Top Five Microphone Mistakes

Here’s a bit of lighthearted Friday fun. Top Five Microphone Mistakes.

1: Hanging Microphones over the Guitar Amp

This technique is regularly used as a substitute for missing mic stands. The problem is when using a directional microphone, such as a cardioid, the frequency response of the microphone changes as you move around to the side and back. The cheaper your microphone, the most obvious the effect, but essentially, your microphone will sound better from the front than the side. Pay attention to the polar pattern of your mic and use it to your advantage. Shure was, in fact, the first microphone company to develop a truly unidirectional microphone in 1939, and the Shure Unidyne capsule (as used in the SM58) remains cutting edge to this day.

2: Cupping the Mic Head

You might think you’re dope, the shiznit, or whatever the newest word for cool is. But, to your sound engineer you’re their worst nightmare!

Essentially, blocking the back of a microphone covers key ports, which are vital to the microphone polar pattern and frequency response. Not a good idea. Surely, sounding the part, is more important than looking the part!

3: Using the Most Expensive Mic by Default

Everyone’s been there: you purchase a brand new posh microphone and use it on absolutely everything; despite the fact that there isn’t a  real correlation between microphone price and the end result. You get what you pay for to some degree; however, you might find that some voices sound better with a dynamic mic. As an example – many John Lennon vocals were recorded using the SM57.

4: Too Many Mics

It’s a common mistake to use lots of microphones, with the assumption that more microphones will produce a fuller sound. Unfortunately, due to phase cancellation, the opposite is often the case. Phase coherence must be taken into account when using multiple microphones or your end result will sound thin due to cancelled out frequencies.

5: Lazy Mic Positioning

Paying little or no attention to mic positioning, or taking the attitude of “We’ll just fix it in the mix” is a recurring issue. Modern recording software has made it very easy to hide poor recordings or make the best of a bad situation. My advice: save yourself a headache, get it right from the start! You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and the result is always better.

What’s your favourite microphone faux pas? Let us know in the comments box below. 

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Marc Henshall

Marc forms part of our Pro Audio team at Shure UK and specialises in Digital Marketing. He also holds a BSc First Class Hons Degree in Music Technology. When not at work he enjoys playing the guitar, producing music, and dabbling in DIY (preferably with a good craft beer or two).

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