When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

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When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:39 pm

Working concept time. Like choosing microphones, positioning technique is personal and selective. Because people question me often on why, and when I do certain things, I thought it might be interesting to start a dialogue about it here.

Live or recording, when selecting how far away you mic a source, what are some of the consistent factors you use to decide where to start?
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:17 pm

Wow don't know where to start with that one. Very very few hard and fast rules other than try to find where it sounds good. One "rule" I do follow is on drums I try to get the close mics as far away from the drums before bleed becomes a problem. I use polar patterns null points judiciously to help with bleed. I like figure 8s on toms so I can get them up nice and high roughly parallel with the cymbals. Super or hypercards on snare, kick, and hats usually. For electrics I usually lean to being closer but it depends on the room and the cab. Everything else I vary based on how much room I want and what I'm getting for tone coming out. Often I'll vary it depending on where I want the part to sit in the final mix. For example I'll often mic lead vocals a bit closer than the BGVs.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:03 am

I follow all the rules that Andrew has on the subject. Especially with the drums. My idea of close mic'ing a snare drum is no closer than 10"-12" away from the drum.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby dylanger » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:07 pm

I've been playing around with this a lot lately. I was lucky enough to get to experiment a little in the old Fluid live room and I basically did what I saw Matt and Andrew do. When I tried the same thing in my little basement it didn't work very well for me, its a pretty bad sounding room. I moved the mics closer and killed the room with blankets and make shift gobos and it helped a lot.

On the guitar side of things you guys know I was having some trouble last fall with getting good guitar tones and since I got my bassman here its been much better. (not to mention that Beyer Dynamic 201 I picked up ;-) ) Last week I had my bassman around 12:00 and mic'd it about 6 feet away from the amp at eye level and I really liked it. I found my strat is pretty thin when its closed mic'd and this gave me the thick neck pickup tone I was after. Obviously nothing you'd want to do live but I'm gonna try it some more next week on my days off. (New gear next days off!! :-D :-D )
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:59 am

dylanger wrote:I've been playing around with this a lot lately. I was lucky enough to get to experiment a little in the old Fluid live room and I basically did what I saw Matt and Andrew do. When I tried the same thing in my little basement it didn't work very well for me, its a pretty bad sounding room.


Very important point. That's why I consider the room more important than the gear in most cases. Moving forward without that room will be a rather major adjustment for me.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:22 am

The room certainly does matter, but it's not the be all end all for most types of sounds. For example I was as happy with the drum sounds we got last time at Outreach as I ever have been. Now if we were doing some massive Bonhamesque production it probably wouldn't have worked for that but for anything less than that I'm more than happy with the room. It's certainly not a bad room by any stretch, but quite neutral. Obviously an objectively bad room won't work particularly well but you don't necessarily need a "special" room to get great sounds.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:57 am

macrae11 wrote:The room certainly does matter, but it's not the be all end all for most types of sounds. For example I was as happy with the drum sounds we got last time at Outreach as I ever have been. Now if we were doing some massive Bonhamesque production it probably wouldn't have worked for that but for anything less than that I'm more than happy with the room. It's certainly not a bad room by any stretch, but quite neutral. Obviously an objectively bad room won't work particularly well but you don't necessarily need a "special" room to get great sounds.



The room at Outreach is far from sucking. I'm talking about recording rooms the size of a living room with 8' ceilings. In cases like that maybe I'd try a whole different approach. Or maybe I'm give up recording altogether... Hahaha.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:04 am

Specifically speaking about drum kit sounds... I really don't adjust mic placement/proximity of close mics based on room size/quality much. Really, the kit and microphones will play a bigger part in that for me. What will change for me in the addition and/or placement of room or distant mics.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:06 am

Mathieu Benoit wrote:The room at Outreach is far from sucking. I'm talking about recording rooms the size of a living room with 8' ceilings. In cases like that maybe I'd try a whole different approach. Or maybe I'm give up recording altogether... Hahaha.


