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Article: Audio Recording Primer Part 5: How to Use Microphones for Best Results


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Here’s another suggestion for horns. There are many excellent mikes designed to clip to the bell, which means a constant distance and a cleaner pickup.  Many pros use them, but few amateurs do. So it’s a very good idea to carry one or two with attachment clips that can be used on both brass and reeds, if you’re recording jazz groups.  
 

I have some cardioid wireless lapel mics and some omni headset boom mics that work great on horns, reeds, piano, and oddballs like my National tricone resonator guitar. It can take a little creativity to adapt a clip-on holder.  I’ve found several tiny “gooseneck” holders with gentle, soft jaw clamps for photo equipment, electronics etc that can be easily adopted to hold these tiny mics on musical instruments.

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3 hours ago, bluesman said:

Here’s another suggestion for horns. There are many excellent mikes designed to clip to the bell, which means a constant distance and a cleaner pickup.  Many pros use them, but few amateurs do. So it’s a very good idea to carry one or two with attachment clips that can be used on both brass and reeds, if you’re recording jazz groups

 

I don’t like contact mikes and won’t use them. They may well provide a “cleaner pickup”, but they don’t sound like real horns. They pick up too much “spittle” from the musician, and too much mechanical noise from the instrument’s action. But mostly, musical instruments are designed to be listened to at some distance with air between the instrument and the listener. Nobody listens to horns with their ear in the horn’s bell. I know that some people actually like that close-up sound, but I’m not one of them. To each his own, as they say.

3 hours ago, bluesman said:

I have some cardioid wireless lapel mics and some omni headset boom mics that work great on horns, reeds, piano, and oddballs like my National tricone resonator guitar. It can take a little creativity to adapt a clip-on holder.  I’ve found several tiny “gooseneck” holders with gentle, soft jaw clamps for photo equipment, electronics etc that can be easily adopted to hold these tiny mics on musical instruments.

We seem to have wildly different recording goals. I would never use individual mikes on individual instruments unless I could not hear the instrument in my headphones while trying to record it. In that case I will likely use an accent mike, but I would always add it judiciously, just until the “missing instrument” could just be heard pan-potted to it’s proper place in the ensemble.  

George

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7 hours ago, gmgraves said:

I don’t like contact mikes and won’t use them.

Neither do I - that’s why I didn’t use the term. I’m talking about “real” mics on flexible stalks that clip or otherwise anchor to the bell, like this:

 

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This makes an excellent accent mic - there’s no bleeding into it and the player can move around to his or her heart’s content.  You can mount it on a stalk varying from so short the capsule’s in the mouth of the bell to several inches away, as you like. No muss, no fuss, no spit, no clicks.

 

Miking a square neck resonator guitar, dulcimer, autoharp or other instrument that’s held in a horizontal position with its player hovering over it is a challenge for traditional mic use, even on a boom.  And these are acoustic instruments that often need an accent mike because their sound radiates up rather than forward.  A small mic on a stalk secured to the tailpiece works great - I use a wireless headset mic with the boom detached from the headband.

 

Mics like these from Myers are excellent:

 

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And so is this one from Gold Tone (shown with the optional preamp):

 

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As a performer and as a listener, I and the dozens of players with whom I work regularly far prefer the above to a stand or boom mic, both for ease of use on stage and for SQ and flexibility in making great recordings.  
 

The jazz & blues club in which I’m the house band leader (and which I hope will reopen before I’m too old to play) has a main stereo pair hanging from the light bar about 10’ out from the stage, plus vocal mics on boom stands and a host of accent mics for various instruments.  The stage holds a full, frame mounted drum kit with a fixed set of accent mikes, an 88 key Nord, a Hammond with a big Leslie, a back line of 6 amplifiers, plus floor and ear level monitors.  There’s barely enough room among this stuff for us to squeeze between the drums and the keyboards, and it’s far from the smallest stage I’ve ever played.  So mics and methods that work on a concert stage won’t cut it in most small clubs.

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3 hours ago, bluesman said:Neither do I - that’s why I didn’t use the term. I’m talking about “real” mics on flexible stalks that clip or otherwise anchor to the bell, like this:

 

spacer.png

This makes an excellent accent mic - there’s no bleeding into it and the player can move around to his or her heart’s content.  You can mount it on a stalk varying from so short the capsule’s in the mouth of the bell to several inches away, as you like. No muss, no fuss, no spit, no clicks.

