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Studio Setup | Studio Gear | Microphones | Mic Techniques | Mixers | Mixing
Multitracks | Common Effects | EQ Techniques | PC | Terminology


Studio Micing Tech.

 When recording there are basically three things to consider;

1) Use a microphone with a frequency response that is suited to the frequency range of the instrument, or filter out the frequencies above and/or below that frequency range.
2) Place the microphone at varying distances and positions until you find a spot where you hear from the studio monitors the desired sound and room acoustics. If you don’t like one position try another spot or try a different microphone. Sometimes an isolation room is the best choice for recording a particular instrument, particularly percussion.
3) In cases of poor room acoustics or too much ambient noise, place the microphone very close to the loudest part of the instrument or isolate the instrument. Follow step one and again experiment with microphone choice, placement and isolation, to minimize the undesirable and accentuate the desirable direct and ambient acoustics.

 Microphone techniques are largely a matter of personal taste or preference. Whatever technique you use that sounds right for that particular sound, instrument, musician, or song "is right". There is no, one perfect way to place your microphones, only suggestions on placement that will get you in the ballpark. There is also no one ideal microphone to use on any particular instrument. Choose and place whatever microphone that gets you the sound you want.

Vocals - The vocals will undoubtedly be the easiest part of the recording process. The voice has a frequency range between 80 to 1100 Hz, with the bass at the low end and a soprano at the upper end, so choose a mic with a frequency response and a presence peak in that range. The vocals can be done from an isolation booth, if available, or added after the music has already been mixed. In the latter, the only sound in the studio will be the singers voice, as the music will only be heard in the singers headset, and control booth monitors.
  Vocals can be done while recording the music if the microphone used is supercardioid and the band is to the rear axis of the microphone to limit crosstalk or bleeding. The singer can also do his job from within the control booth if the rear axis of the microphone is aimed between the speakers, and the speakers are aimed at the null angle of the mic (about 65 degrees on either side of its rear axis).
 It is usually best to aim the microphone just to the side of the singers mouth in order to help eliminate the aggressive consonant sounds like "P, T, D, B", and a windscreen will also help with the "ESS" sounds and the singer,s breath intakes between lyrics.

Acoustic Guitar - Place a mic 6 to 12 inches from where the fingerboard meets the body, usually at the 12th fret. For stereo, add another mic the same distance from the bridge. For more isolation, you can mike 3 inches from the end of the fingerboard. Some guitars have onboard pickups so you can also mix in the direct sound from the internal mic or bridge transducer. Keep the guitar tone controls flat and use roughly a 60/40 split in signal, 60% from external mics and 40% from internals.

Acoustic Bass - Place your mic 6 12 inches away and just above the bridge. Basically similar to acoustic guitar settings above.

Electric Guitar, Bass - For a clean sound, plug the guitar into a direct box. Plug the direct-box output into a mixer mic input. For a distorted sound, plug into a guitar signal processor. Plug the processor output into a mixer line input. Or record direct, and use a guitar-amp modeling plug-in.

Piano, Grand - For a more natural sound place mic 12 inches above middle strings and 8 inches back from hammers and angle slightly toward hammers. Top should be off or fully opened. For a more brighter sound move mic toward treble strings, for more deeper sound, move toward bass strings.
  Surface mounted mics can be placed on the underside of the lid over the lower treble strings and moving farther away from hammers will increase bass and lower treble or brightness. In this method the lid position can also be adjusted to effect the sound.

Piano, Upright - Placing mics over the open top will give a natural sound, placing over treble strings increases brightness, over bass strings gives more bass and fuller tone. For a bright sound that will also pick up hammer attacks, place mic several inches from front with the front cover open on piano, two mics,, one on each side gives a nice balanced tone.

Saxophone - With the saxophone, the sound is fairly well distributed between the soundholes and the bell, and due th the characteristics of the sax, a vocal mic will work quite well placed when place a few inches above the bell and aimed slightly towards soundholes. Aiming more toward the bell will brighten the sound while aiming more toward the soundholes will create a fuller, warmer sound. If you want a bright punchy sound ('50s classic), mount a miniature mic directly on the bell, they sell mics designed specifically for the sax, and they double as stage mics.

Flute - As with the sax they make mics specifically for this instrument, other techniques will have the mic placed a few inches away fro the area midway between the mouthpiece and fingerholes, with this technique a windscreen may be necessary. Placing your mic behind the player and aimed at the fingerboard eliminates the players breath noises.

Harmonica - The mic should be as close as possible to instrument, preferable held in place by your harp players hand. There are several manufacturers of bullet mics out there today, so this is just a matter of players choice.

Brass instruments - The sound from most brass instruments is very directional. Placing the mic off axis with the bell of the instrument will
result in less pickup of high frequencies. The best placement is approximately 2 feet in front of the horns bell, and this will allow enough room for more than one player into the same mic.

