View Full Version : I need a mic

01-01-2010, 10:09 AM
Next semester I'm going to be recording (most to least):

solo piano
voice with piano
solo trumpet
maybe a brass quintet
maybe a marimba duet
maybe maybe a string quartet

And unless I figure it out on my own I'm going to have to pay some guy to do it for me and miss out on money and experience. The Best Music School In My State doesn't seem to have any recording equipment to speak of, at least for students to use. I have an M-Audio portable recorder that supports 48V phantom power, which is apparently important.

I was going to just buy an SM57 since it seems universally recommended, but upon reading reviews it doesn't seem to be recommended for what I'm doing. So yeah, if any of yous guys can point me to a microphone that would do a passable job recording all that different stuff. The environment doesn't really matter. I have two concert halls, a virtual room (a normal room that is designed with some weird system in it to simulate the acoustics of a concert hall), and a million practice rooms to choose from. Whatever works best. I'm thinking the smaller of the two concert halls sounds the best out of everything, but I don't know if I'm going to be miking close or just putting it in the hall somewhere. Pretty much everything I know about microphones I've learned in the past 45 minutes. So I know about as much as you can teach yourself in 45 minutes.

I assume I'd want to use the hall for the acoustics but record the instruments separately. But then that seems like it would be too wet. Maybe two mics? Does any of the stuff I listed just now matter at all in terms of mic purchase?

I don't know, OCR.

But help me before I have to pay money to some guy instead!

No but seriously we have a few months.

EDIT: I will of course buy said mic from zZounds through the affiliate link to get like a few dollars for the site (I bought the M audio recorder from there awhile back too; it was a good few hundred dollars). Oh yeah, and my price range is up to about $250. $100 or less would be fantastic though and that's about what the SM57 goes for.

01-01-2010, 08:11 PM
There are a few ways to go at the recording process.

1) You can record the entire ensemble together, with a stereo microphone setup (i.e. two microphones). If you have a well-rehearsed ensemble and nice-sounding hall, this is the easiest and usually the best way to do things. Mic positioning really depends on the ensemble and the sound you're going for, but you usually don't want to be too far away from the players, and the mics should be a bit higher than them if possible. The downside to this way of recording is that if the ensemble sucks and you have to edit together multiple takes to get a decent recording, you can't isolate individual instruments in editing since you only have the two stereo channels to work with.

2) If you have a fully-equipped recording studio (and it sounds like you don't; I only mention this for sake of completeness) you can isolate some of the instruments in individual rooms as you record. Also requires a bunch of mics.

3) You can record instruments individually to a click track and then combine them. The downside to this is that if you have them play their parts individually, the ensemble members don't interact with each other as they perform, so things might not hang together as well. I'd only do this if I anticipated that the players woud make a lot of mistakes, since having every instrument on a separate track makes editing much easier. Doing this would also let you close mic everything without having multiple microphones.

4) Any combination of the above.

Close miking versus distance miking: Distance miking will give you more of the room sound, so if you want the natural reverb from the hall, distance miking is good. Close miking gives you more of a recording studio sound and is good if you plan to add reverb artificially. Realistically, if you only have one or two mics, you'll have to distance mic ensembles unless you decide to record the instruments individually. For solo stuff where the number of microphones isn't an issue, I'm inclined to always close mic since I prefer to add artificial reverb, but it's your call.

Buying mics: The SM57 is a wonderful all-purpose mic, and it's built like a tank. For the stuff you'll be doing, though, a condenser mic might work better. (See here (http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1995_articles/jun95/microphones.html) for a description of microphone types; capacitor is the same thing as condenser.) Condenser mics generally have a clearer sound than dynamic mics (such as the SM57). Unfortunately, I'm not very familiar with the budget microphone market. I've been using an MXL V63M (http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/MXL-MXLV63M-Condenser-Studio-Microphone-with-Shockmount?sku=273158&src=3WFRWXX&ZYXSEM=0&CAWELAID=26021006) pair for personal projects because I got one of them as a freebie, and I don't have any complaints with them.

01-01-2010, 08:33 PM
I agree with Moseph. Those instruments have lots of important higher frequency content so a condenser sounds like it would be much better for your needs. An SM-57 will sound good, but even most cheap condensers will sound clearer in a side-by-side comparison. That 48V phantom power is needed to power condensers, which is why it is important. If you go with the 57, you won't need it.

My recommendation would be either a Studio Projects B1 (http://www.zzounds.com/item--STUB1) ($100) or even better a Rode NT1-A (http://www.zzounds.com/item--RODNT1A) ($230). Both condensers sound great and are in your price range!

01-01-2010, 09:34 PM
Don't spend your entire budget on a single microphone. Assuming your audio interface has two microphone inputs (definitely check this before buying mics), you'll be better off with two mics so you can record stereo. Stereo's not necessary for, say, solo trumpet, but it's necessary if you want a decent recording of multiple instruments and don't plan to record them individually. You can do a mono recording, but stereo sounds much better.

If you do record instruments individually, you'll only need one mic, but you'll need a set of headphones for the player so he can hear either a metronome or the recorded instruments without any bleedthrough into the mic. And again, I'd advise against recording this way unless your players are really bad and you need the instruments to be isolated for editing purposes. There's a lot more overhead involved than a simple stereo recording, and the results won't necessarily be any better. And you can't do it if you're recording a live concert.

Depending on what the school has, you may also need mic stands and cables, so be sure to include those in your budget if you need them. Also, check and see if any of the halls at the school have permanent microphone installations. If they do and you're okay with the sound they give, you can just hook up to those and not buy mics at all.

01-02-2010, 10:44 AM
I do have two mic inputs.