Teach an Old Stand New Tricks
Tips for getting your mic stand to help out in the studio
By Jon ChappellTrying to get a clean recording in many home studios can be about as easy as losing weight on a diet of Boston cream pies. Even if your gear is in pristine condition and your signal path is as pure as an audiophiles ear canal, youre likely to be working in an environment full of ambient noise, poor isolation, and other acoustical distractions.One of the advantages of professional facilities is that, in addition to having floating floors, soundproof rooms, isolation booths, and acoustical treatment, they also have professional-quality microphone stands and shock mounts, which prevent unwanted rumbles from making their way onto your tracks. Below are some low-cost tricks you can use to help isolate your tracks using common mic stands and materials easily found around the house or at the hardware store.
Stabilize That Mic Stand
Remember those plastic weights you bought to help rebuild the Adonis body you had in college? Do you remember where you packed them away? Good, because now you can set up for your next session, work out, and justify the fact that you never like to throw anything out, all in one easy step. Inexpensive mic stands are notorious for having wobbly bases, especially ones with round bases. Even if it doesnt seem to wobble to the touch, any gap, no matter how slight will create a rumble once vibrations start hitting hit (including foot tapping from across the room in a live jam. If your mic stand has a round base, unscrew the base from the pole. Slip one of the weights onto the bar, and put the base back in place. Your stand will now be much less likely to wobble, even a little bit, not to mention tip over. Ten- to twenty-five-pound weights work best, but you can always add more than one disc, concentrically. If you dont have any weights, check out some garage sales. The sellers will be very grateful to have you haul them away
Float Like a Butterfly
As stated, another common problem is noise and vibration transmitted from the floor to the mic stand and then on to the mic itself. This is an especially thorny problem if youre dealing with drums, loud guitar amps, or other sources that literally shake the house.Rubber and neoprene doormats make excellent isolation tools and work to acoustically decouple the mic stand and mic from the floor. Cut the doormat into small strips and lay the strips under the base of your mic stand. The material will absorb much of the vibration of the floor. You can further enhance the absorption by using small squares of old carpeting in addition to the rubber. One of the best solutions is the carpet square,. This has a thick pile on top, plus a rubber pad on the bottom. You can get these as individual purchases, remnants, or even free samples if you know where to look (large neighborhood carpet seller, etc.). When dealing with an amplifier, place the amp on a chair or other stand, and use the rubber/carpet combination to isolate the amp from the chair, the chair from the floor, and the mic stand from the floor. You should notice a substantial difference.
You can help tame the acoustics of a reverberant room and even provide some degree of isolation using a boom-type mic stand and a blanket. Set up the boom in the shape of the T, with the main part of the stand telescoped as high as it will go. Drape blankets over the T (the stand shouldnt it over if you apply the trick with the weights). You can use these blankets to help curb sound waves from reflecting off the floors and ceiling and adding an unwanted room character to your track. One application that works well: set up the blanket as a backdrop behind a vocalist. The mic will face the blanket, so reflections off the back wall wont get to the mic.
Goin by the Book
Miking drums can be a chore, especially if you want to isolate individual components of the drum kit, such as the snare and the hi-hat. You can create a mini isolation panel with a gooseneck mic stand, a universal mic clip, and a thin panel of a hard substance (a childrens book is almost ideal). Clip the panel to the gooseneck and the position it between the capsule of the snare drums mic and the hi-hat (or vice versa). This technique wont entirely eliminate bleed, but it will reduce its intensity as well as the frequency content of the offending sound. This should make it easier to further isolate each individual track with noise gates, and to shape each track with EQ.