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I want to record a live performance focused on percussion and voice. I have a Mac and a Presonus Firebox.

To start I'm considering a simple mono recording, since the most important to me is the clarity of the sound. That is, good voice sound and good percussion sound.

I made some quick tests with a cheap microphone and suffered 2 problems:

  1. the drums interfere in the voice quality (loud kicks "eat" the signal) and
  2. low signal (even with Firebox mic level to the max, the sound is hardly audible). I guess it's either due to the mic itself (poor quality) or the cable/plug type

Questions are...

  1. what mic position do you suggest? Close to singers? Mimicking the listener position (in front of musicians, centered)? Ground level, or hanging of the ceiling?
  2. what features of the mic you would recommend? XLR plug? Mic type? Unidirectional, omnidirectional...?

Thanks!

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2 Answers

How you mic it really depends on the feel you want from the recording.

If you want it to feel like you are listening to a truly acoustic concert with no sound re-enforcement (e.g. chamber orchestra, Jazz trio, choir), I would go with a stereo recording made with two mics spaced about 1 head-width apart at distance a listener would nominally be at. I like to put the microphones up about 6 to 10 feet, pointing slightly down. You will probably want to use good, neutral sounding, full-range cardiod microhones designed for general music recording.

If you are looking to have a "produced" sound, then you want to run multiple mics for both the voices and the percussion. Each mic should be fed into it's own track for later mix down. [Micing the percussion is an interesting question in itself and really depends on what percussion instruments. I have been lucky enough to find that many instrumentalists actually know how best to mic their instruments for their playing style. (hint, hint)]

Mic questions really could be their own question. There are specialized mics for just about everything now, and different mics have different sounds. There are some very broad generalities, one of which is that a good quality mic for audio recording will typically have some sort of XLR output. The other is the better the mic, the more it usually costs.

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I have a firebox as well - mostly use it for output, but also tried recording some acoustic guitar on it once with a shure sm57 (dynamic cardioid).

The preamps on the firebox have a hard time with the shure. Here is a thread talking about how to boost the preamps on the firebox: http://homerecording.com/bbs/equipment-forums/microphones/my-sm57-into-firebox-189323/ - there is a 12db boost somewhere in the software - nice to know.

I have a preamp with 70db of gain and it makes the 57 sound great and quiet as well - but it's a bit expensive.

Back to your REAL question though - definitely mic both of the performers. In that type of setting I'd use two cardioid mics with the performers facing each other and the mics pointing away from each other. Typically, cardioid mics don't pick up what is behind them, so you can get good separation in the same room. You can verify this by looking at your microphone's data sheet and learning to read the polar pattern.

Use XLR cables into the two preamps on the firebox. Adjust the inputs to handle the peaks of the performance, which you should see in your DAW software when you arm the tracks. Aim for a -6dB peak there - maybe a little lower just to be safe. Percussion and voice can be very unpredictable - and you don't want to mess up when they start to get comfortable and a bit wild!

You mention a 'kick' so I'm curious if there are other instruments, as I've never heard of a vocalist singing with a drum kit, absent guitar or keyboard.

Good luck and have fun!

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