When I first became interested in recording my own vocals I used this dinky little 30 dollar USB mic to do all of my recording. Obviously the quality wasn’t great, and when I started to really get serious about the whole thing I decided I needed something more professional. Probably one of the most difficult push off points was trying to find the proper mic to use. After researching it a little I managed to sufficiently confuse myself even further than before.
There are a lot of different mics out there; different types, that would pick up sounds in the voice differently. Well after making the mistake of buying a condenser mic that I couldn’t even use, I managed to enlist the help of a family friend who owned a recording studio. He gave me a lot of advice on which mics would work, and how they would work; dumbing it down to their most practical assets. After that was all made simple to me, I was able to really get somewhere with my singing. Now, I’m happy to share that basic knowledge that helped me on my way!
Two Types of Mics
95% of all mics used are separated into these two types: Dynamic and Condenser. Depending on how, and where you are using your mic will help decide which is best for you.
Dynamic mics tend to be the standard, and overall most versatile of mics. Dynamic microphones are durable, simple to use, and their sound quality stays pretty consistent which makes them the microphone of choice during live performances and touring. They can take all sorts of abuse and still work just fine. The downside to dynamic microphones would be their lack of sensitivity and overall inability to pick up the finer points in a performers voice. Dynamic microphones do not have the range of frequencies to pick up on subtleties, and the lack of sensitivity means that you have to sing quite close to the mic for it to pick up the voice properly; but that also means that it doesn’t pick up on a bunch of background noise, which will most likely be present in an unprofessional recording setup. It can also pick up loud volumes without distorting the sound. Perhaps the most tried and true dynamic vocal mic would be the Shur SM-58 which has remained the same since it’s release in 1966, but is still used by artists the world over. It’s also the first official microphone I ever used .
Condenser Microphones are the fellas you find in all the recording studios. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but they are extremely sensitive and highly accurate in the sound that they pick up. Because of all the little technical pieces (that are not need-to-know at this time) the condenser requires a charge of power in order to funcion, and provide that accurate sound. This power is known as “phantom power” which it will receive from direct input audio recording devices, or preamps. As you’ve probably gathered, this is the more complicated mic to use. You’ll need a really quiet area that you can dedicate to your recording, since the condenser will easily pick up all of the sounds in the room (hum of the ac unit, slight buzzing of a light, etc). You have to watch your volume levels closely when recording, as too much sound going into the mic will causes distortion.
The Neumann U87, is incredibly famous for it’s pristine sound, but it is quite the pricey piece of equipment, costing over 3000 dollars.
I would not recommend dropping all of your cash on this guy for your first mic. . . but it’s here if you’d like to take a look
The Shure SM27 is the condenser I currently use, and is muuuuuch cheaper than the guy up there. Check it out here
I’d recommend a pre-amp
An audio-interface of some sort is usually need to get the sound from your mic over to your computer. Without getting into too much detail, just know that these mics require an XLR input, which the audio-interface provides and then feeds it into your computer/recording software. You’ll need an audio interface in order to use a condenser mic at all, as it would require Phantom Power to work.
The M-Audio Avid Fast Track is about as simple as it gets, and perfect for the singer/songwriter, a mic, and a guitar.
These types of things are always over complicated, but there is really no need to delve into all of that until you are more experienced; but even then, by the time you’re recording studio albums you’l probably be working with a professional audio engineer. For the aspiring singer/songwriter; keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it cheap.
Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!
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