When incorporating live musicians into worship, you need to consider the type of instruments being used before choosing the best way to mic your band. Typically, the method of miking acoustic instruments falls into two categories, close and distant. Close miking often utilizes dedicated instrument mics, handheld microphones for vocalists, and high-volume-capable dynamic mics mounted either directly onto specific instruments or stand-mounted within close proximity of the instrument. Close miking is considered anywhere from one inch to a foot away from the direct sound source and is ideal for vocals, guitars, piano, orchestral instrumentation, amplifier cabinets, and more.
Handheld microphones are the most recognizable way to close mike a vocal performance. Both dynamic and condenser handheld microphones can be used for this application. Dynamic mics are most commonly used due to their rugged design, reliable performance, and relatively inexpensive cost. Condenser mics, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive, but are typically known to have superior performance qualities. Condenser mics also require additional power, known as “phantom power.” This is generally provided by the mixing console or batteries within the mic.
An example of close instrument miking would be to use a mic attached to the instrument itself or even a small-diaphragm condenser attached to a stand and boom, placed near the sound-hole of the instrument. This works great for most acoustic performances. In our example, however, we take that concept a step further by adding a guitar (either electric or acoustic electric will do) its on-stage amplifier, a direct box, and a high-volume capable dynamic microphone. We discuss the advantages of direct boxes in more detail in a later section of this guide.
Now, simply plug your guitar into your amplifier, connect the amplifier output to the direct box, then send the signal simultaneously to your amplifier cabinet and mixing console. By bringing the signal back to the amplifier cabinet you can now place the dynamic microphone directly in front of the speaker cabinet resulting in both a miked and direct mix of the guitar
In live environments, distant miking and its variations, accent and ambient, almost exclusively use highly sensitive small-diaphragm condensers, otherwise known as Pencil condensers. This miking technique is ideal for many of the same instruments previously listed but offers more flexibility when looking for a certain “sound.” Choirs and percussive instruments are both good examples of sound sources that can be effectively recorded in both close and distant environments for accent, ambient, stereo and surround recordings. It’s always a good idea to experiment with multiple recording techniques when possible. The combination of properly mixed close and distant sound sources can result in recordings with superior detail, imaging, and overall “feel.”
Proper miking of the musicians includes:
- Keep the microphone at a constant distance
- Feel free to experiment with microphone placement to achieve the best sound
- Use a shock mount with a stand to minimize extraneous noise
- Keep the microphone at a safe distance so as not to be struck
- Don’t let the instrument mic pick up any vocals, if possible
Once you have your room set up for your worship services, you may want to consider recording them. You can learn about that in our next section, Recording the Message.