Canadian Musician - September/October 2017 - Page 52

Basic Microphone Techniques Here are some common approaches to miking pop- ular sound sources for music production to get you started. Of course, there are many variations of these and experimentation is heavily encouraged. Try This! Vocals Traditionally, the human voice is recorded with a single microphone pointed directly towards the performer’s mouth. This set-up offers the listener a very detailed representation of the voice and is ideal for the lead vocal in a pop track. A pop filter is generally used and reflection shields are a great way to improve vocal recordings in a home or project studio, which may lack acoustic treatment. Since every human voice is unique, try putting up two or three micro- phones on a vocalist and then compare each to identify your ideal selection. Two of the more popular microphones for recording speech and singing are the Shure SM7 and Neumann U87. To avoid nasality, tilt the microphone towards the performer’s chest. Posture is very important for vocalists; pay close attention to the microphone’s height and ensure the performer is not stretching up or hunching over to sing into the microphone. If plosives are making it past your pop filter, try having the vocalist step a few inches back from the microphone. With condenser microphones, where we find a heightened reproduction of esses on playback, it is very common in pop music to process the voice with a de-esser. With that said, when selecting a microphone, pay close attention to how the esses are being represented. If esses are sounding abrasive and harsh, try a different microphone, or try tilting the microphone towards the perform- er’s chest for a slightly off-axis sound. Background & Double Vocals In order to leave room for the lead vocalist in pop music, producers often change the polar patterns, microphone type, or have performers step back from the microphone when cutting doubles or backgrounds. These techniques will give a sense of space and better support the lead vocal by preventing a build up of common frequencies and perceived depth. Experiment here, and again, esses are a problem to keep an ear out for. Adam Fair Engineer/Mixer Villa Sound (Shawnee, Kate Todd, Kentucky Rails) When recording a drum kit, I usually use anywhere from four to 12 microphones – sometimes more – but a lot of the character will come from only one of them. I place a large-diaphragm condenser 6-10 in. over the top of the kick drum, centered between the front and back heads, and I point it at a 45-degree angle towards the snare drum. The angle of the mic will alter the balance between the snare and kick drum and this positioning captures an exciting balance of the kit. Most of the time I will use a cardioid polar pattern, but if you want a more “live” sound, you could try figure eight or omni.  You can use this placement for many applications. I will usually add a few dB of shelf EQ around 50 Hz and a touch of broadband around 3-5 kHz. You can shape it with everything from light compression to hard limiting. This will give you many different flavours to work with. Where it sits in the overall mix is another factor. You could use it more conservatively to help “glue” the rest of the mics together, or you could use it entirely on its own. I’ve even put distortion pedals on it or run it through a guitar amp! The specific mic for this technique is not critical; the most important thing is to make sure the drums are sounding good in the room before you start recording! Drums Traditionally, producers and engineers like to put a microphone or two on each element of the drum kit to offer a wide variety of options when it comes time to mix. We often see a standard drum set-up include mics for the following: • Kick inside • Kick outside • Snare top • Snare bottom • Close mics on the toms • Close mic on the hi-hat • Two overheads • Two room mics • One mono room mic A dedicated kick drum mic is often a Shure Beta52 or an AKG D112. Toms often get a Sennheiser E series or MD421, with the microphone just over the rim or hoop by an inch or so. For overheads, we commonly see small diaphragm condensers such as AKG c451s or Rode NT5s. Mono room microphones can give a powerful centre channel with lots of punch and realism. A great mic for this job is a ribbon or condenser with lots of compression. Snares commonly get a Shure SM57 on both top and bottom. Worth noting as a technique to try at home on a drum kit is the Glyn Johns miking method. This is a very simple technique that encompasses the entire drum kit’s sound with only three mics: one on the kick drum and two mics as overheads, with another variation adding a single snare mic. Named after engineer/ producer Glyn Johns, this method can be heard on classic Led Zeppelin hits such as “Communication Breakdown.” Subtle microphone moves can make a drastic change in sound here, making this a great set- up for training one’s ears to the directionality of certain microphones. 52 I A N N M M U U S S AN 52 • • C C A A N N A A D D I A I C I C I A I N Snare miked on top & bottom Miked kick drum. If outer skin has a sound hole, mic can go inside the drum or be placed just outside