When it comes to producing, recording live instruments and vocals is essential to add an extra dimension to your music. An electrifying vocal or piano riff, dappled amongst your synths and drum samples, adds a whole new level to your music. It can be the difference between a dull, collection of mis-matched bleeps and tingles down your listener’s spine. Knowing the different types of microphone and when to use them is a crucial part of creating an engaging recording that will galvanise your music.
Dynamic microphones are most commonly found in a live performance environment. They are formed by a diaphragm, made of very light material, attached to a metal coil suspended within a permanent magnetic field. As sound enters the mic it causes the diaphragm to fluctuate. This in turn causes the coil to move, stimulating its surrounding, this is turned into the audio recording. These oscillating components can be rather hefty which means that they are less sensitive to audio of a lower volume. This weightiness also means that they are incredibly resilient and can handle very loud sound sources.
Where to use them: Drums, guitar amplifiers & live performance recording
Where to place them: Dynamic mics are more effective when placed very close to the sound source.
Which ones to use: Shure SM57, Shure SM58 & Sennheiser MD441
If you want to create an audio recording with a great amount of detail and fidelity then condenser microphones are the way to go. Their delicate, slender, diaphragm forms one half of the two plates of a capacitor. As the diaphragm is disrupted by the sound source, it moves, wildly towards and away from the second plate. This creates a modulating, electrical charge which forms the recorded signal. The paper-like nature of these metal plates make condenser microphones sensitive to even the tiniest changes in sounds. This means that they’re amazing for creating very precise, audio recordings. Condenser microphones also make use of ‘phantom power’. This means that they need power supplied by a mixing console or other piece of audio equipment.
Where to use them: Vocal recordings, acoustic guitar & piano
Where to place them: These can be placed further away from sound sources. If they are too close they can easily distort. Condensers can also be used as a ‘room mic’ to pick up the atmosphere of a space while another microphone is used for the main recording.
Which ones to use: AKG C414, Neuman TLM103 & Shure SM82
Ribbon mics are characterised by a thread-like strip of aluminium suspended in a permanent magnetic field. As this sash of metal fluctuates with the incoming sound source it creates oscillations within the magnetic field that are translated into the recorded audio. Their, almost, weightless elements make them sensitive to higher frequencies and quieter sounds. They’re also fantastic for adding a saturated, colour to the recording.
Where to use them: Vocal recordings, strings
Where to place them: Theiy may lose their body if the mic is positioned too far from the sound source. However, they exhibit something called the ‘proximity effect’ if too close. This means that the low end on the recordings gets louder as the sound source approaches the mic.
Which ones to use: Beyer M130, Royers SF-1