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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
Okay, in this section we're going to look at setting up microphones and microphone placement for few common sound sources, or instruments. We'll mic up our vocal, we'll mic a guitar amp, and then we'll put a few mics on a drum set. And so just give you kind of a general idea of where to start when you're trying to mic these different sounds. There are a few rules that I kind of like to think of and tell people to go by when they start to think about microphone placement, and the first is that you have to listen to your sound source. So if you're using a guitar amp or you have an acoustic guitar or there's a singer, try and get around that sound source in the room it's in, and listen and move your head around in the environment and see how the sound changes based on where you are.
If you get to know that sound you'll make better choices about where to put the microphone and what microphone to use. But the second rule is that there really aren't any other rules, or magic tricks. You know these placements I'm going to show you, these are just starting points of, put the microphone here to start, try this kind of microphone to start. But you have to experiment, and different amplifiers, different drum sets, different microphones all have different characteristics. So you don't just set it up and go. You always kind of have to set it up, listen and make some decisions, and that leads us kind of like to the third rule, and that's to trust your ears.
Ironic that it's a rule when there are no rules, but let's call it more like advice. But trust your ears and experiment. Move microphones around, listen to how things sound from different locations, and also if you have more than one microphone don't be afraid-- actually I encourage that you AB them, which means set two microphones up on the same sound source. Plug them into your board, record them, listen to them, play them back, and see how the different types of microphones pick up the same sound source differently. This will make you familiar with how your microphones work, and that will really help in the long run.
It will make you make decisions quicker and kind of more informed, in a more informed way when you're setting them up for other projects. So first we are going to talk about vocals. Okay, here I have a large diaphragm condenser microphone, which I'm going to use to record vocals. The diaphragm is about here. It picks up in a Cardioid pattern. That's the way I have it set for me right now, picking up around this way. So initially when you first set this up, you want that diaphragm to be at about the height of your mouth. Just for starters. Then you want to place yourself, or the singer, about 6-8 inches from the screen of the microphone or where the diaphragm is. So you start with that.
Get your level, set things, start to record. If you're getting plosives like the P's and the B's that pop, grab a windscreen which is that, nylon around a hoop, and you can place it about two inches, right about here, like that, in front of the microphone. You don't want to place it right up against it. You want to give it a little bit of room between there, at least one inch between the microphone and the pop screen --and sometimes they call them a popper stopper. So that's the first thing you want to do. Then set your levels again.
It might be a little bit quieter, but hopefully it will just have taken care of the plosives, the P's and the B's. The next thing you want to do is listen to the sound, or the singer. If you want to get a little bit more bass out of that voice, if you wanted to use that, you can have them actually move closer. Shorten the distance to take advantage of the proximity effect, which essentially means it will be picking up more bass frequencies. So they'll kind of get a smoother, bassier tone. If you don't want that, if they're too bassy, you can actually back them off and have them stand farther back from the microphone.
The other thing you can do, if you don't like some of the tones. Sometimes the things are too bright, or you hear little bit too much like the wetness, the lips are little bit too much smacking, you can actually change the axis, or the angle of the direction of the microphone, to the sound source to my mouth. So you could turn the microphone itself off axis a little bit, so it's picking up in this direction, and now I'm addressing it from the side. That will actually reduce some of the bright stuff. If you hear lot of that kind of wet mouth lip smacking stuff, that will help. You'll also lose a little bit of, you know, some of the nicer frequencies too.
So it's a bit of a trade-off but that's a way to kind of make something that's kind of bright and nasty, a little bit smoother. Also if the voice is really nasally, you can move the microphone itself up, which would be kind of like this, above kind of the nose line, and that will reduce some of the nasal sound of the voice. And those are, more or less, the tricks you can use when it comes to vocal microphones. The other thing if you're going to use vocals live, I have a microphone here that I would use, which is the SM58, and if you're doing live vocals or you can use this to record as well. It won't pick things up as well.
If you've got a punk rock singer, use this microphone instead of the condenser, who like, if they like to scream a lot, or yell, and sometimes if you have rappers doing a lot of kind of plosive, pop, pop, pop stuff, a microphone like this will work well too, because it takes, it handles those louder sounds better, hence those types of vocals are louder. By though you want it, same situation, pointed it more or less right at your mouth and again, you can do those same things, kind of, to change the tonality with the axis. Aim it above for little but less nasal stuff.
The main thing is to get it, on in the live situation, is to be close as you can, sometimes you'll have people right on it. Really an inch or two is ideal. But in live people are moving and so that's going to vary, but just try and get people close. You don't, you just can't usually sing from this far away. If you have a guitar sometimes you have to, but lean in if you can. So that does it for vocals. Now let's talk about miking up a guitar.
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