What you need. Recording 101
What stuff is. Recording 102
EQ Guide. Recording 103
Mic Positions. Recording 104
Mixing. Recording 105
Finishing. Recording 106

NOTE: These are guides and tips, they don't have to be done in any order (Except what you need and mic positioning of course) but don't take them as hard and fast rules because there are none.

You might wanna have a look through those threads, especially the EQ guide.

How do i make my recordings sound good? Recording 104

So you have all the gear you need, you know how to use it and what it does, but you still can't quite get it sounding good, more than likely its your sound source or the initial recorded sound before mixing.

Firstly, if your gear is crap... and your sound source is crap... then your recording will sound, you guessed it, CRAP!

If you're wondering how to tell if the mic placement is good, try turning up your headphones and listening as you move the mic, or if you have the time record different positions, put a square of electrical tape where you put the mic, write down the rough angle and listen back to it all then just put the mic back where it sounded best.

So lets begin.

#1 Make sure your instrument is tuned, you have the right settings dialed into your amp, and your vocals are warmed up.

Try moving stuff around your move to see if it sounds better somewhere else. You'd be surprised how much difference 2 metres can make, especially for drums, walk around hitting the floor tom and listen to where it sounds best etc.

#3 Stick your ear to where you would put the microphone (WATCH OUT ITS LOUD) because that's what your microphone will pick up.

#4 Don't be afraid to experiment!

Phase. When something is perfectly out of phase with something else it cancels out the sound, if you zoom in on 2 waver forms (e.g. top and bottom snare and you see the waves are going opposite ways, it is out of phase, if they go up and down together it is in phase). If something is partially in phase you can get funky scooped or strange sounds, which generally isn't a good thing.

#6 Don't just think to yourself, oh ill fix it up when I'm mixing. BAD! you can make an ok recorded sound sound good in mixing, but you can make a good recorded sound sound amazing the same way.

Mic placements! There are no hard and fast rules to this just suggestions i can make.

Guitar or Bass Cabs: There are no rules when recording guitar cabs but the way i do it is i point the mic at a 45 degree pointing at the cone. Sometimes pointing the mic straight at the cone works. Move the mic closer to the edge of the speaker or closer to the middle until you find the sound you think is right (use headphones while you or a friend play guitar) try having it pointing straight and at 45 degrees. Distance from speaker is generally 2-12 inches away. Generally use a dynamic mic like a sm57 (or akg d112 for bass but you can use the sm57 for bass too) though you CAN use a condenser but its generally not necessary unless you are using 2 mics to mic the amp (be careful of phase problems).

Snare (also toms): Dynamic mics are generally the best use for snares. Keep the mic 2-6 inches away from the snare head, at about a 45 degree angle. Point it more toward the center for more attack and body and closer to the rim for more resonance. Just move the mic around til you get your happy medium. You may also want to mic the bottom of the snare using the same angles, but you will probably have to invert the phase on one of the tracks as there will be phase cancellation. Snares and toms are more of a taste thing than anything else, some people like things sounding certain ways and I'll keep saying it over and over, experiment til you get a sound you like.

Kick: Pretty simple really, the closer you get your mic to the beater the more attack you'll get, the further away, the more resonance. Same deal is if you point it towards or away from the beater. If you get too much resonance all the time try sticking in a blanket or towel to dampen the heads. You will need a mic that can handle the high sound pressure level a kick drum makes and faithfully reproduce the low end., some examples are the AKG d112 and the Audix D6. You can also pair it up with another mic outside the kick (be careful of phase) to get an even huger sound. Condensers with pop filters are good for this (you might damage the mic if too much air hits it. And some even stick an sm57 next to the kick mic to get more of the attack and click.

Overheads: There are 3 main ways to record cymbals. Having 2 mics set up on the left and right side of the kit. If you do it this way make sure for every 1 metre above the kit the microphones are they need to be 3 metres apart for phase issues. This is great for definately capturing a good stereo image of the kit.
You can use the XY method which uses a XY bar to hold 2 mics at 45 degrees angles to each other (adjeacent to each other) that goes above the kit, the closer to the kit you go the wider the stereo image, the higher, the more it captures. This is what i personally do as it saves on mic stands, but i like the first option best.
Or if you don't have the luxury of as many inputs or mics, you can just stick one micriphone above the kit directly above the drummers head. This won't give you a stereo image at all but it will capture the cymbals and the rest of the kit.
Condener mics are best suited for use as overheads as they pick up the subtleties better as you are not just recording the hats but the whole kit.

Individual Cymbals: There are so many ways to do this its not funny, once again condensers being the best to use. You can point them straight up from the bottom of the cymbal, Straight down from the top, at angles, closer or further away from the bells. This is really just try moving it and seeing what happens. You will only ever really need to do this for rides and hats though (unless you go crazy and close mic the ENTIRE kit) so its not too important. The way i do it is for the ride angle it slightly to the edge of the bell on the bottom of the ride about 4 inches (10cm) away, unless the drummer is crazy and uses the ride like a crash and sits on the egde alot. For Hats generally just a 45 degree angle down at the hats aimed slightly above the seperation between cymbals, or for less sizzle and more ... ding? try just have it pointing straight down about halfway across from the middle of the cymbal. If you're feeling funky try micing the bottom and see what happens.

Acoustic Guitar: The 2 easiest ways to record acoustics are probably either using one microphone pointed at the bridge, sound hole, or 12th fret or angled at any of these points. My favourite to do with this method is angle the mic (condenser being the best choice) at the soundhole/bridge from the 10th or 12th fret so it picks up the treble and string sounds aswell as the bottom end from the bridge.
The second method is to use 2 microphones, one pointing at the 12th fret and another at the bridge then blend them to get the desired sound. This is generally the better options but not all of us have the options of using this many mics. You can use a SDC (Pencil condenser) at the 12th fret and LDC at the soundhole, that works quite well.

Vocals: Vocals are the easiest to record, use a condenser mic with a pop filter (even if its stockings and a coat hanger). You can either get the singer to sing directly into the microphone, or just over it. You could also sing at a 45 degree angle to it. Personally i think singing directly into the mic works fine. Vocals are the easiest to get sounding good as generally, if the mic sounds good and the singer sounds good there is no way to get it wrong.

NOTE: Some people like to mic the air hole on toms and snares (if you look at your drums you'll find it on the side somewhere). Personally i think this is just weird and more of a, "oh look how many mics i can stick on a drum kit to increase the chance of phase problems!" than an actual viable solution, but if it works for you, who am i to stop you.
Also these are just suggestions for mic positions, go nuts, mic an acoustic from the back.. or an amp! If you want really trashy screwed up drum sounds and you dont care if your mics get beaten up, close mic your crash cymbals about an inch away from the cymbal so when the crash gets hit it smacks into the mic (NOT RECOMMENDED!!!)

Go crazy guys, if you discover some awesome way to mic something up (Micing an amp head as well as cab is not an awesome way to mic a guitar amp) then tell me and i'll add it in and attribute it to you!

Don't forget, try different rooms! If you want nice ass reverb on your vocals, record in the bathroom, try different rooms for different things, you might be recording indie rock which recording guitars in the bathroom will sound awesome. Recording in your living room general is a good place to record for a nice roomy sound.
Last edited by doommaker at Feb 1, 2009,
Ha, i had to finish it before work, i'll go over it now. What do you think i could of elaborated more on?

EDIT: Added some more stuff in. Look better now?
Last edited by doommaker at Jan 20, 2009,
Good posts, doom!

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.