Mic Tips for Students

I teach, therefore I am constantly experimenting, so when students ask “How long have you been doing this or that,’ sometimes my reply is “I just tried it for the first time.”

Of course, we ALL rotate through the ‘known’ tricks until satisfied. Last week, a student walked in with TWO B&O ribbon mics and we immediately put them to good use. (The mics were borrowed from another instructor, Tom Garneau, the B&O design inspired Speiden and then Royer.)

For our control room rehearsal session we set up three mics about 5 feet from the drum kit. About 1 1/2 feet off the floor were the B&O ribbons on a Cascade T bar. Four feet directly above was an EV-664A hyper-cardioid to catch the top side of the kit.

You can hear the tracks in isolation at the link immediately below. Spoiler alert – the tracks were essentially solo’d from the mix so they have EQ and Compression.

0:00 – 0:42 = B&O
0:43 – 1:06 = EV 664a
1:07 – 1:29 = Live chamber + all three mics
1:30 – 2:08 = Bass DI (left) + Bass amp (right)
2:09 – end = other instruments added.


I have been favoring dynamic and ribbon mics as they tend to have less top end, better rejection and work well in ensemble sessions where rejection is useful.

If you want more space and no proximity effect the EV635A is great – on acoustic guitars, drums and even those guttural metal vocals. It’s still manufactured and @$119 street, is affordable.

A pair of ribbon mics on a singing acoustic acoustic guitarist can deliver remarkable isolation, presence and warmth. I’ve had access to several ribbon mics, including the Royer, Reslo, RCA 44A and 74 Junior, Coles 4038 and Cascade. All are unique but only the Cascade models are within a student’s budget. I have a pair of Fatheads and a Vin Jet (RCA 44 ribbon style) in my classroom mic cabinet.



The cascade Fat Head (short ribbon) is $175 and is great on guitar amps – about 2 feet from the cab works pretty well. The VinJet (long ribbon) is a bit like the RCA 44. like all ribbons, they do not exaggerate the amplifier grit that brighter mics do.

This past week, my class used a stereo pair of Fatheads on the drums – as described above – along with the EV-664A (plus a Sennheiser shotgun to catch the room bounce). Here’s a mix of the session, mostly live, with fatheads on the lead and tremelo guitar ODs.

Student ‘Zed Lep’ Session Recording

Students should keep in mind that ribbons should not be ‘eaten’ by humans or drums (avoid extreme close-ups) because the ribbon is delicate. They also have low output, but you can get an external preamp / booster. One version is called the Cloud Lifter – available in mono and stereo versions.

CLOUD Ribbon Mic Helper

Another vintage fave is the EV-664 another ‘isolationist’ mic that’s good on vocals, kick and toms.

The bass amp on both of these recordings is an SWR LA-8 practice amp with either an EV RE-11 or a Shure SM-58 directly on the cab. The DI is via a JFET preamp with an optical limiter of my own design.

When capturing bass amp tone, I rely on proximity effect to do the heavy low-end lifting, tweaking the amp EQ a little bass shy so that the mic gets what I want. That plus getting the amp off the floor a helps alot with ‘de-stimulating’ the room and reducing leakage.

If you’re new to recording, please let me know if you find these tips helpful and feel free to share your own.


PS: My thanks to James Andrew Meadows (Drums), Dillon Marchus (Bass), Zach Johnson and Shaun Ortman (Guitars and Eng), Peter Vel and Jake Goodroad (Eng and Tape Op), Michael Freeman rogers (Vocals – although not featured in these mixes), John Kargol (Tech Support) and Stan Coutant for his awesome microphone site!

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