Multiple Mic Techniques

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Davedog, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    There have been several threads on this subject throughout time here at R.O. and I feel that it is an important subject as many are using or attempting to use multiple mics on single sources or in some cases, for example, a singer songwriter performance where you have two sources effecting two or more mics at a time.

    A lot is said about the phase relationship of the mics being used though not a lot of clarity on why this needs to be addressed. Certainly pattern size and strength is a primary reason for phase anomalies between two transducers and within this alone, there is a reason to truly understand what a particular mic is capable of before applying it to a source that already has a mic on it.

    There's lots and lots of pictures on the net of sessions with guitar amps (in particular) being mic'd with all sorts of transducers in order to capture some 'special' sound being produced but the question looms, "Is this really necessary to achieve a quality reproduction of a guitar sound?"

    I will share with you some pictures of multiple micing being used in sessions and will discuss the whys if there is interest in this subject. I encourage all the engineers and producers here to add their own pics and experiences as well as join in to the discussions.

    I think that a lot of the time these techniques are employed without much forethought about the 'why' of it and I hear a lot of homemade recordings that suffer in fidelity and size due to some of this.

    Here are some of my depictions of the use of multiple mics in sessions.......

    1. First is a simple two mic wide technique for an acoustic guitar that is not only loud but very full range. The U87 is actually out about 2' and aimed more at the lower bout than the picture shows and the SDC (AT4041) is closer to the 12th fret than it looks like. The clarity comes from the SDC while the size and roominess as well as the stroke is captured by the 87. Since these are not really close to each other the effect you might get from phase is very minimum.

    I think people miss out on great sounding acoustic guitars by micing them too close and not allowing the sound to develop.

    2. Next is a multiple micing of a Bari Sax. You need a good sized car to tote this thing around! Theres a Royer ribbon above the bell simply to capture the 'wind'. It gives (imho) a certain rushy sound to the Bari and lets it sit in the mix better. Only what I like....not a law LOL......Then theres the SM7 down in the brassy part of the bell. We found a resonant spot that really had this instrument's voice nailed. He was pretty still during the take so it worked well. There is also (not pictured) an LDC set up three feet or so above. This gives the 'size' thing I always look for. I use that technique a lot on different instruments. Sometimes its just the thing. Other times its a muted track.

    3. I consider this a 'standard' micing of a single speaker combo amp. Royer ribbon and an old SM57. I try and get the capsules aligned as possible but with the ribbon theres not a lot phase problems with other mics as long as they have some space behind them. Yes, for you gear sluts, it is an old Deluxe Reverb. Not an R.I.

    4. Another common micing of a combo amp. This one has 2-10's . If you make sure and keep the caps level with each other when you're using similar mics at this spacing the phase problems are minimal. In this case it is (once again) my fave....Royer and 57...There is (not shown) an LDC perched over the top and out for room sound. U87 if I recall.

    5. Finally a two mic vocal set-up. This really works on some voices. You have to be very conscious of the position of the capsules to each other as even a slight change in angle can make of break the attempt. This is one of my rebuilt and highly modded ADK TT's (the M249 circuit with CK47 cap) and the Cathedral Pipes U67 clone with a Neumann KK67 cap and Charles' incredible talent as a mic builder. This setup requires strict attention to phase. A Little labs IBP across one of the circuits is a great way to make this really happen. (LOL as a side note I notice that when I took this picture I had NOT set the mics as they were eventually set....)

    Enjoy and I hope others will participate.

    Attached Files:

    kmetal, Sean G and DonnyThompson like this.
  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2015
    Sydney, Australia
    Great info Dave, thanks for sharing (y)
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Jan 23, 2010
    Boulder, Colorado
    Home Page:
    Some general principles for multiple mic techniques:

    Proportional distance addresses volume.

    Absolute distance addresses phase.

    The 3:1 guideline addresses relative volume and bleed. It applies to multiple mics on multiple sources. It does not apply to multiple mics on one source.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:

    Of course, you need to be working with a great player who knows their amp, and the amp needs to sound good too; but as long as that's all happening, it's been my experience that about 80% of the time, this combination is great for getting guitar tracks that kind of just instantly "work".

