Recording Microphones

Recording Microphones, Building A Recording StudioRecording microphones have one job; to convert acoustic energy into an electrical signal that can be amplified and recorded. There are many different mic styles each suited for different applications. When setting up the studio for a session, the mic is usually the first device considered, and most studios have an extensive inventory of these sonic tool.

Recording Microphone Types

There are three different types of recording microphones used in a studio; each is characterized by the method used to change the vibrations of the diaphragm into an electronic signal.

Dynamic mics are the most common type of home recording microphones and are often used on stage.  They operate on a relatively simple electromagnetic principle; the diaphragm is connected to a movable voice coil and when the diaphragm vibrates, the coil moves which alters the magnetic flux and causes current to flow, hence they are often called moving-coil dynamic mics.

The dynamic microphone requires a minimum of electronic circuitry and therefore results in a durable microphone that requires little more than commonsense handling and care.

Ribbon Mics are a popular choice for recording microphones. They operate similar to the dynamic mic, however, they use a thin metallic ribbon in place of the diaphragm and voice coil. Ribbon mics have excellent transient response, and they are famous for their warm sound.

However, the older ribbon mics are sensitive to gusts of wind and high acoustic pressure and for that reason were not suitable for outdoors.

Over the past several decades, certain microphone manufacturers have been miniaturizing and improving the operating characteristics of ribbon mics. The newer ribbon mics have a more durable design with additional filters added to reduce the ribbon’s sensitivity making them more suitable for outdoor and handheld use.

Condenser Mics are the most commonly used as recording microphones in the studio for vocals, acoustic instrument, an almost everything else, however, they are more delicate than dynamic mics and more expensive.

Basically, in this type of mic the diaphragm is suspended over a parallel back plate, forming a capacitor. As the diaphragm vibrates, the voltage across the capacitor varies, producing an electric signal, which is then amplified by an internal preamp.

Recording Microphone Response Patterns

Recording microphones are also classified according to their directional response patterns, which reflect their ability to pick up sound within a 360 degree radius.

Omnidirectional recording microphones are generally not used for live performances because they pick up sounds coming from all directions. However omni mics are generally less susceptible to wind and breath noise and have a tendency for a relatively flat frequency response with no pronounced peaks, which can help avoid feedback.

Bidirectional, a.k.a. Figure 8, recording microphones are more sensitive to sounds from the front and rear equally well, while rejecting any sound that strikes it from the side, making it well suited for miking two sources, i.e. two singers facing each other or to capture room ambience when taping back up vocals or amplified guitars.

Directional recording microphones respond best to sounds coming from directly in front of the mics capsule. In most cases, this mic will reject any sound coming from the side or from the rear.

Cardioid recording microphones exhibit a heart shaped response pattern, in other words, this mic will give you full response when pointed at or slightly to the side of the source. These are excellent multi-purpose studio mics since they can be used as close mics to isolate an instrument, while still retaining a wide enough field of response to pick up the ambiance of a room.

Supercardioid recording microphones are often used in live performances because they reject more sound from the sides, while the frontal field extends a full 180 degrees, which make it very useful for horn sections and multi-voice backing vocals.

Dynamic recording microphones handle high volume levels from musical instruments and amplifiers and are best suited for guitar amplifiers, drums and vocals…

Ribbon recording microphones, known for their ability to capture high frequency detail, use a thin metal ribbon placed between the poles of a magnet and generates voltages by electromagnetic induction.

Recording Microphone Preamplifier

A recording microphone preamp, short for preamplifier, is an electronic device used in the first stageof amplification to boost the low-level signal to about line level.

Posted in Building a Recording Studio | Tagged | Leave a comment

Construction Soundproofing

When building a recording studio, construction soundproofing is a two-way problem; you need to keep noise from escaping the sound room, and you also need to keep the outside noise from entering the sound room.

Three things are instrumental in providing good sound control; rigidity, mass and distance. The results of building these conditions into your space are; thicker walls, floors, ceilings and door…at least two times thicker than standard residential construction.

If you are building a recording studio from the ground up, building a room-with-in-a-room, or gutting a space and rebuilding it, its possible to construct walls and ceilings that greatly help reduce the bleed of noise either into or out of your studio and therefore provide soundproofing.

Float the floor-Install rubber pucks or rubber mats underneath the sub-flooring, then build the walls and ceiling on top of the floating floor.

Sandwich the walls-A layering technique for the walls using a layer of drywall, a layer of limp mass noise barrier, a layer of OSB, a layer of drywall, a layer of noise blocking panels, and maybe a layer of padded wall treatments.

