Approaches to Recording


What is the purpose of this recording?

Use a reference recording to get the final sound in your mind's ear first.  One decision will drive another, and make the choices clearer. For example, thinking of placement first often helps narrow-down mic choices.

  • Document of acoustic performance?
  • Part of a multitrack composition?
  • Support for image (film/video/web)?


  • What is the focus and how will the mic setup support it?
  • What are the other elements in the piece?
  • Natural & realistic vs. drama & size?
  • Reference recordings (again)!


Understand the Source

Sure, this is a clarinet...

But did you know there is a whole clarinet family?

And there's even one of these!

Radiation Patterns

The key answer to "How do I mic this thing?"

clarinet examples


Getting the Sound

Decide mic placement first, then mic choice second.

Direct vs. Reverberant Sound Fields

  • How much room sound?
  • How much leakage?
  • Main + Accent mics (PT examples)

Music or Sonic Style/Genre

  • Rock/pop relies on close mics, with room mics as accents
  • Classical & jazz are the opposite

What's the Perspective?

Mic Choice

  • Transducer Type:
    How does will the mic fit with the source
  • Polar Pattern:
    How much room sound?
    What will the balance of isolation vs. leakage be?
  • Proximity Effect:
    How much will it be a factor?
    How much is too much?
  • More mics does not equal more control
  • Multiple mics means more potential for phase problems (comb filtering)
  • More mics are difficult to blend into a cohesive sound
  • Proper stereo mic setups help avoid this
  • Pianoteq & iTunes phase examples

Use The Fewest Number of Mics that Get the Job Done

The 3:1 Rule

The 3:1 Rule

Specialty Mics

Use them carefully, and only when they are the best choice.

They are useful; but are a compromise, not a magical solution.

  • Lavelier (example)
  • Clip-on (example)
  • PZM/Boundary
  • Wireless
  • USB

Recording Session Management

  • Input List/Track Sheet
  • Recording Log/Take Sheet
  • D2L Session Reference Page 


These roles are about the job of actually running the session. The entire group participates equally in the planning process. It is the producer's responsibility to be the facilitator, and to see the plan it happens as best as possible. So the roles in the session are about executing the plan the group has already made together.

  • Producer/Documenter
    Coordinates group planning and decisions, pacing and timing in the session, and ultimately ensuring the group's plan is carried-out. Also helps with mic setup, and responsible for documenting them.
  • Engineer #1
    Setting-up the patchbays and mixer to execute the kinds of sounds the group planned.
  • Engineer #2
    Setting-up mics and moving them during the session, based on the group's decisions.
  • Tape Op
    Operating all recorders (and their input levels), managing media & backups, keeping session logs. May also help with mic setup as-needed.

Approaches to Recording

By Brian

Approaches to Recording

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