 

Miking a square neck resonator guitar, dulcimer, autoharp or other instrument that’s held in a horizontal position with its player hovering over it is a challenge for traditional mic use, even on a boom.  And these are acoustic instruments that often need an accent mike because their sound radiates up rather than forward.  A small mic on a stalk secured to the tailpiece works great - I use a wireless headset mic with the boom detached from the headband.

 

Mics like these from Myers are excellent:

 

spacer.pngspacer.png

 

And so is this one from Gold Tone (shown with the optional preamp):

 

spacer.png

 

As a performer and as a listener, I and the dozens of players with whom I work regularly far prefer the above to a stand or boom mic, both for ease of use on stage and for SQ and flexibility in making great recordings.  
 

The jazz & blues club in which I’m the house band leader (and which I hope will reopen before I’m too old to play) has a main stereo pair hanging from the light bar about 10’ out from the stage, plus vocal mics on boom stands and a host of accent mics for various instruments.  The stage holds a full, frame mounted drum kit with a fixed set of accent mikes, an 88 key Nord, a Hammond with a big Leslie, a back line of 6 amplifiers, plus floor and ear level monitors.  There’s barely enough room among this stuff for us to squeeze between the drums and the keyboards, and it’s far from the smallest stage I’ve ever played.  So mics and methods that work on a concert stage won’t cut it in most small clubs.

Sorry, I misunderstood you. But as far as I’m concerned, my criticism stands. Miking anything that close is simply not realistic. Musical instruments are not meant to be miked (or listened to) that close-up. The mikes that you show above, still are like the listener sticking his hear into the horn’s bell.

Mark Waldrep of AIX Records uses this technique For his jazz recordings, and I think the results sound awful. Don’t misunderstand me, AIX jazz recordings sound  quite spectacular (on first listen, anyway), no doubt of that, but they just don’t give the illusion of a live ensemble playing in real space. Another thing Waldrep does is to use those piano microphones which use a “pole-lamp” like arrangement to wedge itself between opposite sides of the piano case. The pole has several microphones mounted on it pointed down at the strings and just inches above them. The result is a piano that is the width of one’s listening room with the bass end of the keyboard against the left side of the room; middle ‘C’ ends up halfway between one’s speakers with the treble end of the piano against the right wall! Real piano’s don’t sound like that. Again, people do not listen to pianos with their heads inside the piano case! On top of that, the close mikes pick up too much of the piano’s mechanism. You ca easily hear the pedal action, the key-strokes etc. 
While lots of recordings are made with these techniques, I’ve tried most of them*, and I don’t like the results. They are simply not for me.


* for several years I was allowed to record the Stanford University Jazz Band In their rehearsal hall on campus. Because they were just rehearsals, I had the luxury of trying all kinds of microphone setups and variations. I could then go home and listen to these recordings to note the results. I tried the Mercury three-spaced omnis, two spaced omnis, spaced cardioids, XY, AB, Blumlein, MS, ORTF, etc. I also tried some close miking with mikes pointing directly at the bells of saxes, trombones, trumpets, etc., and only inches away from the instruments! This was a great opportunity (and one that doesn’t come along all that often) to decide what works for my vision of what I want my recordings to sound like. Based on those results, I have rejected all close miking except for the occasional accent mike (if required) and those are used at very low level and carefully pan-potted to the instrument’s actual position on stage. Doing it this way still allows the stereo pair to  pick-up the highlighted instrument, and the accent mike merely raise the level a soupçon.

George

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I’m trying, but I don’t see how your criticism relates to my content.  I clearly suggested these for accent / highlight mics more than once.  Here’s exactly what I said, with bolding added for emphasis:

 

5 hours ago, bluesman said:

This makes an excellent accent mic - there’s no bleeding into it and the player can move around to his or her heart’s content.  You can mount it on a stalk varying from so short the capsule’s in the mouth of the bell to several inches away, as you like. No muss, no fuss, no spit, no clicks.

