Last week I worked with an artist that had a beautiful voice, coupled with a brilliant guitarist. Sometimes things just fall into place and the way two artists link together melds a beautiful, evolving performance without you as an engineer or producer doing too much to embellish upon their idea in the first place.
However, this can make your brain race as you want to capture the performance and the track perfectly to marry their incredible talents with your otherworldly knowledge of what mics are best without having to put much thought into it.
I’m here to tell you to approach this the same as any other session and take a deep breath first and foremost.
Let's dive in.
We’ll discuss the main thing you should be doing to capture anything first off - Mic Shootouts. Without a doubt, this is the bulk of the session aside from playing with the mic placement.
It’s easy to assume the mic’s you think are best, and sometimes this is a great time saving ability to have, and your knowledge of the tonalities of your mic locker will no doubt become one of the most useful if not the most useful tool at your disposal simply because of being able to save time. However, if the time is available, I implore you to shoot out the mics within the locker you have to find what best serves the source.
It may be that your first choice and first thoughts were indeed correct, and yet again that mic you love (for me its the V67), ends up on yet another record shining bright. But often, you’ll find that a mic you thought only suited certain sources works incredibly well.
For me, this was the V11 that typically I use on outside of kick, or a guitar cab as the low-end shines so well due to the extended low-end lift that mic has. As I love dry, midrange focused acoustic guitars, I sometimes find the low-end from the V11 aimed at the bridge on acoustic too much personally. However in this session, aimed a little further back at the body above the bridge gave a lovely low end, focused lower midrange, and enough of the detail that it blended beautifully with the V67 aimed at the 12th fret.
I typically like to blend mics that I’m shooting out as well, to see if they work well together, or bring the faders up and down for specific parts for specific artistic feels between the parts of a song.
For example, a finger picking part would benefit from a super detailed mic like the BB29 or BH1S. In this case, I loved the BT301 with its smooth delicate top end and the incredibly detailed midrange it envelopes. This works beautifully with the V11 described above.
In order to shootout mics so they are able to be blended if you wish to do so, I tend to place them above the mic’s I initially think will be a good fit (in this case a pair of V67’s).
I do my best to get the angle and distance as close as I can, and place the mic’s as close as possible to each other without touching as that may induce the mic stand to wilt as you record on the lower mic, in turn changing the sound as the performance happens, ruining the take. You can see this below in the photos taken after the session concluded.
We’d love to hear your examples if you’ve done this in the past, or if you try this on your next session. Feel free to forward your examples to my email, Harri@jzmic.com - and if you’d like us to talk about something in particular, I’d love to hear what it is!