Audio Recording Issues – Multiple Microphones Setup to Track the Same Instrument and Need the Right Balancing Together Part One
Learning how to Equalize Frequencies within a range of different contexts requires numerous skills and the ability to define one's style with cohesiveness. There is a single process that serves as a testing ground for a contextual series of abilities, all inclusive, and that is the process of recording a single instrument with multiple microphones.
The drumset is the perfect instrument to serve as an example for this common occurrence. Live drums have been successfully captured as part of an ensemble of instruments in a pleasant room with a single mono microphone, a perfectly positioned pair of matched stereo mic's, and with a 3-mic array. All of these techniques have been used with remarkable success and many engineers utilize these purist approaches with incredible results. More often than not, we find a more comprehensive approach taking place. Project studios may use very inexpensive dynamic mic's on the top heads only, with a pair of high quality but inexpensive cardioid condensers as overheads, and skip on the room mic's.
This same project studio may have an 8-input audio interface with decent built-in preamps employed. The high end studio aiming for the standard contemporary approach to recording a drumset may use similar dynamics on the toms and snare, on top and bottom heads, with a mic on either side of the kick drum and an expensive large diaphragm at a small distance on the kick, an expensive pencil condenser on the hi hat, a pair of room mic's, a pair of overheads, all running on boutique outboard preamps. Whether you are at the lowest budget production or at the world's finest facility, you are likely to be facing some of the same issues when it comes time to mix these drums together.
Let's fast forward and assume that we've tracked our drums and everything else in the song is ready to mix. Now, we've got to decide how this all comes together. Realize, it may be one thing to set all of those mic's up and compare levels, angles, positions, and everything else, to get the best capture of the set. Now, we have the challenge of deciding how loud the snare should be in comparison to the guitar and bass, and how much of that should come from the direct mic and how much from the overheads. Is the song calling for an open and ambient set or a tight, punchy, up-close set? Is the stereo spread and distance of the overheads consistent with the feel of the song or is it too complex sounding? Are you best to use the directs and supplement them with the natural reverb of a room and/or overheads, or vice versa? The approach to tracking and mixing largely define how the performance should be brought together. In part two, we'll take a look at how EQ helps us with this process in multiple ways.