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Microphone Technique Basics for Musical Instruments

The microphone technique has a powerful effect on the sound of instrument recordings.Today, we are going to introduce few miking techniques for instrument recordings to enhance the sound quality.


Close or Distant Miking

Once you have chosen an instrument for recording, place the microphone a few inches away to get a tight, present sound; place it farther away for a distant, spacious sound. The farther a microphone is from the instrument, the more ambience, leakage, and background noise it picks up. So you can place the microphone close to reject these unwanted sounds, or place it farther away to add a live, loose, airy feel to overdubs of drums, lead-guitar solos, horns, etc.

Therefore, close miking sounds close; distant miking sounds distant.If you put a microphone close to an instrument, the sound at the microphone is loud. So you need to turn up the microphone gain on your mixer only a little to get a full recording level. And because the gain is low, you pick up very little reverb, leakage, and background noise. If you put a microphone far from an instrument, the sound at the microphone is quiet. You’ll need to turn up the microphone gain a lot to get a full recording level. And because the gain is high, you pick up a lot of reverb, leakage, and background noise.


Don’t Mike Too Close

Most musical instruments are designed to sound best at a distance, at least 1-1/2 feet away.Miking too close can color the recorded tone quality of an instrument. You might hear a bassy or honky tone instead of a natural sound. The sound of an instrumentneeds some space to develop, a microphone placed a foot or two away tends to pick up a well-balanced, natural sound. That is, it picks up a blend of all the parts of the instrument that contribute to its character or timbre. If you mike close to an instrument, you emphasize the part of the instrument that the microphone is near. The tone quality picked up very close may not reflect the tone quality of the entire instrument.

Usually, you get a natural sound if you put the microphone as far from the source as the source is big. For example, if the body of an acoustic guitar is 18 inches long, place the mic 18 inches away to get a natural tonal balance. If this sounds too distant or hollow, move in a little closer.That way, the microphone picks up all the sound-radiating parts of the instrument about equally.


Placement of Microphone

Suppose you have a microphone placed a certain distance from an instrument. If you move the microphone left, right, up, or down, you change the recorded tone quality.A musical instrument radiates a different tone quality in each direction. Also, each part of the instrument produces a different tone quality.In one spot, the instrument might sound bassy; in another spot, it might sound natural. To find a good microphone position, simply place the microphone in different locations—and monitor the results—until you find one that sounds good to you. To do this, close one ear with your finger, listen to the instrument with the other ear, and move around until you find a spot that sounds good. Put the microphone there. Then make a recording and see if it sounds the same as what you heard live.

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