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When you begin to add multiple mics, compression, and EQ during recording in an effort to find the perfect sound, it's really easy to get frustrated. If you are doing that you're probably overlooking some of the basics of mic placement that can get you where you want to go pretty easily. Go out into the room, stand in front of the instrument, and listen to the musician play the part from the song that you are about to record. Playing the song is important because you might be deceived if it's another song or just random playing. Listen for the tonal balance from the vocal and/or instrument as well as the way the room responds to it.
Listening to the instrument in the room will give you a reference point to the way it really sounds so you can compare it to what you hear in the speakers in the control room. There are several ways to find the sweet spot, place an omni-directional mic, cover one ear, and listen with the other. Move around the player until you find a spot that sounds best, that's where to place the mic as a starting point. Place a cardioid mic, cover one ear and cup your hand behind your other ear and move around the player or amp until you find the place that sounds the best.
That's where to place the mic as a starting point. To place a stereo mic or stereo pair, cup both ears and move around the player or amp until you find the place that sounds the best. That's where to place the mic as a starting point. You can't place the mic by sights. The best mic position must be always found not predicted. It's okay to have a starting place but that may not end up being the best spot. Change the mic position instead of reaching for the EQ. Chances are that you can adjust the quality of the sound enough by simply moving the mic in order to avoid using any equalization.
The EQ is difficult to undo later and can inflict some unwanted electronic artifacts that can never be removed. Moving the mic, which is acoustic equalization when it really comes down to it, will usually sounds smoother and more pleasing to the ear. Give the mic some distance, remember distance creates depth. The instrument or amp will sound a lot more natural than using artificial ambience. If possible, leave just enough distance between the mic and source to give a bit of room reflection to the recorded sound. So those are the five secrets of mic placement.
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