Why the Shure SM57 is the Greatest Microphone of All Time
As you begin to gain traction in the recording world and are allowed the opportunity to work with new engineers and new studios, you will notice one common mic used in practically every session. The Shure SM57. As a 1st Year Producer you may not know why this mic has made such a huge impact over the many years of production it has been in. Its price point might confuse most as to why such an affordable microphone is in such high demand. From live applications to studio usage, you simply cannot go wrong with the Shure SM57 and here is why.
When you are first starting out budget plays such a vital role for everyone. Most beginners cannot afford a “mic locker” that professional studios offer. They certainly wish they could but aren’t at that place in their career just yet. Here comes the Shure SM57 to the rescue. When first starting out this mic should be the first microphone you invest in. Not only is it so versatile, as discussed in the next section, it will continue to perform for you again and again over the years as you find out that it will be a part of your day to day recording almost all the time. Whether you’re demo’ing or being commissioned to produce an album, the Shure SM57 will make its way into the tracking room, trust me.
I have personally used this mic on almost every instrument at some point in my career. Because of its price point, it is accessible to everyone and should be a part of your mic locker from the get-go. From vocals to guitar to drums, this microphone will perform every time and give you results that you can work with when you are mixing. Because of its relatively small size, it is easy to position pretty much anywhere.
Guitar Amplifier Cab: Place it on the cone and it will translate your guitar seamlessly into your DAW Check out Session # 13 to hear the Shure SM57 used on all of the guitar tracks for this Live Metal Recording
Bass Cabinet: It will give you the mid-range frequencies that many low end mics lack while you are mixing
Snare Drum: The ultimate snare drum mic period Check out Session # 32 to hear the Shure SM57 on the snare drum
Vocals: Sufficient mid-range frequencies that capture great vocal takes
Acoustic Guitar: Place it near the sound whole, boost your preamp
Vocals: Just like its brother the Shure SM58 you can expect a great sound from the get-go in live situations I particularly remember using this mic and only this mic on Session # 2. We used this mic on every instrument of the recording, including the vocals and it came out amazing. Both the artist and I were satisfied with the results and we were able to produce a mix worthy of the radio. Download the track and import it into your favorite DAW and you will see the quality this mic can produce.
Rugged Sturdy Construction
I to this day still use the my very first Shure SM57 I bought almost 15 years ago. Let me tell you it still sounds the same as it did when I first bought it. I have dropped this mic more times than I can count. I have had countless drummers accidently whack this bad boy during both studio and live sessions on intense rim shots. I’ve even had a few drummers completely break the head cap off when hitting the snare drum. We simply put a little piece of electrical tape to repair the damaged and continued the session with no compromise to the sound. I have had guitar cabs accidentally set to max output and when suddenly switched on nearly blew our eardrums to kingdom come. Not a hint of sonic degradation later when we used it to track the same cabinet. The ability of this mic to handles high outputs and transient information is bar none. It was undoubtedly built with longevity in mind.
Having such a small physical presence, it truly is astonishing the frequency range this microphone can capture. Every instrument from guitar to kick drum will benefit from this mic. Although it may not be the primary microphone source on all of its applications, its useful combination can transform dull sound sources into radio ready sonic information.
Kick Drum: I would tend to use this as a second mic near the beater of the kick pedal to capture that snap that the kick drum may had been lacking
Snare: My go to each and every session
Toms: When placed close to the tom head, you get a nice low rumble with solid mid-range information. If we didn’t have enough tom microphones, we would end up throwing 57’s on the additional toms
Vocals: In live situations we often use this as an auxiliary mic for backup singers
Guitar Cabinet: My first choice of microphone every time when recording guitar cabinets
Bass Guitar Cabinet: Use in the very near center of the cone to capture the high-end information of the bass guitar. When used in conjunction with microphones like AKG D112 or Shure Beta 52A, you have the whole frequency range to work with when mixing
These examples above are just a little snippet of the role this microphone plays not only in my studio but in studios around the world. It is just so versatile and useful that you will find yourself using it in almost every session for a number of reasons. Although it may be the perfect beginner microphone, it will never be placed in the back of your mic locker when you start purchasing more microphone for your studio. It will remain a workhorse for years to come. If you don’t own one, your studio is missing out on a classic.