Microphones are one of the most underappreciated elements of sound – both in the studio and on the stage. Any engineer with a great condenser microphone can tell you that it’s where a more expensive item tends to sound better than its less expensive competition. There’s a character and warmth inherent in every great microphone that gives it character.
By the same token, there are amazing inexpensive options available. The Shure SM57 is just one workhorse dynamic microphone that many engineers will choose it for common studio tasks even when they have access to a locker worth thousands more. More than just it’s sound though – the 57, along with several other dynamic microphones can really take a beating without breaking. If you’re an aspiring studio owner, there are a few reasons you should go the dynamic route first.
The Sloppy Drummer
If you just dropped tens of thousands dollars on a full collection of microphones, how would you feel if that brand-new Neumann U87 got hit by a stray drum stick during drum tracking? Your $3,200 investment just got dented, or worse damaged, during your first tracking session. Maybe you might want to re-think close micing with something so delicate.
Now if a dynamic mic like an SM57 or Sennheiser MD421 got hit while it was micing up a snare or tom, you might still get a blemish, but your investment isn’t going to lose nearly as much value. More importantly, it’s going to take that hit like a champ.
There are videos and stories of all kinds of dynamic mic abuse. Front of house engineers and techs have used dynamic mics as hammers. Mics have been submerged in water and worked just fine. They’ve even been run over by cars and dropped from 100+ ft – no issue.
A workhorse microphone doesn’t just sound good on anything – it can take a beating and still sound good on anything.
Continuing our focus on drums, do you know what else dynamic mics are great with? Rejection.
A condenser mic is built to pick up the fine details of a performance, but this can be problematic with multiple sound sources in close proximity. Things like cymbal bleed and tom bleed are common issues when micing up a kit with condensers. Thanks to the design of dynamic microphones, this issue isn’t nearly as common. They’re great with rear rejection and easy to treat with a simple in-the-box solution like Tominator when the occasional bleed does creep in.
Once you’ve got your sound recorded, the dynamic aspects fall away and your track becomes another part of the whole. A great mixer might be able to tell whether a dynamic or condenser was used to record something based on how it sounds, but are they going to care? Realistically, no – they’re going to mix them how they see fit to make them work with the other tracks in the mix.
In the box, you can abuse your signal as much or as little as you like.
Common mixing techniques add stages of processing to keep the abuse to a minimum. If a sound is great at the source, it becomes more about control than it is about changing the color of it. You might use some EQ and compression on individual tracks and even stack a couple of compressors to do 2-3 dB of compression each.
If you do decide that you want to create more of an effect, compressors can be pushed to the extremes on any type of mic to really squash the signal. Condenser microphones are more of a favorite for room mics, but close-micing a snare with a dynamic mic and crushing it through your favorite compressor can really add a nice character to your sound too – especially if it’s mixed in parallel with an unprocessed copy of the track.
Pushing Your Process To The Extremes
Sometimes, experimentation is the only way to find the extreme processing and recording techniques that work the best for you. Once you’ve got the fundamentals down, the rest is just a matter of personal preference.
If you’re trying to get a jumping off point, look no further than the JST VIP section of our site. For an extremely affordable price, members get exclusive access to plugins, guides & tutorials to help get them going.
Once you think you’ve found your sound, send me a mix for a personal critique where I’ll tell you exactly what works for me, what doesn’t, and how you can improve.