Well that's exactly the point I was making. It's far from sucking but it's nothing special. I assumed that you'd still be working in reasonable spaces, not broom closets. If you don't have access to a decent room all the time it's far to easy to rent a room for a day or two for critical applications.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:09 am

Malcolm Boyce wrote:Specifically speaking about drum kit sounds... I really don't adjust mic placement/proximity of close mics based on room size/quality much. Really, the kit and microphones will play a bigger part in that for me. What will change for me in the addition and/or placement of room or distant mics.


When you get the close mics as far away as I like to the room can sometimes start to be a minor factor. Where I notice it the most is in the overheads. It's rare that the overheads get lower than 6 feet for me, and often closer to 7 so an 8 foot ceiling can be very detrimental and cause all kinds of gross comb filtering/early reflections that lead to less than optimal placements.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:04 pm

macrae11 wrote:... so an 8 foot ceiling can be very detrimental and cause all kinds of gross comb filtering/early reflections that lead to less than optimal placements.
This is a limitation I have in my home space that I knew going in would be a challenge for my tastes. I tend to mic OHs higher than many, even on live stages.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:56 pm

Like most things, context is a big thing for me to consider when micing something. Something as obvious as the difference between micing a snare drum in a kit, or a snare drum all by itself, or a single tambourine, or a tambourine in a drum set. An acoustic guitar, or an acoustic guitar with the player singing as well. With a single mic on a single source, you can take greater liberties with distance than when other mics and sounds are involved.

Something that's pretty foreign to me is hearing about spot mics on things like drums in a kit being around a foot away. When did you first see that kind of thing happening Andrew? I used to consider myself pretty liberal with distance from drums until I started hearing what you guys are doing... "Close" mics on drums when I was starting out were about an inch off the head so being a few inches or so away was pretty "distant" by those standards.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:34 am

Malcolm Boyce wrote:Something that's pretty foreign to me is hearing about spot mics on things like drums in a kit being around a foot away. When did you first see that kind of thing happening Andrew? I used to consider myself pretty liberal with distance from drums until I started hearing what you guys are doing... "Close" mics on drums when I was starting out were about an inch off the head so being a few inches or so away was pretty "distant" by those standards.


I had the luxury of not knowing anything about audio before working with Andrew. So whatever Andrew said was taken as gospel, more or less. Which I think really helped me get on the fast track. I didn't go on audio sites on the web (except for this one, which was mostly just Andrew and I talking, with a bit of Malcolm in there for context,) so I was able to avoid a lot of misinformation. At the same time, I wasn't exposed to a lot of alternative methods that may also be valid. I feel it was a small price to pay based on the results we were getting.

Aside from the results, I liked that it kind of forced me to treat the drum kit as a whole instrument. I did one recording that focused on really close mic'ing each drum (and even some cymbals) and to this day it remains the worst drum recording I have done. The player wasn't great, but was good enough to make my kit sound better than the recording would have you believe. Albeit there are many variables that could have come in to play, I avoid taking that risk again since I really didn't like the results. I also wasn't the producer and the producer was looking for "that" sound, and well... He was happy with the sounds at the time, so who was I to argue?

When the close mics are fairly distant, you really have to pay extra attention on placement, more than usual even. In some cases the close mics may not even sound great on their own but with the combination on different mics everything together sounds amazing.

I really wish I had more time with the old Fluid room so I could have experimented with other engineers like Malcolm, Tim Davidson and Sean Boyer. Just to see what different engineers would do with drum kits in that room, with the same gear, given different musical circumstances and to observe their results in comparison.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:04 pm

Malcolm Boyce wrote:Like most things, context is a big thing for me to consider when micing something. Something as obvious as the difference between micing a snare drum in a kit, or a snare drum all by itself, or a single tambourine, or a tambourine in a drum set. An acoustic guitar, or an acoustic guitar with the player singing as well. With a single mic on a single source, you can take greater liberties with distance than when other mics and sounds are involved.

