Must have mics for beginners
Every band that you loved hearing was produced and mixed by an engineer who was in the exact same shoes you’re in right now. We all began with nothing and gradually worked our way up, not only in experience but equipment too. The million-dollar record producer working on the next hit artist for Capitol Records was once just like you. Full of ambition and a sense of motivation to begin their career in recording music. So, trust me when I say, keep going and things will gradually better. But let’s face it, you’re barely starting out and you really don’t know where to begin. Below is a list of the top mics for the beginner with a small budget.
Mic # 1: Shure SM57 Dynamic Instrument Mic
This mic will should have been bought in your past life even before you ever thought you wanted to record music. This is the perfect staple of quality and price. This was the first microphone that I purchased and when I found out how versatile this microphone was, I purchased more. When I first began recording, I did not have very much money to go out and purchase all the “studio standard” microphones. Little did I know, that in purchasing the Shure SM57, I was purchasing the king of the “studio standard” mics. From drums to acoustic guitar to even vocals, this microphone will get the job done every time. Its frequency range is relatively large, even though it is a dynamic mic, and its ability to handle the low-end frequencies is remarkable. I have placed it on a snare drum, acoustic guitar and even recorded vocals with it too. All with usable, frequency balanced results that cut through your mix. The application it is probably most known for, however, is snare drum. Its response to transients is impeccable. As you progress in your career, you will come to find out that this microphone is probably the most used microphone in history.
Mic # 2: Rode NT1-A Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone
When you begin recording vocals, you will eventually need a large diaphragm condenser microphone. The human voice is such a delicate instrument with diverse high and lows. It can produce an array of dynamic sounds unlike most instruments. In my experience it is probably the hardest instrument to record because every singer is so different from the other. Large diaphragm condensers microphones are built to be dynamically sensitive to transients. Because of this they are used on most vocal sessions. Because they are so sensitive and dynamically responsive, they can get very pricey very fast. The Rode NT1-A is a perfect balance of sound and price and was the first condenser microphone I purchased. It handles vocals so well that I quickly began to understand the art of vocal recording. I learned about proximity, gain, plosives and dynamic range right away with the Rode NT-1 A. I began experimenting with this mic on acoustic guitar to great success as well. When placed towards the backend of the body of the acoustic guitar, I found it captured the low end of the guitar excellently. When mixing, I did not have to boost the low end of the EQ because it was already there. Which is something you should be striving for when recording, a great sound source.
Mic # 3: Rode NT-5 Matched Pair
Personally, drums are my favorite thing to record. They are also the most difficult too. You have so many available sources of sound from the toms, to kick, to snare and the cymbals. Dynamically, it is up there with the human voice. It is such a diverse instrument and every drummer approaches their technique differently. With this being said, you are going to need a set of overhead microphones to capture it all. In comes the Rode NT-5 Matched Pair to the rescue. When I first began recording drums, I initially purchased a very cheap set of matched pair condenser for my drum overhead needs. They were ok and served their purpose until I found the Rode NT-5’s. Immediately I saw the difference between the sets. Clear presence, clean low-end response and dynamically versatile. My drums instantly opened up. I no longer needed to boost the high-end frequency of my overheads mics as much because that clean “shine” of the cymbals was already coming through. On acoustic guitar, the strings came through clearer and the transients were present at every pluck. It was at this point in my career where I began to realize that quality can change the sound of your recordings. Quality allows your mixes to blend together more easily.
With these starter mics, you basically have the entire audio spectrum of frequencies and instruments covered. From drums to vocals to your grandmother’s out of tune piano, you could begin creating great tracks with these moderately priced, well-constructed microphones. In fact, most recordings on 1st Year Producer contain at least one of these mics on their tracks. Remember to do your research and try new things out in your journey into recording music. Experience is the number 1 thing you always have to look forward to in owning a studio. Each project will get easier while simultaneously presenting new obstacles to get over. I love it. After 11 years of recording music I still learn and discover new techniques and approaches that I would have never thought of.