Welcome to Day 3 of 31 Days to Better Recordings!

HSC31DaysLogo_400.jpgIn the 12 Home Studio Necessities series, I talked about microphones. Regardless of the style of music you’re recording/producing, you’ll need to use a microphone from time to time.

If you’re like me, you use a mic for almost everything you record.

There are hundreds of mics to choose from. It can easily become overwhelming. You could buy microphone after microphone, in search of the perfect combination.

Just One Microphone

Ever heard the phrase “less is more”? It really applies to home studios, especially if you’re starting out.

It’s easy to hop on some of the popular forums and hear a hundred different engineers recommend a hundred different microphones. Before you know it, you’re starting to think you need a whole closet full of microphones to have any hope of making good recordings.

That’s not necessarily true. Having all of those microphones doesn’t guarantee you’ll make better recordings.

I’m not against a big mic locker. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that a good engineer will give himself several microphone choices for any given recording scenario. (For example, one mic may sound better on a particular vocalist than another.)

Re-read that last paragraph. The key phrase there is “good engineer.” My buddy Slau (of the Sessions with Slau Podcast) is a full-time professional engineer in New York. He loves to talk about (and buy) new microphones. He has a lot of microphones.

The difference? He knows how to use them.

If you’re just starting out in the recording world, you need to first learn how to use a single microphone effectively. Once you’ve mastered that one, move on to a second, then a third, and so on.

I’d suggest starting off with a large-diaphragm condenser mic, but you can start with something as simple as a Shure SM57 or SM58. There are no rules. (See Graham Cochrane’s article about $100 microphones.) Whatever you choose, commit to becoming an expert in using that microphone.

Find out how to best record acoustic guitar, male vocals, female vocals, piano, guitar amps, etc. with that one mic. Once you’ve mastered it, get another mic and repeat.

Imagine owning three or four different microphones that you are intimately familiar with rather than a dozen mics you don’t know how to use. That’s a huge way to start getting better recordings.

For more on mics, check out Intro to Microphones.

Day 3 Challenge

Leave a comment below and tell us what your one microphone is and what you’re going to do to start learning it inside-out.

  • chencho dorji

    sir,
    i have roand DR-80C,condenser mic and i m using profire 2626-m audio as audio interface. i want to record my vocal but there is problem. it’s not working. plz give me some suggestion,send me a mail. thank you

  • Stevekacz

    I’ve had a sm58 for years and used it mainly for miking my amp live. now that in trying to get serious about recording I decided to get a condenser mic. I saw a m-audio Luna on e-bay dirt cheap and remembered you had mentioned you used one and it was a good clear mic. I haven’t recorded with it yet but it does sound good from the mixer. with all the mic on the market its get very confusing.

  • Sam

    Sterling Audio ST55 and AKG Perception 170. Well first I am going to plug the preamp into the interface through TRS instead of XLR 😉 . I have been using them in stereo to A/B them and mix the signals, I have been really surprised that the AKG seems to have nice warmer tone than the big st55! I need to just “put in the time” and play with them!

    Thanx,
    sam

  • James

    Hey Joe; I’m a recent listener/reader to your podcast/blog (I listen to you blog and read your podcast :p).

    My first mic purchase ever was a Sennheiser Dynamic for live performances. I always thought the SM58 was a little over-rated; although I understand I’m in a VERY lonely minority holding this opinion. I used my e805 for many live performances and some home studio dabbling.

    When I got into voice-over work, I picked an LDC or two. I think the Audio Technica AT2035 is a tremendous value. If you shop around for specials you can get them for sub-$100 (like I did). Most respectable do price-matching; so you can remain loyal to your favorite retailer.

    This is a flexible mic with a pad and roll-off; but certainly won’t break any bank. It’s clear and well-defined, but doesn’t have the high-end brittleness that can make your ears bleed. Best of all (well maybe), it’s not Chinese. AT is a bona fide Japanese-engineered LDC; so you have some (meager) bragging rights.

    The only other ultra-ubber-value-laden option might be a CAD M179. With this you even get multi-pattern capabilities to play around with mid-side stereo imaging.

  • Jon

    I started out with an AKG Perception 200 and didn’t really learn how to use it. Just bought a Neumann TLM 103 on craigslist. it is great on acoustic guitars, I know that so far, but not intimate with this yet either. Not really sure how to get “good” at one particular microphone…..