When you are first building a Lab for your music class, you might have a lot of questions on what gear to get. I have teachers asking me a lot what Microphone to get, External Sound Card, and controllers. In this article, I wanted to share my top picks for Microphones for a school lab.
There are many different Mics our there, and each one can be used in different ways. There are condenser mics, ribbon mics, and dynamic mics. Instead of going to deep in the theory, I am going to pick my favorite mics and why I would use them in your classroom. I’ve helped schools start up their labs, worked in recording studios, and built my own home recording studio. Over the years I have used many microphones and have distilled that information into this list.
Top Pick: SM-58
I find that in the classroom I run into one major problem, and that is noise. There is always some noise in the room that I am battling. The Sm-58 is amazing at only picking up what is right in front of the mic. This makes it idea for demonstrations. I also find that I am mainly recording vocals in my class. Sometimes that is for a voice over video project, beat box activity, or singing. This mic is ideal for vocal recording in a louder room.
As far as sound quality, it is pretty flat sounding and without anything special. It’s an average sounding mic, but works great for what I need it for. If you are mainly looking at vocals in a shared classroom, this is a great choice.
Versatile and Solid Mic: SM-57
Next up is another mic by Shure. This microphone is a classic in the recording studio. There have been many songs where the only mic used was the SM-57. This microphone is so versatile. I have used it with pretty much every instrument you can think of.
Just like the Sm58, the SM57 uses a cardioid pickup pattern to focus specifically on one source, rejecting audio from outside the pickup area. This means less to no feedback, and canceling all those other sounds in the classroom. One of the main reasons I like this mic though is its durability.
This mic is renowned for the beating it can take. You can throw this out a 10 feet tall window and it will still work. (check out videos on youtube, they can be pretty funny). I have had my 57 for 5 years and it’s gone through a lot with touring, teaching, recording. I would say the 58 is better at vocals, but for everything else the
Here is an example of the Mic:
For the track “For Emma, Forever Ago”, Bon Iver used a check Mbox and spent a winter in his family’s hunting cabin in the woods of Wisconsin tracking and layering guitars, vocals, and horns with his SM57.
Best Condenser Mic: AT2020
If you have a quiter setting you might want to catch the more delicate sounds. Like the sliding of the fingers on the guitar strings, or a softer whisper. If that is the case you probably want to use a Condeser Mic. These mics pick up a lot more sound in the room, and perfect if you have a seperate recording studio or vocal booth.
You can get a mic like this from 16 to 1000+. I have used many out there, and I find a great one for the price is the At2020 by Audio-Technica. This is an XLR connection phantom powered mic. So it requires a phantom powered XLR input, which all pro equipment provides and is also standard on most home recording audio interfaces. There is also a USB version that came out. I have not used it, but if you do not have an Audio Interface, this would be a good microphone.
Condenser mics are also more prone to damage, so they are not as durable as the Shure microphones.
Not Just A Mic: Zoom H4N
Ok, so this one is a little outside the box. The Zoom H4N is a Feild Recorder, but it also has some great mics on it. I use this a lot for feild recording samples out in the world, but also in a class setting. The great thing about this is you can give a student the H4N and they can capture sounds anywhere and load it to there computer later. It also has 2 XLR slots for other mics.
The built-in X/Y microphone provides two matched unidirectional microphones. The angle of the two can easily be changed from 90 degrees for a tightly focused stereo image to 120 degrees for a wider image. X/Y is an excellent way to cover a wide area while still capturing sound sources in the center with clarity and definition.
All these mics were chosen to stay on a budget, but give a good enough quality where you want to keep them for years. Many professional recordings have been made with these mics and they have stood the test of time.
If you are starting up a new Music Lab and need help figuring out the needs of your class, feel free to contact us here at Classtrack.org. We can help talk you through some of your choices and also sell you a whole educational bundle for your classroom. That includes gear, Ableton Live Site Licenses, software, and more.
If you have any mics you use in your class, and you feel is missing in this list, please share below. I would love to see what other mics teachers are using.