 

Miking a square neck resonator guitar, dulcimer, autoharp or other instrument that’s held in a horizontal position with its player hovering over it is a challenge for traditional mic use, even on a boom.  And these are acoustic instruments that often need an accent mike because their sound radiates up rather than forward

 

I’m also a bit confused about this contradiction:
 

1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

Miking anything that close is simply not realistic. Musical instruments are not meant to be miked (or listened to) that close-up.

 

But in the article, you tell us to“...[p]lace the cardioid mike as close to the instrument (or voice) in question as possible“ for use as an accent / highlight mike, George, which is exactly what I’m suggesting too. And I’m offering some excellent ways to accomplish it that do not hamper the musicians.  You also remark in the article about the problem of a fixed mic and a moving musician.  Using a mic mounted to the instrument eliminates this problem and gets another stand out of the way.  I’ve even mic’ed a few instruments by hanging the mic on the musician.  I once straightened out a headset boom so the mic pointed directly down at a lap-held dulcimer that had no surface or fitting to which I could secure a mic.  The player hunched over it lovingly, which positioned the capsule perfectly.
 

I agree with and follow your thinking in the article, and have tried to suggest some great ways to overcome problems you yourself describe, i.e. to bring out hard to mic instruments a bit with minimal bleeding and maximum utility.  I have not suggested using these for primary mics, although sometimes that’s the only way to capture a performance in a crowded club with no flexibility at all in stage layout and nothing overhead for flying mics.

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5 hours ago, bluesman said:

I’m trying, but I don’t see how your criticism relates to my content.  I clearly suggested these for accent / highlight mics more than once.  Here’s exactly what I said, with bolding added for emphasis:

 

 

I’m also a bit confused about this contradiction:
 

 

But in the article, you tell us to“...[p]lace the cardioid mike as close to the instrument (or voice) in question as possible“ for use as an accent / highlight mike, George, which is exactly what I’m suggesting too. And I’m offering some excellent ways to accomplish it that do not hamper the musicians.  You also remark in the article about the problem of a fixed mic and a moving musician.  Using a mic mounted to the instrument eliminates this problem and gets another stand out of the way.  I’ve even mic’ed a few instruments by hanging the mic on the musician.  I once straightened out a headset boom so the mic pointed directly down at a lap-held dulcimer that had no surface or fitting to which I could secure a mic.  The player hunched over it lovingly, which positioned the capsule perfectly.

 

OK we are talking at cross purposes here. Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought that you were talking about using these close proximity mikes As the primary way of capturing these instruments. Obviously, from this last post, you are not saying that at all. Certainly as accent mikes, these types work Fine. You just barely crack them to augment the main stereo feed.
 

You must excuse me, I’ve been sleep deprived for a week. I simply can’t sleep at night. Have a DR’s appt on the 18th. Hopefully a prescription for Ambien will solve that problem.

5 hours ago, bluesman said:

I agree with and follow your thinking in the article, and have tried to suggest some great ways to overcome problems you yourself describe, i.e. to bring out hard to mic instruments a bit with minimal bleeding and maximum utility.  I have not suggested using these for primary mics, although sometimes that’s the only way to capture a performance in a crowded club with no flexibility at all in stage layout and nothing overhead for flying mics.

Yes, you are right and I misinterpreted what you wrote. I apologize for the miscommunication. My fault, totally.😔

George

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1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

I’ve been sleep deprived for a week. I simply can’t sleep at night. 

Damn! That’s awful. I hope you feel better soon!

 

Best regards -

 

David

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On 8/9/2020 at 8:53 AM, gmgraves said:

You must excuse me, I’ve been sleep deprived for a week. I simply can’t sleep at night. Have a DR’s appt on the 18th. Hopefully a prescription for Ambien will solve that problem.

 

Sleep is so important to our health and well being. Over the last couple of decades we have seen the increasing emergence of "sleep clinics" and Respiratory Physicians sub-specializing in Sleep Medicine.......just a thought....all the best George 😴

Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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15 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

 

Sleep is so important to our health and well being. Over the last couple of decades we have seen the increasing emergence of "sleep clinics" and Respiratory Physicians sub-specializing in Sleep Medicine.......just a thought....all the best George 😴

That’s my plan, but you just can’t up and go to see your doctor (Primary Care Physician) anymore. You have to make an appointment for weeks, sometimes months down the road. Then you have to get referred to a specialist by your PCP. My appointment with my PCP is for Aug 18. 

