Covering All Angles: Studio Percussion Miking Seminar

This idiophone has a variety of sounds, from the wire of the bow being struck, the resonance of the gourd attached to the bow, and the rattle of the caxixi, which typically accompanies the full setup. Place a small-diaphragm condenser about 1' or so in front of the player just above the level of the gourd. Angle the mike toward the gourd and listen to make sure you get a good balance of the stick, shaker, and gourd sound.

Small Percussion

Various blocks, shakers, claves, and bells can be easily miked with a single transducer. The best choice would be a small-diaphragm condenser that is geared toward capturing quick transients and high-end information. Unidirectional dyna-mic mikes also work well to tighten up the sound as they capture less of the room sound. Start with the mike about a foot in front of the player and adjust the distance to get the best sound. For shakers, like maracas for instance, try miking from the side to get a good blend of the forward and backward motion of the beads inside. Miking from the front in this case may overemphasize the forward sound.


This gourd instrument, with its beaded net, broad, hollow base, and open mouth creates a spectrum of timbres. It emits a deep low tone from the opening, drum-like sounds from fingers slapping the base, and a sharp rattle from the beads hitting the side of the gourd. Use a single large or small diaphragm condenser about a foot in front of the player, level with his or her shoulders to capture a balance of all these sounds. A couple of mikes can be used for greater control if you have the inputs: a smalldiaphragm condenser out in front of the base area, and a large capsule condenser just above the op-ening of the gourd, out of harm’s way, angled toward the cavity to catch the low end (Fig. 6). Again, be sure to double check the phase coherency of the two mikes.

Mallet Percussion
Keyboard mallet instruments, which include marimba, xylophone, and vibraphone, are typically recorded with a couple of condensers spaced about 3' apart and positioned about 1'—1.5' above the bars to capture the full range of the instrument and get a really great stereo image. A coincident XY pair would also be effective, especially if phase coherency in mono is an issue. If a single mike is used, it should be elevated a few feet higher to capture a balance of the sound. Experiment with the height to get the best balance.


Experiment with different kinds of mikes to accentuate brightness or low end, or to tame it. Placement is key to capturing the sound you’re after, but equally as important is the number of mikes you decide to use. And remember, each situation calls for different sounds, so no one set of rules will cover everything. But armed with these basic guidelines, you’re ready to explore.

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