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Distant Microphone Sound Recording Techniques

When you use distant miking, you place microphones about 3 or 4 feet away from the sound source, as shown in the following illustration. Distant miking enables you to capture some of the sound of the room along with the instrument.

An example of a distant-miking technique is the overhead drum microphone. With it, you can pick up the whole drum set to some extent. Coupling the distant mic with a few select spot mics, you can record a natural sound.

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Distant miking has its plusses and minuses. Here are some things to remember if you use this technique:

  • You can get a more natural sound. By moving the mic back a few feet from its source, you give the instrument a chance to breathe a bit and allow the sound to blend a little with the room in which it’s played.

    You also eliminate the impact of the proximity effect and correct the balance between the body of the instrument’s sound and the transient from the initial attack. This often creates a more pleasing, natural sound.

  • Other instruments may bleed into your track. If you record more than one instrument at the same time, distant miking increases the bleed of other instruments into the track of the instrument that you want to record.

    The solution to this is to use the spot-miking technique instead, move the instruments farther apart, adjust the mics so that the blind spot of the mic is facing the instrument you don’t want to record, or place gobos (acoustic baffles) between the instruments.

  • The sound of the room is important. With the mic farther away from the instrument, more of the room sound is picked up in relation to the instrument. As a result, you hear more of the room in your tracks. This can be nice if your room sounds good, but it can get in the way if your room doesn’t.

  • Multiple mics can cause phase problems. Whenever you use more than one mic on a source such as a band or drum set, the relationship of these mics to the source and to one another plays a significant role in the sound you get.

    If the mics are not placed properly, some frequencies may drop out. Called phase cancellation, this is the result of the recorded waveforms reaching each mic at slightly different times.

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