Mic volume query


Hello folks,

I study guitar with Paul Gilbert online. His video replies are great, I'm not allowed to share outside of the school but I found this on YT which is a bit of fun with a ukelele but it serves a purpose as it's done in his home studio where he does the video responses.

Here is another done in his home studio

I know he uses a Rode NGT1 above his head, and he mics up the amp then both of those xlr cables go into a Yamaha mixer and then they plug into his camera.

I have a Rode NGT4, I go into a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (3rd Gen) and I use Overloud TH-U for my guitar sound.

I can't get my voice to sound as loud and proud as Paul's but it does sometimes peak at +12db and doesn't sound distorted.

Paul sometimes sings whilst playing the guitar and both voice and guitar come through clear but you can hear the pick hitting the strings. My mic seems plenty sensitive enough, though I have the gain pretty high.

I don't understand compression really but I'm wondering if that's what I need?

Here's another example of what I'm trying to do, I know he's probably using more expensive gear than me but to even get somewhere near would be good.

Any advice is gratefully received.

Thanks in advance

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Er...... what is the question? I've listened to those videos and I can hear the people speak and hear the guitars. What is it you are not happy with in your recording? Have you got a clip we can hear? They're all loud - in fact I think too loud. Realistically what is stopping you recording your version and just normalising it to make it louder? His videos are edited of course - note how when he has distortion the guitar suddenly pops up - so in the edit, he has a voice and a guitar as a minimum, and he just rides the faders in the edit.

Tell us what you are having issues with and what is causing grief?
Er...... what is the question? I've listened to those videos and I can hear the people speak and hear the guitars. What is it you are not happy with in your recording? Have you got a clip we can hear? They're all loud - in fact I think too loud. Realistically what is stopping you recording your version and just normalising it to make it louder? His videos are edited of course - note how when he has distortion the guitar suddenly pops up - so in the edit, he has a voice and a guitar as a minimum, and he just rides the faders in the edit.

Tell us what you are having issues with and what is causing grief?
Sorry, there is a small error that changes the whole question. "I can't get my voice loud and proud like Paul's. If I turn the career up in Reaper, it jumps into the red on the meter sometimes and if I turn it down, I can't hear my voice.

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Two things as follow ups then? If you bring the audio from the video clips into reaper you can do a comparison. There are two possible things with a two source video, the real volume as in a certain level on a peak reading meter, but the other is the blend between the guitar and the voice and I suspect this is what you are struggling with. Those clips are pretty compressed, so the loud parts are loud, and the quiet parts are also loud, but they are also the two people talking it up. Forgive me, but their style of presentation is typically American. A style Robin Williams did so well in Good Morning Vietnam. Some people just talk like they have a built in compressor. Us Brits never did this on TV or radio until fairly recently, just not our style.

distorted guitars are naturally compressed, so I think you are just maybe losing the battle without some compression, or to be honest, too much compression. Think about it. You have a loud amplified guitar in the same space as a person with a distant mic. The mic hears a voice and a guitar. My guess is that if you solo your mic, all it has is the guitar overpowering you, so your first step is placing the mic where the guitar amp is in the mics null, reducing the capture of the guitar and maximising you. The. You can treat your voice with compression and EQ, then balance it. You’ll then sound like those video clips, as long as you can get two tracks with vocals and no guitar amp in one and guitar and no vocal in the other. You’ll need a decent size space of course, or you cheat and pretend to use the amp, but have it off, and DI the guitar.

we really need an example, as everything I’ve said is guessing what you are doing.

PS I’m just too old to listen to videos like those ones you linked too. Shouting people, over the top presentation, wild guitars ……. But I appreciate loads of people do like them.
Thanks Rob,
I understand what you're saying, I don't understand compression very much. I'll get a test video put up, it will show my screen displaying Reaper, and it will have the audio with me just saying "one two" or similar ramblings.

I'm not using an amp, I'm direct into my Scarlett and using Overloud TH-U for the amp sim, I do have the sound coming out of near field monitors. The shotgun mic is just above my head, about 6 inches forward and the monitors are at the back of my desk to the left and right but I don't have it up very loud so I don't get much bleed.

