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Music Recording For Musicians

Updated on January 4, 2012

How To Choose The Right Microphone

There are many microphone choices when it comes to recording. Some of the basic guidelines are as follows:

* Use a large diaphragm microphone for lower frequency or full range instruments like bass, cello and piano. I like to use the Neumann TLM 103 or U87 as a general use large diaphragm mic.
* Use a small diaphragm microphone for higher frequency instruments like cymbals, woodwinds, high strings like violins and violas. I like the AKG 451 for general high frequency recording.
* Dynamic mics work best on high transient instruments like kick drum, snare, hand percussion and guitar amps. The Shure SM57 is a great mic for general use.
* Condenser mics are the most commonly used mics in the studio. They are both large and small diaphragm and are used in the above mentioned ways.
* Ribbon mics tend to take the edge off an instrument. I use ribbon mics on violins, basses and some vocals.

Here are my basic rock drum kit microphone choices.
Kick - AKG D-112
Snare - Sure SM-57
Hi Hat - AKG C414
Toms - Audix D2
Overhead cymbals - AKG C414
Rooms - Neumann U87

The best way to choose your mic is to try different mics until you learn what works for you. I have my basic drum setup and know exactly what works for different types of drum sounds If you are just getting started you should experiment and find what sounds good for you.


7 Recording Tips For Musicians

I have been a recording engineer for 20 years now and I realize that I think differently as an engineer than I do as a musician. Here are some good tips on how to record your own music easily and inexpensively.

1. Get a Mac. Macs come with software that makes it easy to write and record your own music. Garageband is a great easy program for the musician who wants to record basic ideas for songwriting. This is not a program to do professional recording in. That said I have done a complete film score using only Garageband.

2. Buy a nice USB microphone. You can find mics for as little as $100 that can plug into your computer and they sound great!

3. Find a quite space to work. This is important to make your recordings higher quality and professional sounding.

4. Learn some basic microphone placement techniques.

5. Play with a metronome. This will make it much easier if you want to add additional instruments to your recording.

6. Use headphones to record. If you want a clean recording use headphones while you record. If you don't you will get all the rest of the music on your track.

7. Take your time with it. This is the beauty of home recording. You can record your track over and over until you get it right. I love this part of having a home setup. No studio fees!

Microphone Techniques

I have some basic microphone techniques here.

First thing you need to do is listen to the instrument that you are recording. Have someone play and walk around it. If it's a guitar put your head where you are going to place the mic and see what it sounds like. You will hear a difference in the sound within inches of the placement. Typically you will get a brighter sound near the center of the guitar and a fuller sound further away.

Decide what type of sound you want. Close and bright? Warmer and distant? Wide stereo? This will determine the mics you use and the techniques employed.

Place the mic where you like the sound then go listen through your system. If it doesn't sound good experiment with the placing. You can get a very different sound by moving the mic just a little.

Be aware of the place of the instrument in the song. If you are recording a solo guitar album you will want a different sound than if the guitar is a backing instrument. If you are adding the instrument to an existing track play the track and listen to the musician play along. Make sure the sounds works with the rest of the tracks. This will save you time and pain in the mixing process.

Get A Great Acoustic Guitar Recording

Try using this recording technique when you record a solo guitar.

Things You Need.

1. A good acoustic guitar.

2. Two microphones, one with a cardioid pattern like a AKG-451 and one with a figure-8 pattern like a Neumann U87.

3. A decent DAW (digital audio workstation) like Pro Tools or Apple Logic.

The Technique

Set up the cardioid microphone so it is pointing at the guitars sound hole and then set up the figure-8 microphone directly behind the cardioid mic so the mic picks up the left and right of the instrument. Record each mic on a separate track.

When you have it all recorded take the figure-8 track and duplicate it. Now you need to phase reverse the duplicated track and pan the two track hard left and right. Use the cardioid mic as the main sound and just ease in the two new tracks.

This technique will give you a cool wide sound for your guitar.

Check out the illustration below.

MS Illustration

Blue Bluebird Microphone

I have been using the Blue Bluebird mic a lot lately and really like the sound. I have used it on vocals, overhead drums, upright bass and strings so far and think it sounds great. The Bluebird is a great mic for a home studio because of its versatility and it's price. I found it on Amazon for $199.99.

I used this with a small choir and found that the large diaphragm captures the fullness and the smooth high end gets the presence of the vocals. The high end is nice, not to harsh like some vocal mics and the low end is clear and doesn't muddy up the sound.

Definitely a good addition to your mic collection.


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    • profile image

      blair165 6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Benny. I found this program that is similar to Garageband but I have not used it. Good luck recording your songs. Let me know if you need any advice.

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 6 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Awesome tips and resources here. I'm working on some home recordings myself for a demo CD.

      Totally cool--a whole film score with only Garageband! Do you know of anything similar for PCs? (Never had a Mac, but planning to get one sometime soon...)

      Rated up!