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> Microphones And Mic'ing For Recording, perhaps all you want to know about guitar mic'ing...
Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 17 2007, 11:27 PM
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Microphones and recording
As elsewhere I’m going to concentrate on mic’ing guitar – if anyone wants information about vocals and/or other instruments shout. I’m also going to try to keep the physics and maths down to a minimum.

Also – although I mention a couple of specific mics don’t see that necessarily as a recommendation – they’re ones that either I use a lot and/or are common. Mics are like guitars – try lots and see which work for you. IF I had the money I’d buy a Neumann KMS – sadly I have no money though.

There are many different types of microphones that are commonly available but despite this they may be classified in several distinct groups: dynamic and capacitor. In addition to classifying by type, microphones also have different filtering patterns – omni-directional or unidirectional (cardioid). So what are the main differences between these types and patterns and how might it relate to recording guitars?


Types
Dynamic microphones, for instance the Shure SM58, are usually good, robust all round general microphones. They are used widely in live venues and also for recording instruments, like drums and guitar amps, that can produce high sound pressure levels. A dynamic mic contains a small plastic film diaphragm attached to a small coil of wire suspended in a magnetic field. A sound makes the diaphragm vibrate and the coil then moves in the magnetic field producing an electric current that can then be amplified.

The big advantages of a dynamic mic are low cost, robustness and the ability to cope with sudden high sound levels. The disadvantage however is that the sound that is being recorded has to more both the diaphragm and the electric coil. The mass of the coil adds to the inertia of the system and this restricts the frequency range that can be recorded. (Frequency is the number of cycles of a wave per second – higher frequencies means more cycles per second. A high inertia diaphragm/coil just simply can’t move fast enough to produce high frequencies.) A second disadvantage is that dynamic mics are not very efficient. A lot of amplification is required to produce a signal large enough to record. As you increase the gain/amplification you also generally increase the amount of noise in the signal. Dynamic mics as such usually have to be put very close to the sound source that is being recorded and work best for loud rather then quiet sounds.

One different form of dynamic microphone that has started to become fashionable again is the ribbon. Here the diaphragm and coil are replaced by a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field. Ribbon mics are renowned for their smooth and detailed sound. However they generally are quite fragile and cost considerably more then a conventional dynamic mic.

Capacitor mics, for instance Rode NT1A and AKG C3000 condensers, are often preferred by recording studios because they offer a wider frequency range and more accuracy for recording. In a capacitor mic is a pair of conducting plates, one fixed and the other acts as a moving diaphragm. The distance between the plates changes when the diaphragm vibrates and this causes the capacitance to vary. If a fixed electrical charge is applied to the capacitor an electrical signal will be produced that accurately represents the vibration of the diaphragm, and thus the recorded sound.

The diaphragm is often a thin gold-coated plastic film that is much lighter (and more delicate) then the diaphragm and coil of a dynamic mic. This lightness result in a system that is able to record higher frequencies, including high order harmonics, above and beyond the human hearing range. Small diaphragm capacitor mics (1/2 inch or smaller) produce a very accurate recording whilst large diameter ones (1 inch and over) produce a warm, often flattering sound. The lightness of the film however also results in it being quite delicate and because of this capacitor mics are not as well suited as dynamic mics for recording high sound pressures.

Capacitor mics produce a small electrical signal that has to be amplified via a special, usually in-built, pre-amp. They also need a polarizing voltage to work – sometimes referred to as ‘phantom power’. ‘Phantom power’ – usually found on mixing consoles and some audio cards - can only be supplied by a balanced source and cable – unbalanced inputs and standard guitar jacks are not suitable. The pre-amp and ‘phantom power’ requirements generally mean that capacitor mics are more expensive then their dynamic counterparts. However they are also more sensitive and more able to capture high-frequency detail.

