Authored by Andy Edelstein
Course Code: OMPRD-355
Whether your studio work features a single vocalist or rapper, metal trio, or large big-band jazz ensemble, the ability to implement effective microphone techniques is essential to producing dynamic music. Microphone Techniques 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, strategies for 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 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: Gearing Up for Recording
- Acoustics and Recording
- Electricity and Electronics
- The Recording Chain
- Configuring Your Recording Rig
- Microphone Signal Routing
Lesson 2: From Microphone to Multitrack: Details of the Recording Chain
- Microphones: A First Look
- Setup Procedures
- Microphone Signal Transmission
- Microphone Preamps
- Case Study: Neve Mic Preamps
- Gain Staging, Recording Levels, and Monitor Mixes
Lesson 3: Microphone Specifications and Types
- Inside Microphones
- Microphone Specifications
- Condenser Microphones
- Moving Coil Microphones
- Ribbon Microphones
Lesson 4: Choosing the Right Microphone
- The Unique Challenges of Learning Recording Skills
- From Goals to Sessions: Planning a Recording Project
- Matching Microphones to Instruments
Lesson 5: One on One: Basic Microphone Placement
- Evaluating Mic Choice and Placement
- Choose Your Distance
- Directional Characteristics of Musical Instruments
- Single Close-Miking Techniques
Lesson 6: When Two Is Better Than One
- Multiple Mics Versus Minimalism: Which Is Better?
- Common Scenarios For Multiple Close Microphones
- Dealing with Phase Interference
- Working with Multiple Microphones
- Examples of Multiple Close Miking Techniques
Lesson 7: Taking a Step Back: Mid-Zone and Distant Microphone Placement
- Not So Close: Mid-Zone Miking Techniques
- Using Distant Microphone Placement
- Exercise: Find the Critical Distance in a Room
- Combining Close and Distant Miking Techniques
- The Use of Acoustic Chambers for Ambience
Lesson 8: Stereo Miking Techniques
- Applications of Stereo Miking
- Coincident Stereo Pairs
- Quasi-Coincident Stereo Pairs
- Spaced Pairs and Microphone Arrays
Lesson 9: What Impacts the Sound of Recordings (Other Than Microphones)?
- The Role of Performance Technique
- The Wide World of Instruments
- The Impact of Room Acoustics and the Recording Environment
- Recording without a Microphone: Direct injection (DI)
Lesson 10: Recording the Drum Kit
- Starting at the Source: Selecting and Tweaking a Drum Kit
- The Impact of the Recording Environment on the Drum Sound
- Microphone Options for Recording Drums
- Classic Drum Miking Setups
Lesson 11: Preparing for a Recording Session
- Selecting a Project
- Establishing Goals and Production Methods
- Selecting an Appropriate Recording Environment
- Planning the Session
Lesson 12: The Recording Session
- Setting Up the Recording Space, Instruments, and Microphones
- Communications and Monitoring
- Tweaking the Setup
- Recording Tracks
Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements
Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
- Completion of Critical Listening 1 or equivalent knowledge and experience
- Basic skills operating a multitrack digital audio workstation (DAW) (connecting microphone inputs, adjusting recording levels, assigning inputs to recording tracks, and creating monitor mixes)
Basic experience recording with Pro Tools is ideal for satisfying the DAW proficiency requirement. If you haven’t used Pro Tools, you may benefit from taking Pro Tools 101 (or Pro Tools 110 if you have extensive experience using another DAW and would like a challenge). As an alternative, consider taking Producing Music with Logic if you intend to utilize Logic Pro for coursework.
- No textbooks required
- Coursework includes frequent hands-on recording assignments. For many assignments you can work with instruments of your choice, with the following exceptions:
- A complex acoustic instrument is needed for two assignments, such as a saxophone or other woodwind, acoustic guitar, acoustic piano, or string instrument; brass, percussion, amplified electric instrument, or vocal will not satisfy this requirement.
- A drum kit is used in one assignment. An alternate option will be provided if a kit is not available.
- A small band or ensemble (three or four pieces) is required for the final project; an alternate option will be provided if a band is not available. In most cases the instruments you use for the final project must be representative of different families; for example, an ensemble of soprano, alto, and tenor sax will probably not work.
- Synthesizers, electric pianos, or other direct connected instruments cannot be used to satisfy any course requirements.
- Note: It is strongly recommended that you record a band or some of your friends rather than engineering and playing simultaneously. Likewise, all performers should have sufficient skills to coax musical sounds from their instrument!
- Pro Tools or other DAW capable of exporting AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) files, such as Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, etc.
- Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as necessary cables
- Audio interface with at least 2 mic preamps (4-8 preamps recommended)
- Unidirectional XLR condenser microphone
- Unidirectional XLR dynamic (moving coil or ribbon) microphone
- Recommended: 2-6 additional XLR microphones, including:
- Omnidirectional microphone
- Bidirectional microphone
- Matched pair for drum overheads and stereo miking techniques.
- Microphone stands and cables for all microphones
- Closed back, over-ear studio headphones such as Sony MDR-7506 or better
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course.
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
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.
Alejandro Rodriguez is an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering department at Berklee College of Music, with more than 20 years of experience as a recording, editing, mixing, mastering, post-production, and live sound engineer and producer. He has worked with artists such as Mariah Carey, Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa and AfroCuban All Stars (from Buena Vista Social Club), Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, J.M. Vitier, Grupo Niche, Armando Mnazanero, Ricardo Arjona, Pancho Cespedes, and Tania Libertad.
Prior to Berklee, Alejandro was an acoustics professor at the National School of Arts (ENA) and a professor of sound studies at Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA)—both in Havana, Cuba. He has also taught audio and recording techniques at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, México. Alejandro worked as a staff engineer for EGREM Studios in Havana, Cuba, and has since pursued a freelance career as an engineer and producer. He holds a bachelor's degree in music from ENA and a bachelor's degree in arts communication (specializing in sound for film, radio, and TV) from ISA. In addition, he studied telecommunication engineering at the Technical University in Havana and recording techniques at the Supraphon Recording Faclities in Prague, Czech Republic. Read Less
John Broaddus is an instructor in the Music Technology minor program at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain where he teaches Recording Skills for the Musician, Critical Listening and Production Analysis. He holds an undergraduate degree in Music Theory from Drury College, a Recording Arts specialized degree from Full Sail and a Master’s in Music Production, Technology and Innovation from Berklee. As a teacher, technologist and music producer, John brings an infectious enthusiasm to his classes and is driven to see his students succeed as musicians, producers and engineers. He has produced a number of projects in his personal studio beginning in 1998 and has worked in digital media for Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles where clients included Disney, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, BBC, Apple, Amazon, Google, Playstation Network and Microsoft to name a few.
When taken for credit, Microphone Techniques can be applied towards the completion of these related programs: