Room mics

zcus wrote on 12/17/2006, 3:42 AM
I am in a band that jams and were looking for a way too lay down demos and want to record them straight to computer. How many mics would you need - how few mics can you get away with by just mic the room - and it not just sounding like lound noise.

I'd mic every thing but I estimate I'd need 12 mics - how expensive would a kit of mics and a good external/internal sound card cost.

Can I get a good set up for $1000 to $1500

Point me to web sites if you can

Thank in advance


farss wrote on 12/17/2006, 4:30 AM
Technically you can record what we hear with no more than two mics.
Placement of those mics is an art.
However ask yourself in the space where they are performing what does it sound like? If as you've suggested it sounds like loud noise then that is at the best what the mics are going to record, more likely it'll sound even worse as our hearing is rather selective, mics are kind of dumb by comparison.
So your first step might be to acoustically treat the room, even with lots of mics and the whole multitrack deal that's probably going to be a good move anyway.
So having got that out of the way the next problem is although it might no longer sound too bad as the band is just jamming I'd bet they're playing for their own sound not for the benefit of your recording so you still need a way to balance everything up and that means really as you've noted lots of mics, preferably recording to lots of tracks and it's not as simple as just buying 12 mics, you to some extent at least need the right kind of mics for the different tasks ahead of you. Don't get too carried away by this but certain types of mics are way better suited to certain tasks, in fact if you're not carefull you can run into major grief using certain types of mics for say kick drums.
My simplest suggestion 'cause this is a pretty long road you're looking to go down. Hire a good sound engineer to do a couple of sessions. Learn from him, nothing beats watching someone do the job and you get a few recordings done right up front.
When you've seen what he uses to record your bands kind of music and how it sounds you've then got an idea of how much kit you'll need and how much it'll cost.
I could say $1,500 would barely cover 12 cheap mics and stands but maybe you don't need that many, maybe fewer of better quality would be better. I'm no expert on any of this, just getting into live multitrack recording myself and while I'm still learning fast I've got a ways to go in both knowledge and kit.
farss wrote on 12/17/2006, 4:44 AM
Or, is what's happened this:
You've shot some video of the band and well it sounds like loud crud?
1)If so what sort of camera did you use?
2)Can you turn off the Automatic Gain Control?
3)Does it have an external microphone socket?

If you answered Yes to 3) and better still 2) your cheapest bet is to get an external microphone, the Rode Stereo Videomic is very good value for the money and from memory has a built in attentuator. That means if the band is playing real loud and the camera's AGC isn't coping you can turn down the level going into the camera so it can cope better.

You're still not going to come anywhere near the sound you'd get in a recording studio but hopefully it will be better than just loud noise.

zcus wrote on 12/17/2006, 4:55 AM
No - it's regarded your first answer. I have done studio sessions and am good friends with the sound engineer. He has all band members in different rooms except the bass player and drummer.

Multi tracking is what I eventually want get in to - but could you possibly set up 4 mics, 1 in each corner of a well sound proofed room and lay instruments individualy - and also do rush jobs and record the whole band at once with decent mics in each corner for quick song ideas to record?

The room it about 20ft by 15ft and a ceiling of 7 feet.

I'm the drummer and play very loud
farss wrote on 12/17/2006, 6:16 AM
Well sound proofing and acoustic treament are two very different things.
The first is to stop the sound from getting out, the second is to control the reflection of sound in the room. When sound bounces around all manner of wierd things happen, it cancels, it adds and that's all different at different points in the room and at different frequencies.
Now even if you could make the room anechoic (and that's no simple task) as you said you play loud, that means the sound of the drums is everwhere in the room, even with lots of mics, one for each sound source it's pretty hard to stop your drums getting into the vocalist's mic. That's why in the studio you're all kept apart, I think the bass player and you need to be together as you two are the foundation for the rest of the band, you two loose it and all is lost.

However, just my gut feeling here, no expert by any means.
If you can tame the rooms acoustics, maybe some acoustic isolation between you and the rest of the band you might have a show of getting something down that's useable, if only for 'notetaking'.

But heck, you're already working with a guy who knows way more than I do, he knows you and your band, surely he's the guy to ask?

However I don't think 4 mics is going to give you much improvement over two mics, not for the sort of music you're playing. You might be able to use DI boxes to get feeds from all the amplified instruments, that's save a bit on mics.


If you don't have to record everything at once, then Vegas will let your do it with way less kit.

All you need is enough gear to say cover the drum kit and bass. You record that. Play it back through cans and then say record the rest of the instriments to new tracks and finally from a quick mix record the vocals. Then you can go back and finess the mix at your leisure. I haven't done this for a full band, just a piano player, laid down the paino track and then the vocals. Piece of cake for the performer and me, only needed one mic too (electric piano, phew).

This will be way cheaper and much more flexible than trying to do it all in one take.

You can get a basic drum mic kit from say Samson, add a few more mics, say SM58s for vocals and instrument mics (or use DI boxes) and a Presonis firepod and you're set to go.

MichaelS wrote on 12/17/2006, 8:13 AM
To get started, get yourself two decent mics with lots of utility. The Audio-Technica 3035's are about $200 each and will handle high sound pressure levels (SPL). Rodes are good, too. Not a bad place to start. Look at not only the frequency responce, but also the SPL rating. You'll want mics that will handle the peaks of crashing drums and screaming guitars. Not necessarily expensive, just built for that purpose.

