Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice, lesson two: Microphones

Ladies and gentlemen, please put those paws together and give a warm welcome to our special guest. We welcome back to the stage, Mr. Chris Carr from The Kilt Lifters.

Folks that know the situation also know that he’s kind enough to let us host a weekly event where we generally run amok and act the fool. The bourbon sipping gent is pretty relaxed and doesn’t even yell at us to get off his lawn! Sweet!

Anyhow, he’s a fine musician in his own right. He plays everything from the uke to the guitar and flouts (I’ve decided that’s the word, and I’m not going to use a dictionary. You knew what you were into when you clicked the link!) with the best of ’em! If you catch him on a good day, you can find him playing with himself or prancin’ about in a kilt!

He recently dropped a new album and has a few more for sale. Having heard the new album, I can say it’s a delightful listen that has only one drawback – it’s too short. Still, it’s well worth considering for your Celtic Music needs and you get to help support a member of the community.

At the very least, give his site a quick visit and browse around. You never know, ladies. If you offer ’em enough money, maybe he’ll show ya what’s under his kilt!

One more time, let’s make him feel welcome and put those hands together for Mr. Chris Carr!

Audio Production for the Complete Novice

The microphone is a critical component of recording and production, so we’re going to spend a few minutes talking about them in this lesson.

There are a few basic types of microphones, which we’ll cover here. 

  1. Dynamic
    If you’ve never done much in the audio production realm, then you’re probably most familiar with dynamic mics.  These mics are modern stage workhorses. Dynamic mics can withstand higher sound pressures, and are generally very durable.  This makes them great for micing an amplifier, or for your lead singer to scream into and drop on his foot. After the show, he can hammer in a few nails with it, and it will probably still work.  The Shure SM58 is probably the most popular dynamic vocal mic of all time, and it’s brother the SM57 is probably one of the most popular mics for instruments and amps.  Personally, I prefer the GLS audio clones at ⅓ the price. I discovered the GLS mics when I was first learning about audio production on a forum for folks to learn from industry pros.  Several industry pros swore by these mics, and they are a lot more knowledgeable than I am. Here is the GLS ES57, and the GLS ES58.
  2. Condenser
    Condenser mics are generally much more sensitive than dynamic mics.  They generally have a much broader dynamic range, and due to their sensitivity will pick up a lot of ambient noise.  Due to their sensitivity, it’s a good idea to work with these mics in a quiet environment.  Condenser mics are also more delicate and are not as resilient to high sound pressure. I would not choose a condenser mic to mic a bass cabinet, for instance.  Condenser mics require +48v phantom power to operate.  Remember in the first lesson on recording when I mentioned that your audio interface should have +48v phantom power?  It’s to enable the use of this type of microphone.  There are three types of condenser mics. Large diaphragm condensers have the broadest dynamic range and are commonly used for vocals.  Small diaphragm condensers, or pencil mics, are better at picking up high transients, and are often used in an X/Y configuration for stereo recording. Stereo SDC’s are a great choice for Acoustic guitars and wind instruments.  The last type of condenser mic is a lavalier.  These are commonly used on the lapel for speaking engagements, on a headset for hands free vocals in a stage settings (I use one of these for live performances to avoid being stuck behind a mic stand), and on special mounts for string and wind instruments.
  3. Ribbon
    Ribbon mics are extremely sensitive, can be somewhat delicate, and usually expensive.  Ribbon mics are known for their excellent high frequency response.

    It’s important to note that you can spend as much money as you want on a microphone, but that doesn’t mean that your recordings will sound polished and professional.  A beginner producer recording outside of a professionally treated studio space will not see any advantage in a $4k Telefunken microphone. Also, budget doesn’t necessarily mean bad.  I have had great success with a very low-end pair of small diaphragm condenser mics that I bought used on Ebay for $50 for the pair. One of them was held together with tape. To this day, those were some of the best sounding mics I’ve ever used.  While the mega expensive mics do have their place, it’s generally in professional studios that are specially designed and acoustically treated with the specific purpose of recording.  It’s possible to get great results without breaking the bank.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment!


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2 thoughts on “Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice, lesson two: Microphones”

    1. That generally wouldn’t work simply because the power is delivered to the microphone from the pre-amp via the XLR connection. Microphones don’t connect via ethernet switches, they connect via the interface.

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