Mics are probably going to be the biggest worry for anyone on a budget wanting to put together a rig. So, your cheapest resources is probably your relatives / friends / friends of friends. Any mics that you can borrow of your mates can be a really big help because they shouldn’t cost you any more than the price of a pint if it comes to that. Get all the members of your band to go ask their friends too.
You’re bound to come across some dynamic mics somewhere, the SM58’s and SM57’s are old favourites and still used everywhere in the professional industry. You never know, you might come across some old bits and pieces in the back of someone’s cupboard that haven’t been used in 20 years!
You’ll want a good few dynamic mics to use on the drum kit (assuming of course you have one) and if you can find them a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics also known as ‘pencil’ mics as they are generally thin and straight bodied. Anything like a Rode NT5 will probably do the job. Ideally you will also want a large diaphragm condenser mic which as a rule of thumb will be big and chunky, and will have a mesh grill like this one on the right.
Don’t turn down anything anyone offers to lend you, unless you know that it’s broken. If you don’t recognise it that doesn’t matter. Microphones are all so different and so unique sounding that it’s just a matter of choosing the best application for each one, hopefully the mic owner can tell what they found it to work well on .The simplest way to find out of course, is to try them out. Start by just plugging them up and having a listen to what they sound like when you speak and sing into them. This is an easy and a good test because you are used to the sound of your own voice, try and listen out for what sounds different from normal.
Does it sound very bassy? Try moving a little further away from the mic, an accentuated low end might make a nice guitar/bass amp mic. Does it make any sybillant sounds stand out like “SH”, “S”, “F” and “T” when you speak? This might not be a good thing in a vocal mic, but maybe useful on a hi-hat. If your voice just sounds natural when you speak or sing into it, then you’ve probably got a good contender for a vocal mic. How does it react to plosive sounds, i.e. “P” ,”B”, “K”? If they don’t make the mic ‘pop’ then this might work well on a snare drum.
See how a mic’s characteristics might make it sound not very good for one thing, but useful somewhere else? Experimenting with different mics in different places is absolutely the best way to learn.
Of course, the other way that you can expand your inventory of microphones is to invest in some yourself. Once again, go and have a listen before you buy. Don’t be put off by some cheaper looking mics either, you might find that they work really well. In the next post in this series, we will have a look at some different choices and try to find some good cheap options for a few different applications, as well as something a little more expensive that is versatile but not too pricey. We’ll also give you some ideas as to how to use your arsenal of mics in different ways, but in the mean time go try some out!
[image via Denim Dave]