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A Quick Introduction to Common Mic Placement Techniques

This article is courtesy of Soundfly’s free course series Any Sound Will Do, which features essential tips and strategies on creating music from found sounds and sampled sources by YouTube star Andrew Huang and Ableton Certified Trainer Brian Jackson.

Where you place the microphone when recording sounds to sample is potentially more important than what microphone you’re actually using. Below are a few common methods and pointers, but feel free to throw this all out and experiment. The best sounds often come from happy accidents!

Recording with a single microphone is known as recording in mono. With a single mic, try pointing it straight at the source about 30cm away. Put on some headphones, and play around with different angles and distances until you find the sound you’re looking for.

Mono

For stereo recordings, there are a lot of options for microphone placement. You can use cardioid mics (like a pair of Shure SM57s) to accomplish all of these except for “mid-side.” For that, you’ll need a bidirectional mic. It should also be noted that it’s not imperative, but highly advisable, to use mics of the same make and model to achieve the best results with these setups.

XY, also known as a coincident pair, is a popular method of stereo miking. This is great for sources close and far. It produces an honest, not overly hyped stereo image. The Røde NT4 stereo condenser mic actually has its capsules set up like this permanently.

XY

+ Read more on Flypaper: “How to Build an Acoustic Diffuser — And Why You Need Diffusion”

The ORTF configuration came to be circa 1960 at the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française. Positioning a pair of cardioid mics in this way produces a slightly wider image than XY and makes it more ideal for capturing a broader sound field. Try it out on a room or a few feet back from whatever source you’re working with.

ORTF

Utilizing either two cardioid or two omnidirectional microphones, a spaced pair microphone configuration can produce some really cool stereo sounds. This method requires a bit of guess and check. Set up the two mics, vary the angle and distance between them, throw on a pair of headphones, and try to get the coolest sound possible.

Spaced pair

Mid-side refers to a setup that requires one cardioid and one bidirectional mic to achieve. Point the cardioid mic at the source, and place the bidirectional mic underneath or above with the capsules pointing 90° off axis from the source. To create the stereo effect you’re going for, you need to duplicate the signal from your bidirectional mic, invert the phase on one signal, and hard pan each of them so you hear both sides of the mic.

When combined with the cardioid signal, this should give you the full stereo sound you’re going for.

Mid-side

Now you’re ready to record! Try out one of the stereo mic placements above, and have fun with it!

Whether you want to learn how to sample found sounds in your beats, introduce more complex theory and harmony into your productions, or enhance the expressiveness of your MIDI string arrangements to make them sound more “human,” Soundfly’s growing selection of #PRODUCE courses has you covered!

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Soundfly Team

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