In an article from 2015, Anthony Catacoli talks about some of the go-to mics for getting the best sound out of your rig. Everything he mentions there is great stuff and I agree with everything he’s saying. In fact, this article is going to build off of that.
So let’s talk a little bit about mic’ing for the live environment. While I am not a guitarist—I spend most of my time pushing faders and swinging sticks. Sorry. I have been mixing and engineering since 2008 and have been through many different techniques to accurately recreate what is happening with your rig through the PA. Different mics, different placement, eq techniques, compression and the list goes on. But for this article, I want to focus on the mic and what I’ve found to be my favorite placement, for now at least.
You put a lot of time into getting just the right tone so for all that to go to waste would be a shame. I like to start by getting a feel of what the guitarist’s tone is like clean, a little driven, and then cranked. From there we can decide on which mic to use. Since Anthony did a great job highlighting the industry standards make sure to refer to his article. I would also like to add the Royer R121s to that list as well as what I’m currently using each week, cascade fatheads. Side note, these are both ribbon mics which have their own character and I’m really digging it at the moment.
Listening to the rig before it hits the PA also gives me a chance to ask the guitarist about what they’re going for. Do they like a darker tone, do they want to brighten it up? As a sound engineer, I don’t want to “fix” the sound and instead I’d like to “shape” the sound. So dialing in the rig and picking the right mic are the first step.
Once I know what mic I want to use I’ll start messing with placement. There’s not much new information here but there are two things I’d like to point out. First, where on the speaker the mic is placed has an influence on the tone. Placing the mic in the center of the cone is going to provide a little more bite and presence. As you start moving the mic out to the edge you’ll start to hear the tone get a little darker. Second, distance from the cone. This one can be tricky due to iso cabs and lack of space but placing the mic closer to the cone is going to provide a more rounded tone and as you start to pull away from the grill you’ll get a little less low end.
Right now, for me, I like the cascade fathead about an inch of the grill and I split the difference between the outside edge of the cone and the center. Since I’m using a ribbon and it’s a little more fragile I angle it slightly towards the floor so that the sound waves travel down the ribbon instead of hitting straight on. My opinion will probably change and I’ll try different things but at the moment this is what I like.
So there you have it, a relatively quick rundown on some good practices for mic’ing guitar amps in the worship guitar world. There are plenty of great books and other articles out there on this so if you’d like to build up your sound engineering skills do a quick google search and read on.