What Instruments Can I Record With A Condenser Microphone?

Condenser microphones are known for their accuracy when it comes to picking up sound. One of the common use for condenser microphones is recording vocals.

As far as vocal recording goes, a condenser microphone is your best friend. It can help you pick up vocals with all their dynamics and nuances which is important in audio production.

Vocals are not the only thing that condenser microphones are able to record, they can also be used to record certain instruments. This post will therefore discuss this because of the frequently asked questions I get from music producers and musicians is “What instruments can I record with a condenser microphone?”

With that said, let’s get into some of the instruments you can ideally record with a condenser microphone.

Violin

One instrument that you can record with a condenser microphone is a violin.

In general condenser microphones have the best frequency and transient response compared to other types of microphones.

What this means is that they are able to pick up WITH CLARITY, the entire range of high and low frequencies of the instrument when it is placed well.

Condenser microphones typically pick up overtones, resonances, subtleties in timbre, and the sound of the physical instrument itself.

This can be a gift and a curse.

Detail and subtlety may sound great or might be a problem, depending on the situation.

For example a close condenser mic, will pick up everything from a player sighing loudly to a piece of jewelry or clothing rattling against the instrument.

Cellists with buttons on their sleeves or violinists wearing long earrings or jewelry are common sources of unwanted noises.

There are basically two types of condenser microphones: large and small diaphragm.

Small diaphragm mics are more accurate and capable when it comes to the capturing higher frequencies beyond human hearing.

Large diaphragm condensers, on the other hand, are a better option for capturing and picking low–end frequencies.

Drums

Condenser microphones are catching up to dynamics in terms of drumset use.

Dynamics were always the go-to when it came to recording instruments like drums but now that responsibility can be easily delegated to condenser microphones.

Condensers basically operate via the electrostatic principle and consist of two charge plates: one fixed back-plate and another movable plate.

There are no coils involved, making condensers more lightweight than other microphones, but these mics generally require phantom power to charge the plates and boost the output signal. In terms of picking up a signal, condensers are also much more sensitive than dynamic microphones.

Upright bass

When you’re faced with recording upright bass it’s best to avoid dynamic microphone designs, unless there’s nothing else available to use.

Dynamic microphones are often the go-to choice for low-frequency sources like bass amps and bass drums, acoustic bass. The truth is, those instruments have, or can have, lots of middle and upper frequency definition, which is plenty for a dynamic mic to capture.

The upright bass, however, does not have a lot of audio information in those regions. Therefore recording upright bass with a condenser is a better option.

Acoustic guitar

Microphone choice in recording guitar usually comes down to…. and largely depends on the sound you want to achieve, as well as on the condition of your recording space.

Since both steel and nylon-string acoustics have a very detail-oriented, and specifically nuanced sound, a condenser microphone is your best bet.

But most people avoid using large diaphragm condensers to record guitar because these microphones can pick up a lot more sounds from your room than just your guitar, small diaphragm condenser are best if you want to keep your guitar recording free of noise.

Small diaphragm condenser microphones offer a more direct pick up and they can pinpoint a very specific spot more easily.

Horns

When it comes to horns, these instruments already have lots of energy in the 2–5 kHz range, therefore its not only important but wise to use a Microphone that does not overemphasize these frequency areas.

Perhaps you could settle on a mic that de-emphasizes this area if you don’t want this frequency area to be too thick.

From this brief introduction into horns you’ll obviously need a cardioid polar pattern, sometimes referred to as unidirectional. This type of microphone picks up sound from the front and rejects sound increasingly as you move off to the side.

The rest of the decisions you need to make are to insure that you choose a microphone that is complementary to the already bright sound of horns.

For recording horns in the studio you will most likely want to use a condenser mic, because condensers generally have a smoother frequency response than dynamic microphones.

Final Thoughts

Basically you can record a variety of instruments with condenser microphones. You can pretty much record almost all stringed instruments and many others with a condenser microphone.