Microphone Placement “Electric Guitar” (2/5)

In this mini-series I’ll discuss the importance, or rather, the impact of microphone placement. There’s no right and wrong when working with microphones, as some seem to think. I’ll provide frequency illustrations with every example to easier grasp the changes that occur with every technique.

Some of the most unique and original recordings use unconventional microphone placements, which might have played a huge roll in the finalized recording. I will not discuss or show pictures of any popular microphone techniques. Instead I’ll provide audio files and graphs that show the drastic changes that occur when you adjust a microphone just a few centimeters.

This part covers electric guitar. A SM57 microphone was used, and a AT2020 was used for the later examples. The guitar amplifier was a small and beaten up Fender Frontman 15W.

SM57 straight in to the cone.

SM57 ON AXIS

Probobly the most common way to record electric guitar through an amplifier. A very popular microphone, put at the axis position. The axis in this case is straight into the cone of the speaker. This placement gives you a raw, high end tone with high to medium low end. The more you angle the microphone, the more bass you get generally. This placement normally generates the least amount of unwanted low end frequencies.

SM57 ON axis. A nice frequency spread with a defined mid range.

SM57 OFF axis

Still a common method, but with a very different character. The high end gets toned down and the bass along with the mid frequencies get boosted. This was done at a 30% angle, a good mix between low end and mid.

SM57 OFF axis. The low end is taking over and the midrange is turned down.

SM57 OFF AT2020 ON *MONO

If we introduce a condenser microphone into the mix a lot of things change. Instead of a clear, raw and centered tone we get a bassy spread tone with almost a box-like feel. The “edge” of the sound disappears and this placement might not be the optimal one for a clean tone.

SM57 OFF AT2020 ON. The low end is way too pronounced and there’s a gap in the mid range.

SM57 ON AT2020 OFF *MONO

If we reverse the order and place the SM57 on axis, the tone gets sharper and more defined. We get a nice snappy tone, but still with a washed out low end sound that may be unwanted, due to the condenser microphone. It lacks character, but can still be used in some situations due to its blendable sound.

SM57 ON AT2020 OFF. Uneven frequence response but with an OK midrange, bass is too strong.

AT2020 close OFF axis

A condenser microphone placed 10cm away from the amplifier, off axis. An oldschool sound with a cut off high end. A bit box-sounding due to excess mid frequencies, but still a vintage and snappy sound. This placement would work great in blues sessions and in sessions that are looking for a vintage sound that can stand on its own.

AT2020 OFF. Lots of character, but uneven reponse.

Microphone placement “Acoustic Guitar” (1/5)

In this mini-series I’ll discuss the importance, or rather, the impact of microphone placement. There’s no right and wrong when working with microphones, as some seem to think. I’ll provide frequency illustrations with every example to easier grasp the changes that occur with every technique.

Some of the most unique and original recordings use unconventional microphone placements, which might have played a huge roll in the finalised recording. I will not discuss or show pictures of any popular microphone techniques. Instead I’ll provide audio files that show the drastic changes that occur when you adjust a microphone just a few centimeters.

The first example is with acoustic guitar. A condenser microphone was used for the acoustic guitar and an Ibanez AW40 Steel String guitar was used to provide the examples.

Microphone at the 12th fret 

For some people, this is the “right” way to record acoustic guitar. By placing the microphone at the 12th fret, you eliminate any additional bass that would have been present if the microphone had been placed closer to the sound hole (the hole of the acoustic guitar). Also, by placing the microphone closer to the head, you get a clearer and crisp tone that has a lot of middle range to it.

Frequency display at the 12th fret.

Microphone at the sound hole

By placing the microphone at the sound hole, you will immediately get a higher volume. The other thing you notice is that the sound is way fatter and filled with low end. The characteristics of an acoustic guitar just aren’t there in the same way as they were in at the 12th fret. In a way they get stuck in the muddy low end caused by the short distance of the sound hole. You could EQ away the lower end, but it’s very difficult to get that lively crisp tone that you get at the 12th fret.

Frequency display at the sound hole

Microphones at both positions

Here’s where it gets interesting. In this example there are two microphones, one at the 12th fret and one at the sound hole. It’s in stereo instead of mono, and they are both panned hard L/R. Looking at the frequency curve, both characteristics are there. It’s the muddy low end, and the crisp midrange at around 1k. Together they work better, but the bass is still an issue as it takes over too much of the sound.

Frequency display when using both positions.

Thanks for reading!