Mic Placement Trick for Recording Scratch Tracks

Today, I want to share with you a very useful and strategic mic placement technique. It’s a technique that you can use for recording scratch tracks while reducing bleed between the instrument and the vocal. It’s also useful for live recordings of a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal performance.

This technique is particularly helpful for scratch tracks. I’ve talked about scratch tracks before, but in a nutshell, they are essentially throwaway tracks that you record at the beginning of your production, and then you record everything else on top of them. For me, this usually means an acoustic guitar and a vocal.

For scratch tracks, you typically want to play and sing the two parts at the same time, to a click. But you also want separation between the two tracks so that you can mute them independently. Later, when you record the actual acoustic guitar track, you’re going to want to mute the scratch acoustic guitar without muting the scratch vocal.

In other words, we want to set up our microphones in such a way that there isn’t too much bleed between the two. This is where mic placement can be extremely helpful.

To start off, use two cardioid microphones. The beauty of cardioid mics is that they are good at rejecting sound coming at them from behind. If there’s something you don’t want the mic to pick up, point the back of the mic at it.

For this technique, start with the vocal mic. Place it close to your chin and point it almost straight up. Make sure the vocal sounds good, but most of all, make sure the back of the mic is pointing down toward the guitar. It doesn’t have to be pointing straight at it, but the closer the better.

Then for the guitar mic, do the opposite. Position the mic above the guitar, and point it downward so that the back of the mic is pointing up toward your face. Again, the closer it is to pointing directly at you, the better. You will have to compromise a bit, of course, in order to get a good sound for the guitar. Just move it around until you have a good tone, and the back of the mic is pointing as close to the right direction as possible.

Try a test recording with this setup. Record a small chunk of a song. Then listen back and mute the vocal track. Now unmute it and mute the guitar track. Can you hear how much separation there is? Sure there is a little bit of bleed, but it’s amazing how much you can reduce that bleed by just simply placing the microphones strategically.

This method is great for scratch tracks, because of the reduced bleed. I was amazed the first time I tried it. It also works well if you’re recording a live guitar/vocal performance, and want to mix the two instruments separately.

In any case, this is one great example of how using mic placement can help to solve problems when recording. Not only does mic placement have a big effect on tone, but smart placement can also reject sounds that you don’t want to pick up. Very useful, especially in a home studio.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I did pre-production, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering of my latest EP, feel free to check out the EP Insider Pack. It consists of several videos leading you through my process, and showing you a bit of how I did everything. You’ll get to see me using this mic technique as well.

Do you record your scratch tracks this way? Do you use the back of the mic to reject sounds that you don’t want? Let me know what your techniques are in the comments below!

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