This is a quick guide on what you will need, in order to produce a variety of different music recordings as well as having flexibility within your mic choices for sessions. This is aimed at muso's who are getting into recording or audio engineers just starting out and looking to build up a collection of mics or just to be familiar with the types of mics used in different scenarios. Types of Mics with short descriptions:
Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone (LDC)
These mics are great for recording vocals, drums (overhead or even placed sideways inbetween the floor tom and kick drum pointing at the snare), guitar amps, acoustic guitars and piano. Large diaphragm condenser mic give a clear and rounded frequency response while capturing some of the "room" sound.
Small Diaphragm Condenser Mic (SDC)
These are commonly referred to as "pencil" mics and can quite often come as a "matched" pair, meaning that they are the same in specs. Again, they have a wide range of frequency response and are a little more directional than the LDC. You can use these for recording drums (overheads), great for acoustic guitars and drum hi-hats. A little more of a specialist mic, but useful across certain instruments especially if you have a pair. Not really used for vocals much..
These are the everyday work horse mics that come in a few different styles. The desirable characteristic of these mics is that they pickup sound at a close proximity. In other words it has to be pretty close to the thing you want to record. The first is the standard dynamic vocal mic like a Shure SM58 or Sennheiser E835. These mics are primarily used for live vocals, studio vocals tend to be recorded with LDC's. The reason for dynamic mics being used more in live performances is due to the above mentioned comment about proximity. LDC's pickup waaay too much around them to be used live. LDC's are more susceptible to feedback.
The next dynamic mic is the Shure SM57. Honestly, this one mic alone you can get sooo much bang for buck. I would highly suggest purchasing one or even two of these mics. Their most iconic use is on snare drums. An SM57 on a snare is always a good starting point. Million dollar studios still use a 57 on a snare just because "it works". 57's are also good on guitar amps (sometimes paired with an LDC to capture the frequencies the 57 misses out on). I've also seen a 57 taped to a SDC to mic a hi-hat. You can also get away with using a 57 for a live vocal if you run out of 58's but they don't have as good sibilance (hi frequency glimmer).
The next is a large diaphragm dynamic mic. These are generally always kick drum mics or maybe used on a bass cabinet. These mics are the blend of brute strength combined with low frequency response. If you put an LDC near the port hole of a kick drum you run the risk of the air pressure ruining the condenser diaphragm. LDD mics can take more of a "hit" so to speak. Try these:
This is pretty much all you need to know about mics in a start-up scenario. There are most definitely other types of microphones but this blog is about practicality and building up a starting kit to get a home studio going.
Applications for mics and evolution of mic purchasing:
My suggestion would be to buy a decent LDC to start off with. You can do soooo much with 1 of these and I would dare say that you can record an entire album with just this mic. You can get crystal clear vocals, drums, guitar amps, acoustic guitars and then you can DI your bass and keys. There is no reason why you couldn't use this mic to capture brass, woodwind or other strings as well.
The next expansion is an SM57 (preferably 2!). With a decent LDC and 2 57's you can record decent drums, vocals and a guitar amp at once.
Where the 2 57's will really come into play is when you purchase a matched pair of SDC's and a kick mic. Once you have this you can record good drums, guitar amps, bass amps, vocals, acoustic guitars and any other acoustic instrument.
Bare minimum bag of mics needed for demo's:
1 LDC for vocal overdubs and mono drum overhead.
1-2 SM58's for vocals
2x SM57's (one for guitar amp, one for snare)
1x LDD for the kick drum
2x SDC's for drum overheads (glyn johns method is great way to record drums especially for demo's). You can also use these mics for acoustic guitars or the drum hi-hats (you choose).
That is pretty much it. After that all you will be doing is upgrading the mics you have or purchasing more of the same thing. But many of these you will keep for most of your recording life....
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