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SOUND ADVICE WITH

Peter Muldoon

MICROPHONE PLACEMENT & TECHNIQUES PT 3

ACOUSTIC GUITAR & VOCALS In Parts 1 and 2 we spoke about microphone placement & techniques for room microphones, drums, bass and electric guitar. In part 3 we delve into the world of acoustic instruments, specifically the acoustic guitar. As mentioned in the previous two articles microphone placement is all about knowing what you’re wanting to capture, in other words having some idea of what you are trying to achieve with the end result. This will strongly determine where you choose to place a microphone or what technique you choose to utilise. When we look at an acoustic guitar we can break it down into three main sections – the body, the neck and the headstock. Each of these parts of the guitar generates a different sound. You can hear this by placing your ear close to these sections of the guitar. The sound coming from the body of the guitar will contain more low end and warmth. It will also be the loudest part of the guitar due to the close vicinity of the sound hole. Moving our ears up to the 12th fret we can notice that the sound gets thinner and the tone changes. As we keep moving we find that the sound up near the headstock is the thinnest and the tone is different again. One of these sounds may be preferable for the application, but this does not necessarily mean that one is better than the others. Thinking back to part one we discussed the difference between close miking and room miking. In a nutshell when you have a good room it is preferable to capture that sound. In this case you would set up a combination of both room and close microphones. The position of the room microphones would be determined by finding the sweet spot in the room. This can be done by simply walking around the room while the guitarist is playing until the sound is best to your ears. When close miking an acoustic guitar is good to capture more than one sound so that they can later be blended in the mix. Some of the more popular miking techniques include placing one microphone at the sound hole and another at the 12th fret. An additional microphone may be set up over the shoulder of the player. The purpose of this third microphone is to pick up what the guitarist is hearing while they are playing. Stereo miking techniques such as those mentioned in Part 2 can also be used. Last, but definitely not least, we move onto vocals. More often than not, but it depends on the genre of music, the voice is the most prominent instrument in the mix. It is the vocals that can make or break a great song or album. There is a lot of pressure on getting it right, but don’t fear, they are one of the easiest things to record in regards to microphone placement and technique. A lot of the sound heard in a vocal track is determined by the choice of microphone. It is usually a large diaphragm condenser

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or ribbon microphone that will do the job best, but this has not always been the case. No matter which microphone you choose to use you want to ensure that the singer is no further than a few inches away from it so that the signal is as strong as it can be. Positioning the microphone higher or lower than the singers mouth can produce vastly different sounds, so ensure that the placement is right for the material being recorded. The use of a vocal booth can cut out room noise and is fairly common practice. Unless you make the creative choice to pick up the sound of the room, this is probably the best option. If you do not have a vocal booth a reflection filter can also deaden the sound of the room and produce a much dryer sound. A pop filter is another useful tool that can be placed in front of the microphone. This helps eliminate the pops and syllabence associated with the movement of the singer’s mouth when they sing. It is also good for ensuring you don’t end up with a spit covered microphone. Recording vocals this way means that you can add effects like reverb and delay during the mixing process. When recording backing vocals you expect there to be a little more reverb than the lead vocal. A simply solution to this is to record them the same way and add a little more reverb in the mixing stage. Another quick technique is to get the backing vocalist to stand a little further away from the microphone. Be mindful that this will also change the EQ due to the proximity effect. When recording two vocalists simultaneously a great technique is to use a microphone with a figure 8 pattern and have each singer stand either side of the microphone, facing each other. When recording more than two backing vocalists, or crowd chants for example, it is best to do it in a great sounding room. One technique for recording this way is to set up a room microphone in the middle of the room, set the pattern to omnidirectional and have them stand around and sing into it at a distance. This concludes the microphone placement and techniques articles. After reading all three parts you should have some ideas or starting points for how you want to set up for your next project. Again, these are only suggestions and there are no wrong or right answers. Experiment as much as you can and be as creative as you wish to be. You may not achieve a great sound the first, second, third or fourth times round, but it is all a learning curve. Like anything, the more you do it the easier it gets and the better it will sound. The most important thing to remember when placing your microphones is that there are some basic rules in place, such as proximity and phasing, but

Issue #17  

Featuring Dead Letter Circus, Ash Grunwald, Ladi Abundance Project, Tiger Street, Fat Baxter, Thirsty Merc, Elly Hoyt & Natalie DeJager, Mur...