Acoustic guitars need to sound alive in the mix! The acoustic guitar will need to either cut through another more dominant sound in the mix, such as electric guitars and drums, or the acoustic guitar will need to sound clean enough to dominate the track on its own.
Acoustic guitars sound fantastic, but they are one of the hardest instruments to record. The secret behind getting the most from an acoustic guitar lies is the microphone used. If the acoustic guitar is a regular feature in your music, it is well worth investing in a good quality microphone.
Great Acoustic Guitar Microphones For under $200
Costing a little under $200, the Shure SM94 is almost perfect in every way. This microphone is specifically used for string instruments, cymbals, and woodwind instruments. This is a condenser microphone with low-frequency roll off.
This is a very sensitive microphone with a low and wide frequency response, meaning it will pick up all of the subtleties an acoustic guitar has to offer. The microphone offers a very clean sound and will give your guitar new life. These microphones are small, making it feel unobtrusive while playing.
Unless you have deep pockets, it is important to buy studio microphones that can perform a number of tasks. The Sennheiser e906 is one of those microphones. The Sennheiser e906 is a guitar microphone that is primarily used for guitar cabs, but the e906 comes with a switchable sound character feature.
This means you have a choice of three settings: dark, moderate and bright. If you switch the Sennheiser e906 to bright and have a play with your microphone positioning, you will discover a bright and vibrant acoustic guitar sound. This microphone also sounds incredible when guitars are played through an amp.
The SM57 has been around forever. They are a fantastic microphone for acoustic guitars, drums, and just about everything. With a price of under $100, they are also budget-friendly.
The SM57 has a much brighter and warmer sound than the SM58. The SM57 has a much wider frequency response, giving it a much brighter sound. If the SM58 is the ultimate all-rounder for live performance, the SM57 is the ultimate all-rounder for the studio.
This microphone gives acoustic guitars life and soul. The SM57 is also great for vocals, amplified guitars and snare drums. If you are on a budget and need a good quality studio microphone, then the SM57 is a perfect choice.
If you are a singer-songwriter looking for a microphone that will give a bright, crisp acoustic guitar sound, but also be able to give rich vocal performance then he MXL 770 is a good place to start.
The MXL 770 costs under $100 and delivers excellent quality and value. The MXL 770 is primarily a vocal microphone, but it offers excellent performance on string instruments. Thanks to its built-in pre-amp it offers a very wide dynamic range with an excellent bass roll off and a very upfront high-end response. This microphone will make your acoustic guitars and vocals sound rich and full. If you are a singer-songwriter on a budget, this is an excellent choice.
Positioning The Microphone
As with all microphone techniques, there is an element of trial and error involved. A positioning technique called "The Vanilla Position" is widely used by studio engineers worldwide. This involves positioning the microphone pointing where the neck meets the body of the guitar.
The distance the microphone is from the guitar depends on how heavy the acoustic is being played. You can also alter the distance depending on how dominant you would like the guitar to sound in the mix.
The recording of live drums in the home studio environment has become increasingly rare. Most artists who record at home choose a drum machine or a sequenced drum track.
There is something special about a drum kit that's recorded live. A live kit can make songs that are recorded in a home studio sound like songs that have been recorded in a professional studio. Live drums give songs life and power. A well-recorded drum kit will give songs a certain power and feel that can not be replicated with a drum machine.
If you are lucky and you have the time, budget and space to record a drum kit, you will need microphones. Selecting the correct microphones is the most important part of the process. The correct microphones positioned correctly can make a home recording sound like it has come out of a professional studio.
The Kick Drum
This is one of the hardest parts of the drum kit to record. It is very easy for a kick drum to sound dull and muffled. The positioning of a kick drum microphone is all about trial and error.
Whatever your budget, one of the best kick drum microphones is the AKG D112. You can buy them for under $200. This is a large diaphragmic microphone built with the kick drum in mind. The AKG D112 has a reputation for being the best kick drum microphone ever made. This is why you will find the AKG D112 in nearly every recording studio in the world. They also sound great with Bass guitars.
The snare drum can be a nightmare when it comes to positioning microphones. You want your snare to sound bright, with no ring and as little interference as possible from the rest of the kit.
