While recording percussion instruments isn’t exactly rocket science, there are a few small pitfalls you need to be aware of if you want to end up with perfectly mixed sound instead of an ear-splitting racket. Read on to learn some tips and tricks!

Recording Shakers, Tambourines and Other Handheld Percussion

Audio Snippets

Shaker recorded with a dynamic microphone::


Shaker recorded with a condenser microphone::


Shaker recorded with a ribbon microphone:


Headless tambourine recorded with a dynamic microphone:


Headless tambourine recorded with a condenser microphone:


Headless tambourine recorded with a ribbon microphone:


Picking The Right Microphone

First of all, it’s recommended to use a microphone that has a ‘dark’ sonic profile. A lot of condenser microphones, and large-diaphragm models in particular, feature a built-in presence boost that may be great for vocals, but not necessarily for bright-sounding percussion like egg shakers. If the microphone sounds too crisp, there’s going to be too much ‘hiss’ in your takes. As such, a dynamic instrument or ribbon microphone would be a better choice. These microphones rein in the high frequencies and give the sound of your egg shaker or tambourine a bit more body.

Motion Capture

You can’t keep a shaker or tambourine still if you want it to make any sound. To ensure consistent sound, it’s best to set up your microphone perpendicular (so at a right angle) to the playing direction of the percussionist. This way, the distance between the instrument and the microphone is more or less consistent. If you were to aim the microphone in the same direction that your percussion instrument is played in, you would get very noticeable volume differences created by playing ‘into and away’ from the microphone. That said, sometimes, that wavelike motion can be exactly what you’re looking for. A good way to capture this dynamic is using a stereo microphone set-up like an X-Y or A-B configuration. Since the effect is more noticeable in the mix, you most likely won’t have to boost the volume as much.

Up Close Or From a Distance

Percussion is generally used as seasoning, meaning your shaker or tambourine sound shouldn’t sit right at the front of the mix. If you place your microphone a little further away from the instrument, you’ll end up with a more diffused sound that naturally fades into the background. Recording percussion from farther away rather than up close also leaves more room for the acoustics to enhance the recording, resulting in a more natural-sounding recording instead of overly dry audio. Pro tip: try recording in a hallway or stairwell and you’ll get livelier sound than in, say, your bedroom.

See Also

» Dynamic Instrument Microphones
» Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
» Ribbon Microphones
» All Microphones & Accessories
» Percussion Instruments

» How to Amplify & Record a Cajon
» Recording the Acoustic Guitar: The Basic Rules
» How Loud You Should Record Audio
» How To Avoid Mic Bleed
» So, Can You Connect a Microphone to Your Computer?
» How to Record a Full Choir
» Ribbon Microphones: The Pros & Cons
» How to Record a Piano
» The Best Microphone Set-Ups for Stereo Recordings
» Recording Drums: A Specialised Skill

No responses

No comments yet...

Leave a Reply