One further type of capacitor mike is the tube mic (this also differs from the others as they are solid state FET but that’s a different story.) Tube mics require an output transformer and usually come with their own power supply – no phantom power needed. The exception here are tube mics sometimes called ‘starved circuit’ where a high voltage tube is deliberately run at a reduced voltage. Tube mics are supposed to deliver a more musical sound and can produce a nice saturated/musical distortion if overloaded ( FETs in contrast will sound harsh)


Patterns
An omni-directional microphone works in principle as a pressure transducer and will pick up sound from any direction. Technically omni-directional mics are the most accurate but can often pick up unwanted sounds. They work best in sound proofed venues where a single source is recorded – for instance a solo singer or guitar.

For recordings where there is more then one source a cardioid microphone pattern may be best because these are more directional. Cardioid mics work principly in terms of pressure gradient and as such are usually least sensitive from behind and most sensitive on-axis. (A Rode NT1A actually has a small gold dot on the body to indicate which way to point it at the sound source.) Cardioid mics often suffer form a phenomena called the ‘proximity effect’. This is a low frequency boost that occurs if a cardioid mic is placed very close to the sound source. The effect is minimized on some mics by applying a low frequency cut – some cardioid mics offer a range of filters to achieve this.

One other pattern is the multi-pattern mic that allows you to switch between specific patterns, for instance figure of eight (where on-axis is the same directly in front and directly behind the mic but the sides are ‘tuned’ out). Figure of eight multi-pattern mics can be particularly useful when recording a solo vocalist with acoustic guitar.


Recording an electric guitar
From the discussion above we know that a dynamic mic is robust and able to handle high sound pressure levels but may lack some high frequency response. A capacitor mic meanwhile should give a detailed sound with lots of high end but may lack some low end and cannot be placed too close to a guitar amp. One way to record an electric guitar then is to use both mics in such a way as to use their strengths to produce a rounded guitar recording.

A dynamic mic (ie a Shure SM58) can be placed directly in front of a guitar amp cabinet, right up to the speaker cone. This is called close mic’ing. A capacitor mic (ie a Rode NT1A) can then be placed further away from the amp and slightly off axis in relation to the amp’s speaker cone.


To start.
Turn off phantom power on your mixing console/audio source (nb you can damage a capcitor mic if you plug in an XLR lead that already has ‘phantom power’). Fit the capacitor mic in its shock mount (this will help isolate it from any unintended bumps or bangs in the guitar stand) and attach the XLR cable to the mic and the mic input and the shock mount to a mic stand. Once the mic is plugged in you can then turn on phantom power and allow the mic to warm up for at least 15 seconds.

Place the mic approximately 12 inches from the amp’s speaker cabinet with the mic on-axis with the cabinet. If there is one speaker the mic should be positioned slightly off center in relation to the speaker cone. If there are two or more speakers then position the mic so that it is orientated more to one speaker then the others. If you place the mic centrally between speakers you will get a weaker sound.

Set the input level as described in the lesson on ‘Setting up a project in Reaper’. Put on a good pair of stereo headphones and connect them to your desk and you should be able to hear your guitar amp through them. Turn up the headphone volume to a comfortable level -not too loud though as you need to protect your hearing! Now move the capacitor mic until you find its sweet-spot for the guitar amp. (If your recording room is big enough you can move the mike as far as 6 or more feet from the cabinet. Often 3 foot/1 metre works well.) At the sweet-spot it should sound more ‘airy’ and open’ then in other positions.

Now try it with your monitors just to make sure that you’ve found the best position. Take some time as time spent here getting a good input sound will save you having to re-record a poor sounding take. Once you are happy you can then set up the dynamic mic to add more depth and some grit to the sound.

Attach the dynamic mic to its clip or mount and fix to a stand. Plug the mic in to the desk – remember that it doesn’t need phantom power. Place the mic close to the speaker cabinet – say about 1-2 inched away from the grill cloth – and slightly of axis, that is at an angle, but pointing towards the center of a speaker. If you point an on-axis mic at the center you may overdrive the mic. Pointing the mic at an angle lets it pick up more bass but without the treble becoming harsh.