You want your microphone to sit close and at an angle to the snare. In a Professional studio, an engineer will often spend most of the first day positioning microphones on a drum kit. The drum kit is all about trying and trying again. It can take a long time, but when you get it right, they sound amazing.
One of the best snare drum microphones is the Shure SM57. This microphone is an industry standard for the snare drum. It also sounds great on acoustic guitars, electric guitars and high hats. In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around microphones you can have in a home recording studio. Another great thing about the Shure SM58 is its price, at under $100. They are perfect for the home studio.
Great sounding high hats are crisp and clean. If you are on a budget, consider overdubbing and using the same Shure SM57 you used on your snare drum. If your budget is bigger and you want the full live kit experience, the Shure SM94 is an excellent choice.
I have recommended the Shure SM94 for use with acoustic guitars. This microphone has a low and wide frequency response, making it perfect for high hats. It is a little expensive, costing just under $200. If this is beyond your budget, you need to look for a good quality condenser microphone, similar to the AKG C214. The best thing about the AKG C214 is, you can use the same microphone for guitars and vocals.
You can do so much with overhead microphones on drum kits. You can create a great ambient sounding kit through the selection of just two microphones and some good positioning. The Shure SM57 is a good pick as this will give you the best all-around sound. It is a good idea to start with the overhead track as your start point, and build the rest of the mix from here.
When mixing music, it is important to have the cleanest and most natural sound possible. There are many tricks employed by professional sound engineers to get the perfect mix. If you speak to any sound engineer, they will all say the same thing.
Good quality near-field monitors are essential.
A lot of professionals are a huge fan of the Yamaha NS10 monitor speakers. For decades they were the industry standard. They are now considered old, though they still work great, and you can find a pair on eBay for $800.
A pair of good quality studio monitors does not have to cost the earth. There are some excellent, well-balanced monitors available for under $300.
They are the grandchild of the NS10s. The HS7s even looks like the NS10s, featuring those iconic white cones. For a pair of entry-level studio monitors, the Yamaha HS7s are an excellent choice. With a price tag of only $250, you can not go wrong. Yamaha has been a market leader in monitors for years, and The HS7s are no exception.
They come with low and high trim, allowing you to adjust these monitors for the acoustics of your room. They have a flat response and have been calibrated to reduce any vibration, allowing for a clean, natural and robust sound. Making them a solid set of monitors suitable for mixing all types of music.
The iconic white cone woofers are 6.7" with a 1" dome tweeter. Both have been mounted in the same way as the more expensive professional monitors in the Yamaha series. This is an excellent choice for entry-level studio monitors, as they bring you professional grade solutions at a price that is affordable to home studio engineers.
JBL LSR 308
The JBL Three Series has produced some impressive monitors in recent years. These are a more powerful monitor than the Yamaha HS7. The JBL LSR 308s comes with a powerful 8" woofer and bi-amplification, giving them a fine bass response. That supports a clean and crisp middle to top range frequency response.
They feature the "image control waveguide" that is found on the more expensive monitors in the JBL Three Series. This allows for a wider field of sound and a larger central sweet spot, making these monitors ideal for larger rooms, where you can use the increased power from the bi-amplification. To let these speakers ring out. I think this is a great set of monitors for mixing driving rock tracks.
They also feature HF and LF trim, allowing for adjustments to match the acoustics of your studio space. This is a more powerful monitor, but remember, power isn't everything. It all depends on the size of your studio space and the music you are mixing.
Focal Alpha 50
Focal have been producing high-end studio monitors with an equally high price tag for many years. There are thousands of recording studios worldwide that swear by the Focal brand when it comes to monitors. The Alpha 50s go a long way in proving the Focal reputation. This is a solid set of monitors suitable for all types of music, from delicate acoustics to bass-driven beats.
The Alpha 50's work slightly differently to the other monitors mentioned. They don't work with a focal point or sweet spot. Instead, the sound is evenly distributed over a wider area. This allows you to take a step back from your mix and hear the bigger picture. In an ideal world, you would have a set of Alpha 50s and a set of near field monitors in a home studio. It is always good to hear some space and get some perspective when mixing.