Green Glue-this is an amazing product that really works. Green Glue is a Visco-Elastic adhesive used in between sheets of standard drywall, wood product paneling, cement board and other building materials to reduce sound transfer.

Double wall construction-Two walls are constructed next to each other separated by an air space.

NOTE: For this application it is important to seal everything, any space that air can get through will prevent sound isolation by letting noise creep through the cracks.

Install Acoustic Insulation-we are talking about the in-wall/ceiling treatments here. This is the stuff you apply during construction, and it is a bit different than the standard insulation used in home or office construction. These products are designed to do a much better job at bass trapping, overall absorption, thermal control, moisture absorption and sound transmission loss.

Use Mass-use extra layers of drywall, OSB, heavy plywood, etc. It takes heavy material to stop low frequencies.

NOTE: This method of sound isolation will change the rooms acoustics; better recording studio soundproofing means more low-frequency energy in the room.

Noise-reduction glass-Use double-pane, noise-reduction glass for windows.

Noise-reduction doors-Use two solid-core exterior doors hung back to back separated by an air space, hung on the same door jamb.

Quiet HVAC System-Install the quietest, most noise resistant HVAC system you can afford.

With all of the layers that go into a recording studio sound control, soundproofing also means that you need to provide ‘beefed up’ framing, foundation and roof trusses. And guess what, your space just got smaller. Is it still big enough? Sometimes you walk a fine line when trying to build in great acoustics and at the same time provide adequate recording studio soundproofing.

Posted in Building a Recording Studio | Tagged | Leave a comment

Analog Recording

Analog recording produces a warm, round sound. Digital is convenient, consistent, and reliable. However, for that extra punch, consider bringing analog recording equipment into your studio.

Today, anyone with a halfway decent digital audio workstation (DAW) has the where-with-all to turn out a pro-level product in a matter of hours.  However, if you want to inject your music with a little ingenuity or individuality, you need to think analog.  If you want to create sounds in your recording studio that are different from everyone else’s, think analog.

Back in the days of ‘old school’ recording – studios created their own unique sound through various methods:

The sound rooms were constructed in a distinctive design.

The “effects” equipment, reverb and echo, were sometimes designed and handcrafted on site

The analog recording consoles were often modified from broadcast equipment.

Some of these studios even had their own house band.

All of these ‘human touch’ elements combined gave the studio a signature sound.

Oftentimes, people in the industry could tell where a new record was recorded just by how it sounded.

So how do we get that ‘human touch’ into today’s digitally base studio environment?  For analog tone and digital convenience try tracking on tape and editing in digital.  A two-track reel-to-reel machine can be used for mastering digital tracks, or a hard-disc recorder can be patched into an old analog mixing console. Why not get the warmth you are looking for with some real tube mics or tube mic preamps. The possibilities are endless.

Analog recording is an art form that requires a team; a producer with the “vision” and the engineer to make it happen. When set up properly, the producer and the engineer focus on getting the track right quickly, hopefully on the first take.  Ultimately, the Mastering Engineer takes the tracks from the studio and tweaks them so that the end product (vinyl, tape or compact disk) can be optimized for the best possible listening experience.

Posted in Building a Recording Studio | Tagged | Leave a comment

Music Business Careers

Careers in the music industry include: artists, engineers, producers, management and other behind-the-scenes people who are in the business of capturing, recreating and marketing sound.  These professionals are experts in many fields such as; acoustics, electronics, production, broadcast media, multimedia, marketing and business.  These careers focus on turning a creative spark into a final product that in the music industry means a hit record.


The overall quality of a recording begins and ends with the artist(s).  Careers as a recording artist(s) have several ingredients that drive the industry; charisma, technique, emotion and the ability to ‘command an audience’.  A carefully planned and well-produced recording will act as a framework to showcase the talent and soul of the artist(s).


Of all the careers in the music industry, the producer’s job is one of the most important.  Primarily, the producer helps the artist(s) and record company create the best possible recorded performance and a final product for the buying public. This involves guiding the artist(s) through the recording process, including; controlling the finances, selection of songs, and maintaining the focus on the artist’s vision.


Other examples of careers in the music industry are found in studio musicians, back-up singers and arrangers.  Often times the services of these professionals and sometimes even entire orchestras are called in to provide richness and depth to the performance of the artist(s) or vocalist.


