Big Boy Mic Techniques
So you have the perfect guitar (or guitars),
a kick-ass amp, a cabinet with bitchin’ tone
and the latest sound processors. Now
what do you have to do to get all of that
tonal goodness out to the audience? Do
what the pros do, and we’ll show you how.
In a live mic’ing situation, begin by placing the mic in front of a cabinet speaker.
Place it either dead on the center of the
cone for a brighter sound, or slightly off to
one side for a mellower, more natural tone.
Several of the major acts even have a little
mark to show their desired mic location for
quicker setups, often having their own mic
clips pre-mounted. Most professionals have
honed their set-ups and teardowns down
to an art, focusing on consistency, repeatability and ultimately speed.
The standard setup is to use a direct box
on the instrument line out on the amp
head, giving the sound guy a good, clean
signal. Some sound guys prefer the direct
line out of the back of the amp head.
If you can use this without getting any
buzzes or ground loops, you’re in business.
The majority of sound guys also place
a large diaphragm dynamic mic on one
of the bass amp’s speakers – usually an
Ampeg SVT cabinet. If it’s a bi-amped rig,
then they tend to use both the direct out
and a mic on the speaker, adjusting mic
position to taste.
Repeatability equals predictability.
Whether you have labored to get a signature sound out of your rig or are attempting to reproduce the exact sound of a
recording, you need to be assured that
the sound you make onstage will reach
the audience sounding the same way. To
make sure that happens, you must eliminate all possible variables.
You can achieve this by spending the time
to listen to your rig with different mics and
processor settings – Figure 1 shows some
of the commonly requested guitar gear
on show riders, while Figure 2 shows
some of the bass gear. If you can, have
your sound person carry a mic just for
your cabinet and mark it so it is always
used on your cabinet. You may prefer carrying two mics for your rig and blending
them out front, producing an even bigger
sound than you are putting out on stage.
The point is to make sure the sound
guy knows what you want to hear. Also,
every few months or so test your mics
by speaking through them, to verify that
the tonal balance hasn’t shifted from time
or handling – I typically lose about one
SM57 a year from rough treatment.
A particularly memorable bass sound
consisted of a direct out to my board. All
the equipment was prewired and nicely
cased. The bass went into an Ampeg head
with a graphic EQ and around 400 watts
– unfortunately I can’t recall the exact
model. It had tow cabinets, the top loaded
with four 10” speakers and a single 18” in
the bottom. It had a DBX 160 compressor
inserted into the effects loop and a studio-grade Avalon compressor on the output to
the board from the direct out of the head.
Wow, did it sound sweet!
Remember, great sound is only limited
by your imagination and your ingenuity
– play around and figure out how to get
the sound you want to the audience consistently. It’s not rocket science, but good
guidelines are a great place to start. If you
are into developing your own sound, a
dedicated sound person with good ears
can be your greatest resource.
Shure SM57 ($100)
The industry standard – like Sam Adams,
always a good choice.
AUDIX D3 ($130)
The D3 offers clean and clear reproduction, ideal for loud guitar rigs.
Shure KSM27 ($299)
An incredible studio grade mic that’s
rugged enough for live use.
Direct Box ($175-$200)
Generally a high-quality, active D.I.
AKG D 112 ($220)
A large diaphragm dynamic mic,
commonly requested for SVT cabs.
Another great big rig mic.
Audix D6 ($200)
A newer entry into the big mic market
Shure Beta 52A ($190)
A hot new contender for favorite mic.
Direct Box ($175-$200)
Once again, a high-quality, active box