The next most important element is the A/D converter (analog to digital). Go ahead and spring for an 8 channel unit. Why? You'll quickly tire of having just two stereo channels. I use a MOTU 828 and a Traveler. The Traveler is nice, rugged and road worthy. There's many other brands with effectively the same functionality...but get one! The difference in quality between these units and your computer sound card are extremely evident. Plus, it will only be a few days before you'll want to experiment with multitrack. It's a natural progression.

A good quality set of headphones will help you hear what you're doing.

Vegas for multitrack or Sound Forge for stereo only recording are comparable to any recording software you'll find. Plus, the learning curve can't be beat in my book. Your final mastering process can be achieved with Sound Forge. This is where the real technical talent comes in.

If possible, record at higher than 44.1, 16 bit. It will simply give you more information to work with later on.

From this point, take your time and experiment..

Good luck!
zcus wrote on 12/17/2006, 8:55 AM
Thanks very much

Anybody recomend a sound card - I like the external boxes.
I think Spot always mentions firewire echos?

Spot|DSE wrote on 12/17/2006, 9:41 AM
but could you possibly set up 4 mics, 1 in each corner of a well sound proofed room and lay instruments individualy - and also do rush jobs and record the whole band at once with decent mics in each corner for quick song ideas to record?

This is how scratch tracks are often recorded. Given budget and your limitations as to equipment, I'd do this...
1. 1 mic in each of 4 rooms, recording each person to a mono track (in Vegas, of course)
2. Put best suited, available mic on say...guitar rig. Record that to a new track, keeping the original four scratch tracks intact. At the same time, record the bass with a DI, or DI coupled with best available mic.
3. Mute the guitar scratch track, put all four available mics on drums
(kick, snare, 2 overheads). Record the drums to four tracks in Vegas, or 2 mono and one stereo track.
4. Use best available, best suited mic for vox, muting vox in scratch tracks and recording new vox over the new guitars and new drums.
Now, you've got four scratch tracks, plus new guitar, bass, drum, and vox tracks. Mute the four scratch tracks and start to work with what you've got for the primary instrument tracks. You'll probably find that the producer in you wants to do punch-ins, re-records, or produced/additional tracks. Maybe you want a shaker or other percussive element that wasn't part of your initial scratch tracks or the newly recorded drum tracks. Or, you want to thicken/double/triple, quadruple voices in some segments. Maybe you want an additional underlying guitar to bolster certain segments. Either way...keep piling them on, and keep those original four scratch tracks for reference. Using a metronome sometimes is important if you'll be doing critical timing, or movement of music on a grid. Remember that you can program a tempo into Vegas and create a metronome from Vegas.


[edit] just saw your Q on audio cards. I'm a big fan of the M-Audio cards, and I love the Echo brand products. I use both. I also have a couple RME Hammerfall cards, but they exhibit problems in some systems due to finicky drivers. I've had by far and wide the best luck with Echo and M-Audio, and Echo in particular.
zcus wrote on 12/17/2006, 9:59 AM
Thanks Spot,

Can you recommend an echo product - how many inputs would be the most ideal?
farss wrote on 12/17/2006, 12:45 PM
Let's all hold on one minute here.

We were talking initially about 4 mics in one room, suddenly we're talking about one mic in each of four rooms, yish!
Before this thread spins off into a discussion about the relative merits of every soundcard I think we need to give Mike some good advice about where and how here's planning on making these recordings 'cause unless the rules of acoustics have changed while I was asleep that's a way, way more important issue than sound cards and mics.

But seeing as how we're talking about sound cards and given Mike's desires and budget...

The Firepod will give you 8 mic inputs to record 8 tracks.
Alesis and Phonics make mixers that also output digital audio over firewire, something like 12 or more separate tracks into Vegas and pretty cheaply too.

None of which is really going to do much for you if you've got a rock band with a LOUD drummer all in the one room...

Which is where this started from.

zcus wrote on 12/17/2006, 1:07 PM
Sorry for the confusion.... the band jams is in a little room all together, and the computer is in a room right next door - oridginally I was just thinking of the quickest way to record the band in a listenable audio file after some materal had been written.

I thought if i hung a mic on the ceiling in the center of the room maybe with a good mic I capture the performance - but I saw a video of old recording technics with the room micd' instead of on the drums and that made me think maybe 4 mics in the corners would let the band play and at the same time recording a decent wav file for listening to shortly after too help the writing proccess?

Quick and dirty for now and upgrade the number of mics later down the road for mixing and multitracking

Sorry for the fuss
farss wrote on 12/17/2006, 1:30 PM
No need to apologise, you weren't the one who lost the plot.

Seriously my first step would be acoustic treatment for the room, some panels on the walls and bass traps for the corners. Auralex foam is pretty reasonably priced in the USA, you could try Sweetwater for it, even from down here in Australia I've had good service from them.

Once you've got the room a bit deader I'd be looking for two mics in a X-Y config or a Decca tree. Probably given how loud your band is might be good to avoid condensor mics although they should cope unless you're all deaf by now, most claim OK to 130dBA and that's bleeding LOUD :) Only reason I'd go for two mics is to get a bit of breadth from a stereo sound.

As to sound cards, well I have the M-Audio Firewire 410, works very well but it is limited to 2 mic channels, it'd be fine initially but the Firepod etc that I mentioned earlier gives you more inputs for the future.

To be honest pretty well all kit today works, there's not even that huge a difference between mics, I'm a fan of Rode mics but hey they're made locally so what the heck, unless I had a bigger budget and someone else's mics sounded way, way better I go with the local product. Thing is there simply isn't that huge a difference and in your case room acoustics are going to be the predominant influence on the sound anyway.