How to Mic (and Record) a Recorder

Grandma’s birthday is quickly approaching and soon your kids will be wondering what they can give her. Don’t panic! Homemade gifts showcasing children’s natural creativity are always winners, so why not show off their musical talents by recording a song played on a good old recorder?

There are plenty of online tutorials showing how to record a variety of popular instruments. But the trusty recorder, a member of the flute family, comes up short. This is odd, especially considering it is often the first instrument many children learn to play. So we thought we’d give the recorder its due.

A microphone like the MV88, which is made for use with iPhones and other iOS devices, is perfect for this type of recording. But if you don’t have a smartphone, you can also plug the USB-compatible MV51 mic directly into your PC or Mac. Fortunately, our MOTIV series doesn’t require any additional drivers or software. For further information about using professional quality mics with your laptop, take a look at our post here.

Speaking of software, there is plenty of great recording freeware out there, such as Audacity or even Apple’s GarageBand. You can also download test versions of professional recording programs like Steinberg’s Cubase LE and Logic.

If you’re using a microphone with an XLR plug, you’ll need an audio interface. The MVi is ready to use straight out of the box, but some interfaces need an additional ASIO driver before they will work. Interfaces can make the recording process considerably more complex, so check out our site if you need help with your home recording setup. If all else fails: This universal ASIO driver can be a lifesaver.

Finding the Right Mic

Before you start recording, you’ll need to find the right microphone for capturing the sound of your recorder.

We recommend large-membrane condenser microphones for a smooth, round sound.

PGA27

PGA27 with Hall

KSM44

KSM44 with Hall

PGA81

PGA81 with Hall

Should you only have a dynamic microphone handy, you’ll certainly still be able to produce a quality recording. But a condenser mic will provide a clearer, more detailed and more natural sounding result.

Recording with headsets

Another option is to use a headset (such as the Shure Beta 53) to make your recording. This will provide a relatively direct yet not so full sound. It can also pick up the breathing of the instrument player, so be sure to keep that in mind while recording.

Beta 53

Beta 53 with Hall

Positioning the Microphone

Microphone positioning is key to making a successful recording. It’s important to remember that a recorder’s sound emanates from the entire instrument and not just one spot. So one reliable placement is a floating mic just above the recorder. Of course, this is only possible when you have a more professional setup including a microphone, stand and cable.

Recording with Shure MOTIV

If you’ve decided to use a mic from the MOTIV line, placement will be dictated by the product you’ve chosen. The MV51 can easily be attached to a mic stand, but the MV5 and MV88 need to be placed on a flat surface. (For the MV88, you can also put your iPhone into a smartphone holder attached to a small or large tripod.) Just don’t forget that the sound will come from the entire recorder.

MV51

MV51 with Hall

MV88

MV88 with Hall

If you listen to the audio samples, you’ll hear that the headset is a noticeable compromise in sound quality. But sometimes it might be the easiest or only option. In the end, you’ll have to decide what works best for you!

Be Your Own Critic

Be sure to take the time to listen your recordings after you’ve done a few takes. It’s important to make an honest assessment and ditch something that doesn’t live up to your expectations. Audio professionals in the studio have to do exactly the same thing! Patience and a little trial and error will lead to better results in the end.

In Conclusion

Achieving a quality recording of a recorder is easy to do with the right equipment and technique. Who knows, once you’ve got it down might just get a hankering to do some multi-track recorder recording.

Have fun experimenting!

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Marius Creutznacher

Marius is an industrial and electrical engineering training at Shure in Eppingen. Unleash the recorder rock!

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