I usually record with one mic, because it’s simple.
It means less gear, less cords, and less phase issues.
For these reasons, I typically would recommend that if you can get a good recording with a single mic, just do it.
However, there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with multiple mics. Or with multiple similar tracks blended together.
So if you understand the added complication and the potential risk, using multiple microphones can be a nice tool to use in some cases.
Here are a few ways you use it to enhance your song:
A common thing to do with vocals is doubling. This means that you record the same part twice, so that you have two basically identical recorded tracks.
Often when you double a track, the two recordings are panned left and right. Your ear picks up on the subtle differences between the left and right tracks, and the vocal sounds nice and wide.
It’s often used on background vocals, but it can be done on lead vocals as well.
Just keep in mind: recording a single vocal track, duplicating it, and panning the two copies left and right will not work.
The whole reason that doubling works is because there are small, subtle differences between the left and right tracks. If the two are identical, it will just sound like a slightly louder mono track, right up the middle.
Another technique you can use with a doubled vocal is to keep them both panned up the middle, so that they’re laying on top of each other.
For vocals, this causes some phase cancellation and thins out the vocal. Usually, we would consider that a bad thing. However, it can give a nice, unique sound.
I like to experiment with volumes. Make one track louder than the other. This way you can control the amount of “phasey-ness” to your liking.
Doubled acoustic guitars sound great.
They’re not always necessary of course, but I do enjoy a doubled guitar panned hard left and right.
One trick you can use with acoustic guitars is to use slightly different chord inversions on the two sides.
For example, maybe you’re playing a song in the key of A. You could record one guitar part playing in A with no capo, and a second guitar part playing in G on capo 2. Or maybe playing in E on capo 5.
This gives even more separation and width between the two panned guitar recordings, and adds a bit of interest.
Another option for acoustic guitar is to stereo mic it, and pan the left and right mics to the edges. This can give a pretty cool effect. Just be careful of phase issues.
Like acoustic guitars, electric guitars are often doubled and panned hard left and right.
If you’re playing similar parts, consider the above comment on chord inversions to help give more separation. You could even use two different guitars: one on the left, one on the right.
Or, play different parts entirely. Maybe one guitar can be picking chords while the other is strumming. Adding this sort of variation can really widen things out.
With electric guitars, you may even want to go as far as using multiple mics on a single amp, or mic’ing up multiple amps. This can work well for blending multiple sounds together to get a unique texture if you don’t pan them apart.
A single microphone is so much simpler than multiple microphones in a lot of ways. And when you’re mixing, you don’t necessarily want a whole lot of stereo tracks to try to fit all together. Mono is usually fine.
But stereo mic’ing and doubling can certainly add some interesting textures and sounds, which might be just what your song needs.
What do you think? Do you use multiple mics, or just a single mic? Let me know!