The Different Types of Microphones for Bands – Part 1

If you like going to concerts and seeing live bands, you have probably considered how the different instruments and singers are connected to the sound system.

Obviously, the singer uses the microphone in front of them, but what about instruments like saxophones, guitars and drums?

In this blog we delve into the different kinds of microphones that bands use and other types that can be used in recording studios and other environments. The humble microphone might not be as humble as you first thought as we explain why.

Polar Patterns

Polar patterns is an expression that is used to describe how microphones pick up sounds, they explain how a mic listens or captures a sound. It is a measurement of how sensitive a microphone is to sound waves that are coming from a particular direction. Using the polar patterns technique, you can select if a microphone is good for a particular job or not.

Cardioid Microphones

Cardioid microphones are the most popular with singers as they capture sound from the front and block everything else out. This means that any other ambient sounds are blocked out and the microphone only concentrates on the sound directly in front of it. This type of microphone is the most popular and is used widely on stage and things like karaoke. This mic is also good for drum kits and speakers for guitars. When slightly turned from the source of the sound they can pick up more subtle sounds, so that is why you will see different mic positions for singers and for speech makers.

Hyper-Cardioid Microphones

Operating in a similar fashion to our first microphone, a hyper-cardioid microphone picks up sounds that are coming directly from the front. The biggest difference between the two is that the hyper-cardioid version has a much narrower area of sensitivity. This gives even more isolation of the sound source and cuts out even a greater amount of background interference. It is normally used when the venue has a problem with feedback, or noisy stage environments so no unwanted sounds are included.

Omnidirectional Microphones

As the name suggests, omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from all around and different angles. These microphones can be great for acoustic sets as they are non-directional and reject hardly any other sounds. For venues such as old theaters or churches they are ideal and for reproducing sounds from large orchestras or choirs they are the mic of choice.

Figure-8 Microphones

A figure eight microphone is designed to pick up sounds from the front and rear whilst blocking out any ambient sound from the sides. This makes them perfect for capturing stereo sounds and recording two or more voices or instruments.

Basically, this type of microphone is the same as an omnidirectional microphone without any sounds being included from the sides. This technology is common in ribbon mics and some larger condenser microphones. We continue in part two of this blog and look at shotgun microphones and multi-pattern varieties.