Tag Archives: recording

Best Microphones for Instruments

MXL Microphones for instruments
You play an instrument? MXL has a mic for you.

As you may know already, MXL manufactures lots of microphones. Why? Because each one has its own character, a little something that sounds just right to your ears. “Best” is a subjective term after all. Your favorite guitar microphone might be rich and vintage-sounding whereas someone else wants complete transparency. We’ve compiled our recommendations of the best mics for certain instruments based on customer feedback. Not just what we say is the best, but what we’ve heard from countless users over the years. It’s not definitive but certainly a good place to start if you’re in the market for a new instrument microphone.

Guitar Cabinet, Brass Instruments –

R77 Ribbon
More than just a pretty microphone, the MXL R77 is a powerful and versatile recording tool for all kinds of instruments. The R77 incorporates a Figure-8 polar pattern as well as a 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon for smooth lows and natural highs. The Figure 8 helps reject the sides while keeping focus on your source while allowing it to absorb sound from behind. Ribbons do not resonate the same way a condenser capsule does which is why they provides a much more natural response from your instrument. Given this aspect, they also handle Instruments with a higher SPL really well. This allows you to crank you guitar cab to achieve your desired tone without your mic distorting and ruining the recording.

Click here to hear the R77 on electric guitar.

R144 Ribbon
The R144 is a spectacular little thing. With the natural instinct of a Ribbon mic and a price of $99 it is hard to beat. By now we have taken our R144 to numerous mic shoot outs where it has performed favorably next to some industry standard ribbon mics. Whether it be guitar cabs, trumpets, string instruments the R144 is a mic to be taken seriously. If you have yet to try a ribbon and are uncertain whether they are suited for your studio or application, the R144 is worth giving a shot. What’s the worst that can happen other than creating different tones and experimenting with mics? After all, isn’t that what Recording Engineering is all about?

Drum Overheads, Piano -

V67N Pair
Two V67N instrument mics are a powerful combination. These pencil condenser microphones house a transformer which provides the warmth and detail only found in mics 5X its price. The frequency response is flat, which provides you with sound scape ready to sculpt to your preference.

Click here to hear the V67Ns on drum overheads

Acoustic Guitar- Single Mic’ing technique –

When you are looking for transparency and wish to reveal the true sound of your voice or instrument, look no further than the CR 89. Although many may like some “color” the CR89 provides a natural response which is often times more desirable when recording something like an acoustic guitar or a vocalist who can really hit their notes. The large 32MM capsule and thought-out design make this a must have for any home studio. Its low noise also pairs great with a preamp allowing you to get the most out of the mic without any unwanted noise. The matte black chrome finish and robust feel will compliment any studio whether amateur or professional.

Acoustic Guitar- Stereo Mic’ing technique –

CR21 Pair
For a true stereo sound, try using this pair to achieve a spacious and detailed recording. Taking some traits from the CR series, the CR21 Pair provides professionalism at a very low cost. You can reference our “How to” guides to experiment with different mic techniques such as X/Y, ORTF, and MS. Mic Placement is key to achieving a desirable tone so feel free to experiment and always be careful of phase!

Percussion -

A-55 Kicker
The Kicker is coming back! There’s nothing better to capture the thundering sound of kick drums. To go along with it, MXL is developing a snare drum and a tom drum. Look for them later this year.

Click here to hear the A-55 Kicker.

Mic’ing a Piano

piano player

Recording a piano isn’t easy. The sound quality depends not just on the microphones, but on the condition of the piano and oftentimes the room where the piano is located. For the best results, keep your piano tuned and in good working order.  Proper maintenance will eliminate one big hurdle of recording a piano. The rest is just a matter of good mic placement.

The piano is generally recorded using close mic’ing technique. Ideally, you’ll want a minimum of two microphones. Usually, the microphone capturing the higher strings is assigned to the left channel and the microphone capturing the lower strings is assigned to the right channel in the final stereo mix, though the stereo spread generally is not hard left and right. While a single microphone can be used, the lower and upper extremities of the instrument will likely be compromised. To capture the full range of sound, pick up a pair of instrument microphones, such as the MXL CR21 Pair or the MXL 603 Pair.

The type of piano dictates microphone placement.

Mic'ing a grand pianoGrand Piano: For the upper strings, position the microphone approximately 8 inches from the piano hammers (to reduce mechanical noise) and 8 – 11 inches above the strings, with the Pan position set to left of center.

