I don’t like to push gear if I don’t think it’s a helpful suggestion. Heck, I don’t even believe that gear is the solution to your recording or mixing woes. But gear is what we use to capture and mix audio and some if is necessary. The trick is to navigate the sea of advertising and find the best bang for your buck.
You likely have heard of the Shure SM-57 microphone (if you don’t already own one). It’s a super affordable ($99 new), super popular dynmaic mic. Today I want to give you three great reasons why (after purchasing your $100 condensor) every home/project studio should own at least one of these mics. Two seem typical and one might surprise you.
1. Great On Guitar Amps
The most popular use for the SM57 tends to be to record guitar amps/cabinets. As a dynamic mic it can take the loud SPLs of the amp without overloading. Plus as a very midrange focused mic it really brings out some of the best characteristics of the electric guitar.
On almost any amp the 57 right up on the grill seems to do wonders. If it’s too bass heavy, back it off an inch or two. If it’s two bright, slide it over away from the center of the cone or angle it 45 degrees to the grill. It’s almost impossible to not get a great guitar tone with this mic.
2. Classic On Snare Drums
The other place you will get great use out of your 57 is on the snare drum. Even with a minimal drum mic setup, an SM57 close miked on the snare can pick up the fatness and punch that you want in a snare sound without much fuss (or money spent). If you are already getting a solid snare sound in your drum overheads, then a 57 right up on the drum will bring in that pop that you’re looking for.
And lest you think the 57 is only good on snare, if you pick up a few more of these bad boys you can use them as tom mics. My last EP I tracked toms and snare, all with SM57s. They did a great job of picking up that punch of the toms, even the floor tom. I was surprised to say the least.
3. The Alternative Vocal Mic
The third reason why you should own an SM57 is to have an optional vocal mic that can handle crazy loud singers. Some vocalists have such a powerful voice that easily overpower your condensor mics. Dynamics can be a great choice for rock or rap vocals and the 57 is no exception.
I’m a huge Soundgarden fan and I know for quite some time lead singer Chris Cornell would use SM57s both on stage and in the studio in order to contain his monstrous voice. Sure you lose some of the shine and clarity of a condensor, but you gain a solid natural recording that will be distortion free.