Engineers spend a lot of time talking about the sweet spot when recording. “Gotta find the sweet spot” or “this is where the sweet spot is” is often heard(or some combination of the same meaning) and it can make the novice engineer wonder what the hell they are talking about.
Luckily, finding the sweet spot on instruments isn’t as hard as finding the other, more elusive sweet spots. But what do people mean when they talk about the sweet spot on an instrument?
The sweet spot on an instrument is where the complete sound of the particular instrument is represented as well as possible. The area where the microphone picks up both the highs, lows and everything in between.
You want to capture the fullness, brightness and whatever other-ness that particular instrument has in abundance. So by finding that sweet spot you can make your job easier since that’s where the instrument shines.
When you are working with only one microphone it’s all the more important to find the sweet spot. If you mike up an instrument and it’s lacking a certain character you can’t really fix that in the mixing phase. By finding the sweet spot you can be certain that you have the best balance you can get from one microphone.
Multiple microphone techniques
When you are working with multiple microphones you might not face the same challenge in finding the sweet spot. You can devote more time to capturing a few different characteristics of an instruments and then blending them together to get a nice balance. Alternatively, you could use one microphone for the sweet spot and another either for ambience or to accent a certain area of the instrument.
- For example: Recording an acoustic guitar with one microphone at the sweet spot by the 12th fret and the other by the 1st fret picking up the strings.
How does balance sound?
The acoustic guitar has a sweet spot at the 12th fret, or where the neck joins the body. When you are looking for the sweet spot it’s a good idea to grab a pair of headphones, set your microphone to record and then just strum away around the microphone until you find the desired balance from your guitar.
Listen to me doing exactly that below. I started with the microphone at the boomy and bassy soundhole, working my way up the fretboard until I found a nice balance of highs and lows.
What other tricks do you guys use to get the best sound out of your instruments? Any recording tips you care to share?
For a crash-course in recording music, check out my ebook Recording Strategies.
Image by: Reway2007