For the lower strings, position the microphone toward the far end (away from the keyboard) roughly 6 – 12 inches from the end and 8 – 11 inches above the strings, with the Pan position set to right of center. Position the piano’s lid at full stick. (see Fig. 4A)

If you are using a single microphone, position the microphone approximately 8 inches from the piano hammers (to reduce mechanical noise) and 8 – 11 inches above the strings – centered over the piano’s mid point. Pan position should be centered and the piano’s lid should be at full stick.

Although condensers are the most commonly using mics to capture the enormous sound of a Grand Piano, ribbon mics can also be a great option. Their Bi-Directional pick up pattern can help capture both room ambiance and reflections coming off the piano (this is why piano placement matters).  For example, place a ribbon microphone dead center outside the lid. With the 2 mics close-mic’ed and the addition to the ribbon you are now capturing very warm and full sound of your piano.

Mic'ing an upright piano

Upright Piano: With an upright piano, the two microphones are generally placed either just over the top of the piano with the top open, or you can remove the piano’s front panel beneath the keyboard and place the microphones below.

Front Panel Placement: For the upper strings, position the microphone approximately 8 – 11 inches away from the strings, with the Pan position set to left of center. For the lower strings, position the microphone 8 – 11 inches away from the strings, with the Pan position set to right of center. (see Fig. 4B)

Single Microphone / Open Top: If you are using a single microphone, it is generally recommended that you record from above, as placement of the microphone in the lower center may interfere with the performer’s ability to access the pedals and the microphone will likely pick up excessive pedal and other mechanical noise. Position the microphone just over the open top, centered over the instrument. (see Fig. 4C)

Experiment until you find the sound you want. The tips listed here are a good place to start.

How To Mic a Guitar Amp

When you hear a memorable guitar riff, you’re probably not thinking of how it was recorded…where the amp sat, was it on a carpeted floor, was the microphone two inches or ten inches away. But it’s these details that contribute to the sound you hear on the recording. So how do you capture the sound of an electric guitar?

First of all, you want to record the amp. While the electric guitar can certainly be recorded directly, there are times when there is simply no substitute for the sound of a real amplifier. Guitar amps have particular gain stages that facilitate the popular “crunch” guitar sound. While digital modeling and processing systems certainly have their place, they may not have the same level of realism as the sound from an amplifier. A small guitar amp can be just as effective for this application as a stack, because you don’t necessarily need to “crank” the volume. Instead, you want to increase the amp’s initial gain to achieve the desired amount of overdrive.

Typically, a guitar amp is close mic’ed to achieve the highest direct sound. Placing the microphone roughly 4 inches from the grill, aimed directly at the center of the loudspeaker will produce the most “edge” to your sound. If you move the mic further away, it takes the edge off the sound. It’ll be a bit mellower.

Now, if you’re going to put a microphone super close to an amp, it better be able to handle some high SPLs (sound pressure levels). It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dynamic mic – a condenser or two can do the job. A good instrument mic can perform well on a variety of instruments, including a guitar cabinet.

Distance from the source isn’t the only thing affecting the sound. By angling the microphone slightly off axis and towards the wall, you can add more “room sound.” Experimentation is a key factor in achieving the sound you are looking for. You might put one mic close to the cabinet and one several inches way. You’ll target the cabinet but you’ll also pick up the cabinet sound as it’s reflected in the room.Diagram of microphone placement

A ribbon mic might also give you the mix of guitar and room sound you’re looking for. The figure eight pattern picks up sound to the front and back of the mic without any creative placement. It’s what ribbon mics are made for.

Placement of the amp is another important factor. If the amplifier sits on a carpeted floor, you are more likely to reduce the amount of brightness in the sound. Similarly, elevating the amplifier off the floor may result in a loss of low-end. If you’re looking for a big reverberant tone, placing the amp and microphone in the bathroom is another popular technique. The hard tiles and other reflective surfaces can do wonders for a dull sound. In this case, move the microphone back a few feet from the loudspeaker and crank it up!

Recording audio is all about getting the sound you want. Garage band or singer/songwriter? Rock anthem or wedding ballad? “Enter the Sandman” or “Faithfully”? Determine your desired sound and then adjust your mic and amp placement until you get it. There’s no wrong answer!