitar body, and a large or small diaphram condenser at the 12th fret and a ribbon mic at the guitar body. Since the ribbon mic is smooth and darker sounding, putting it at the body of the guitar with the warm low sound is going to be a good match. :) Of course you can use whichever mic you like, this is only a few different suggestions to try.

Another miking technique is the "over the shoulder" method. One mic is placed at the the 12th fret as described above. The other mic is placed on a boom mic stand behind the guitarist, then mic is brought over the guitarist's right shoulder (for a right handed guitarist) and placed right next to the guitarist's ear pointing down at the guitar. This way the mic will pickup the same sound that the guitarist "hears". For this using any of the mic configurations (for choosing which mic goes at the 12th fret or at the body of the guitar) will be a great starting point.

The acoustic has a wide range of tones depending where you place the mics on the guitar body, so try a lot of different mic placements (and mics) until you get the sound you want.


Here is a link to another tutorial on miking acoustic guitars (with very good diagrams):
How to Record An Acoustic Guitar


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#3 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:27 AM

Vocals

The standard mics for vocals are condensers and dynamics. As a general rule, condenser mics will sound a lot brighter than dynamic mics... This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the sound you are going for. Condensers are also a lot more sensitive so they will pick up a lot more of the rooms sound (reflections from the sound bouncing off the walls). If your room has bad sounding acoustics, it will be picked up by the mic. Dynamics on the other hand are more mellow and darker sounding. A dynamic mic will likely sound “muffled” in comparison to a condenser. It won’t pick up as much of the room sound because they aren’t as sensitive as the condenser mics. Ribbon mics are very sensitive but a lot darker than condensers. As mentioned above, ribbon mics can be easily damaged by blasts of air, so be sure to use a good pop filter with ribbon mics. When choosing a mic, try to audition as many different types of mics as you can before buying so you can find a mic that will fit the sound you want.

A great vocalist will typically have great mic control as well. They will know when to get up close to the mic and when to back away. So the mic placement will change as they get louder or softer because they will change their distance from the mic or even turn their head away from the mic if they're really belting it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with the singers we will get in our little "home studios" (or even when recording ourselves ;)).... In this case we will usually just have to set a certain distance and angle of the mic and let the singer go nuts. :D

There are a lot of different techniques depending on the style of song and they type of vocals you want to fit with the song. Soft songs will usually call for "intimate" vocals with the singer just a few inches away from the mic to get a soft and "breathy" quality to the vocals. Whereas rock will by farther back so it's not so breathy when they are belting our the vocals. Putting the mic at an angle to the vocals (so their voice isn't hitting the capsule head on) can also change the sound and reduce plosives.

Plosives are are an important factor to keep in mind when recording vocals. Plosives are large blasts of air caused by certain consonants, such as "p", "t", "k", etc. So instead of getting an even sound when singing the word "pop", it may come out like PoP with the "p" sounds louder than the "o" sound due to the greater blast of air this consonant produces. Good miking techniques, a pop filter, and a good vocalist can help drastically reduce these plosives. Sometimes though, the plosives will have to be removed later with the help of de-essing plugins or even editing the plosives by hand.

Another thing to keep in mind is proximity effect, which is the increase in bass as the mic gets closer to the source. This can be used to your advantage because if you are going for a warm and bassy sound, then placing a mic up close to the source is one way to achieve this. Different types of mics will have different amount of proximity effect (and some not at all) depending on the microphone pattern, so experimenting with different mics and placement is necessary.


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#4 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:28 AM

Bass Amp

Bass guitar is easiest to record using a DI box or running off of the line output of an amp, but you can also mic a bass cab. It's usually best to mic the cab in addition to taking the direct out of the amp, because the bass usually sounds very good when run direct. So having the direct output will allow more options during mixing. The mics for bass cabs are usually a larger sized dynamic mics and are specifically made for bass instruments.

As with guitar amps, pointing the mic at the middle of the speaker cone will give a very bright sound. Generally with guitar this won't turn out to well, but for bass it can work if you want a bright attack sound from the strings to mix in with the direct output from the amp. Pointing the mic towards the outer edge of the speaker cone will give a more mellow and smoother sound. This when combined with the direct out can also sound very good, so it just depends on the sound you are going for. As always, experimenting is the key.


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Tekker's Lessons on GfB&B: Music Theory, Recording, and General Guitar

#5 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:28 AM

Drums

Drums can be a challenge to mic because of its large size and the variety of sounds the drum set can make. It is often helpful to break the drum set up into sections: overheads (cymbals), toms, snare drum, and kick drum.

Overheads are almost always a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics. These type of mics are excellent for cymbals and can also be used as the base for the rest of the kit since they will also pick up the toms and snare drum.

The overheads can be placed close together in an XY configuration (shown above). This configuration can be placed out in front of the drum set with the mics pointed at the drumset, or it can be place directly above the set with the mics pointing downward (but still in the XY position).

Another option for drum overheads is to space the mics out by putting one mic over towards the ride cymbal on the right side of the set and putting the other mic by the hi-hat on the other side of the set. I prefer this method and I try to get point the mics right at the ride and hihat and away from the crash cymbals. The crash cymbals are by far the loudest cymbals so they will be picked up clearly, but with good mic placement you can pick up a lot more of the ride and hihat without the crash cymbals over powering them. I like to do a lot of "fancy" stuff on the ride and hi-hat, so I always want these cymbals to be very clearly heard.

