Get It Right At The Source
The modern tech driven world that we live in gives us so many wonderful tools/toys and so much flexibility in how we process sound. Recording on your computer or iPad is incredibly convenient and we all love editing in a DAW rather than having to cut and splice tape (which I always thought was very scary – no undo button to save the day). But for all of these high tech wonders the most powerful tool you have is your microphone and where you place it. Nothing affects your sound more than the mic you choose to record with and the placement of that mic in relation to the source. Get that right and the rest of the process gets a lot easier. Moving your mic one inch can be the difference between heaven and hell. You will get more tonal variance with mic placement than with any EQ you try to slap on the track to “fix it in the mix.” And if you start with bad tone you’ll be engaged in a very frustrating uphill battle to bring balance and clarity to your tracks. This is true even if you’re only recording a guitar and vocal.
Unless you are just sketching out the song idea, don’t just throw a mic up and start recording. Take a little time (or a lot of time if needed) to get the right sound at the recording/input stage. “But when I wanna record something I just wanna feel it so I can do a good performance, I don’t wanna kill the vibe with all this tech stuff.” I get it. And Yes, the performance is still the MOST important thing. So take some time to practice your mic technique just as you would your performance. Don’t wait until you’ve got to lay down that perfect guitar track to experiment with mic placement.
Here are a few pointers to get you started.
First, listen to the source acoustically in the room. You can’t hope to capture good sound if you don’t know what you’re listening for.
Find the sweet spot with your ears first. Then use some very flat closed back headphones, move the mic gradually and find the sweet spot again. Record a bit then check it on your studio monitors. Keep at it until you hear what you are looking for.
Maintain reasonable expectations, don’t try to make that Martin concert size cutaway sound like a jumbo Taylor. Translating the idea in your head to the sound in your speakers is not an easy task. After 20 years of recording, I still do this.
At TPH we have a large multipurpose room and I am constantly experimenting with Mics on different sources and tweaking the room to get good sounds. We’ve built gobos and baffles, we’ve collected Mics for very specific purposes, and I’m always looking for ways to get the most out of this space and the equipment so that I can get it right at the source. It’s an evolving environment. But one that I would encourage you to work in. Come be an artist and leave the techie stuff to us. There, that’s my sales pitch. Discounted rates for acoustic artists apply.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org