15-minute Mic & Recording Clinic

Hey VW!

Tony suggested a few months ago for me to create a video with tips about mics and recording. I decided to do this in a popular Youtube-type tutorial format, also designed to share here. Hope it is helpful and informative!


Access: Anonymous


What a GREAT video. Thank you Steve - very well done.

Thanks Steve. Good information all around.

It is really cool how good some of the less expensive mics have become. I’m a fan of Warm Audio also, not to mention Chameleon Labs and Aston.

Great video, Steve! Thanks for posting. Neat suggestion using book cases to diffuse the reflections.

Question; I understand that mics that are separated can cause phase cancellations, and I understand the theory, but do you encounter that in practical situations? Do you "tune" the mic distances to avoid the cancellations? What process do you use to do that, run a chromatic scale to see if you hear dips in sound? Or is the effect not noticeable to care? I separate my mics like you do, but never really noticed; and I use the tremolo so that may hide the phase cancellation anyway.


Thanks all for your comments!!

Barry, I have not really had any phase problems by micing this way. Keep fairly close to the instrument with mics approx 3 ft apart, and even spacing over the bars. Then it is always good to check phase if you suspect any issues..this can be done by panning both mics center or using a mono switch. There should be no noticeable dropouts or change in level. Try reversing phase on one mic. Any weirdness, reposition... Cheers, Steve

Great Video!!

One thing i don’t understand. Mastering just one instrument. If you mix it and it sounds great, why are you mastering it? Why isn’t everything fixed in the mixing stage. I get it with lots of instruments mixed to 2 tracks and then messing with the big picture, but i record my vibes in a very simple set up, I listen back and think if that was a cd it would sound great. If I say that, am I not done with the process???

The short answer is yes, you may be fine and done. That said...

Mastering considers the medium through which the music will be distributed and hardware through which it will be preserved and played back. Mastering is different for vinyl, CDs, or MP3 (especially if the expectation is that the end listener will be using something like earbuds or a laptop speaker system).

In the mastering phase, the recording is adapted to the norms of those environments, such as the limits of dynamics, the expected loudness (different than volume because it has to do as much with perception as it does with the actual volume of the notes; it is relative to other recordings also, so that your recording doesn't sound too loud or soft if part of a play list involving other recordings.)

Classical European music often suffered from exactly what you are asking. The engineer would make a brilliant recording of an orchestra playing a piece that sounded spectacular in the studio, where it was quiet and the speakers were hi-fidelity. However, once it was played on the radio, the crappy speakers, ambient noise, etc made the soft passages inaudible and/or the loud passages distort or simply be so loud the user would have to turn them down (It's not cool to have an 80 piece orchestra in your Mini Cooper).

So, your end product may sound fine to you through good speakers or your best headphones, but that is good playback of a file that was recorded at least at 48Khz, maybe even 96Khz and a bit depth of 24 (more samples per second and more info in each sample that even a CD, which is 441Khz and 16 bit... or, in other words, another octave or so of clear high response with an additional boost to dynamic range), but the process of squashing it down needs help to preserve the intention of your recording.

So.. even if you get a great sound on your vibes and the levels all look pretty good and all that, in my view you aren’t done until you actually master a recording. The main thing is about optimizing the levels so that the peaks are right, and any overall limiting sounds good. With solo vibes it is a simple process that could maybe be skipped. But I find that there is always a benefit to having a final mastering chain, in particular the use of a multi band limiter. With a full ensemble it is absolutely essential, the difference your final recording can achieve with proper limiting, program eq, etc. can be drastic. When we are back to just thinking about solo vibes I will put it this way: your vibe channel with all the effects is only taking into consideration that one channel - after the channel sounds good and is mostly at the proper level, there should be another output stage where you carefully adjust the level of the entire recording. So for example if you are maybe sending to some reverb on an aux send, the final mastering will bring all those sounds together and can almost act like a glue that solidifies your whole final mix, even for just a solo instrument. In practice it means that you are using your instrument channel to worry about the sound of your instrument. Once that is right, you use a mastering chain to dial-in the overall dynamics and levels of the entire recording. Also on that final mastering I might use some specialized effects like an analog tape simulator. The trick to getting really professional recordings in my opinion is creating these layers of gain and limiting, using both your ears and the level meters to achieve optimal dynamics.

i have to learn about mastering!