Wanted: Better mics and recording tips
Equipment: 2 Shure SM57's (dynamic)
1 Shure SM58 (dynamic)
1 Mackie 1402-VLZ Pro
2 Sony HVR-A1U HDV Cameras
1 Alesis Mono Preamp.
I've been shooting several live music performances, mostly using the SM57's, running back into the Mackie, and then back into the camera via XLR cables. I've noticed that the SM57's require a lot of trim off of the Mackie, which in turn give me a lot of hiss. Also, perhaps more importantly, the sound is a bit tinny. The bands have been performing acoustically, and the location is usually temporary (not set up for music performances), so I'm recording the room sound. I haven't been using the preamp that much, mainly because it's a mono pre-amp and I'm looking for a stereo signal.
So my questions are:
1) What better, affordable microphones are available to provide a fuller sound that also wont have a lot of hiss? I've heard that Rode mics are good for this, but I'm not sure of which models.
2) Is there a better way to be recording the sound? I have two lavalier mics, but those are used mostly for interviews. I would use the lavaliers perhaps inside the guitar or on the singers, but it would look a little weird which is why I haven't gone that route.
I'm fairly new to a lot of this and any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot!
Right. There's a lot for you to learn. You will have a lot of fun.
Every set up is different. Your gear is entry level, but you may not be getting the most out of it.
Recording bands is quite different than recording individual singer songwriters.
Just putting up two mics usually doesn't work because vocals and any instruments that go through the PA sound like they are though a PA. Getting a mix from the bands sound mixer usually doesn't work because his/her job is to fill the space, inculding the sound from amps.
The "real" proper way to do this is to get a completely separate mix.
Many pther ways exist.
Ty Ford's "Audio Bootcamp Field Guide" was written for video people who want better audio. Find out more at http://www.tyford.com
If the venue has a sound reinforcement mixer, see if they can send you unmixed feeds of the individual channels (eg. via unused sends or multitrack tape outputs). Of course, even with a nice feed from the sound-reinforcement board, you'll still want at least a stereo pair to add ambience and presence to the mix.
If you need to keep your micing low-profile and out of frame, you may want to try contact transducers on some of the instruments. I've used "C-Ducer"s on cellos, violins and pianos and found that they worked well enough and were virtually invisible to the camera. However, they are extremely dry sounding (which could be an asset if the recording venue is accoustically unflattering or noisey). They're also a bit pricey for so specialised a device.
As for the hiss, you'll find that signal-to-noise ratio typically increases along with the price. Condenser mics and high quality dynamic mics will require less gain, which will further decrease your overall noise floor.
ART makes a groovy little stereo tube preamp that is a welcome addition to those boards that lack decent preamps, at a price point comparable to the Alesis "solution box" style products.
This is what I would suggest to you.
Your SM57's are great for guitar cabinets.
Your SM58 is great for Vocal. (givin that you have feedback worries)
If not then look at a large condensor mic. For cheap I had good luck with the Shure KSM27 ($300) that works great for Acoustic Guitar or Vocal. I've used it in live setting on Acoustic Guitar and had great success. Also used it in the VO booth with great success.
As far as a mixer I'd stay away from Mackie (personally I'm not a fan) look into Yamaha's mixer's or Allen & Heath those two are pretty good cheapies!
Adressing your "Hiss" Problems coming from the SM57's. Well first guess would be your gain staging. Try bringing your Channel Fader up to Zero then tweaking your Gain (at the top of the channel strip) until you are getting a good level on your VU's and, most importantly, it sounds good not muddy and not distorting. Of coarse this is with your master fader set to Zero.
I'd stay away from the Lav's for the singer or guitar. Those two sources would put out too much SPL for a little Lav. Keep using your Lav's for Interviews.
Hope this helps you out and isn't too late. The way I look at it is Any knowledge is never to late.
Live Sound FOH/Monitor Mixer