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What Do Recording Engineers Know That You Don't? (Part 1)
By Scott Daugherty
If you have ever recorded a song at home and had little to no knowledge about mic placement and sound engineering, you probably felt like I did 15 years ago whenever I first started recording music. You can record a great sounding cd at home without spending a big budget to produce it.
Scott Daugherty is a performing guitarist and studio engineer. For hot deals on music equipment,
visit this store. For free guitar lessons, visit http://superguitartab.com
First of all, your recording platform does make a difference when recording a song at home. I am not saying that you should have thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment but you should have a decent recorder. If you don't, recorders are priced cheaper than ever.
Now you may ask, what is the best platform if I don't already have a recorder or only a little 4 track? This is completely biased, so you may want to ask people at your local music shop as well, but I use computer based recording software. ProTools is actually my personal favorite. I will explain this later in the article.
Once you decide on your recorder or if you already have the recorder, here are a few tips to achieving a great sound from your recording.
Your microphone should be placed strategically to get the most out of your recording. For instance, if you are recording an acoustic guitar, you should first of be using a condenser "shotgun" mic or two, or combination of shotgun mic+pickup in guitar or even 2 shotgun mics+pickup. The mic or mic should be placed about 5" from the guitar and there are a number of placements for the mic or mics. If you are using two mics, my favorite positioning is aiming both mics at the sound hole at about a 45 degree angle. The mics should be about 4" from the guitar and should have about 1-2" of clearance in between them. One mic should be panned left and one panned right for proper phasing.
There are a couple of ways to record an electric guitar. The first way is by placing a mic in front of your speaker cabinet. If you do this, there also are a number of placements for the microphone. First you can place the mic dead center of 1 speaker with about 1" of clearance from the mic to the cabinet. This is the simplest mic placement there is. The next way is to put the mic about 2-3" off center facing straight into the speaker. This is also a simple strategy and picks up more low end from your cabinet. My musical styles are rock and metal so, if this is what you are recording, the next placement is for you. I will actually angle the mic down at about 45 degrees and place it in the outer top left or right hand corner of the top speaker. This will help you achieve the most out of your amplifier.
The other method of recording the electric guitar is by using line ins. In the event that you do record like this, you are more likely to get electrical hum or interference that can be tricky to remove. But, if you have a good amp modeler and effects, you can feasibly make a good recording without actually using your amplifier.
When doing mic placements of the drums, it is pretty cut and dry. You should place the mics exactly as you would in a live setting. That is, using a good drum mic set, place the kick drum mic in the bass drum, place a mic over your snare and toms. The microphones will pick up the cymbals with no problems so you focus on placing mics on the drums.
Again, whenever recording the bass guitar, it is advisable to place the microphone straight into the speaker off center to the lower left or right. This also helps reproduce the low end of the speaker into the recording.
Last of all, vocals are the most important part of the recording process. You should first of all have a good closet and a condenser microphone or you will get a lot of ambient noise. First the closet should have a modest amount of clothing in it. The clothing will actually work much like sound foam does in the studio and kill the ambience in the room. You will sound a lot different if you record in a room like this as well. If this isn't an option to you, there are microphones available that also kill the ambient noise without sacrificing studio quality, however, they cost about $250.
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