Sound Placement in Home Recording Mixing - dummies

By Jeff Strong

As you probably discovered when you were placing your mics to record an instrument, the quality of sound changes when you place a mic closer to or farther away from the instrument. The closer you place a mic to the instrument, the less room ambience you pick up, thus making the instrument sound close to you, or “in your face.”

In contrast, the farther from the instrument you place your mic, the more room sound you hear. As a result, your instrument sounds far away.

If you’ve ever stood in a large room and talked to someone, you have seen (well, heard, actually) how this relationship works. When your friend stands close to you, you can hear him clearly. You hear very little of the reflections of his voice from around the room. As he moves farther away from you, the room’s reflections play an increasing role in the way that you hear him.

By the time your friend is at the other side of the room, you hear not only his voice but also the room in which you are talking with him. In fact, if the room is large enough, your friend probably sounds as if he were a mile away from you, and all the reflections from his voice bouncing around the room may make it difficult to understand what he says.

You can easily simulate this effect by using your reverb or delay effect processors. In fact, this is often the purpose of reverb and delay in the mixing process. With them, you can effectively place your instruments almost anywhere that you want them, from front to back, in your mix.

The less reverb or delay that you use in conjunction with your instrument, the closer it appears on the recording, whereas the more effect you add to an instrument, the farther away it seems from you.

The type of reverb or delay setting that you use has an impact on how close or far away a sound appears as well. For example, a longer reverb decay or delay sounds farther away than a shorter one.