5 Ways Microphones Have Changed the Music Industry

If you’ve ever stepped on stage to perform, you may not have thought much about the microphone you’re about to use. But its history is actually pretty interesting, as music recording equipment has developed drastically since the first condenser microphone came on the market. These changes have made a big impact on the music industry as a whole, and, for better or worse, are here to stay.

Power Requirement

Dr. Zaza, Mr. Zura & Muki M. im Gleis 1 in Waldenburg

Without outside amplification, the loudest musician wins every time. But when you introduce microphones into the mix, every individual instrument can be heard as the composer intended. So you can have brass instruments playing at fortissimo, and woodwinds and strings playing mezzopiano, but the final decision as to the volume is up to the sound engineer running the music recording equipment.

Likewise, in a live setting, a quiet singer or instrumentalist can still be heard in the back row with proper amplification. Microphones can be strategically placed around a stage to pick up any whisper or important sounds, so the audience can hear them regardless of where they are seated.

Live Performances

While microphones have definitely become a powerful tool in the arsenal of music recording equipment, they are equally as important in live performances. A vocalist or musician does not need to be exceptionally powerful, as detailed above. This allows him or her to be more agile and experimental with the sound. Whereas a non-amplified performance requires the emphasis to be on power to reach the audience, a microphone gives the performer the freedom to deliver the highest quality sound to the audience at whatever output power is manageable, and the amplifier picks up the sound from the microphone and brings it to a proper volume.

Overdubbing and Effects

guitar and microphone

With a live performance, a performer can relax and focus on quality over quantity, so to speak. In addition to the value of amplifying the output, microphones can be used in conjunction with music recording equipment to provide a wide variety of aftereffects.

Overdubbing, for example, can be beneficial for a solo artist who plays multiple instruments or sings different parts on a track. With the right music recording equipment, the artist can set up for the backing vocals, instrumentation, and then focus on lead vocals and one instrument during a live performance — or put it all together for a music video, like this YouTube artist.

Effects also heavily rely on a microphone. A vocalist can change timbre or distortion, and many acoustic instruments can be amplified with different waveform filters to change the sound. Without the microphone, all of these effects are limited, or nonexistent.

Sampling

Sampling requires a microphone for it to be of any sort of use at all. The difference between a cover and a sample lies with who is doing the performing. An artist who wishes to sample another needs the original recording, otherwise he or she will be covering the work instead of just sampling the original artist. With a microphone used in conjunction with the rest of the music recording equipment for the original recording, the sample can be overlaid with the new artist’s and processed through another microphone.

Architecture of Performance Halls and Recording Studios

Walt Disney Performance Hall

Prior to the use of microphones, live performances relied on natural amplification for the audience to experience the sound. This required extensive work on walls and ceiling segments that would reflect the sound in the proper direction. It also required performances to be quite exact, as improper placement or slight variations in tempo would have a drastic effect on audience perception.

While recording studios were few and far between before the microphone was in common use with music recording equipment, they also had to abide by the rules of natural amplification. Nowadays, every vocal and instrument has at least one microphone, and performers can even be isolated into separate recording booths, so that the microphone has no chance of picking up any other sounds. Effects such as echos, reverberations, and delay, which were originally built in to recording spaces (or present unintentionally), are now added after the original recording. 

Whether in studio or on stage, microphones should not be taken for granted. They help both first-time and seasoned artists make the most out of their music. And microphones add a new dimension to the production capabilities of music recording equipment. Who knows what technological advancements will be next for the music industry?

 

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Logic Pro Tutorial: How To Create An Audio Slow-Down Effect

Want to add a cool slow-down effect to your music? Learn how in this Logic Pro tutorial from Brevard, NC teacher John C

 

If you’ve listened to popular radio in the past several years, and I’m guessing you have, you’ve heard either a vocal melody line or an instrumental part of a song make a particular effect. Listen to the following Fall Out Boy song and pay attention to the music in the background at 00:27 seconds, again at 1:27, and once again at 2:27:

Did you hear it? That’s the effect I will be teaching you how to do in this article.

How to Get the Effect

Before we jump in, let’s get a couple things out of the way.

First, I want you to understand that this is not the only way you can go about making this effect happen, but Apple has made it easy for us Logic Pro users. This effect we are trying to accomplish is a type of “fade” in Logic, and there are two different areas in Logic where you can accomplish it. One way is with Automation. To get to the automation area in Logic Pro 9 or X, simply hit the letter A on your keyboard and the editing area will change to look something like this:

automation

Automation allows you to draw lines and basically tell the computer when, how fast, and from and to which points to turn a particular knob. That knob could be something as simple as the volume knob on a particular track or something more advanced like the frequency knob of the single band EQ plugin on the track pictured above.

