31 Microphone Tips from Recording Hacks

Here are 31 tips from Matthew McGlynn, founder of recordinghacks.com:

  1. *Listen*. If the track sounds like crap, move the microphone.
  2. Omni mics don’t necessarily mean “bleed.” Try one up close. No proximity!
  3. If a client blows into a mic to test it, immediately explain that that’s bad for the mic. While beating him with it.
  4. Put a fig-8 mic under the cardioid on acoustic guitar. Mid-Side = instant free stereo ambience. Adjust to taste at mix time.
  5. Put a second mic 10′ away from the cabinet or acoustic instrument, for ambience.
  6. Need a tight, ‘poppy’ kick sound? Try a boundary mic: crown PZM or Shure Beta 91A on a pillow inside the drum.
  7. Fix the room. Make ALL your mics sound better.
  8. Buy cables with 90-degree female XLR ends for your end-address snare and tom mics. The drummer will thank you.
  9. Try bringing the vocal mic in from above, nose height, angled down. Reduces plosives and makes the singer stand up straight.
  10. Need more lows to thicken up a guitar? Try a ribbon mic. Proximity can be your friend.
  11. Check phase coherency of kick, snare, and OH mics *before* you record.
  12. Life is too short for crappy cables.
  13. Tracking a band live? Dynamic mics will pick up much less bleed/ambient sound than condensers.
  14. Bulk mic cable costs $1/ft. Commercial XLR cables cost $1.50-2.00/ft. Learn to solder!
  15. Most inexpensive condensers have funky off-axis coloration. Consider what unwanted EQ this brings to your track. Or buy nicer mics. ; )
  16. Watch the drummer play before you set up mics: see where not to put them!
  17. Still getting too much bleed in the vocal mic? Try a Shure SM7B: 19dB rear rejection! (shootout here)
  18. Get stereo mic mounts for XY, MS, and ORTF. Using just 1 stand for these pairs is SO MUCH easier than using two.
  19. If the room sound isn’t great, keep the drum OH mics low to increase the ratio of direct to reflected sound.
  20. Have at least 1 very clean, high-gain input channel for your dynamics & ribbons. (Or, get one of these)
  21. Very few microphones “suck.” But lots of placements do. (And some engineers, too.)
  22. The magnets in ribbon mics will attract harmful “tramp iron” if left exposed. Cover or case them when not in use.
  23. There is 1 indispensable tool for finding the best mic position for ANY source. (Hint: you have 2 of them.)
  24. High-pass filter the guitar track you’re re-amping, esp. if the cab is close-miked. Proximity + subharmonics = mud.
  25. Amateur drummer? Put OH mics high, & cheap dynamics close. Save the grief of an errant stick taking out your best condensers.
  26. Just because you can pound nails with your vintage Electro-Voice dynamics doesn’t mean you should do it.
  27. Your cab’s speakers probably do not sound the same. Record the one that sounds best.
  28. For quiet acoustic instruments, stay away from high-self-noise condenser mics.
  29. Hang your tube mics upside-down for long sessions, so the tube heat doesn’t cook the diaphragms.
  30. Point the 90-degree nulls of a fig-8 ribbon at nearby instruments you don’t want to record: better isolation than a Cardioid mic.
  31. Use a pop shield to enforce a minimum distance between the singer’s mouth and the microphone.

Which tip is your favorite? Share your own microphone tips in the comments!

Dan Comerchero

Dan Comerchero

I'm Dan, founder of The Pro Audio Files and Quiztones ear training apps. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.
  • http://www.soundcloud.com/afarthing Andy

    RE: Tip 14…

    I have found that by the time you add the necessary connectors to the price of the bulk cable, the cost of making these up by hand becomes more expensive than just buying a pre made cable in the majority of cases (or at the very least around the same price).

    Or am I looking in the wrong places?!

    Great tips, btw ;-)

    • Stephen Tack

      Yeah, unless you need specific lengths, or TRS to XLR cables.
      Also, http://www.MonoPrice.com has awesome (16guage! 8mm!) cables, both pre-made, and bulk (and good connectors), for crazy cheap prices.

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