Toms are usually miked with dynamic mics but can also be miked with large diaphram condensers. The mics are usually placed just inches away from the drum head and out of the way so the drummer doesn't smack them while playing.... (I've done that on more than one occasion. :D) Depending on how big the drum kit is and the gear you have available, you may be able to put a mic on each tom or you may have to use one mic in between two toms. I generally use the latter, I have 4 toms on my drumset and I like to place one mic in between the two high toms and one inbetween the two low toms.

Snare drum is pretty much always miked with a dynamic. As with the toms the mic is just inches away from the drum head and usually angled sideways just pointing down slightly.

Another thing I like to do on snare drum is to put a second mic on the bottom of the snare drum to mic the snares. Position the mic directly over the snares about an inch away and pointing straight up at the snares. Another option to do with the second mic is to point it at the side of the drum (pointing at the middle of the drum shell) for a warmer sound... I personally like doing the snare bottom, but this is another option to try.

Experimenting with placement and angle can make a big difference in sound though, so spend some time with it. The snare drum is a very important sound to get right (as well as the kick drum) and it is worth taking the time to get it right.

kick drum is usually miked up close with a dynamic mic. If there is a hole in the front drum head, then this mic can be used with a boom stand to position the mic inside the drum pointed at the spot (or just slightly off center) where the beater hits the drum head. Or you can stick the mic right at the hole in the drum head. If the front drum head is removed, then you can put the mic inside the drum right by the beater (as described above). If you can't put the mic inside the drum and there is no hole in the drum head, then you can put the mic on the outside drum head OR put the mic on the other side where the kick pedal is and mic the beater from the ouside instead of from inside the drum.

Another option is to add a large diaprham condenser and put if a few feet back in front of the bass drum (in addition to the dynamic mic up close to the drum). This will also pick up more of the drum set, but it can sound very good. You can even construct a "tunnel" out of couch cusions or even other drums that aren't being used exctend to extend the bass drum and block out the rest of the drumset. Since these mics will be different distances from the kick drum you may get some phasing problems. If so, then you will need to line them up in your recoding program.

I am a big fan of putting lots of mics on the drum set (I generally use 7 or 8 mics) because it offers a lot more options during mixing (this will however require a soundcard with 8 inputs). Also, just because you record it doesn’t mean you have to use it in the mix. If you later decide that you don’t need a couple of the mics (such as the tom mics) then you can mute them and not use them in the final mix. But it is always better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. ;)


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Tekker's Lessons on GfB&B: Music Theory, Recording, and General Guitar

#6 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:28 AM

LINK - A Beginners Guide to Microphones

The following link is from recording.eq.com and it provides a more detailed introduction to microphones. It goes into some of the info I didn't include in my post, such as explanations on how each type of microphone works as well as the different microphone pickup patterns. Highly recommended reading! :)
A Beginners Guide to Microphones


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Tekker's Lessons on GfB&B: Music Theory, Recording, and General Guitar

#7 OFFLINE   Tekker

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 07:44 PM

Mic Recommendations

There are so many good but inexpensive mics out now that it's impossible to cover all of them. So this will be a simple and short list just to give a few ideas.

Shure SM7b ($350) - It has been said that this is the best mic ever made at any price. There is quite an impressive list of professional recordings that have been recorded using the SM7 line, the biggest one being Michael Jackson's Thriller which used the original SM7. And according to this page on the Shure website the newer models are essentially exactly the same mic (with some improvements made to the newer models for reducing noise and the addition of a larger windscreen). Some others include Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, Los Lonely Boys... there is a long list of professionals who use this mic. The fact that so many big name professionals choose to use a mic in the "home studio price range" of under $400, when they could use literally ANY mic in any price range they want clearly shows how good this mic is.

Shure SM57 ($100): is an industry standard for guitar amps, snare drum and toms, and even works on vocals. It sounds pretty good and it is built like a tank so it can take a lot of abuse. It is work horse both in the studio and especially for live gigs and sounds good on a lot of different instruments.

Marshall MXL 603 ($200): small diaphram condensers that get excellent reviews. The $199 price is the price for TWO mics, so this is a very inexpensive mic that works extremely well. These will work wonders on your acoustic guitar!

Here are a few inexpensive large diaprham condensers that get excellent reviews.
Studio Projects B1 ($100)
Marshall MXL V67G ($110)
Marshall MXL V69ME ($300) - I have this mic and it is very nice! It is a "tube mic" (it actually has a tube inside of it).
ADK Hamburg ($300)

ShinyBox ribbon mics get excellent reviews. I recently got a Shinybox 23 ($165) but haven’t been able to try it out on a guitar amp yet (I only have a cheesy little practice amp) but I have tried it on vocals and wow is it ever nice! I can’t wait to get this mic on a nice amp. :)

Red5 Audio RVD1 ($155 - according to the google currency exchange calculator) is a lesser known bass/kick drum mic, but a VERY good one. The AKG D112 ($200) is a very popular mic for kick and bass, but I have both of these mics and I much prefer the RVD1.... And it's cheaper too!

Red5 Audio RVK7 Drum Kit Set - ($400 - according to the google currency exchange calculator) I have this mic set and these Red5 Audio mics are incredible mics for the price. They beat out similar priced mics and mics costing a little more as well. I have used many other popular mic brands like AKG, Shure, ElectroVoice, Radio Shack... (uh, I won't go there ;)) for recording drums and the Red5 Audio mics are by far my favorite. My sure SM57 and AKG kick mic together cost almost as much as the entire Red5 Audio mic kit and neither of them ever get used on drums anymore.


'Cause I don't wanna read the book, I'll watch the movie.

Tekker's Lessons on GfB&B: Music Theory, Recording, and General Guitar





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