But I’m going to stop there because we are NOT going to use automation to do this effect! Thank goodness, right?

Instead, Logic has something called the Region Inspector. So what on earth is a region? Well, it’s quite simple, really. These little boxes all over the place in the picture below… those are regions.

regions

When you select one or more of these regions, the Region Inspector shows the settings applied to those regions.

The Region Inspector is on the left side of the screen and looks like this:

region inspector

IMPORTANT NOTE
There is a distinct difference between some of the regions shown above. The ones with the dashed lines are MIDI regions. The others are audio regions. These are the only types of regions. The effect we are trying to accomplish in this article does NOT work on MIDI regions.

Final Steps

  • Select one of the audio (not MIDI) regions in your project.
  • Then, in the Region Inspector, expand the “More” section and click on “Fade Out” and change it to “Slow Down”.
  • Double click the zero and type 250 into the field next to “Slow Down” and press Return.

Congratulations, you did it! Now listen to your audio and you’ll hear that audio slow-down effect.

Bonus
Now adjust the “Curve” by dragging up and down on the number next to the word “Curve” (below the “Slow Down” area in the Region Inspector) and notice how the curve of the slow-down effect area changes. Listen to the difference, and then try different combinations of the amount of the slow-down fade and the curve. Have fun!

Oh, and what do you think might happen if you click on the word “Fade In” in the Region Inspector? What’s that you say, a “Speed-Up” effect? Oh yea!

You’ve just learned a pro producers trick. Now… use it with caution.

JohnCJohn C. teaches Logic Pro Software in Brevard, NC. He earned his degree in Songwriting from Berklee College Of Music and is also an Apple Certified Master Pro in Logic Pro 9. Learn more about John here!

 

 

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The Ins and Outs of Recording a Demo

Record musicIn a big boom for the music industry, Adele has surpassed the 5 million sales mark this week, the first artist to hit that record in one year since 2004.  The feat is great for the industry, which as a whole has been struggling the past few years.  According to Reuters, album sales have been decreasing an average of 8 percent each year since 2000, with a jump to 13 percent between 2009 and 2010.   As more fans turn to digital music, it will be interesting to see how this affects album sales in the future.

If recording an album is on your bucket list – or if you’re hoping to make it big in the industry – it’s time to stop making excuses!  If you don’t have the funds for a studio session, there are tons of recording programs available to help you become a pro in your own home.  And once you have that demo, the sky’s the limit.  Send it out to record labels, sell it at any open mics or gigs you go to, and don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.

Here’s a great list we found to keep your to-do list in check as you prepare for recording a demo:

1. Pick your recording venue. Are you going to book a studio? Are you going to record at home using your computer? Make sure whichever venue you choose is equipped with everything you need, and if you’re recording at home, make sure you understand the acoustical quirks of the room.

2. Choose your recording method. There are two basic choices available to you:  Recording live – that is, all instruments and vocals being recorded in one take – produces a raw, rough sound.  Or multi-track recording – each instrument being recorded independently on its own track- gives cleaner and more polished sound.  The right one for you depends on the music you are making. Hardcore punk? Go live. Radio friendly pop? Go multi-track.

3. Set up. For the drums, each individual drum should be miked, and the cymbals should each have two mics. The bass and guitar should each go through a DI. If you have a double guitar part, or to get a really clean sound, the guitarist can have a mic plus be hooked up to an amp in separate room, to prevent bleed of the amp sound into the mic.

4. Record. Time to do the actual recording. Don’t get caught up in the details and don’t record for hours on end. A demo should be short, sweet, and to the point.

5. Mix your recording.
Remember that labels don’t expect a demo to be perfect.  If you’re recording at home on a computer, and mixing is easy enough, don’t feel pressured to execute a perfect mix. A rough mix is fine.  If you’re recording in a studio, the engineer or producer can mix your recording for you.

6. Master your recording. (This step is completely optional.) Mastering involves a final EQ process and also adds a bit of compression. Keep in mind that people who master recordings have styles all their own; no two people will master the same recording in the same way. If you decide to get your recording mastered, make sure you get an unmastered copy as well, in case you don’t like the finished product.

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