Applying a variety of microphone techniques can help you to expand the range of sounds you can achieve from your recordings. Each microphone setup has its own features leading to its own characteristics, and this variation can lead to interesting and creative dimensions in your mixes and productions.
You may think that vocals and instruments are only recorded with one microphone pointing directly at the source. But there are many different setups you can use to record a sound – ranging from one mic, to a combination of two mics (known as stereo recording), or sometimes even three mics for some recordings.
Close Mic Placement
This is the most common of the various microphone techniques that people will know about. A microphone is placed within three feet of the sound source, which will achieve a close, tight recording. Very little sound from the room’s environment will be picked up by the mic.
Recording all of your vocals and instruments closely like this gives you a lot more freedom later on when it comes to processing, adding effects, and mixing, as your recordings will be very dry and direct. I admit that a large majority of my own recordings are usually done this way.
The technique also helps to separate individual sounds if you’re recording more than one source at a time, as the amount of leakage from each audio source is minimized (of course, you can also minimize these leakage effects by using better mic placement, or by using the recording room better, or from making use of sound absorbers and barriers).
Distant Mic Placement
Placing your microphone further away from the source (three feet or more) results in more ambient sound from the room being picked up. The sound of this natural reverb can be excellent if you have a great-sounding room, or if you’re recording in an unusual place such as a tiled bathroom or at the bottom of a concrete stairwell (which can lead to interesting creative results as well).
But this probably won’t be an option in your own home studio as you’re probably recording in quite a tight space. When you have a recording with this natural reverb of the room added, it can be it difficult to ‘match’ the sound with your other sources at the mixing stage as the sounds of the different environments and rooms won’t fit together.
I think the better option is to close mic a source and then to add the amount of reverb you want later on – it can make it much easier to achieve a coherent mix and production, as you can then use the same or similar reverbs across all your tracks.
Recording with Two Microphones
Another option is to record a source with two microphones. You can use two mics in a few different ways:
- To add the signals together to create more power
- To blend them together to vary and change the tone
- Use one of the many stereo microphone techniques to create a true stereo picture of the sound
An example would be when you use a dynamic mic and a condenser mic together, with the two recordings being mixed later on to produce the desired sound. You’ll often see this when guitar amps are recorded.
I’ve looked at this approach to recording on the stereo microphone techniques page, along with the issue of phase that can often spoil the quality of these stereo recordings.
It’s easy to capture solid recordings of any vocals or instruments you want to use in your music productions, just by using these simple microphone techniques. Choosing to use one mic, two mics, or maybe even three or more mics will depend on what you’re recording and what kind of sound you’re after – it’s often a creative decision, where you’ll have to decide what best suits your song and your production.