Creating Home Recording Miking Combinations - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Often you’ll want to use more than one microphone in your home sound recordings. The possible combinations are almost limitless: You can use several spot mics on one instrument, you can use a spot mic and an ambient mic, you can have a distant mic and a spot mic, or . . . well, you get the point.

As exciting as these possibilities can be, keep the following points in mind to get the best sound when you combine multiple mics:

  • Be aware of phase relationships. Each mic interacts with all the other ones when you record, and you need to take the time to set up each mic so that it doesn’t interfere with any others.

    This means honoring the 3:1 rule for stereo mics. The only way to ensure that your phase is good is to record a snippet of a song (or a whole song if you want) and then listen to your tracks.

    Listen to each mic individually and then together to see whether any frequencies drop out. If frequencies drop out, finding the problem mics will take some detective work.

    You need to play pairs of mics that you recorded until you find the problem; then you need to adjust each mic until the problem goes away. If you do this enough, you’ll get pretty good at placing mics and making phase relationships work.

  • Be aware of bleed between mics. This is mainly for bands that want to play together while still maintaining as much isolation as possible. A string quartet rarely needs isolation because all the instruments blend well together live; this blending is integral to the overall sound. However, a rock band with miked amps usually needs enough isolation so that you can do some tweaking to each instrument when you mix.

    As well, a band that plays well together and can nail the performances can have more bleed — whereas a band with a marginal player or two (you know whether you have one in your band) who has to perform additional takes or punch-ins to fix a weak performance requires much more isolation.

    Doing a punch-in to a live, bleed-filled performance (for instance, if your bass player flubbed a few notes) can sound wrong in the mix.

  • Use only as many mics as you need. Every additional mic that you add to your setup complicates your recording process considerably. To keep things simple, use as few mics as possible to get the sound you want.

If you’re using a digital recorder, it probably has a phase switch that enables you to fix the phase problems later if you missed them as you recorded. This isn’t as optimal as recording without this problem, but it may allow you to save an otherwise-good set of tracks.