The professional recording studios spend thousands of dollars on vocal microphones. The good news is, you can get the same outstanding results for under $300 in your home recording studio. Here are 3 of the best vocal microphones for under $300.
This microphone is the king of vocal microphones. It would be hard to find one live venue or one recording studio in the world that does not have a box of SM58s. This microphone is the perfect all-rounder. It sounds great with vocals, it will make any guitar cab sound good and they work fantastic on snare drums. If you ever need a good all-around studio microphone, this should always be the first choice.
The SM58 is primarily a microphone for live performances, but they do have a place in the studio. You will get an even, balanced vocal track. If you add some subtle effects, such as compression and a noise gate, you will get a crisp, live sounding vocal track. The best thing about the SM58 is you can use it for anything and they cost under $100!
Everybody wants to a be a rock-star. This microphone has been the go-to microphone for studio rock vocals since the early 1970s. The frequency response is a lot wider than the SM58. The frequency is also flat and will primarily pickup the mid-frequency ahead of anything else. The SM58 was developed to be the perfect all-rounder. The SM78 has been built for vocals.
You will find the SM78 in radio stations and vocal booths all over the world. The SM78 has gone through some serious development since the first models in the 1970s. The basic elements of the microphone remain the same. However, the shielding has been vastly improved to reduce any interference from other electrical sources such as your PC monitor or broadband router. The SM78 costs just under $400.
SE Electronics SE2200a II
This is not a name you will remember, but this is a serious microphone considering it costs under $300. The large diaphragm, multi-pattern condenser microphone is a bit of a beast. If you have never played with the different wave patterns, you can switch between on a quality condenser microphone. You will hear the difference in your vocals before you add any studio effects.
A good quality vocal microphone makes all the difference to your vocals, so all of them are a wise investment. The microphones listed all sell for under $300 new. You will also find many available secondhand, allowing you to save even more money.
Headphones are an important part of the recording process, equally as important as the microphone you use.
The most important aspect of a pair of headphones during the recording process is preventing noise from leaking. If audio bleeds, you will create feedback, which is a hard problem to solve. So, it's important to select headphones with good noise shielding and low bleeding of audio.
Durability and Comfort
A professional pair of studio headphones will be durable. They will be able to take some knocks, though many professional studio headphones, even in the budget range, will have replaceable ear-cups and replaceable leads.
Comfort is an important consideration if you will be mixing through your headphones and not through a set of studio monitors. Since you'll be wearing your headphones for hours on end, make sure a pair of headphones that sit well on your head and feel comfortable, making sessions more tolerable.
If you will be using your headphones for mixing, the frequency response is the most important consideration. You will want as close to a "flat frequency response" as possible. A wider frequency range allows greater exposure to higher levels of low and high frequencies.
The best studio headphones give a true representation of sound. This means a flat frequency response will give you true sound. This will allow you to mix your tracks effectively.
If you mix a track on a bass heavy set of headphones, your final mix will be bass heavy, leaving the possibility that the finished track will not sound good on all playback systems. This is why a flat frequency response is important.
Things To Avoid
There seems to be a myth out there, that if a headphone brand uses the term 'studio' in the product description, then the headphones are professional studio quality.
Many of the expensive brightly colored Bluetooth enabled headphones, especially those headphones endorsed by Hip Hop DJs, do not have a flat frequency response. These headphones use compression to enhance the bass and middle, high frequencies. Headphones like this have no place in a home studio. They should be left for the bedroom DJs who mix badly compressed MP3s.
Also, avoid headphones that do not have a detachable audio cable. The audio cable is usually the first thing to break on a set of headphones, so if you can replace an audio cable and have a spare in your studio, you will save a great deal of time and money in the future.
A good pair of professional studio quality headphones does not need to cost a small fortune. Some of my favorite studio headphones cost $100. You can pick up a pair of headphones that are suitable for use in a home studio for as little as $50.
I also highly recommend eBay, as you can find a great deal of second-hand studio equipment of a very high quality at a very affordable price. You can see our guide on the best studio headphones for under $200 to see the best headphones available in this price range.
