How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments

Soren Pedersen | 04.09.2021 How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments

It might appear challenging to properly mic all of the unique instruments in your Worship orchestra. Our team of experts is here to help with key factors to consider when miking brass, woodwind, and string instruments.

In your House of Worship, you can use a tremendous variety of instruments to enhance Worship. Whether you know it or not, your House of Worship likely has the potential for creating an orchestra or instrumental ensemble among your congregation. Using the talents of your community is an excellent way to add variety to your worship songs and involve more people in the ministry.

Miking up brass, woodwind, and string instruments require careful consideration. For instance, if you've not had much experience miking brass instruments, then your first inclination might be to put a mic right on the bell of the instrument and call it a day. But that probably won't get you the result that you want.

In this guide, you will learn proper miking techniques for brass, woodwind, and string instruments. Also, you will discover Shure's most recommended microphones for each application to help blow your congregation away.

Brass Instruments

The complete family of brass instruments as we know them today, including the cornet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and euphonium, date from about 1850. A key characteristic of brass instruments apparent to almost everyone is that they are all very loud. However, their loudness varies with the pitch because it requires much more energy to force the tube to resonate at the higher harmonics.

Miking Techniques for Brass (trumpet, cornet, trombone, tuba)

Miking too close to the instruments distorts the tonal balance, exaggerating some elements and understating others. Brass instruments require some distance from the mic to sound natural, as the sound needs some space to develop. The sound from brass instruments is very directional. Placing the mic off-axis with the instrument's bell will result in less pickup of high frequencies – leading to the sound being more diffused, with fewer upper harmonics and not as much bite.

By placing a mic on a brass instrument, on-axis – pointed straight at the bell – you can produce a bright, sharp, and clear sound.

Since these instruments can produce high volume by themselves, you should place the microphone 1 to 2 feet from the bell to ensure that you don't overpower the other instruments in the orchestra or vocalists leading the worship song.

A couple of instruments can play into one microphone. By close-miking, sounds will be "tight," and you can minimize feedback and leakage. By placing the mike more distant, you will get a fuller, more dramatic sound.

Recommended Microphones for Brass Instruments

BETA 98H/C
Shure's BETA 98H/C premium cardioid condenser microphone allows you to clip right on the horn and is a versatile, wireless solution for high-volume brass instruments.

 

Learn More

 

SM137
The SM137 is a versatile, flat-response cardioid condenser microphone with an ultra-thin diaphragm for a frequency response that combines a smooth high-end with a tight, controlled low-end and a 15db pad for natural sound reproduction in high-volume performance applications. 

 

Learn More

 

PGA98H-XLR
The PGA98H-XLR is a professional-quality condenser microphone optimized for brass instruments that features a flexible, discrete gooseneck design with highly durable construction, in-line preamplifier, and horn clamp.

 

Learn More

 

Woodwind Instruments

The woodwind family instruments make a sound when a musician's air or a reed vibrates. The main instruments within the woodwind family are the flute, saxophone, oboe, clarinet, or bassoon.

Did you know that Woodwind instruments predated many other instruments and were some of the first tools created by humans? The first woodwind instrument was a flute carved from the thighbone of a bear.

Miking Techniques for Woodwind Instruments 

Saxophone:

The saxophone has sound characteristics similar to the human voice. Thus, a shaped response microphone designed for voice works well. With the saxophone, the sound is fairly distributed between the finger holes and the bell. Miking close to the finger holes will result in crucial noise.  

A mic placed a few inches from and aiming at the bell will produce a bright sound with minimized feedback and leakage. If you put the mic a few inches from the sound holes, you will receive a warm, full sound while picking up some noise from the fingers.

Flute:

The sound energy from a flute is projected both by the embouchure and by the first open fingerhole. For good pickup, place the mic as close as possible to the instrument. However, if the mic is too close to the mouth, breath noise will be apparent. Use a windscreen on the mic to overcome this difficulty.

Oboe and Bassoon:

A mic placed about 1 foot from sound holes will produce a natural, well-balanced sound. By placing the mic a few inches from the bell, you can create a bright sound while minimizing feedback and leakage.

Recommended Microphones for Woodwind Instruments

PGA98H
Shure's PGA98H is a cardioid condenser instrument that you can clip on to woodwind instruments. The product includes an integrated horn clamp, a flexible gooseneck design, and a preamplifier for phantom power and XLR connection. 

 

Learn More

 

SM137
The Shure SM137 is a versatile, flat-response cardioid probe microphone with an ultra-thin diaphragm. Its frequency response combines smooth high-end and tight, controlled low-end. A 15 dB pad provides natural, consistent sound reproduction in both acoustic and high-volume performance applications.

 

Learn More

 

String Instruments

Stringed instruments have an impressively long history dating as far back as 2500 B.C.

Did you know that the first likely stringed instrument was found in Sri Lanka? It consists of a semi-circular gourd, a long neck, two strings, and you would play it with a bow. This instrument is called a Ravanastron, and they are still made and played today.

Miking Techniques for String Instruments

Violin:

The modern violin was developed in Europe, with its origins firmly in Italy. It would be best to place the mic a few inches from the side with the violin to produce a natural, well-balanced sound. If you prefer the sound to be full and bright, you can place a miniature lavalier microphone mounted on strings between the bridge and tailpiece.

Cello:

For the cello, you should place the mic one foot from the bridge to produce a well-defined and well-balanced sound but little isolation.

Acoustic bass (upright bass, string bass, bass violin:

There are several different options for mic placement for acoustic bass instruments.

  • Option #1 is to place the mic 6 inches to 1 foot out front of the instrument above the bridge to create a well-defined natural sound.
  • Option #2 is to place the mic a few inches from the f-hole to receive a full sound. But it's crucial to keep in mind that you might need to roll off the bass if the sound is too boomy.
  • Option #3 is to wrap the microphone in foam padding (except the grille) and put it behind the bridge or between the tailpiece and body to produce a whole, "tight" sound while minimizing feedback and leakage.
  • Option #4 is to place a miniature lavalier microphone between the bridge and tailpiece to produce a complete and bright sound.


Recommended Mic for String Instruments

PGA27
The PGA27 is a large-diaphragm cardioid side-address condenser microphone designed for clear capture of your string instruments.

 

Learn More 


Shure: The Perfect Choice for Your Instrumentalist Sound Need

Whether you're looking to mic the instruments, the pastor, or the entire choir, Shure can equip your House of Worship with all your sound needs. Contact us today to get started!

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:

Shure's Central Hub for Houses of Worship

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pastor

How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Guitar at Worship

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist

How to Choose the Best Handheld Mics for Worship

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Drummer at Worship

Soren Pedersen

Soren Pedersen

Soren is a Product Specialist for wired microphones at Shure. He led development efforts on the MOTIV™ and PG ALTA product lines and is a Shure earphone enthusiast. He studied Audio Arts and Acoustics at Columbia College Chicago and has been recording music since the age of 15. Outside of Shure he plays drums and is an ambitious home cook.