After spending a great deal of time trying to avoid mic bleed, I just worked on a demoing project where I specifically allowed mic bleed.
And I loved it.
Since I was just going for accurate scratch tracks with electric guitar and drums, I opted for a stereo pair of SM58’s in the center of the room, directly between the drums and the guitar. The mic diaphragms were closely aligned about a foot off the ground at 180 degrees to one another.
While I wasn’t expecting any kind of quality, I was extremely pleased with the results. The sound is alternately spacious and punchy and has some of the qualities that you would expect in a finished mix: simply by panning the two microphones hard to the left and right, you get the feeling of being in a room with these two instruments.
After my experiment, I did a little research on using mic bleed to your advantage. I stumbled on this article on BMI that talks about using mic bleed to your advantage:
Generally speaking, dynamic microphones are better at providing good, controllable leakage with the least amount of effort. A Shure SM57 or 58, for example, has a very directional pick-up pattern and is relatively low gain (compared to a “hotter” condenser mic). Put a 57 in front of a guitar amp and you won’t have to worry about the sound of a neighboring amp invading its space, yet the bleed will still be audible enough to give the mix an ambient feel. For that matter, try using dynamic mics as drum overheads (as opposed to the more traditional condenser mono or stereo pair).
I plan on continuing my experiments with bleed and being able to control it is going to be key. After all, just a little bleed is enough to get a big sense of space. You don’t need to go overboard with it.
To make bleed a regular part of your routine, there are some other tactics that can help you:
- Do Lots of Test Runs! Utilizing bleed is going to commit you to the sounds that you’re recording. Using EQ after the fact is going to affect multiple instruments, making it harder to get those sounds dialed in. But if you’re confident in the sound of the room before you record, you’ll have an easier time when it comes to mixing. Invest the time in mic placement and you’ll ease your burden later on.
- Use Spot Mics: In my case, both microphones were positioned in the center of the room which made a very roomy sound. If that setup was combined with some closer microphones, I could do some finished tracks for these songs.
- Instrument Placement is Just as Important: It’s not just the mic placement that you need to worry about. The placement of the instruments and amplifiers in the room is also very critical. This could be a prolonged process if you don’t simplify it. Just make sure that the sound in the room is good when all the instruments play together and adjust accordingly. You might start by finding a spot where drums sound good and then build around that. Then just start throwing up mics where you think they’ll work. As you listen back on your monitors or headphones, don’t worry too much about individual mics. Just make sure it all sounds good together.
If you have the patience and courage, utilizing mic bleed could be just the thing to spice up your recordings.