Today’s feature covers one subtle nuance of capturing your sound: The Microphone. In the recording process, choosing the right microphone and placing it properly is the most critical step. Every step that follows … editing, EQ’ing, mixing, and mastering will be affected, for better or worse. While technology gives us great power to manipulate sound, nothing will totally fix a weak track. In light of this, let’s take a closer look at the mystery of microphones.
First, let me say that for the purpose of this article, I’m going to skip the mathematics … the physics of acoustics and geometry of mic placement are topics that would require more space and time than one article can cover. There are many books devoted to this study, and if you send me an email, I’ll be happy to recommend some of the best ones to you, if you care to put in some deeper study. For today, we will stick to concepts that will aid you in both choosing your microphone and placing it for the best response.
Rule Number 1: There is no right or wrong. Remember that little rule, because nothing is more true, especially when it comes to music. We learn the “rules” of accepted practice to increase our musical skills and vocabulary in order to better express our art and communicate it with others in a way they can relate to. In the end, however, our own unique expression involves letting go of the rules to allow the art to be what it is in itself. When discussing microphones, this means studying the techniques of great engineers, and using them to reach a closer proximity of your own unique sound.
It seems everyone wants a magic recipe for placing mics … distance, angle, etc. If every drum set was exactly the same, every guitar and amp identical, every singer’s voice the same, every piano a nine foot Steinway grand, every performance carrying the same energy and style, and every room acoustically perfect, this might be possible. However, in the real world of infinite varibles, we have to put some effort into finding that elusive perfect sweet spot for each mic.
You have one tool that costs nothing and will always steer you in the right direction … your own ears. Use them and trust them. In our next Sound Advice blog post, we’ll provide some tips for those who want to record their own voices or music!
Until then, go make some good memories!