Shure SM-57 Microphone: A Must Have for Your Home Recording Studio!
A Million Soundmen Can't Be Wrong (or) Nothing Says "Rock Heaven" Like an SM57!
by Paul Diamond Blow
If you've ever played live at a nightclub with a full PA, you may have noticed that most of the mics used on the instruments are SM-57s. This mic is a real work horse, it can take a licking and keep on ticking -- that's why they are favorites with soundmen everywhere and is probably the most "famous" microphone in the world! The SM-57 is also used in recording studios, even the high end ones -- in fact, it's long been the general consensus among recording engineers and producers that the best way to get a slamming snare drum sound is to close mic it with an SM-57...
The SM-57 has a cardiod polar pattern (it won't pick up sound coming from behind it), and has a frequency response form 40 hz to 15 khz, with a high SPL (sound pressure level) making it a natural for close micing loud instruments -- drums, guitar amps, and even vocals. I own four of these puppies and I've gotten some great drum and guitar sounds using just SM-57s. I've used SM-57s to record to 16 track half-inch tape recorders, ADATs, straight to DAT, straight to my computer's multi-track recording programs, and even on my trusty old 4-track cassette portastudio. And when I'm in a pro studio, yes, you better BELIEVE that's an SM-57 on my Marshall cabinet.
Here are a few ways to use the SM-57 on different instruments:
Drums: For that famous slammin' snare sound place one of these bad boys about an inch above a snare drum's top edge at about a 55 degree downward angle and you've got yourself a killer, fat snare sound, it doesn't get much better than that. Placed the same way over a tom drum will give you an excellent "fat" tom sound as well. Although there are better kick drum mics available these days, an SM-57 placed inside the kick drum a few inches directly in front of the beater will give you a tight, punchy kick drum sound. I highly recommend using a compressor on these tracks while recording (especially if you're recording digitally), and even again in the mixdown process -- a compressor will really fatten up the drum sounds as well as even out the levels. I've also gotten decent results using a spaced pair of SM-57s as drum overheads, although condensor mics are a better choice for capturing drum cymbals. And if you only have two tracks available for recording a drum set, try a spaced pair of SM-57s placed six feet in front of a drum set about three feet high for a tight, full, stereo drum sound.
Guitars: Recording a great amplified guitar sound with an SM-57 is just too easy... just place one SM-57 directly in front of a guitar amp speaker (an inch from the grill cloth), crank the amp up, and you've got a rockin' guitar sound. You may have to move the mic around a little bit to find your speaker's "sweet spot," but the SM-57 will give you a sizzling, warm, and meaty tone. Oh yeah, baby... oh YEAH! If you've got two SM-57s and only one guitar amp to record, try close-micing the first SM-57, and place the second one about six feet in front of the amp for a even fuller sound. I've also used SM-57s to record acoustic guitars and have always gotten decent results, although it does always take a bit of EQing in the mix-down to get the sound just right. (A decent condensor mic is the preferred microphone for acoustic guitars).
Other instruments: I've often used SM-57s at band practices for vocals, they work quite well for live vocals running through a PA, although the SM-57's big brother the SM-58 is more suited for vocals since the '58 has an extra "kick" in the 4 khz range (where vocals really shine) and have a built in pop filter. An SM-57 on a bass guitar amp will give you a meaty, punchy, growling bass track with decent low end and I've also gotten some decent results using a pair of SM-57s on a grand piano, although it did take some extensive EQ in the mix down. Basically, the SM-57 will give you good results on just about any instrument, although for acoustic instruments and vocals a good condensor mic is the preferred choice.
The final verdict: I would recommend getting four of these mics for your project studio, especially if you are going to record a drum set. If you plan on recording a whole band at the same time, of course you'll need plenty more. If all you can afford is one or two mics, make 'em SM-57s. Don't waste your money on cheap radio-shack mics. The SM-57 is the perfect choice for your studio, especially if you are on a budget! And remember -- a million soundmen can't be wrong!