Amplifiers - The current trend of micing amplifiers is used to create or re-create the classic sound that comes from individual guitar - amp combos. The sound of a fender telecaster through a vintage tube amp is difficult to achieve with an effects board, it's better and somewhat easier to get this sound straight from the horses mouth, so to speak. The majority of your major music venues now use these techniques of micing the amps and running the sound through the house PA system, this is mostly due to the advances made over the years in PA systems and the desire to give the audiences the truest possible presentation of the bands work.

Guitar and Bass Guitar   - Placing a vocal mic 4-6 inches away from the amp's grill aimed at the center of the speaker cone will give a natural and well balanced presentation of the sound. Too close and the sound gets very bassy, off center creates a dull, mellow sound, and too far away creates a thin, trebly sound, while picking up ambient noise. A good technique that requires 2 mics is to place one mic in front of the cone approximately 2 feet away, and a second mic close to the grill and just off center from the speaker cone. Individually the mics would create a thin or bassy sound respectively, but together they give and excellent natural tone. A condenser mic works best for the 2 foot position, but a good vocal mic will suffice.

Keyboard Amp - Basically the same as guitar set-up unless you are using a Leslie Speaker cabinet. To mic the Leslie speakers place a mic at the top louvres and one at the bottom bass at anywhere from 4 to 12 inches away. For a good stereo effect use 2 mics on top louvres one at each side and pan one mic left, and the other right.

Drums - Drums and percussion are perhaps the hardest to mic due to the fact that, as far as recording is concerned, they are really several instruments in one. Each one having it's own unique characteristcs of sound and volume, and due to these sound levels a great deal of "Sound Pressure" is created. Dynamic mics are really the only safe choice here, as they can handle a great deal of sound pressure. Another factor is that the mics will, for obvious reasons, have to be direction and placed carefully to limit the amount of crosstalk if we are to achievfe a good balance.
 Drums should be isolated from the rest of the studio, basically in their own room designed specifically for this purpose, the room should have a raised, preferably dampened platform for the drums to set on. The reason for the platform is to limit the amount of low frequency transmission through the floor, you may not notice it during recording, but it will be there in the final mix. Dampening can be achieved by placing a few layers of dense foam under the platform supports, the more layers the better.

The Bass Drum frequency averages in the 2.5 - 5 KHz range and it's mic should have a good low frequency response, with placement being inside the drum at roughly 6' from the active head. A boost in the active frequency range would be helpful but this can be EQed later. One technique is to use a common speaker with an 6 - 8" cone diameter as the speaker for this drum. There is really no difference between the action of a speaker and a microphone, and the extended area of the speaker will allow for good pickup of the heavy air mass moved by the bass drum.

The Snare Drum frequency averages at 4 - 6 KHz and the drum is miked on the top head at 2 - 4 inches above the edge of the drum with a cardioid or supercardioid microphone at approximately a 45 degree angle. Try to find a spot that is obviously out of the active playing area of the drummer, and where the direction  properties of the mic will be best served. For example; with the the super cardiod mic, the rear axis has low pickup characteristics, so it's rear axis can be aimed at the cymbals, thereby limiting cymbal noise from bleeding into the snare mic.

The Toms have an attack range similar to the snare drum, but often have more sustain. An individual directional mic on the top head near the edge can be used on each drum and panned to create some stereo imaging. A simpler setup is to place one mic slightly above and directly between two toms.

The Cymbals perform a variety of  duties from percussive exclamation points  in the music to time keeping. The energy is mostly of a high-frequency content. Flat frequency response microphones will give the most accurate reproduction of these sounds. Choosing microphones that also have low frequency roll-off will help to reject some of the sound from the rest of the kit which may otherwise cause problems when the drum channels are being mixed. The common approach to capturing the array of cymbals that a drummer may use is an overhead stereo pair of microphones.

Stereo Mic Set Up - One of the more interesting microphone techniques is stereo miking. This technique uses two or more microphones to create a stereo image which will often give depth and spatial placement to an individual instrument or the overall recording. There are a number of different methods for stereo. The most popular methods used are the Spaced Pair (A/B), the coincident or Near-Coincident Pair (X-Y configuration), and the Mid-Side (M-S technique).

Stereo mic set up 1


Stereo mic set up 2


If you find yourself running low on mics, you can use the following guide for the drums and the above suggested locations: One mic - Use as an overhead. | Two mics - Kick drum and overhead. | Three mics- Kick drum, snare, and overhead. | Four mics - Kick drum, snare, high hat, and overhead. | Five - Kick drum, snare, high hat, tom-toms, and overhead.

Studio Setup | Studio Gear | Microphones | Mic Techniques | Mixers | Mixing
Multitracks | Common Effects | EQ Techniques | PC | Terminology

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