October 15, 2020

Did You Select The Right Microphone For The Job?

Right microphone for the job image

Home studios today are somewhat limited in gear, especially when it comes to microphone selection. That means that many of the tracks end up getting recorded by the same mic sometimes, which isn’t ideal when it comes to fitting mix elements into the mix. Choosing the right microphone for the job can be a crucial decision when it comes to not only a good recording, but having the element fit into the mix later.

For that reason, it helps to have at least a few types of mics to choose from: dynamic, ribbon, small diaphragm condenser and multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser. Just those 4 microphones will allow you to cover all the recording bases. That said, all microphones are not created equally, and for that reason each one should be selected to fit the instrument or vocal.

Here’s a simple checklist to help you choose the right microphone for the source.

  • Does the microphone compliment the instrument that you’ll be recording? For instance, if you have an instrument that has a very edgy top end, choose a mic that with the opposite quality so those frequencies won’t be emphasized. In the case of an instrument with a lot of transients (like a triangle or tambourine), dynamic mics often work better than condensers.
  • Will the mic be overloaded by the source? You wouldn’t want to put a ribbon or some condenser microphone models on a snare drum with a heavy hitting drummer, for instance.
  • Is the polar pattern the right one for the job? If leakage is a consideration, then choose a mic with hypercardioid directional capabilities for the job. If directionality doesn’t matter, then sometimes an omni pattern can provide a smoother frequency response. You might also consider a figure 8 pattern for its high rejection to sound on its sides.
  • Will proximity effect be an issue? If close-miking, will the bass buildup from proximity be too much? If so, consider an omni pattern or move the microphone back a bit.
  • Will the microphone allow the placement you need? You might not to be able to place a large body microphone at the sweet spot because it’s too big.

TIP: The best or most expensive mic that you have available may not be the best on a particular voice or instrument. Always be prepared to try several different types of mics.


You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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