One of the most technical careers of the music industry is the job of the engineer.   Through the use of recording technology, the engineer must be able to express the artist’s talent and the producer’s concepts.  Actually the job of the engineer is more of an art form, there are no magic formulas, the process is subjective in nature and it relies on the tastes and experience of those involved.  Simply put, the engineer uses their artful knowledge of recording media technology to produce the best possible sound, taking into account the intended customer and media used for sound recreation.


An entry-level position for an individual interested in careers in the music industry, specifically that of an engineer, is an ‘in-training’ or Assistant Engineer.  Assistant Engineer’s might assist  in the placement of microphones and headphones, run the tape machines, help with session documentation and maybe perform rough mixes and balance settings on the recording boards.


The Maintenance Engineers make sure that the studio equipment is in top condition, regularly aligned and repaired when necessary.  Large studios may employ a full-time maintenance engineer, but smaller studios often use the services of free-lance engineers and technical service companies.


The Mastering Engineer tweaks the final version of the recording in order to present the “master” recording with the best possible sound for marketing purposes.


Additionally, there are other careers in the music industry that are support positions behind the scenes:

  • Studio Management – this person manages the people in the studio supervising the bookings, accounting and marketing.
  •  Bookings Manager – this person keeps track of the schedule of studio usage and billing.
  • Support Staff – the assistants that keep everyone happy and everything running smoothly.


The following is a partial list of other careers in the music industry:

  • Artist Management
  • Artist Booking Agents
  • A and R (artist of repertoire)
  • Manufacturing of product
  • Marketing of product
  • Distribution of product
  • Web Development
  • Costume and Wardrobe Design
  • Graphic Arts and Layout
  • Tour Management
  • Live Sound and Lighting Technicians
  • Artist’s Personal Assistants

If you are interested in the business of sound recording, you will quickly find out that it can be difficult to get into.  It may seem like a glamorous job, but it takes a ton of self-motivation, good networking skills, perseverance, talent and personality to get into the business.  Even if you have a degree from a recording school, sometimes it is who you know, that is more important than what you know.  However, if you are committed and willing to do what it takes, there is a wide variety careers in the music industry.

These professionals are experts in many fields such as; acoustics, electronics, production, broadcast media, multimedia, marketing and business.  These careers focus on turning a creative spark into a final product that in the music industry means a hit record.

Posted in Building a Recording Studio | Tagged | Leave a comment

Studio Business

Before you start building a recording studio, you need to set up a structure and plan for your business. And way before you start investing in building materials and studio equipment you need to start the pre-selling process of establishing your expertise.

How do you do that–pay your dues?

There are a couple of ways to pay your dues:

  •     Go to an Audio Engineering School
  •     Apprentice with a Recording Studio Engineer or Record Producer
  •     Start as a successful musician, learn on-the-job in the recording studio.
  •     Record and produce your own material, successfully.

And along the way, develop relationships with people in the business.

Finally, you have paid your dues and people in the music industry recognize you as someone with an ear for engineering and producing music, now its time to build the foundation of your recording studio business.

You know the old adage; “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Now is the time to write your business plan. Basically a business plan defines the what, when, where, how and why of your recording studio business.

As part of the business plan process, it is crucial to research what it is going to take to run a recording studio business. The following is a partial list of subjects to consider:

[  ]Are there federal and local laws that will affect the business  of your recording studio?

[  ]What sort of legal structure do you need to set up, how long does it take and when does it need to be set up? Sole-Proprietorship, partnership, or corporation?

[  ] Do you need a local business license? Do you need to set up a Federal Employer Tax ID? Will you need a state sales tax ID? Do you need to establish a DBA?

[  ]What sort of financial software will you need

[  ]What does the local competition look like? What sets you apart from your competition?

[  ]What sort of marketing tools will you use? Local Advertising, On-line Advertising, website, mail marketing, brochures, business cards?

[  ]Do you need insurance; medical, property, workers comp, liability?

What are your financial goals? What is your break-even point?

[  ]What should you charge for your services? What other monetization methods will you need to support your recording studio business?

[  ]What systems do you need in place for the day-to-day operations? How are you going to handle scheduling? How are you going to protect your assets? Do you need business forms; contracts, agreements, invoicing?

Do you have business management skills? If you don’t know what a Profit and Loss is, it’s time you learned. Take an accounting class at your local junior college or business school. Learn about liabilities, owners equity, cost of goods and expenses. And most important, learn about hard costs, budgets and taxes.

So, before you start spending money on soundproofing and recording consoles, do the research and pay your dues, then lay the foundation for building a successful recording studio business.

Posted in Building a Recording Studio | Tagged | Leave a comment