Microphone Techniques

Author: 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

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 thirty-five-year tenure at the College. Andy has produced, recorded, and/or mixed numerous records from jazz and rock to folk, Celtic, and blues, including the genre-bending Wayfaring Strangers critically acclaimed Rounder releases, the SpinART debut by independent rockers Apollo Sunshine, and a live album by the longtime bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad, 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.

Prerequisites

Completion of Critical Listening 1 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Basic skills operating a multitrack recording system of your choice (connecting microphone inputs, adjusting recording levels, assigning inputs to recording tracks, creating monitor mixes) and bouncing mixes to WAV files or recording/importing external mixes into your computer will also be required.


Required Textbooks

None required


Software Requirements

  • Audio Software: If not using a computer-based DAW, you will need digital audio software capable of recording or importing WAV files.
  • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, or Safari
  • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Edge
  • Flash Player (if using the Record Live tool)

Hardware Requirements

All Users

  • 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 
    • The minimum requirement for the course is:
      • One unidirectional condenser microphone
      • One 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, and a second microphone matching any of your others for drum overheads and stereo miking techniques.
      Note: The ideal hardware configuration for students who would like to experience recording a small live band is a system with 4 – 8 microphones and input channels.
  • 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 violin
    • A drum kit is recommended for one assignment; an alternate option will be provided if a kit is not available
    • A 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: it's better to record a band or some of your friends rather than engineering and playing simultaneously.
  • Other Equipment 
    • Stereo loudspeakers
    • At least one pair of headphones suitable for monitoring during a recording session

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.7 or later
  • RAM and hard drive space sufficient for operating computer-based DAW
  • Webcam

PC Users

  • Windows Vista SP2 or higher
  • Intel Pentium 4 or higher
  • RAM and hard drive space sufficient for operating computer-based DAW
  • Sound card
  • Webcam




Comments

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Next Term Starts January 9


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