Sound Recording Basics

Introduction


It's very important to choose the correct microphone while recording audio! Everyone wants their recordings to sound awesome and choosing the correct microphone and its placement is essential. That's why we are here to help you choose the right microphone according to your requirement!



What we're going to discuss:

  1. Choosing microphones according to the environment

  2. Microphone placement style

  3. Different microphone placements for stereo recording



1. Choosing microphones according to the recording environment


Microphone choice for live environment.


Whenever you're recording live performances, especially when you're not in a studio environment, it is recommended to use dynamic and clip-on mics.


Condenser microphones and ribbon microphones record a lot of environmental noise/bleed. That's why they are not preferred for live environment.


Dynamic microphones are great for a live recording environment as they do not record as much surrounding noise as condenser and ribbon mics. You can record vocals, percussion section, guitars, and drums with a dynamic mic and they will sound great.


For wind instruments and string instruments, it is recommended to use clip-on microphones as they are great at avoiding other noises. Shotgun mics are also great while recording a string section.


However, sometimes, it's better to use in-built pickups while recording some instruments like violin, guitar, and some other instruments when other instruments in the session are creating bleed in the recording. It's always better to avoid bleeding from other instruments because they can cause a lot of phase issues while mixing.



Microphone choice for Studio/Home recording environment



When you're recording in a controlled environment like a studio, you have way more options! You don't have to worry about noise and leaks from other instruments as you can just record every instrument or part separately.


There are many microphone options while recording in a studio. You can record with any mic you want, condenser, dynamic, or ribbon! It's your choice.


However, choosing the correct mic according to your needs is important. Of course, you can make a full song with just a condenser or a dynamic mic. But, it's always better to use the microphone type that really fits your needs.


A condenser mic records a stronger and faster attack while a dynamic mic captures better lows and mids. So, you have to make a choice.


Tips on choosing the correct microphone:

  • If you want a strong, faster attack, try a condenser mic

  • If you have to capture better lows and mids and you don't want too much highs, try a dynamic mic

  • If you need to record something that has a great mix of highs and tone of a dynamic microphone, ribbon mics should be your choice.

  • Note: Ribbon mics are very fragile and expensive. Handle them with care. It is advised to not record really loud music on ribbon microphones.


Here are some microphone-type suggestions according to your needs:


Mics for live recording

  • Clip-on mic

  • Pick up for live strings


Mics for Studio/Isolated recording

  • String and brass instruments: Ribbon Mic

  • Woodwind: Preferably two condenser mics - 1 medium-close and 1 distant

  • Percussion: Dynamic mic. Preferably mix kits are used. A condenser as an overhead on drums can be used.

  • Guitar and bass amplifiers: A dynamic mic placed off-axis.



2. Microphone placement style


a. Distance Miking


Distant miking refers to the placement of microphones at a distance of 3 feet or more from the sound source. This technique allows the full range and balance of the instrument to develop and it captures the room sound.


b. Close Miking


Close-miking is the term we use when we place a microphone close to the sound source.


c. Accent Miking


Accent miking is the act of close-miking certain sources in dense acoustic environments such as orchestras.


d. Ambient Miking


Ambient miking is placing the microphones at such a distance that the room sound is more prominent than the direct signal. This technique is used to capture audience sound or the natural reverberation of a room or concert hall.



3. Different microphone placements for stereo recording


Stereo recordings are quite different from normal mono recordings. In a stereo recording, two or more mics are used. Using multiple microphones at the same time creates interaural time difference which leads to the feeling of "stereo". This means that the recording provides a sense of direction and space.


While recording in stereo, microphone placement is really important to avoid phase issues.

Here are some microphone placement examples that you can use:


1. XY coincidental pair


The X-Y technique consists of two identical cardioid microphones, placed on top of each other while facing away from each other at a 90-degree angle.


2. AB Spcaed pair


The Spaced Pair (also known as A/B) technique consists of two individual microphones, typically using cardioid or omnidirectional polar patterns, spaced apart to capture a wide stereo image of an instrument or ensemble.


3. ORTF


ORTF mic technique uses a “near-coincident” pair of cardioid microphones. Near-coincident means the mic capsules are reasonably close to each other. Alternatively, a coincident pair means the capsules are as close to each other as physically possible, such as in the X/Y mic technique.


4. NOS


The NOS Stereo Technique uses two first-order cardioid microphones spaced 30 cm (11.8 in) apart and angled at 90° to create a stereo image, which means a combination of difference-in-level stereo and difference-in-time stereo.

5. Blumlein


The Blumlein method uses the two mic elements angled at 90 degrees and mounted in close proximity to each other along the vertical axis. With the Blumlein technique, a sense of realism is created. It's as if the listener is there in the acoustic sound field.


6. Mid-Side placement

Photo Credit: PicturedMedia


Mid-Side is a coincident technique, meaning that both mics are placed as closely as possible to each other and the stereo image is created by differences in loudness rather than time delays, on which other stereo miking methods rely. Mid-Side uses a mid mic, which usually has a cardioid pattern, but can also be omni-directional.


7. Decca Tree


The Decca Tree is a spaced microphone array most commonly used for orchestral recording.



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