You can record your band anywhere, provided you have a versatile collection of microphones. So, which microphones do you need and how should you use them? To get some answers, we checked in with Gold-Diggers Sound, a brand new recording studio in Hollywood, CA, about what they chose for their microphone locker and how they use those mics to capture bands.
At one time Ed Wood’s soundstage and another the Doors’ rehearsal space, Gold-Diggers is an unassuming building that sits under the watchful glow of the Hollywood sign. Part recording studio, part boutique hotel, and part performance venue, Gold-Diggers is a Los Angeles music destination for working artists— hosting everyone from local bands to some of the biggest names in the industry.
Gold-Diggers has an extensive collection of vintage Neumann microphones.
When constructing the recording studio it was important to the Gold-Diggers crew to have a classic large-format recording space as well as smaller, more modern rooms for traveling producers. They collected the “greatest hits of recording” so that clients would have familiar tools at the ready, and continued to round things out with unique rarities.
We spent the day with chief engineer Eric Gorman as he put the Gold-Diggers mic cabinet to use while recording LA-based band Polyplastic. We documented their microphone collection, selection process, and placement techniques for this 4-piece group comprised of vocals, two electric guitars, bass and drums.
With a collection as impressive as Gold-Diggers’, it’d be easy to just stick the most expensive, most sought-after mics on each instrument. But would that yield the best results? Each decision that Eric made was informed by the sound of the band, the gear they were using and the overall sound that they were going for. Let’s take a look at each instrument in the band and the mics that were used.
Miking the Bass Amp
The bass sound comes courtesy of a G&L SB-2 run into a vintage Ampeg B-15. Eric elected to mic up the amp with a vintage Sennheiser MD441U, placed a few inches in front of the cab. Selected for its nice low-end response, the 441 is complimented by a parallel DI signal run straight into the console.
Originally released in 1971, the MD441-U is one of Sennheiser’s most highly-regarded designs. The 441 features a super-cardioid polar pattern (fantastic for rear-rejection) and a wide frequency response, which makes it a great choice for bass. A five position bass roll-off switch and a treble boost switch provide plenty of options to tailor the sound of the 441 to your needs.
Miking the Guitar Amps
Polyplastic’s dual guitar attack comes courtesy of two Telecasters, a standard model and a P90 model. The standard Tele is run into a Fender DeVille while the P90 model is running into a vintage blackface Fender Princeton.
To mic up the DeVille, Eric selected a Beyerdynamic M 160, a ribbon microphone, paired with a Neumann U 47 FET, a large-diaphragm condenser. Unlike many ribbon designs, the M 160 features a double ribbon design, lending it an ultra-fast transient response with the smooth high-end that ribbons are known for. Paired with the U 47 FET, a microphone that rose to prominence in the 1970s, you get an extremely pleasing hi-fi sound.
Classic Fender tone miked up with a vintage Neumann U 47 FET and Beyerdynamic M 160.
When miking up the vintage Fender Princeton (used by the lead guitarist), Eric’s goal was to achieve a bit more “cut” in the sound. To accomplish this, he paired a Royer R-121 ribbon mic with a Sennheiser MD 421 dynamic mic. Unlike the M 160, the R-121 features a bi-directional (AKA, Figure-8) polar pattern. When using a Figure-8 polar pattern, it’s important to remember that the microphone will pick up signal equally from the front and back of the microphone, so placement will be key. Combined with the MD 421’s nice high-end response, the Princeton’s signal cuts right through the mix.
Miking the Vocals
For vocals, Eric decided to go with a Shure SM7B. Often used in the broadcast world, the SM7B traces its lineage to the classic SM57. Featuring the same cartridge elements as the 57, the SM7B has an extended low-end response (thanks to its larger housing, among other things). As explained by Eric in the video above, it also features selectable low-cut and presence peak filtering, allowing you to tailor it to the sound of the vocalist as necessary.
Miking the Drums
When recording the drums, Eric set up a 12 microphone configuration, giving him plenty of options to choose from. Depending on how many mics he brought into the mix, he could bring it from a very vintage sound to a very modern sound.
To capture the full kit in the room, Eric used five mics. There were two AEA R84 ribbons; one functioning as a mono overhead and the other out in front of the kit. Further back in the room were a pair of vintage Neumann U87s a vintage AKG C12. These three mics really provided a sense of the space, letting you hear exactly what the live room in Gold-Diggers sounds like.
A vintage AKG C12 makes for a fantastic room mic for recording drums.
Moving in closer to the kit, we’ll start with the toms. When miking the floor and rack toms, Eric chose to use two Sennheiser’s MD421s. The MD421 is perhaps the most widely used tom microphone, thanks in no small part to its highly directional polar pattern. This tight pickup ensures that you’re capturing the attack of each hit. For the snare, Eric went with a Shure SM57 on the top and a Beyerdynamic M 160 on the bottom. For the bass drum, Eric used an AKG D112 placed just inside the drum, with the front head removed. Eric choose to use a Shure SM7B on the hi-hat, which resulted in a “dark, chunky” sound.
Finally, Eric’s secret weapon is an Electro-Voice 635A, which he refers to as his “crush” mic. Placed just above the bass drum, facing the drummer, this mic is run through a variety of processing. This adds a bit of dirt, color and texture to the overall drum sound.
For more tips on recording drums, check out our in-depth "How To Mic a Drum Kit" article.
Selecting Your Own Microphones
These are the microphones capturing music from Hollywood to home studios, which is why Gold-Diggers has embraced them. While you may not have the budget that Gold-Diggers has, take the time to dig into each of these microphones a little more. Many of these microphones are considered classics and have influenced and inspired the development of more budget-friendly versions, from the original manufacturers and others. Learning their sound, strengths and how they function together to record a band will make working at any destination studio feel like home.
Shop Musician’s Friend’s full collection of microphones and fill up your mic locker today!