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Microphone choice and placement: At the core of the recording arts

Revisiting Recording Fundamentals

I decided to start getting some of the things that I have learned over the years as a professional recording engineer down on paper (and video). It seems like there is more confusion and lack of direction in the “studio” these days than at any other point in time. The reasons for this could use their own article and video series. I won’t belabor these points however. I would rather be a part of the solution to this problem.

Some people might argue that the art form of recording music (The Recording Arts) is going the way of the Dodo. My view is that any real and useful education in recording must include a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of classic recording technique. What issues did the original lab coat wearing recording engineers (with degrees in electrical engineering) face? How did they overcome these obstacles to capture timeless recordings? Is this hard won knowledge of value to us today?

The limitations of technology for early recording engineers were such that track count was limited. Perhaps one track was at their disposal! Mono. No panning. No blending of elements with faders. The entire recording needed to be captured with ONE microphone. How might this be done to maximize the quality of the recording, blend of instruments, and overall fidelity of the recording. In short, the entire success of the recording came down to mic selection, and mic placement. Because their was only one microphone and one track, capturing many instruments playing at the same time, the following conditions were absolute in importance:

  1. The group could perform the piece TOGETHER, very well.
  2. The individual instruments needed to be placed in the room such that their relative balance was being captured in a way that was pleasing to the recordist.
  3. Proper gain staging was implemented to maximize the fidelity of the recording.

Points 2 and 3 are within the recording engineers domain, and are of paramount importance today, just as they were way back when.


Why is microphone choice and placement of core importance to making recorded music?

  1. Capturing the source: The microphone is the first place that engineers get to shape the tonality of the individual instrument, and ultimately the sum of its parts, the finished song.
  2. Power of intention: Diligently focusing on tone and dynamics at this first stage forces the engineer/producer/artist to clearly define the aural “vision” of the final piece as soon as possible. As such, arrangement and mix work becomes simplified.
  3. An understanding of equalization, compression, and space develop here at the source through placement and mic choice. This enhances our ability to listen for and use these in processes later on, should we need them.
  4. It is SO Much Fun: For both gear-heads and recordists there is nothing more fun than collecting an arsenal of microphones to very easily shape your recording from the beginning. Old, vintage, borrowing, trading, buying, selling microphones can be fun!

  1. Nuemann TLM49 On Cab
  2. Nuemann TLM49 Moving
  3. Nuemann TLM49 18Inches
  4. Sandhill 6011a off axis
  5. Sandhill 6011a moving
  6. Sandhill 6011a Close
  7. Sandhill 6011a Off Cab
  8. Shure SM57 2ft
  9. Shure Sm57 Right on Speaker Straigt-Gain_01-02
  10. Shure SM57 Off Axis
  11. Shure SM57 Moving

Please checkout my video on microphone placement, which illustrates how mic choice and placement impact the sound of  your recording. Please comment below on your findings with mic choice and placement below!

Recommend to a friend

Todd Boaze

June 7, 2016

Do Converters improve the quality of sound captured with External Clocks?

This has been an oft bandied about rumour: get a better clock and your converter will capture sound more accurately, giving you better recordings and more accurate monitoring.
We have sought to shed some light on this controversy by throwing down the gauntlet, and getting some of the most widely regarded clocks in the world, to pair with our Avid HD16 interface, and older 96io Interface.

Watch the video here, and check out our results in our comparison tool:

Recommend to a friend

Josh Lewis

April 8, 2015

Universal Audio Console 2.0 – Time to link up multiple UA devices

I recently had an install job for producer and studio owner Rayito who is not only a frighteningly talented guitar player (more on this later) but a uber talented composer and producer. For his recent projects with Ricky Martin, he wanted MORE UA might, and the ability to combine his separate travel and studio Apollo units (Apollo 16, 8 Quad, and Twin Duo). He was very happy to hear that UA has made combining Apollo products a reality. The use of UA Console 2.0 makes it very easy to monitor processed signals while tracking them! Please see our video with UA representative Jason Salzman on this new exciting stuff.

Apollo Twin Duo as a monitor controller and extra DSP? Not a bad idea!

Recommend to a friend

Josh Lewis

April 3, 2015

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