If you're a budding keyboardist – or an aspiring one – no doubt you've looked at tons of brands and models, trying to figure out which one might be best. While the pro models are certainly worth investing in, finding your way around a simpler board while you're still learning the keyboardist's tricks of the trade can help you master a more complex one later on. Here are five of the best keyboards for beginners.
The Yamaha S03, while being one of the older models of synthesizers, nevertheless is on par with other brands of its generation. This easy-to-navigate synth features sixty-one keys, over seven hundred different voices across three patch banks, drum kits, and MIDI capability with an interface included. The backlit screen is easy to read and navigate, allowing the player to easily switch between voices on the fly – and the keys feature smooth and dynamic-sensitive action.
This keyboard comes loaded with all kinds of brilliant features, including sixty-one keys, a CD/MP3 player interface for play-along, MIDI capability, and seven hundred patches. Fairly lightweight, the Casio CTK-6200 also makes an excellent touring keyboard for musicians who play keys live. It also includes a metronome function, an arpeggiator, and a pitch bend wheel capable of up to twenty-four different semitones on the same note.
Axus Digital AXP25
A more obscure brand but no less for all that, the Axus Digital AXP25 is an excellent board for the true beginner. Featuring sixty-one keys, three hundred patches, a sturdy sheet music stand, and built-in lessons – an ideal board for the budding pianist or those who want to teach themselves keys. The AXP25 also features USB connectivity for MIDI control via a software interface, a sustain pedal, and headphones output.
This basic, lightweight keyboard model is nevertheless chock-full of advantageous features for the aspiring keyboardist, including the Yamaha Education Suite with several stages of successive learning and more than a hundred built-in songs, nearly six-hundred voices, and MP3 player hookup for play-along. Like the S03, the PSR helps to bridge the gap between pro-quality sound and affordability.
Nord Electro 3
A standard in the goth industrial community and a must-see for those interested in modular synths, the Nord Electro 3 features sixty-one or seventy-three keys. With hundreds of voices, a sample editor, and a wide range of sound effects, the Nord Electro 3 is a fantastic keyboard that still caters to the beginner while allowing a huge range of creativity in sound creation.
Each of these boards has something different to offer – and for the musician on a budget, also offer up great bang for the buck. If you're an aspiring or beginning keyboardist, consider one of these boards – and even once you've become a polished keys player, one of them might still end up on one of your albums!
If you're just starting out with guitar – either acoustic or electric – the choices you'll find in any music store can be overwhelming. But there are a few guitars that stand out as good choices for beginning students in guitar – a blend of quality and simplicity. Here are five guitars for beginners.
Gibson Maestro Acoustic
One of the least expensive acoustic guitars on the market, the Gibson Maestro nevertheless boasts good quality and sound for the price. With beautiful curves and a tremendous dynamic range, the Maestro Acoustic boasts a rosewood fingerboard and a spruce veneer, and can often be bundled with a gig bag, picks, shoulder strap, and spare strings for a nice bit of savings.
In the mid-range for pricing, the Fender Stratocaster is one of the best-known electric guitars of modern rock and roll and is seen in the hands of students and professionals alike. An excellent choice for guitar students who plan to enter the professional arena after an appropriate amount of instruction, the Stratocaster boasts a classic rock and roll sound at home with every genre from metal to alternative rock.
Ideal for both student and hobbyist, the Squier Strat is one of the most inexpensive electric guitars available. With limited capability but decent sound, the Squier Strat is often sold as part of a bundle intended for the beginner, with a gig bag, amp, picks, and strap included. While some professionals might disdain the Strat for its lesser versatility, it is nevertheless a great choice for both students and those on a tight budget.
A mid-ranged acoustic guitar, the Seagull S6 is another guitar ideally suited to students who intend to transition to professional practice later on. With good tonal quality and solid construction, the S6 is the recipient of several awards for sound quality and craftspersonship, and includes plug-ins for amplification and a built-in tuner.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Another mid-priced guitar, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard electric guitar is one of the best-known models in the guitar world. With solid construction, clear sound, and a gorgeous body, the Les Paul Standard is just that – a standard among guitarists and students of guitar alike.
Regardless of what you want to do with guitar – whether you want to take it up as a hobby or become the second incarnation of Jack Black – one of these instruments is likely to suit the direction you intend to take for many years to come.