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.
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.
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.