It’s quite possible that you are incredibly smarter than me and the average population so this article will not apply to you. But generally speaking people like you and I can’t (and shouldn’t) handle more than two options in the recording studio. Whether it’s mic choices, mic placement, or recording takes, two is all we can really handle.
Via Andy Walton Flickr
Which Works Better?
When choosing a mic (if you even have options) you seriously slow yourself down if you intend on trying out more than two. Whether it’s for a vocalist or a guitar cab, just grab two mics, place them both up, record a little and listen back. Which one do you like better? Why? Which mic helps you get closer to the sound in your head?
The same is true of mic placement. Don’t go crazy with this, simply record where you first placed the mic, then try something a little off axis or further/closer, etc. Listen back. Which captures the sound you want most faithfully? Any more than two options and you’re going on a wild goose hunt. (Or is that going down a rabbit trail?)
Why Not More Than Two?
If you know me at all, then you know I’m all about limiting your options. This helps you focus on what matters, the music. So if you start laying 3+ mics to choose for your vocalist or kick drum, or you try 5 different ways to mic up your acoustic guitar, or you start recording 7 takes of the lead vocalist for editing and comping later, you’re just wasting time. You likely won’t actually get a better sound. At least not an improvement that’s equal to your time spent.
Two options are plenty to listen and compare. At least you HAVE an option. It also forces you to not get lazy, relying on more mics or more takes. Make it work with what you have.
Why Not Just One Option?
Some of you might be asking the opposite question. Why do I need a second option in the first place? If limitations are good then let me get after it with what I’ve got! I agree 100% gear wise. Use what you have. Don’t go buy more gear just to have a second option. This could be endless. (Can you imagine trying multiple mic cables every time you record to see which sounded better?!)
Where second options are truly to your benefit are when it comes to mic placement. Just because you might have a great guitar sound with your 57 right up on the amp’s grill doesn’t mean you won’t get a BETTER sound if you back it up an inch and angle it off axis. In reality you might NOT get a better sound at all. If that’s the case (after you move it and record again) then you’ll know you had the mic in the best place to begin with. Nice!
The Power Of Two
I try to live by this rule of thumb when recording (and even mixing). I limit myself to just two options, allowing a comparison to take place, then pick the best one without over thinking it, and move on. I honestly can’t handle more than that and you shouldn’t try to either. Just focus on the music, make a decision, and get after it!