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By Richard Sandrok|  Comment(s)

What’s the Weirdest Thing You’ve Miked?

I started to write today about where sound ends and music begins.  It quickly spiraled out of control in many directions.  That will probably be a much larger body of work spread out over multiple posts.  Instead I’m going to try to write a short bit on using the sounds of everyday ambience in music.

We in Artist Relations get stories on miking techniques frequently.  It’s interesting to me to hear what people are using and where.  Most of them are lumped in to the usual categories – guitars, cabinets, drums.  There are plenty of arrangements for microphones in these situations.  Those stories can be fun, but from my perspective, many times it is really polishing well-practiced techniques.  They require experience and patience and experimentation to get just right, so by all means, keep it up.  However, I like the unusual.  For example, Shure endorsers Matt & Kim sent Cory a photo of one of their more interesting recording stories.

Matt & Kim add some unorthodox sound to the mix

According to Cory, they wanted a dirtier bass sound.  Their solution?  They recorded the track, brought it out to one of the studio employee’s cars (apparently he had quite the sound system) and they cranked it with the bass up.  The fella on the back is there to muffle some of the rattle out of the trunk because it was too much.

We did things to our microphones back when I was a young pup that would certainly void the warranty just to get a sound, or just to see what sound we could get.  An old, old band I was in had a blast running an SUV over an SM57 plugged in to an Ensoniq EPS 16.  I used to run vocals through a speaker aimed in to an open piano with the strings close-miked to pick up the resonance.  While recording a lot of our microphone abuse videos the most exciting bit to me was the sound that would come from the moments of action: the sound of the mic colliding with glass under swirling Guinness, the crunch of a car tire on the grille of the mic, the crack of the slap shot and the mic body sliding on ice.  I also am a fan of recording just ambient sound for use later, perhaps, or just to have a bank of effects.  I like sticking a microphone out of a window in a thunderstorm or rolling one across different types of flooring.  Perhaps it’s the early influence of heavily sample-based music in my life, but I suspect there are plenty of other people out there also looking for unusual sound sources to incorporate in to their music.

What have you done that is strange and unusual miking?  What instruments have you made of perhaps otherwise ordinary sound?  Why did you want it in your repertoire?  Got any material to share?  Let us know in the comments.

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