Note – you can experiment with the position of the capacitor mic. If you move it further away from the speaker you may get some natural reverb and ambience. If you place the near field dynamic mic further back from the cabinet then a rule of 3:1 might be best – place the capacitor mic 3 times further away from the cabinet then the dynamic mic. If you have an open backed speaker cab also try placing the capacitor behind rather then in front of the cab.

For single mics – UK heavy rock is often recorded by a dynamic mic for a darker and heavier sound whilst a more US rock sound is brighter and so favours a capacitor. In either instance reduce the amp’s distortion a little from your preferred setting – you will get a much better sound with much more detail. If you’re picking up too much bass no matter where you place the mics then either get the speaker cabinet off the floor or tilt in backwards at an angle.


Mic'ing an Acoustic
Acoustic guitar is often best recorded using a small diaphragm capacitor mic to reduce room colouration. Try placing it about 2-3 feet away (approximately 1 meter) and experiment with it pointing on-axis at the sound hole, at the body and at the 12th fret. If you move the mic in to close to the guitar you will get the ‘proximity effect’ and the guitar will sound boomy. Bringing it out makes the sound brighter. (There is a mathematical principle involved here – basically the mic should be placed at a distance that is at least equivalent to the vibrating section of the instrument. In this case it’s the length of the body of the acoustic guitar – about 2 feet.)

If the acoustic is a solo instrument – ie not as background for a singer – use a pair of cardioids set in an x-y pattern (capsules nearly touching and with an angle of about 110 degrees between the mics) and placed 2 feet or so back. Note – the mics for x-y must be identical or your stereo image will wander about!

If the acoustic is backing a singer whose close to the guitar place the cardioid again about 2 feet back but lower then the guitar and pointing up at it. Put the vocal mic high and as close to the singer as you can (proximity effect on vocals can actually help by adding bass and therefore depth to the vocal.).

-------------------------------------------------------
That's all for now. I'll try to get on and do the 'your first recording' asap and then go back to effects - I need to cover gates and time delay plus combinations of effects and tricks with effects. After we covered the basic ground in using Reaper we can then move on to busses and stuff and then move forward to automation.


Cheers,
Tony

Editorial note: published 2007-10-29


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Chris Evans
post Nov 5 2007, 11:44 PM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Oct 17 2007, 10:27 PM) *
Microphones and recording
As elsewhere I’m going to concentrate on mic’ing guitar – if anyone wants information about vocals and/or other instruments shout.

Editorial note: published 2007-10-29


Hi Tony,

Love some info on recording vocals please, I struggle so much with this and end up doublin etc

cheers m8

Chris


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Andrew Cockburn
post Nov 6 2007, 12:10 AM
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QUOTE (Smells @ Nov 5 2007, 05:44 PM) *
Hi Tony,

Love some info on recording vocals please, I struggle so much with this and end up doublin etc

cheers m8

Chris


Well I'm not tony, but here are a few quick tips (and I;'m sure Tony will fill in after!)

1. Get a decent mic - for studio recording get a capacitor mic, avoid using a dynamic mic. UP to a point, the extra is really worth it, even up to and inclusing tube mics if you can afford it. I am not sure where dimishing returns set in, but I was as blown away by the difference between a Tube mic vs a decent capacitor mic as I was between that same capacitor mic and dynamic mics.

2. Use a pop shield - this is essential for keeping popping and sibilance under control

3. Learn microphone technique - good singers instinctively pull back from the mic when singing a loud note - reduces proximity effect and helps to keep the levels under control without requiring vast amounts of compression, and therby increasing the noise floor

4. Be aware of your acoustic space - if you are recording in a boxy room, the vocal will sound boxy and you can't easily eq it out. Either treat the room, make a vocal booth or use something like a Reflexion Filter to tame the acoustics. No ambience is better than bad ambience (since you can add ambience with reverb plugins). Good ambience (if you have a really good sounding room) can be better than no ambience, but it does also limit your mixing options so be sure you really want that sound.

