Microphone Placement

Beth Zarkhosh

Author: Beth Zarkhosh

Published 1st December 2015

by Beth Zarkhosh Issue 107 - November 2015

Recording vocals on your microphone sounds like an easy job, but making sure you use the correct techniques and appropriate placement is essential. Today well take a look at some of the industry standard techniques as well as some more weird wonderful recording solutions along the way.

Its important to know the range of pickup pattern you need when recording vocals. For example, If you are a choir or part of a vocal group, the best choice would be to gather around an omnidirectional microphone, the large coverage of this type of microphone enables vocalists in groups to sing and record together live. This technique allows a blend of voices by adapting their different singing levels and tones. Another way of recording a group of performers would be to place two cardioid microphones back to back - this is known as a coincident pair and creates an extremely well rounded stereo sound with maximum coverage.
If you want to record yourself in a room with obvious reverb and ambience that add to the vocals, the omnidirectional microphone will pick up the sound of the room along with the vocalists also. By adapting the distance of the singers to the microphone, there is an option to change the balance of voice to the ambience.
Stand closer to the microphone to get a sharper sound and in most standard vocal recording environments the voice will be the only thing youll want to be captured. This can be achieved with isolation booths such as the Vocal Booth Pro and using a unidirectional or condenser microphones. These type of recordings with isolation can be created with material surrounding the microphone in a surround like form This helps to cut reflected sounds in the room. (Even having a music stand can create reflections back to the recording on the microphone so remember to be aware.)

So where is best to place the microphone? If you place the axis of the microphone between the nose and mouth to pick up the full sound of the voice, this will give you the best possible sound with a distance of around 10-15cm.
Even though a microphone is usually in front of the vocalists mouth, some prefer a slightly off-axis placement which helps to stop unnecessary sounds from the singers breath or picking up on particular consonant sounds such as p, b, d and t, known as popping. With the use of a pop filter or placing the mic much further off axis this issue can be eliminated. Most professional vocals are recorded with the help of condenser microphones and isolation booths which are usually referred to as Vocal Booths.
So what are the best techniques to keep in mind when choosing your positioning for the microphone?

Use a microphone with a frequency that is suited to job. Flat frequencies which are usually around 20 Hz - 20 kHz have the same output level, making it more suitable for recordings where the sound needs to be recorded without changing the original sound. Youll get a very accurate sound.
A tip some will give is to filter out frequencies above/or below the highest and lowest frequencies of the sound, this can be done in various recording software such as Pro Tools, Final Cut, Cubase or Logic Pro X.
When live recording, play around with the microphone and your distances until you find a comfortable place to record from. Finding the right spot where you can hear from the studio monitors and get the tonal balance you require is handy. This part of the process is all about experimenting with the microphone and can help to change the overall sound or effect of the instrument itself.
Now whilst all of this may seem a bit mind boggling, microphone technique is pure and simple a matter of personal taste. There is no exact right and wrong, however there are better ways to go about your recording with microphone placement.
Experimenting with various microphones and placement is key and by understanding different microphones you can achieve a better recording or create the new sounds youre looking for.
There are a range of microphones for Do-It-Yourself recording then check out the Studio Series range by Editors Keys at www.editorskeys.com

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