I find microphones pretty boring.
Yeah, get over it.
They’re useful. But boring.
To be honest, the whole recording process is way less sexier than mixing in my mind.
You have to agree with me there. Sitting down and mixing a great song is FUN. It’s like I’m back in my childhood bedroom playing with my Legos.
Taking things apart. Putting them back together. Making things fit and creating something cool.
That’s why mixing is so much fun.
Mixing becomes a chore if all you’re doing is fixing badly recorded tracks.
It doesn’t matter how much fun you want to have with your EQs and compressors and swanky analog saturation.
If it ain’t there at the source, it won’t be there in the mix.
And that’s where microphones come in. It’s really irrelevant whether they’re boring or not. They’re one of the most important aspects of making your mixes more fun.
When it comes to making the most of your microphones, here are the 5 things we tend to forget every time we use them.
1. Placement is Everything
The tiniest adjustment of the microphone will give you a different sound. Look at the mic like an EQ. When you move it around the instrument the EQ curve changes. It’s up to you to figure when the EQ curve sounds the best.
2. Know the Nuances
Every type of microphone has a different sound. Whether it’s a moving coil dynamic, a ribbon or a condenser. Know which microphone is best for the job. If you don’t? Hey, try experimenting with what you got and see what you like the most.
3. Have a comparison
It’s not enough to know the standard spots to put up a mic. You have to compare. Every situation is different. My most enlightening moments about mic placement cam when we tried out five or six different positions and then actually sat down and compared.
That’s the only way to find out which one works for you. Think about the end result like an equation:
Sound = Microphone + Placement + Instrument + Personal Preference.
You change any of those variables and you’ll end up with something different.
4. Take advantage of Distance and Proximity, or Lack of It
Want a smooth radio DJ voice? Move the mic closer.
“Hey all, welcome to smooth jazz central, where the grooves are slick and the solos are silk.” the DJ says in a sultry, thick voice.
Want to mic the instrument closer and a dead room to work in? Flip the mic into omni and record as close as you want. Omni-directional mics don’t suffer from the proximity effect.
Or if you want a bigger sound sometimes it’s great to just move the mic away. It doesn’t always have to be right there, 3 inches from the instrument.
5. Placement Isn’t Just Your Mic and the Instrument
It’s also the instrument and the room.
So to make the equation from before even more complicated, it should look something like this:
Sound = Microphone + Placement(Instrument + Room) + Personal Preference.
It matters where you record in the room because the microphone will inevitably pick up reflections. Either minimize them with treatment or place the instrument where it sounds the best in the context of your room.
Finally, just make sure you use your ears. Take a couple minutes to figure out which mic to use and try a few different positions.
Your mixes will thank you for it.
If you’re wondering why I spent so much time talking about microphones today, it’s because my buddy Joe Gilder over at Home Studio Corner just came out with Understanding Microphones. It’s a crash course in effectively using microphones to get great recordings.
The most interesting part of the series were the different examples he shows you in his DAW:
- The crunchy X/Y overhead patterns he got accidentally
- The sensitivity of the condenser picking up his piano (which didn’t really matter in context)
- The simple nature of the dynamic on a guitar amp
I didn’t finish all of his 9 videos yet but I highly recommend them if you’re looking to get better recordings out of your microphones.
And remember, with great recordings comes great respon…err…mixing.
Hit the link to start understanding microphones: