Microphones: Resonance, Rhythm and Reverberation

Somewhere, you’ll find a place that captures the sound of the musical note the best. Start by putting your mic there. You might still move it around a little afterwards, but it’s a good place to begin.

Microphones: Resonance, Rhythm and Reverberation
A violinist wears a lapel microphone near her instrument to capture her sound on stage at Crossroads Community Church this year in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Credit: Kim Ortiz, Yeydi Jimenez
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Moving the microphones is one of the most creative, challenging, and deeply satisfying parts of professional sound. Whether in the studio or on the stage, slight changes in the positioning can make a big difference.

The first place most of us start with an acoustic guitar, or any stringed instrument, is to place a mic near the sound port.

In a recording environment, we leave room to play around and create sound. In live sound, though, concerns like feedback, stage visuals, sound bleed from other instruments and even change over time between bands, can box us in to a quick and safe routine.

No matter the circumstances, though, the fundamentals of mic placement still ring true and should not be overlooked. We all form habits in live sound. It’s a necessity. Take the time to occasionally ask if there is an option to consider that’s beyond simply “the way we always do it.”

One instrument I find myself in a rut right now is with the acoustic guitar. Lately, practical concerns have made my acoustic setup an effective, but boring “out to DI box.” Over the years, though, I’ve learned many fun ways to capture acoustic guitars, violins, mandolins and a variety of other acoustic strings.

I broke into the live sound side of the industry in coffee shop venues, where delivering a rich sound the artist loves is critical. Some people like their violin to sound smooth and graceful. Some like their guitars to pound along like a locomotive. Others are trying to capture an accurate and uncolored vibe of their instrument in the hall.

Talk to your performers and agree on a place to start, then get in there and move the mics!

Resonance

The first place most of us start with an acoustic guitar, or any stringed instrument, is to place a mic near the sound port. The port in a stringed instrument is where the musical note resonates the loudest.

As the strings cause the wood to vibrate, the air inside is excited and pushed out of the port. It’s the same underlying principle as blowing across a bottle top, known in acoustic physics as the Helmholtz resonator effect.

Different instruments have different types of ports. Violins, mandolins, and certain guitars and bass have “f” ports. Banjos may have resonator plates in the back to help direct the sound forward through the body.


More About Adrian Gates
Adrian Gates is the Media Director for Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In his 16 years as a media professional, Adrian has served many different roles, including music producer, web master, videographer, consultant, social media “expert,” sound guy, lighting guy, stage hand, and roadie. His clients have included some of the largest tech companies in the world, New England churches looking to modernize, and dedicated weekend warriors. Adrian is a graduate of the New England Institute of Art and Communications.
Get in Touch: mediaservices@crossroadsconnects.com    More by Adrian Gates

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