Boost your recording impact–be present when using microphones.
Huh? “Be present when using microphones?”
You might wonder “how else could I use a microphone? I would have to be present in the tracking studio in order to use it!”
But in fact, many times when you have a mic in your hand and are placing it you’re also engaged in the usual banter between recording engineer and musician. You’re not truly Present–you’re multitasking and relying on past experience, not what you’re experiencing in the moment.
I’m talking about a different meaning of the word “Present”. I’m talking about being consciously aware–being aware you are aware–while selecting and using that microphone.
Let’s unpack this a bit …
Be Present to Accept and Transmit Presence
Being Present, or being in a state of “Presence”, as I use the word here, simply means you are aware of, and accept the “is-ness” of the present moment, non-judgmentally. You are simply paying attention with the totality of your being. You cannot do this completely if you are thinking or bantering with the musicians.
Whenever you still your mind of mental thought-chatter, and focus on the present moment, even very briefly, Presence begins to blossom and be felt more strongly. You’ll notice I capitalize “Presence” because “being aware you are aware” is awakened consciousness, something that is noteworthy, and deserving of capitalization.
By stilling your mind you’re actually making space for Presence to arise, and with Presence you have entered a very powerful creative state that only inner stillness can bring. No amount of thinking-it-through, or engineer / musician banter will ever give you the same creativity and connection to others that makes for powerfully impactful recordings.
When Presence blossoms you are more aware of the unique moment you are living, whether you are playing an instrument, singing a song, recording a take or mixing a track. This is because almost all thinking is either past or future-focused and not of the moment. Thinking keeps you from experiencing the moment you are presently living.
The more you welcome Presence—be it taking a breath, meditating, using simple listening, etc., your own work more easily connects with the work of others around you. There is something deeply attractive about a person who carries the confidence inherent in Presence, and it is as easily felt as it is seen or heard.
More Presence in your recording work can virtually guarantee a more attractive end product for the listener. Your work will also become more intuitive as you find that you become a receptor of the vibes being put out by those around you. Synchronicity is almost always a byproduct of Presence–engineer, producer and recording artist all lock in and deliver greatness together.
Bringing Microphones Into the Picture…
Microphones are energy transducers. They take sound pressure energy and turn it into electrical energy. But the process is not perfect. All microphones exhibit non-linearities and generate artifacts in the process of converting sound energy to electrical energy. These non-linearities and artifacts include frequency response aberrations, harmonic and inharmonic distortion products, directional sensitivity and the collapsing of a complex three dimensional sound field into a single point perspective.
Microphones, because of their imperfect nature, impart their personality (and the presence-personality of their creators,) onto the music being recorded. Let’s be aware of this and use microphone imperfection and personality to our advantage by being Present when we use them.
When you place a microphone (with all the personality it possesses) while in a heightened state of Presence you will be more sensitive to the Presence of others—the “vibes” being put out by the vocalist or instrumentalist—one who (hopefully) is so engrossed in their performance moment that they are not thinking, but rather purely emoting.
You’ll find that your choice of mic, and mic placement will be guided largely by your Presence and less by your thinking mind, the very mind that is so often distracted by thoughts of the “past” and of the “future” (“the last time I mic’d a guitar cab I used mic X at position Y”; or, “should I choose this or that mic?”). These thoughts obscure your essential self (pure, aware, consciousness) which is far more knowledgeable and creative than your busy mind.
Great music is about conveyance of non-material energy. There are subtle energies, fields, sensations to be transmitted to the listener. We’re talking here about conveying feeling, “touch,” vibes—it isn’t hard to imagine how much more powerfully those musical expressions will be conveyed if they are recorded from a state of Presence and interconnected inspiration. Very subtle stuff, with the power to vastly maximize the reach and receptivity of your work—whether as a sound maker, sound recordist or sound mixer.
Even if none of this makes sense at first, just try it.
When you begin to select and use a microphone take a few to become still. Do not think about mic placement, but instead allow Presence to arise within you and direct your actions. This Presence and confidence will be carried through your recording to eventually be heard and experienced by listeners, allowing a connection back to the moment as created by the performer at the time of recording.
And that can be a more powerful, hit-bound recording!