George

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34 minutes ago, gmgraves said:

you just can’t up and go to see your doctor (Primary Care Physician) anymore. You have to make an appointment for weeks, sometimes months down the road.

 

That's disturbing but i don't want to spark a political debate.

Obviously best management depends on proper assessment. In the interim I have previously touched on the topic of sleep as one of those things you can't force, the harder you 'try' the more you focus on it, the more likely you will fail. It's just generic advice but 'letting go' is often more appropriate.The sense that you 'don't care' whether you sleep or not seems very counter intuitive but it sometimes works. Again just generic advice but a technique (variation of counting sheep) I have used with patients and personally is to count from 1 to 100 repeatedly. Visualize each number as you count. The goal is not to fall asleep. The goal is to count endlessly.....it surprises me how fast I fail, lose track and fall asleep 😁

Good luck once you get some specific assessment and advice

Sorry for OT

Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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George, I just discovered your series here at Part 5. Many thanks.  I love using my (stereo) ribbon mics in as many recording situations as I can due to their sweetness of sound ( hard to describe but to I love their "more analog-than-condenser-mics" sound.  If you have not already in prior Parts of the series, would you speak specifically a bit about your mic selection preferences for solo piano, ....or which stereo pair would you use for some small jazz vrs classical ensembles....or for a small choral group.....or symphony etc?  Ever record binaural?

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9 minutes ago, RecordingsByLuis said:

George, I just discovered your series here at Part 5. Many thanks.  I love using my (stereo) ribbon mics in as many recording situations as I can due to their sweetness of sound ( hard to describe but to I love their "more analog-than-condenser-mics" sound.  If you have not already in prior Parts of the series, would you speak specifically a bit about your mic selection preferences for solo piano, ....or which stereo pair would you use for some small jazz vrs classical ensembles....or for a small choral group.....or symphony etc?  Ever record binaural?

Hi Luis, I know this is a bit different than your topic, and I'm sure George will chime in on that, but ribbons can truly be glorious for playback as well. I've been using true ribbon headphones (RAAL-requisite SR1a) for six months and have never experienced anything like them. I can only imagine recording with ribbons is special as well. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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On 8/18/2020 at 1:17 PM, RecordingsByLuis said:

George, I just discovered your series here at Part 5. Many thanks.  I love using my (stereo) ribbon mics in as many recording situations as I can due to their sweetness of sound ( hard to describe but to I love their "more analog-than-condenser-mics" sound.  If you have not already in prior Parts of the series, would you speak specifically a bit about your mic selection preferences for solo piano, ....or which stereo pair would you use for some small jazz vrs classical ensembles....or for a small choral group.....or symphony etc?  Ever record binaural?

I agree with you about ribbons. I used to have a single-point stereo Bang & Olufsen ribbon mike. It was gorgeously made, came in a velvet lined solid rosewood case with gold lettering on it. It was, like most all ribbons, bi-directional. It had a warm, natural sound in spite of it falling-off like a rock above 13 KHz. The main problem that I had with it though was that I could never find enough gain for the thing and I often wondered how B&O did it with their BeoCord tape deck (for which the mike was designed - and in tube days, at that!). Unable to solve the gain vs noise problem (this was in the 70’s and op-amps were still pretty crude in those days), I sold the mike.

I tend to use my Avantone CK-40 single-point stereo microphone as much as possible. When used on a piano, the stereo perspective of a coincident pair of cardioid wide-band, big capsule microphones is a pretty hard to beat. Pianos miked this way sound like a real piano is in your listening room; neither larger nor smaller than real life! I have used this same stereo mike to record both small and large jazz ensembles and classical from large orchestras to small chamber groups. If you are recording acoustic instruments, in small or large numbers, a coincident stereo pair will give a realistic soundstage and a wide-band frequency response and a true-to-life perspective. Of course, there are times when an MS mike arrangement is preferred, but this same CK-40 can also do that, as well as the crossed figure-of-eight pattern. Now, as I’ve said before, it is prudent, sometimes to use accent mikes, but they must always bsubordinate to the main stereo pair.