Something that's pretty foreign to me is hearing about spot mics on things like drums in a kit being around a foot away. When did you first see that kind of thing happening Andrew? I used to consider myself pretty liberal with distance from drums until I started hearing what you guys are doing... "Close" mics on drums when I was starting out were about an inch off the head so being a few inches or so away was pretty "distant" by those standards.



I don't remember any specific scenario where I remember seeing it. It was really just a development like the toucan says, "Follow your nose", er ears. I've always preferred drum mics further away than most and I gradually moved further and further, started experimenting with polar patterns, placements etc. 12" I think would be pushing it a bit for snare but definitely about where my tom mics end up. We'll have to measure next weekend Matt to see where we get. Obviously this is all dependent on a good drum with a well tuned kit in a decent room. With a poorer drummer whose dynamics are less than desirable I'll move things in closer for more control. Probably not going to worry about tone as much in that scenario anyways.

I will say that I'm quite lucky as far as musicians have been concerned. Since we're the most expensive studio around I really want to have a lot of control over the product we put out, to the point of refusing some projects and/or firing musicians and hiring session players. It's always a tough call to make but when clients have expectations for finished product that their players aren't capable of and I'm producing I have no problem pulling the plug. I'd like to be less expensive but since we make so much more money doing video work we can't be losing money doing music stuff which is essentially a side business for us.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:12 pm

Mathieu Benoit wrote:When the close mics are fairly distant, you really have to pay extra attention on placement, more than usual even. In some cases the close mics may not even sound great on their own but with the combination on different mics everything together sounds amazing.


I always find that when you spend the required time working on placement the individual mics sound better and more like I want the finished product to sound in solo than super close mics. If the bleed is under control I have to do way less corrective work than closer mics. Maybe a tiny bit of expansion and some spice EQ.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:27 pm

macrae11 wrote:I always find that when you spend the required time working on placement the individual mics sound better and more like I want the finished product to sound in solo than super close mics. If the bleed is under control I have to do way less corrective work than closer mics. Maybe a tiny bit of expansion and some spice EQ.


Agreed but usually the "greatness" comes from the overheads in concert with the close mics. Take the floor tom on the Jaclyn session as an example. On it's own the close mic had the attack covered but the low end wasn't really present until other mics started to come into play.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:15 pm

Mathieu Benoit wrote:
macrae11 wrote:I always find that when you spend the required time working on placement the individual mics sound better and more like I want the finished product to sound in solo than super close mics. If the bleed is under control I have to do way less corrective work than closer mics. Maybe a tiny bit of expansion and some spice EQ.


Agreed but usually the "greatness" comes from the overheads in concert with the close mics. Take the floor tom on the Jaclyn session as an example. On it's own the close mic had the attack covered but the low end wasn't really present until other mics started to come into play.



Actually I've only mixed a couple of songs so far but especially on Storm there's far less overheads than I typically use and there was enough low end on the floor tom that I muted the bottom mic. Part of this was due to the funky parallel compression I had going on the drum bus but there was still plenty of low end.

For everyone else I'll post links once the album is released but it probably won't be for a month or two.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:41 pm

macrae11 wrote:Actually I've only mixed a couple of songs so far but especially on Storm there's far less overheads than I typically use and there was enough low end on the floor tom that I muted the bottom mic.


Which is surprising given the conversation we had during set up about the lack of bottom end from the top floor tom mic.

P.S. For those of you playing at home, we routinely place a bottom mic on the floor tom. :-o Crazy. I know.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:48 am

Mathieu Benoit wrote:P.S. For those of you playing at home, we routinely place a bottom mic on the floor tom. :-o Crazy. I know.
Some of my all time favourite drum sounds on record have been toms miced top and bottom. Other than fooling around with it a little, I have never really made use of this practice.

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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:01 am

Just so people can hear what we're talking about here's the drum track in question.
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Re: When to mic close, and when to mic far away.

Postby macrae11 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:43 pm

Also just for reference here's the version without the drum subgroup processing. It's not level matched but still gives a pretty good indication of how much low end is being added with some aggressive processing as opposed to direct from the source.
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