We recently wrote an article dedicated to giving our readers microphone tips and techniques, but we’ve yet to cover another equally important aspect – avoiding common mistakes. We've all made them at one point or another and it's all part of getting better. With that in mind, we take a look at five of the most common microphone mistakes.
Top Five Microphone Mistakes
No Pop Filter
While it might seem like a frivolous add-on to some, a pop filter is an absolute must when it comes to recording vocals. In case you weren’t aware, pop filters are used to calm down plosives – those audible bursts of air that come out when a singer sings “p” or “b” sounds. And while you can tilt a mic somewhat in order to get rid of plosives without the need of a pop filter (a common technique), it can sometimes lead to unintended consequences. Most mics work best when sung directly at their diaphragm, and singing off-axis can also produce a lot of coloration, meaning it might dramatically change the sound of the mic. So whether you have a $100 mic or a $500 mic, invest in a pop filter.
Placing The Mic Too Close Or Too Far Away
Noise is a common issue when it comes to recording so many of us naturally think that by placing the mic a little closer to the sound source, it will keep it from picking up unwanted noise. Unfortunately, not only does this not reduce the noise by much, but it might also give you a heavy dose of the Proximity Effect – making the entire recording sound unnaturally low. On the other hand, you may also be placing the mic a bit too far away, capturing the ambient sounds of everything around you. Depending on the mic, the sound source and the recording environment, there is a certain sweet spot when it comes mic placement. I start at anywhere between 6 inches to a foot from the sound source and make changes from there depending on how it sounds.
Using The Most Expensive Mic By Default
So, you invested a good deal of money on a very high-quality mic and are ready to use it on everything. I mean, it should definitely work better than a much less expensive mic, right? Well, that’s not always the case. The truth is that there’s no single microphone that sounds great on every single sound source, and this is especially true for voices. What might sound great for an alto singer might sound terrible on a bass singer. Professional audio engineers know that a good part of the battle in getting a great take is by choosing the mic that is the best fit for the sound source. And in some cases, that might be a less expensive mic.
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Sticking With Certain Miking Techniques
There are a good deal of miking techniques out there, many of which use more than one mic to get the job done. For example, using a stereo miking technique on an acoustic guitar is a good way to add more body and resonance to the recording. It can also lead to capturing more unwanted noise. Depending on the recording environment and situation, one mic might be the better choice. Unfortunately, too many of us are married to certain miking techniques, regardless if it’s the best for the job or not. Just like with the mic themselves, you should experiment with different miking techniques in order to find the best fit. Sticking with one no matter what is one of the common mistakes you shouldn’t be making.
The Fix Mistakes In The Mix Mentality
EQ and other various post recording techniques are powerful tools that let us generally smooth out a take in various ways. Unfortunately, too many of us use it in place of a solid initial recording which is not how they are supposed to be used. While it might sound tedious having to find exactly the right microphone, exactly the right placement and do numerous takes in order to get something as close to perfect as you can, it will pay dividends in the end. A great recording takes a lot of work and no amount of EQ and effects can save a fundamentally bad track. As the saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.
We all make mistakes. What makes us better is not only avoiding them in the future but by learning from them as well. For a few more examples of common microphone mistakes, check out our video below:
At ProAudioLand, we have a wide selection of microphones that will fit your budget and needs. From dynamic mics to condensers, ribbon mics and more, we've got you covered! And as always, if you have any questions regarding the purchase of a microphone or any other piece of gear we carry, don't hesitate to chat with one of our friendly PAL pros by using the live chat feature below or by calling us toll-free at 1 877-671-2200.
Your Turn to Sound Off!
What are some of the microphone mistakes you've made while recording?
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