I don't know if you know Paul Gilbert, he's one of the best guitarists around, John Cuniberti (Producer of some of Joe Satriani's music) said he's one of the greatest on the planet, he was in the band Mr Big, remember the number one ballad "Be With You"? Anyway, I asked him what he uses and he said:

"For my voice, I'm using a RODE NTG-1.

It is mounted on a big Atlas boom stand, so I can suspend the mic in air 18" from my mouth, but still have it out of the video frame.

For guitar, I recently started using a Sennheiser E609. I like it because of the shape. It can lay flat against the amp's grill cloth, so it's not sticking out. My room is small, so I'm less likely to trip over it this way.

I plug both of these mics (and my stomp pedal) into a small Yamaha mixer, and then plug that into the audio inputs of the camera.

I then asked him if he uses a compressor or limiter:

"I don't use a compressor on the vocal mic. I talk pretty loud most of time.

The camera has XLR inputs, and I run the mixer into those.

Regarding age, I'm no spring chicken myself, 57 years old, same as Paul, both born '66 though he's not 57 until November, anyway, I digress, I'll try to get a sample done this evening (UK time)

Cheers and thanks for your help.

So, the mic is picking up both your voice and the sound of your electric guitar playing through the amp sims? When you mix the sound, i.e., to submit a video, do you include the guitar track, or are you just trying to submit the recorded track with voice and the backing playback?

And, how are you doing the video recording? I've been surprised that my iPhone (newer, 13 model) actually does a very passable audio recording for submitting to an online lesson. Sometimes I use an external mic (on my mandolin), but sometimes I toss that and just use the phone recording. The only thing I do then is split out the audio that has only me talking, and move that to a separate track, and adjust the level of that separately from the guitar. That might be all you need to do. In any case, splitting the two (and it's a lot easier if you don't talk over your playing - assuming you're not singing along), will give you some flexibility in mixing.

One thing you may need to look into is if your interface has any routing software capability, or something in the DAW, to make sure that that boom mic input is not being played back through the monitors while you are recording. That will create a muddier sound, if it doesn't actually induce feedback.
Thanks Keith,
I think tonight I've made progress. It was okay before but now Paul is getting me to sing/talk lyrics whilst playing, he's not trying to get me to be a singer, just to be more musically aware.
Here is my effort from tonight. I think this is much better than before, I think I just wasn't being loud enough. I could actually increase the guitar a little I think. Any tips would be good.
I am not monitoring the recording from the mic so that isn't coming back through the monitors when I'm playing.
I'm using a logitech Web cam for the video. 920 model.

My setup is below.

Thank you.

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Two things I hear... first your vocal isn't as "close" sounding as either of the two videos. Paul Gilbert sounds extremely clear and very distinct. His room must be properly damped. On your video, I can hear lots of room echo most likely due to the hard walls and ceiling. Do you point the mic directly at your face or do you use it pointing down like in the picture. It should point at you from the front, otherwise it will be hearing as much sound reflected from things like the desk as it does from your actual mouth. Second, you have some obvious reverb on the guitar. That combined with the echo of the voice makes things sound hollow. The problem is that the two items are not in the same "space". You have two different echo "profiles". One rule I use with reverb is find a level that sounds nice, then lower it! You don't want it to be obvious, it should be subtle.
Thanks Rich,

Your reply reminded me of another thing Paul said to me:

"The most important factor is the DISTANCE between the mic and the sound source (guitar or vocal.) Also, the acoustic properties of the room become more of an issue as the mic gets further and further away from the sound source. I cover my walls was acoustic panels, so my room is very "dead" acoustically. This helps enormously in this situation where the vocal mic is 18" from my mouth"

One problem I have is that where I took that picture from I the doorway to the room, to the immediate right is a wall of mirror sliding wardrobe doors about 9' (3 metres), I suppose I could hang a sheet in front of them, I have one of those backdrop things I could try. Also would it be better with the door open or closed? I could put some acoustic foam on the door but that's about it. Paul's room is completely dedicated to what he does, it's his day job whereas mine is my hobby. I'm not after professional results but do want to give him the best I can, within reason. He isn't asking me for better, he just needs to hear what I'm doing. Some of the video submissions I see submitted are very very lo-fi and he doesn't complain.

