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Mic suggestions for acoustic instruments

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ffynnon, Feb 11, 2003.

  1. ffynnon

    ffynnon Guest

    I'm recording Banjo and Mandolin. Anyone here got experience recording these instruments? I'm not happy with the sound I get from my existing mics (AKG 3000C and an SM57). The space I'm recording in doesn't have a particularly nice sound, so I think I'm looking for something fairly directional. And it will have to be under 200 US$/ 160 GB£.

    Thanks, Jim.
  2. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member


    > The space I'm recording in doesn't have a particularly nice sound <

    I think this is the key to your problem, not the choice of mike you use. If you can't improve the acoustics of the room, try putting down a sheet of plywood or other hard surface on the floor. Then put the player on a chair centered on the hard surface. The added ambience from being on a reflective floor is often quite helpful when recording acoustic instruments.

  3. ffynnon

    ffynnon Guest

    Thanks for your reply Ethan. I shall try what you suggest. I worded my original post very badly. I should have said that the space does not have a particularly flattering sound. The instruments sound ok until they get recorded, which makes me think that a better mic is called for. I've also noticed that I got the currency conversion wrong. I'm in he UK and meant to say £200 which would be in the $300-$350 price range in the states. I suspect I may have received more mic suggestions, if I'd got that right, the first time...

  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    A pencil style condenser would be what you need. Small diaphragm. AKG 451's are about $300 US new. Also thing about Studio Projects. Cheap. A small Diaphragm condenser aimed at where the neck and body meets on both instruments will do the trick . Small diaphragms also keep a lot of the room sound down to a minimum. Fats
    Tannoy, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D , Genelec, Hafler, KRK, and PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  5. HiString

    HiString Guest

    J D,

    I guess without knowing what exactly is "unflattering" about the sound, it is difficult to be specific about solutions. If the room is too live you could try hanging blankets or other thick, absorbant items (maybe sheep :D ) around the area where the players sit/stand.

    The other thing to do is while someone plays the instrument, walk around them with your ear close to where a mic would be positioned, listen for the sweet spot that has the sound you want to capture and try recording with the mic in that position.

    We have a range of quality acoustic guitars and each one requires a different approach. On one in particular, I found the best recorded sound was done with a (DON'T LAUGH OR CRINGE), Behringer ECM8000 mic position about 1.5 inches off the front of the headstock.........at the time I needed a crystal clear sound and that did the job.

    Experiment (a lot) with what you have before buying any other gear.

  6. ffynnon

    ffynnon Guest


    I wouldn't say the space is "unflattering" either, its fairly neutral, I think. It's a 10'X 12' rectangle with a 1' slope in the ceiling between the 12' walls. The walls are 2x4's with plasterboard cladding filled with fiberglass. The ceilings plywood and the floor is carpeted. There's plenty of odd shaped shelves on the walls and a sofa bed in one corner.
    I never laugh or cringe at cheap solutions :)


    thanks for the suggestions. I have something to go on now
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Glad to help.

    Everyone, Jim has stated three times now he wants mic recommendations, not solutions for the room sound. How about some more suggestions for mics. My take on this is limited as I completed my mic collection quite a long time ago and I tend to lean towards more expensive German mics so I am not up on a lot of the newer less expensive stuff available. So how about some recommendations for cost effective mics for acoustic instruments ???

    HiString said …..

    I can hear it now, plunk, plunk,strum, plunk, plunk BAAAAAAH! plunk...
    Tannoy, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D , Genelec, Hafler, KRK, and PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  8. ffynnon

    ffynnon Guest

    It's not funny. I have enough trouble keeping the noise the little b*stards make, off my recordings when their OUTSIDE. Never mind having em in there with me :D
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I agree with cedar on this...you need a small diaphram condenser plus you will also need a large diaphram condenser or perhaps a large diaphram dynamic...ala sennheiser 441 or 421..i record a lot of banjo and a bunch of mandolin...one technique i use is the old over the shoulder trick...this involves three mikes for a banjo....you can mike a particular part of the head with a small diaphram condenser...move it around until you hear all of the transients become neutral...it takes time but its worth it...then you can use a dynamic such as your sm-57 up on the neck..10th fret is a good place to start...check both of these together for phase...hopefully you have the ability to revrse phase on one of your mics either with a switch on the console or a short cable with 2 and 3 poles reversed...then i use another small diaphram condenser up and over the shoulder facing down towards the instrument....you could maybe use your 3000 on this application in omni...it does have different patterns doesnt it?...anyway a c-451 as a purchase can never do you any harm as they are industry standard mics for just such applications...if you have access to good quality pre-amps this will help too...the mandolin is easier...small diaphram and move it around the lower bout of the body till it 'sings'...an overhead in omni out in front and up a couple feet will give it size...experiment...these instruments are some of the most difficult to get a quality sound from the mandolin due to its size and the banjo because its a freekin banjo...peace
  10. ffynnon

    ffynnon Guest

    Davedog, Thanks for all the great info.

    You don't know how good that makes feel. I've been banging my head against a wall with this one
  11. Kemble

    Kemble Guest

    I by no means have a good grasp on the 'good mic' for any project, but I can second (or third) that a small condenser aimed at the neck/body junction is a great start. I did some acoustic stuff a month or so ago for a friend and he still tells me he is amazed at how good the gtr sounds. Just a (company name deleted to protect the innocent) condenser pointed at that spot and a !SM57 about a foot away from the guitar. Plywood on the floor under him. Sounded great thorugh the Mackie preamps and the free board they give you with them.

    My $.02

  12. I have been getting excellent results with MXL 603s on accoustic instruments. They are dirt cheap at $75 each. They sound great...not great for cheap, but great period.
  13. Divo

    Divo Member

    A Rode NT3 might do the trick and it's pretty cheap. $150.00 I have used one for acoustic guitars and managed to get some nice tracks down. It's better than an SM58 any day....

  14. jdier

    jdier Active Member

    While I am fairly new at this, I have been very pleased with the results I have had recording an acoustic guitar with a Studio Projects C3 large diaphram mic (US$300) about a foot infront, 2-3 in above the hole and a Shure beta58 near the tuning pegs pointed at the fretboard.

    I could easily get by with just the C3, but I have liked having the fretboard sound in there just a bit to give the sound a little more attack (not sure that's the right word... It provides more treble sound and finger slide and just makes it sound more ~real~)

    I think the C1 is similar but less expensive.

    Hope this helps.


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