Michael Moyes is a Senior Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. He finished his studies at Baylor University, where he studied Piano Performance and Business. Michael has performed Piano as a soloist, in combos, and accompanied by full Orchestra. He holds Master Certificate in Arranging and Orchestration from Berkleemusic. You can hear some of Michael’s music on the Berklee Music Network and on Soundcloud.
I am all over this topic. Not because I know microphones, on the contrary, I’m what the french call, les incompetents. The reason mic’s are on my mind is because I am a MIDI orchestrator, pianist, and banjo instructor (you read that correctly) who is finally diving into the world of live recording. I hope you can learn from my journey…
There are 3 types of microphones I looked at.
Dynamic microphones are commonly used for live performances, speeches, and any other run of the mill uses due to their ruggedness and versatility. The SM57 and SM58 models are some of the most popular mics in the world. You can crank up the gain and throw them on the ground (not advised) without worrying about them breaking or distorting. Another benefit is that dynamic mics do not necessarily require a pre-amp or phantom power. They are great for voice and instrument miking but you may be sacrificing some clarity.
Condenser microphones are the ones you would often use in studio settings. These mics will capture every minute detail with painstaking accuracy. I borrowed a KSM27 and tried to record some banjo licks last night but every time I stopped playing I could hear my cat eating in the kitchen, my next door neighbor watching The Bachelor, and a phone conversation from a couple zip codes over. It was far too sensitive for my acoustically untreated bedroom in an urban Boston neighborhood. The level of detail that you would get in a good recording environment is excellent with these mics, which is why they are perfect for studio recording. You do need external power though and you want to be careful not to crank them too loud as they are sensitive and the diaphragm can be damaged.
Ribbon mics probably shouldn’t even be mentioned here since they are out of my price range and too fragile for someone with my patience. They do sound fantastic when used on acoustic pianos though. I was fortunate enough to have an engineer record a piano concerto using some Royer R – 101’s and the result was amazing!
I am going to go with a dynamic mic for starters since my recording studio is a noisy, family inhabited bedroom. I need the sonic forgiveness a dynamic mic offers for now. Down the road, I will invest in a good condenser to record violin, cello, etc. Adding a couple live instruments to a MIDI orchestration can make an enormous difference!
Of course, I am probably going to take the new Mic Techniques course as well. You can have the freshest ingredients in the kitchen but you are going hungry if you don’t know how to cook. (write that down)
Berkleemusic’s next term begins on April 2nd, 2012.
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