Thats it!


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Chris Evans
post Nov 6 2007, 01:00 AM
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Thanks Andrew

I had a feeling that it may come up in a reply as I`ve been using a dynamic mic and thought this may be one of the problems I`d been having with vocals, being a cheap skate was desperatly hoping someone would have a neat trick to overcome this biggrin.gif

Good point about the actual recording space, something I hadnt thought of before to be honest

Many thanks for your advice


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 6 2007, 02:05 AM
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All that Andrew says Smells.

A couple of additions with vocals - try different positions of the mic in relation to your mouth - in line, above and pointed toward/away, below and pointed towards/away. These can have an affect on how much sibliance and nasalness and pops and higher frequencies you pick up: straight on axis ups the high frequencies; putting the mic up above the mouth can reduce the amount of explosive pops. For distance - dynamic less then 6 inches away from your mouth, capacitor mics about 6-18 inches. Distance can affect low frequencies and mic angle high frequencies. You're often better off spending time getting the mic position for vocals sorted before recording then trying to correct with eq later.

If you're having problems where the vocals cover a large dynamic range and so some is a near whisper and others clip then multi-track record it. Use one mic and one channel to catch the whisper quiet stuff, another for the majority and a third with attenuation to get the shouting/screaming wink.gif . You can then mix them down into a single take and cut out any clipping. Helps by the way to set the first mic close and the third at a distance cool.gif .

I'd recommend recording any vocals with a flat eq setting - you can always eq at mixing if you have to. Vocals can take some light compression during recording but keep in mind that whatever you add at this stage is hard to remove later. Use a good compressor though if you do.

Apart from a good mic a good mic preamp can help a lot. Also a diy vocal booth.

With an omni directional mic if you cup your hand over the protective grill you'll turn it essentially into a uni-directional mic and up the feedback you get. So as well as a pop shield and stand if you hold the mic learn where to hold it.

You can thicken up a vocal track by doing additive Mid-Side encoding of a mix - not really space here to go in to this but remind me and I'll put it into a proper lesson as it can be good for thickening up a guitar sound as well. M-S isn't the same as doubling.

Cheers,
Tony


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Andrew Cockburn
post Nov 6 2007, 02:07 AM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Nov 5 2007, 08:05 PM) *
If you're having problems where the vocals cover a large dynamic range and so some is a near whisper and others clip then multi-track record it. Use one mic and one channel to catch the whisper quiet stuff, another for the majority and a third with attenuation to get the shouting/screaming wink.gif . You can then mix them down into a single take and cut out any clipping. Helps by the way to set the first mic close and the third at a distance cool.gif .


Blow me, that's cunning! Thanks for the tip Tony.


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Chris Evans
post Nov 6 2007, 04:55 AM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Nov 6 2007, 01:07 AM) *
Blow me, that's cunning! Thanks for the tip Tony.


My thoughts too , only you can leave out the blowing me part if ya like laugh.gif

what an excellent idea! A friend of mine was saying about that exact problem, struggling to mix quiet and shout/scream vocals, wot a gr8 solution!

Would you also say (as well as a flat eq) to record the vocals flat, and add in effects afterwards, I get what sounds like a nice sound, reverb, bit of delay etc but doesnt enhance the vocal track in the mix (if you know what I mean?)

thanks m8

Chris


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Pavel
post Nov 7 2007, 09:34 PM
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QUOTE (Smells @ Nov 6 2007, 04:55 AM) *
My thoughts too , only you can leave out the blowing me part if ya like laugh.gif


laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif

That's a pretty good solution. Hehe - record the different parts separately - pretty cool approach.