Thanks for your advice, I'll try one this evening with guitar reverb off on the amp sim, I'll angle the mic 45 degrees towards my face, does it matter which way the slots in the side of the mice are orientated? and we can see how that sounds.

I really appreciate your help, thank you. Did the video help or is a sound file enough? Below is a picture showing more of the room, the guitar wall is about 11' (3.5 metres) and the window wall is about 9' (3 metres).



Remember with a shotgun mic, it's going to hear what is directly in front of it. It's designed to reject the sound coming from the sides and back. If the space behind you is fairly dead, and the mic is pointing at you directly from the front, there will be less sound bouncing back towards the front of the mic. Something as simple as a thick moving blanket behind you can dampen some of the high and upper mid frequencies. It won't do anything for the lows, but if you are just working with voice, then you aren't dealing with lots of frequencies below ~120Hz unless you're James Earl Jones or Melvin Franklin! You can rig up a couple of boom mic stands and use the blanket as a backdrop if you are concerned about appearance. Or add a few hooks to the ceiling to hang the blanket. It all depends on your situation. Ideally you would make some permanent acoustic panels to hang on the walls to control the sound, but some people have restrictions that prevent that from happening.

For anyone who is interested in really learning more about microphones, how they work and what makes different mics do different things, I highly suggest spending some time reading a sticky post in the microphone forum. Harvey Gerst gave us a huge amount of info on mics. https://homerecording.com/bbs/threa...lar-pattern-relate-to-mic-applications.27030/
shotguns are terrible microphones to use on stands because they need very accurate pointing. If you mute the guitar and listen only to the shotgun, what do you hear. Your voice, and probably you will hear you talking to yourself, when you should be talking up, like you would do if you were in front of a class. A teacher, in school would never talk at your volume, and the people on your videos certainly are not talking like you did. Audio is all about signal to noise. Shotguns have a nasty problem where they work a bit like a torch. Imagine yours as a torch in a darkened room. They will light you up, but also whatever is behind you. If that happens to be a wall or another reflective surface, the mic hears that too. You need the mic as close as you can ge5 it, and the reflective background as far away as you can. This is why video folk always struggle with shotguns indoors. You also need to realise that shotguns are only shotguns up top, at lower frequencies they are much more cardioid, so you can filter away LF with EQ, carefully. Your space has loads of hard surfaces, so record a single handclap and listen to it carefully. A simple duvet, held up on a couple of boom mic stands can really tame a rooms sound. Your room appears to have no soft surfaces at all, so that’s five reflective walls and a lightly carpeted floor. Asking your friend just gets you the solutions that work in his space, yours will be different. In my video studio I can use shotguns, cardioids or really anything. If I record in my office all my shotguns sound pretty terrible. I did a video with shotguns in the office which might make more sense.
Thanks Rob,

I really appreciate it. I am still in the window to return the Rode, I went for it because Paul uses one successfully and others on YT but I completely understand what you're saying. What mic around the £200 Mark would you recommend for my space? I still have my Audio Technica AT2020 but it is on ebay at the moment, I found that wasn't very sensitive at all. I have watched all of your video yet, but you look well away from the mic and its picking you up nicely. Or would I be better buying a pack of acoustic panels, putting the cloth back drop up and covering the door with something? I know I'm not going to get pro results, I'm realistic.

I guess at the end of the day, I think the quality of my last recording is perfectly usable for Paul but if I could improve it I would, I just don't want to end up chasing rainbows.


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Oddly, the AT2020 is a fine sounding mic, so it's interesting you find it not sensitive. I've never noticed that feature and tonally - AT and Rode are both well known for being quite clean bright mics? You have a Scarlett 18? They're also well known and I'd not imagine a 2020 and Scarlett combo being insensitive - in my other videos I use a dynamic Shure SM7B, not because its the best mic, but but I discovered I really like what it sounds like at a distance - in my case, it's never closer than 18". I think I'm the only person I've seen using these at a distance, but it works well for me - and as I do lots of comparison videos, the SM7B 'tone' is a sort of compare feature.

