Take Control of Your Recordings: Understanding Microphones

Tips & Tricks

  • Always use a pop filter when recording vocals. This will greatly reduce air/breath impact from P’s and T’s on the microphone’s capsule.
  • Use a dynamic mic for loud sources.
  • Use large diaphragm condensers and tubes for thick, warm sounds.
  • Capture the body of the instrument with a large diaphragm condenser or tube.
  • Use a small diaphragm condenser as a second mic on an instrument to capture detail.
  • Perform a shootout to see which mic most flatters the voice or instrument.
  • Avoid using too much gain on the mic pre (this will result in analog distortion).
  • Add light compression after the mic pre to control the signal going to the DAW (about -3dB of gain reduction at 4:1).
  • Always re-record a take if you clip the DAW (a distorted recording is not useable).


Care & Maintenance

  • Never connect or disconnect an XLR while phantom power is active.
  • Don’t apply phantom power to a ribbon mic (just in case).
  • Always return microphones to their case or bag after use. It’s acceptable to leave the mic stand and shockmount connected in your space, but put the microphone away to avoid incidental contact.
  • Keep mics in a safe, cool, dry place and avoid impact at all costs.
  • Allow tube mics to warm up before use (about 10-15 minutes).
  • Allow tube mics to cool down before disconnecting and storing (about 5-10 minutes).


Final Thoughts

Microphones capture creativity. Show a piece of creativity the respect it deserves by fully understanding the mic being used to record the performance. After we understand microphones, we can customize microphone purchase and selection to capture a desired sonic texture from a source. Plenty of time was spent writing the perfect song, so make sure to follow through with the technical part of our craft and take control of your recordings.

Doug Fenske Headshot

DOUG FENSKE is a Grammy-nominated, multiplatinum engineer, producer and mixer for artists such as Frank Ocean, LL Cool J and Ryan Tedder. He also serves as Director of Education for Crē•8 Music Academy, which provides four expansive music production courses through a unique partnership with Westlake Recording Studios. For more information about Crē•8 Music Academy, email

Wordcloud 1 Wordcloud 2 Wordcloud 3

1 2 3 4 5