Microphone Techniques

Author: Andy Edelstein | Course Code: OMPRD-355

Effective microphone techniques resulted in some of the most iconic music ever committed to tape. Consider Phil Spector's signature "Wall of Sound," which relied heavily on appropriate microphone techniques, or Led Zeppelin's iconic recording of John Bonham's drums on "When the Levee Breaks," recorded with a stereo microphone on the second floor stairway at Headley Grange Studio. Whether your sessions feature a single vocalist or rapper, metal trio, or large big-band jazz ensemble, the ability to get good sounds is essential to producing competitive results.

Microphone Techniques for Recording Engineers is designed to give you the solid background and skill set necessary for successfully planning and implementing recording sessions ranging from single-mic overdubs to full rhythm sections. Throughout the course, you'll learn about the various elements of the recording chain, detailed technical characteristics of different microphone types, selecting appropriate microphone models based upon an instrument's sound and the desired outcome, proper handling and setup, close and distant microphone placements for a wide variety of musical instruments, effectively utilizing the recording environment, and managing the demands of complex recording sessions with multiple participants.

Each week, you'll complete exercises and assignments that help build your skills step-by-step. You'll get better acquainted with the microphones available to you, experiment with both close and distant mic techniques, and by the end of the course, work your way up to a full-band recording.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • develop a general strategy for a recording session based upon a desired production style
  • select a microphone that effectively matches the characteristics of an instrument
  • position a microphone in a way that accommodates an instrument's complex sound radiation patterns
  • devise multiple mic configurations in order to attain more accurate or compelling recordings
  • work with close as well as distant mic configurations
  • utilize stereo mics to convey the spatial qualities of instruments and ensembles
  • execute a moderately complex recording session with multiple simultaneous performers

Lesson 1: Getting Started

Acoustics and RecordingElectricity and ElectronicsThe Recording ChainConfiguring Your Recording RigMicrophone Signal Routing

Lesson 2: From Microphone to Multitrack: Details of the Recording Chain

Microphones: A First LookSetup ProceduresMicrophone Signal TransmissionMicrophone PreampsCase Study: Neve Mic PreampsGain Staging, Recording Levels, and Monitor Mixes

Lesson 3: Microphone Specifications and Types

Inside MicrophonesMicrophone SpecificationsCondenser MicrophonesMoving Coil MicrophonesRibbon Microphones

Lesson 4: Choosing the Right Microphone

The Unique Challenges of Learning Recording SkillsFrom Goals to Sessions: Planning a Recording ProjectMatching Microphones to Instruments

Lesson 5: One on One: Basic Microphone Placement

Evaluating Mic Choice and PlacementChoose Your DistanceDirectional Characteristics of Musical InstrumentsSingle Close-Miking Techniques

Lesson 6: Basic Placement 2: Is Two Better Than One?

Multiple Mics Versus Minimalism: Which Is Better?Common Scenarios For Multiple Close MicrophonesDealing with Phase InterferenceWorking with Multiple MicrophonesExamples of Multiple Close Miking Techniques

Lesson 7: Taking a Step Back: Mid-Zone and Distant Microphone Placement

Not So Close: Mid-Zone Miking TechniquesUsing Distant Microphone PlacementExercise: Find the Critical Distance in a RoomCombining Close and Distant Miking TechniquesThe Use of Acoustic Chambers for Ambience

Lesson 8: Stereo Miking Techniques

Applications of Stereo MikingCoincident Stereo PairsQuasi-Coincident Stereo PairsSpaced Pairs and Microphone Arrays

Lesson 9: What Impacts the Sound of Recordings (Other Than Microphones)?

The Role of Performance TechniqueThe Wide World of InstrumentsThe Impact of Room Acoustics and the Recording EnvironmentRecording without a Microphone: Direct injection (DI)

Lesson 10: (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About) Drum Miking Techniques

Starting at the Source: Selecting and Tweaking a Drum KitThe Impact of the Recording Environment on the Drum SoundMicrophone Options for Recording DrumsClassic Drum Miking Setups

Lesson 11: Recording a Band, Part 1: Preparing for a Session

Selecting a ProjectEstablishing Goals and Production MethodsSelecting an Appropriate Recording EnvironmentPlanning the Session

Lesson 12: Recording a Band, Part 2: Setup and Tracking

Setting Up the Recording Space, Instruments, and MicrophonesCommunications and MonitoringTweaking the SetupRecording Tracks

Andy Edelstein

Author & Instructor

Andy Edelstein is an active educator, record producer, engineer, and multimedia developer. He is currently Associate Professor of Music Production and Engineering at Berklee, and has also served as Assistant Chair of the Music Production and Engineering Department during his twenty-five-year tenure at the College. Andy has produced, recorded, and/or mixed numerous records from jazz and rock to bluegrass, Celtic, and blues, including the genre-bending Wayfaring Strangers critically acclaimed Rounder releases, the SpinART debut by independent rockers Apollo Sunshine, and the latest Dry Branch Fire Squad live album, all using his Pro Tools HD system.. Andy is Principal of Rapid Eye Media, specializing in multimedia production services. His design and production work is featured in a series of award-winning interactive exhibits at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO and the Longyear Museum in Brookline, MA. Consulting clientele has included the GRAMMY Foundation in Santa Monica, CA. Andy holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Critical Listening or equivalent knowledge and/or experienceBasic skills operating a multitrack recording system of your choice (connecting microphone inputs, adjusting recording levels, assigning inputs to recording tracks, creating monitor mixes)Basic skills bouncing mixes to WAV files or recording/importing external mixes into your computer
PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current versionWindows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higherRAM and hard drive space sufficient for operating digital audio softwareSound card
Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current versionOS X 10.5 or laterIntel MacRAM and hard drive space sufficient for operating digital audio software

Multitrack Recording System: You must have access to a multitrack recording system, which supports at least two microphone inputs. Any of the following are acceptable:

Computer-based DAW (Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Reason 6, Digital Performer, SONAR, Cubase, etc.)Standalone digital or analog workstation (Roland, Yamaha, Fostex, Akai, etc.)Component recording system (console, multitrack tape recorder, etc.)

Microphones:

One unidirectional condenser microphoneOne unidirectional dynamic (moving coil or ribbon) microphone

Access to other microphone types can be helpful, including an omnidirectional microphone of any type, a bidirectional microphone of any type (note that a single multi-pattern condenser can provide both omni and bidirectional pickup), and a second microphone matching any of your others for drum overheads and stereo miking techniques.

Audio Software: If not using a computer-based DAW, you will need digital audio software capable of recording or importing WAV files.

Musical Instruments: Coursework includes frequent hands-on recording assignments. We recommend the following:

Vocalist (male or female; both if possible)An acoustic instrument, such as a saxophone or other woodwind, acoustic guitar, piano, or violinA drum kit is recommended for one assignment; an alternate option will be provided if a kit is not availableA small band or ensemble (three or four pieces) is recommended for the final project; an alternate option will be provided if a band is not available

Note that it's better to record a band or some of your friends rather than engineering and playing simultaneously.

Other Gear:

Stereo loudspeakersAt least one pair of headphones suitable for monitoring during a recording session
  • Level
  • Duration
    12 Weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,449
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

Fall Term Starts September 29 for Courses and Multi-Course Certificates


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