My guess is your room is just not yet letting you find the correct place to put a mic, for your voice. You sound quietly spoken - so that would dictate a need for a closer positioning, and maybe an overhead position is never going to work for you, in your space. Before you sell that 2020, I'd strongly suggest experimenting with it in all sorts of positions. Mics in shot are very acceptable nowadays. Alternatives would also perhaps be to try a lav style small/miniature mic clipped to you. That would not be seen and might sound better, although these of course are usually omnidirectional so won't have any ability to reject the guitar. However maybe you could use in-ear monitors for the guitar? That would certainly make the room sound less tricky to balance? I think I'd get a nice duvet in and experiment with that as a simple way to remove some of the reflections - on voice, they're quite effective.
Thanks again Rob,

After posting my last post telling you about the sensitivity of the AT2020, I did some deep thinking, I had the AT2020 in front of me and to the left near a wall. It sounded like when radio presenters put their mouth too near the mic and get that reverb effect, I think it's called proximity effect, but obviously I wasn't close so couldn't have been getting that. I now realise it was the sound from the room and that possibly clouded my judgement as to get rid of it I had to turn the gain down, though the Rode does seem to pick up my voice from further away. It's all just beginner mistakes and lack of knowledge I guess.

Tonight I'll plug both the AT and the Rode into the Scarlett and record something similar to my last recording, and if it's okay with you, I'll ask you what you think. I do have an SM57 too but I always thought that was for close work. I might even plug that in and see what happens too. If I get a decent result with the SM, I'll get a refund on the Rode and sell the AT.


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I would do what you suggest - with an addition. You need to experiment with distance from mic to mouth and also where in the room, that combination is, as in close to the walls facing in, further away facing out and even perhaps spinning around? I think you want to concentrate on the video - so use your phone to shoot yourself in lots of positions, rotations, angles and with the different mics. Make sure the audio recording can be edited to the video like you might do for the YouTube video - so just clap your hands at the start and just align the phone and mic waveforms - it's a very simple process no need for complicated software. Line the claps up and away you go. Generally 6" to maybe 2'6" gives a similar tone to the sound. Go closer, and the proximity effect you mentioned starts to appear. Remember there is nothing wrong with it - because the extra bass and warmth can easily be EQ'd out, but the problem is simply that small head movements start to change the sound considerably making management of levels and tone difficult. further away than 6" and it really is just volume.

Don't forget that if you track the hollow sounding recording down you could find it's a wall surface reflecting back into the rear of the mic. Cardioids don't have a totally dead rear , just a vastly reduced one., so sometimes a mic pointing at your mouth from the side can work pretty well. Recording lots of examples and making adjustments is great - listen on headphones you trust so the room doesn't add to the result like when using speakers.
Have a listen to the make your guitar sound better video at 0:56 in - he goes out of the overhead mic's reach when he looks down, and the sound changes drastically.

PS - don't worry about alcohol - I'm actually allergic to alcohol - a teaspoon in a christmas cake knocks me out! Do some video stuff and experiment. You will find the right combination and it will just work.
Thanks, yes I noticed that and I guess it's to be expected. I'll do some tests.

How about a pint of Evian? :sneaky: I just thought I could show my appreciation of your time by sending a small token gift.

Okay, I've decided to send the Rode back, £200 I don't think I needed to spend. the attached file is just a very quick set up with the AT2020 in practically the same location as I had the Rode. No acoustic treatment yet, not even the backdrop sheet.

I really think, that thanks to everyone's help here, especially Rob, that I can get a good workable result. The first half of the sound clip is the mic and guitar and the second half is the mic in isolation, same track just with the guitar removed. I think it's promising.

If you think I should stick with the Rode, I have until March 23rd to return it so I can have another go but I seriously think this result is very promising, at least good enough for Mr Gilbert to give me an assessment.

Thanks again, I'll leave you all alone for a while now. I may pop back for some advice on how best to record my Beat-root stomp board recording direct. At the moment I'm using an acoustic amp sim in TH-U/Reaper but it's not ideal. The bloke that makes them said that if I wanted to go direct, I'd have to "compress the bejeesus out of it", which doesn't mean much to me.

Anyway, any feedback about the attached file would be appreciated but don't forget I just threw it up in a couple of minutes.


View attachment AT2020 TEST.mp3