Recording music in the acoustic realm is all about capturing sound waves through microphones and converting them into an electronic signal so they can be captured and recorded. Today, those recordings are mostly into computers and onto hard drives. Whether you are recording analog or digital, the basic process hasn’t really changed a whole lot of over the last century or so. Music, for the vast majority of its history to humankind, has always been acoustic. It is only in recent decades that music has gone to purely electronic sources.
The concept of recording, came into play in late 1800s with the inventions of Thomas Edison. Music recording soon followed, although the capabilities were very limited. Primarily, all recording was acoustic material. The technical issues of capturing music in recorded form have undergone immense development over the last 100 years or so.In years past, the mechanical limitations of recording devices limited the engineer’s options. Today, those options are seemingly endless. The irony is that the greater number of options available today have taken many engineers away from the fundamentals of acoustics and focused them on new gear and plugins instead.
As the quality of recording technology increased, so too did the importance of the acoustic recording space. The decisions made about how to manage the recording space became critical to the quality of a music recording. If you want to achieve a very big live drum sound, you are not going to get it by recording in a small dry space. In the end, no mic will make a recording space sound bigger than it is.
When you place an instrument in a recording environment, that instrument will sound different, sometimes radically different, depending upon how and where you place it in the room. This is especially important for recording music in spaces that are smaller than 20 x 20 feet. There is no microphone that will solve all of the problems with a bad acoustic environment. Even with the best gear all you will get is a very accurate recording of very limited acoustic environment.
This does not mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on acoustic treatments. Even professionally treated recording studio environments require careful placement and attention. The most important thing, in any recording situation, is to listen carefully as you move the instrument around room. Find a place in the room that enhances the sound of the instrument without making it sound unnatural.
Acoustics is really the key to capturing great recordings and is often overlooked by most novice engineers. If you just dump an instrument anywhere in the room and throw a mic in front of it, you are basically rolling the dice and hoping that a good sound comes up. If you’re a bit more conscious about how you place an instrument in a recording space, then you will get significantly better results, with much less effort, and be much happier in the end, even if you are using inexpensive recording equipment.
How you choose the right acoustic environment, and how you treat the immediate space around the instrument is unique to each instrument and the sound you are trying to achieve. These guidelines and methods will be covered with more detail in the individual recording instrument links at the bottom of the page.