Check out this handy list, organised by application, and you’ll be able to mic the core instruments of most bands.
Cardioid polar patterns help control feedback and reduce ambient sound in most cases. If you’re on a tight stage, consider a microphone with a supercardioid polar pattern, which is narrower than the cardioid.
Most mics for close-up vocals share a similar frequency response that features rolloff of the extreme high- and low-end frequencies that are outside the normal vocal range, plus a boosted mid-range. This is called a shaped frequency response.
Dynamic cartridges contain fewer components that could fail, and they don’t require phantom power, so they’re often preferred for live sound. Condenser mics require phantom power, but if you need a brighter sound with extended highs, then a condenser might be a better option.
As a general rule, the more you spend on a vocal mic, the less handling noise and breath noise you’re likely to experience due to improvements in the mic’s shock mount and pop filter. Leaving the mic in the stand rather than holding it can mitigate handling noise, however, and using a windscreen can reduce breath noise.
For all parts of a drum kit, the cardioid and supercardioid polar patterns are best at isolating the sound and controlling feedback.
For kick drum and snare and floor toms, mics with a shaped frequency response are best. They capture low frequencies and add punch to the kick drum. They also feature extreme high- and low-end frequency rolloff and a boosted mid-range that are ideal for use with the snare and floor toms. Overhead cymbals and hi hats benefit more from mics with a wide and uniform response typically referred to as a flat frequency response.
Dynamic mics are usually recommended for kick drums and snares because they can handle the high sound pressure levels, but condenser microphones can deliver more snap. You just have to make sure to choose a condenser that can withstand the high SPLs. Likewise, floor toms are usually miked with dynamics, but Shure makes a condenser mic specifically for that application: the BETA®98A D/C. Condenser mics are best for overheads and hi hats.
Because they don’t require a mount, boundary microphones like the BETA®91A are an easy way to mic kick drums and provide a nice round sound. Just place the mic on a pillow inside the drum. Alternatively, you can mount a stand-mounted kick drum mic inside the drum or through a hole in the front. For toms, placing one cardioid mic between them can effectively mic the pair.
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