George

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Good morning - love this series, I have always been under the impression that a XY microphone pattern, has the 2 mics on top of each other with the capsules overlapping?  This is what I have been taught. 

 

What kind of mic's are you all using for onsite/concert recordings?  I primarily use a balanced pair of Telefunken ELA-M60's (Cardoid caps), this microphone body has removable capsule feature and you are provided an Omni, hyper cap in the set up w/ a tube amp.

 

From the Rode website:

 

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.

 

Images from the web:

 

image.jpeg.366aa2181b9f73102d933c9f44da2a77.jpeg

or

 

image.jpeg.1eb72ed414ce8fe8a3fbf9c321f4626e.jpeg

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@gmgraves thanks for this. I am interested in recording sound demos of hifi systems. Looking to spend under about $500 if I can on the mics. I first tried a blue yeti in stereo mode and it was surprisingly good (connected to my pc via usb). But would like something better. Thoughts on the Rode M5 as a good options? NT5 maybe a bit better.

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6 hours ago, OhioHead said:

Good morning - love this series, I have always been under the impression that a XY microphone pattern, has the 2 mics on top of each other with the capsules overlapping?  This is what I have been taught. 

 

What kind of mic's are you all using for onsite/concert recordings?  I primarily use a balanced pair of Telefunken ELA-M60's (Cardoid caps), this microphone body has removable capsule feature and you are provided an Omni, hyper cap in the set up w/ a tube amp.

 

From the Rode website:

 

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.

 

Images from the web:

 

image.jpeg.366aa2181b9f73102d933c9f44da2a77.jpeg

or

 

image.jpeg.1eb72ed414ce8fe8a3fbf9c321f4626e.jpeg

That’s essentially correct. But many recording engineers call your above illustrations a “coincident pair”. Some arrange the mikes with the edges of the capsules touching one another as they “fire” at right angles to one another. Some people place the mikes on a short T-bar as I show in my article. All of these “variations on a theme” Produce, essentially the same results. AB, XY, coincident, all give excellent stereo. If one places two cardioids on a long T-bar (say, a half meter or so) is called ORTF (for French Radio method). When used in the cardioid pattern mode, XY is exactly what a single-point stereo mike like  my Avantone CK-40 or the legendary Telefunken ELA-M-270 do. In both mikes, the capsules are mounted one atop the other and one is rotatable in relationship to the other. Both mikes have graduations on the moving top capsule to be able to accurately set the angle between them. When the pattern is set to cardioid for both capsules and they are set 90 degrees to one another (like your example, above), you have XY. If you set one capsule to either cardioid or omni, and the other to figure-of-eight, and the cardioids/omni mike faces straight ahead, and the figure-of-eight is facing left-to-right, you have the configuration for MS or “Mittel-Seit” (Middle-Side) stereo pickup. The beauty of a single point stereo mike is its versatility. With switchable patterns between cardioid, omnidirectional and figure-of-eight patterns, coupled with the top capsule’s ability to rotate up to at least a 120 degrees with relation to the bottom capsule, many different configurations are possible. 
Since I bought my CK-40, it’s what I use for every recording situation. I have a number of different mikes, and they mostly get used for accent mikes when and where necessary, but the Avantone CK-40 is so flat in frequency response, and due to it being a FET based mike, it is so quiet, that is has become my go to solution for all my stereo recording (which is the only kind of recording that I do).

 

 

 

 

 

George

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47 minutes ago, smodtactical said:

@gmgraves thanks for this. I am interested in recording sound demos of hifi systems. Looking to spend under about $500 if I can on the mics. I first tried a blue yeti in stereo mode and it was surprisingly good (connected to my pc via usb). But would like something better. Thoughts on the Rode M5 as a good options? NT5 maybe a bit better.

For your purposes, it would be hard to beat a pair of Behringer B2-pro mikes. You can get them from a dealer such as Sweetwater for less than US$200 each. They are rugged (you haven’t lived until you have had a temperamental orchestral maestro knock over both of your mike stands (with mikes) because he didn’t want them on stage), have excellent frequency response, and low noise. Spend the money left over from your $500 to buy a good quality T-bar for mounting them and good luck!

George

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