    (I've also found that a ribbon mic can be quite forgiving on amps that don't sound all that great, but when you do have a good sounding amp, it's that much better).

    These days, I'm using an MXL 860 Ribbon because that's what I have; and the 57 is the one that I ran over with the lawn mower many years ago - LOL - and that array sounds very good, but I wish I still had a Royer.
    It was sold - along with a lot of other gear that I wish I still had - when I closed my real studio in 2004.

    Truthfully, I'd never even heard of the 121 until I went to a trade show ( around '99 I think? ) and the guys at the Royer booth were demonstrating it, along with a Senny 421, on a combo amp, and recording into Slo Tools. I was knocked out by the sound they were getting. I ordered one the day I got back from that show, and it became my main mic array for recording guitar amps for the next 5 years or so... ( among other things, it was a great mic) sometimes I would alter the dynamic and use a 57 or a 58 instead of a 421, but that ribbon/dynamic combination just always seemed to "work".

    I still use the dynamic/ribbon combo as my go-to for recording amps, and most of the time, with the exception of added FX, I don't really have to do much tonal adjustment in the mix when using that mic combination; I live the way it handles mids and highs... it's a very smooth sound, yet still preserves the "edge".

  6. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

    Apr 15, 2015
    Thanks for that info and the pictures. I think the pictures are a nice method for those hobbyists who are wanting to get to a general level of mic placement. At that point, one can/should take it to the next level on mic placement which is about ultimately finding the sweet spot. And a whole 'nother chapter could be written on finding the sweet spot (or more specifically sweet spots, because it can get very artisitic). But suffice it to repeat after someone who once said it: the sweet spot is best found in the dark.

    Some of the old grizzers years ago were so adept that they could not only find the sweet spot, but find it based on how they wanted the recorded source to pre-fit into the mix (in essence, pre-eq'd). What better than to eq without using an equalizer? some of the old eq's were first labeled as 'corrective devices', subtly implying that the tracking engineer screwed up somewhere in mic placement. Some engineers still pride themselves on not using much/any eq correction in their mixes, but it is becoming a lost art while many of today's mixes are now suffering from their utmost quality as an abundance of correctional tools (each giving off artifacts) have taken hold. That is how important mic placement should be reinforced in people's minds. This thread is a great way to start a discussion on the subtleties of mic placement.

    I see plenty of hobbyists today looking for an additional/upgraded mic when instead, moving one of their existing mics an inch or two makes a much more beneficial impact on their tracking quality.

    These pics posted are excellent visual aids that will help many get to the first level of mic placement. Then the ears take over.
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Nice ! And the point of the post in the first place. BTW..I AM one of those "grizzers". If anyone is interested...Especcially "hobbyists" or those just beginning to understand mic placement as a tool for tone, there is a lot of room for dynamic discussions about this. Feel free to open up with anything you find puzzling or add comments on experiences we can all learn from.

    I NEVER EQ going in. Ever. And I do have some idea what I want to hear at mix when I'm tracking. Of course this is subject to change as things progress but I keep in mind that a properly captured track, free of noise and standing frequencies will always have somewhere to go at mix without manipulations to 'repair' it. Most EQ I use these days involves HPF of instruments or sources that I don't want becoming involved with something that needs the space in the low mids and low end. In effect this could be considered 'repair' but in my mind its all about giving everything a place to breathe.

    Mic placement....and I'll use a guitar amp as an example as this is something most of us are very familiar with...can completely EQ a guitar sound from the capture and if some care is taken, can be the only EQ you will use in the final product. Placement on a speaker....say a single speaker for simplicity sake....can be a far ranging set of tonal capture. The position of the mic in reference to center of distance from cone....from angle on cone.....ALL have a profound effect of what you will hear out of the amp and guitar combination. So much so in some cases that it will sound like a completely different set of gear playing the same part. Multiple micing can allow two EQ captures with the same pass if thats something you want or need and goes a long way towards keeping added artifacts out of your mix.
    JayTerrance likes this.

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