Using A Single Mic and Preamp for Recording Guitar and Vocals
Can you really get a great recording of a guitar AND vocal perfomance with just a single mic and a single preamp? Absolutely! That’s how the majority of classic recordings were done back before multitrack recording. The benefits of recording with one really great mic and preamp are twofold:
- The sound is pure and focused
- You don’t have to deal with phase issues
With a single-mic setup, you have the ability to make the listener feel like they are literally in the room. So how do you pull this off? First of all, you need to have a great song and a great performance. If you’ve got one mic or 1000 mics, it won’t matter if the song sucks or the performance isn’t there. Assuming you have your song and performance together, here’s a few tips on how to pull this off using the PreSonus ADL 700 Channel Strip and the Blue Microphones Kiwi. The artist I recorded is the amazing Chris LeBlanc.
Mic Positioning: We’re using Blue Microphones’ Kiwi, a nine-pattern microphone (omni, cardioid, figure of eight, and everything in between) featuring their B6 capsule, to capture as much detail as we can. Most of the time, I set the mic to a cardioid pickup pattern, so it is picking up what’s going on in front of it while rejecting reflections that are coming off of the wall behind the mic. When I’m miking a singer/acoustic guitar player, I try to place the mic far enough away to pick up both the guitar and voice—but not too far, otherwise I will get to much room sound. Once I’ve positioned the mic for the correct distance, the next challenge is to position it vertically to get the correct balance between the singer’s voice and guitar. This is also a bit tricky, as placement is dependent on how loud the artist both sings and plays. On this particular session, Chris’ voice was actually a lot louder than his guitar was. Notice I have the mic actually positioned lower, toward the guitar, to account for this. With the Kiwi, it’s good to experiment by opening up the polar pattern to achieve more omni pickup when trying to capture multiple sources. The flexibility of being able to move in-between cardioid and omni is extremely valuable in these settings!
Setting the mic preamp and compressor
The preamp gain was set so that I had plenty of headroom. Chris is a very dynamic singer, and puts out quite a bit of volume, so it was important to make sure I didn’t let him clip the input of the mic preamp. The ADL 700 features variable microphone impedance settings, so I set it to the highest impedance available to get a bright, dynamic sound. The High Pass Filter was disabled, and the compressor was set to a light ratio of about 3:1. I was getting around 5 or 6dB of compression on the meter. This smoothed out the response, and helped control the inevitable peaks that occur when Chris really belts it out.
Setting the EQ Since the mic was pulled back from Chris by about 1.5 feet, I found I needed to boost some lows around 60k just to bring out the body in his acoustic guitar. Since the guitar was tuned down, the low-mids sounded a little muted, so I boosted a few dB at around 400Hz. Lastly, I added just a tad of highs at around 6kHz to bring out the high-end definition.
Point and Shoot That’s it! As you can see from the video, sometimes Chris wasn’t looking directly at the mic, but because I had some distance between him and the Kiwi, it didn’t matter. What you hear is what the performance actually sounded like if you were in the room. The trick with this type of technique is to experiment. It also doesn’t hurt to have a world-class mic and preamp, but nonetheless, it all starts with the source. Experiment—happy tracking!
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