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Pavel
post Nov 27 2007, 11:20 PM
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Tony: i finally found a good mixer to start with and it is not expensive so i can afford that one - it's 400$ straight, Behringer Eurorack UB1222FX-PRO. I know Behringer is not the best manufacturer but i really want something to start with and dive in the world of this stuff so i think i will get this one pretty soon.

It has balanced hi-Z inputs and even a function of switching from low impedance to high impedance (hi-Z).

Here, please check it out: http://www.behringer.com/UB1222FX-PRO/index.cfm?lang=eng

I think it has all i need to get to know mixers and mixing in general. I'm really a n00b in this stuff and i really want to learn it because i'm pretty sure i'll be recording my music alone at home and having a Recording Dictionary like you is a great advantage wink.gif Thanks for these lessons!

Add-on: i'm sure i will also get on micing once i get a small box where i can put my amp with microphones to get best sound. For now i'll try it without mics and play around with direct input.

This post has been edited by Pavel: Nov 27 2007, 11:22 PM


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Nov 27 2007, 11:38 PM
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Congrats Pavel,
I've always liked Behringer - real value for money gear imo - and the desk looks great.

There are a few comments around that question the build quality of Behringer but I've never had problems and don't personally know anyone who has. The on board effects looks like a good bonus as well smile.gif . Have fun with it Pavel and shout if you have any questions mate.

Cheers,
Tony


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Pavel
post Nov 27 2007, 11:48 PM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Nov 27 2007, 11:38 PM) *
Congrats Pavel,
I've always liked Behringer - real value for money gear imo - and the desk looks great.

There are a few comments around that question the build quality of Behringer but I've never had problems and don't personally know anyone who has. The on board effects looks like a good bonus as well smile.gif . Have fun with it Pavel and shout if you have any questions mate.

Cheers,
Tony


Thanks a lot man! I'm glad you never had problems with it, gives me more confidence in the piece! smile.gif I'll post some pics of it once i order it and get it home! smile.gif I'm so glad it has hi-Z inputs, it's really affordable and now i feel like a kid with a candy biggrin.gif


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Andrew Cockburn
post Nov 27 2007, 11:51 PM
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Hey Pavel, I have a very similar mixer, but mine is rackmount - great value for the money, I have found Behringer to be honest products. Not the best by any means, but definitely worth the money, and they don't make any false claims. I think you will be very happy with it!


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Pavel
post Nov 28 2007, 01:42 PM
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Andrew, can you post a pic of your mixer? I would really like to know how your "studio" looks like - i mean how did you get all of your gear connected! smile.gif

This post has been edited by Pavel: Nov 28 2007, 01:43 PM


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Jeff
post Nov 28 2007, 06:49 PM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Nov 5 2007, 08:07 PM) *
Blow me, that's cunning! Thanks for the tip Tony.


huh.gif laugh.gif

Here is a good site that I ran into yesterday. It is a subscription site, but there are some freebie videos that show how to mic an acoustic guitar.

http://www.howaudio.com/html/Video.aspx?mtid=AGMT
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Muris Varajic
post Dec 7 2007, 10:06 PM
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I missed many things while I was on the road,
awesome thread Tony,many great tips indeed!! smile.gif


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Feb 10 2008, 06:49 PM
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Excellent tuts man. Keep rockin! smile.gif


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Nemanja Filipovi...
post Feb 11 2008, 03:45 PM
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yeah..this is so usefull staff....thanks...


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fused
post Apr 1 2008, 05:13 PM
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Really informative post. Probably the most useful information about Mics that I've run across in a long long time.
Thanks man...


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Apr 3 2008, 05:00 PM
Post #19


Moderator - low level high stakes
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From: Espania - Cadiz province
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Thanks guys - glad you found it helpful smile.gif .

Cheers,
Tony


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audiopaal
post Apr 3 2008, 05:07 PM
Post #20


Competitions Coordinator - Up the Irons
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This is amazing, thanks a lot smile.gif
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