How to mic a cello

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Guidelines for miking the cello
Please remember, great sound is subjective and the miking methods described in this article are suggestions only. Try these methods out, but make sure to listen and choose the best solution for your specific situation.

Close miking an instrument is often considered to be a compromise to the instrument’s true acoustic sound. An instrument’s sound is usually designed to be experienced at a distance so that all the different elements of the sound are naturally blended into a perfect harmony. Yet often, mounting a microphone directly on the instrument is the most practical solution. 

Finding and placing the microphone in the instrument’s sweet spot – or your preferred location, can be a challenge. Keeping it there can be even more challenging, especially if the instrument is moved. For this reason, close-miking requires a dependable mounting solution.

The instrument

The cello’s lowest note is the C2, which is equivalent to 65Hz. To capture the low notes you need to choose a microphone that is capable of handling low frequencies. The overtones and the fine details of the cello also require the microphone to handle high frequencies and have a high level of accuracy as well.


Microphone positioning

Attaching the microphone to the C and A string below the bridge places the microphone capsule in the sweet spot, between the bridge and fingerboard. This offers a unique combination of natural string sound as well as high audio separation onstage. 

If you prefer more volume, positioning the mic closer to, or pointing at, the F-hole is ideal. For more information, read the Mounting the microphone section below.


Types of microphones

Omnidirectional (pressure) microphones have the great advantage of picking up sound evenly from all directions (although some “omnidirectional” microphones are slightly directional at the highest frequencies). Using an omnidirectional microphone is appropriate when you want to pick up the full sound of the instrument and you can maneuver it (using a gooseneck) a short distance away from the instrument. 

There are many sound sources on the cello. Due to its size there are several good spots to pick from. 

Using an omnidirectional microphone – like the 4006ES Omnidirectional Microphone or the 4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone – allows you to pick any one place, close to the instrument. If you use a gooseneck, you can place the mic a short distance from the instrument if you prefer. Using an omnidirectional microphone ensures the sound will not lack low-frequency due to the proximity effect as when using directional microphones. Proximity effect is an increase in bass or low-frequency response when a sound source is close to a directional microphone.

Using a directional microphone like the 4099 Instrument Microphone or the 4011ES Cardioid Microphone has the advantage of being able to focus on the sound of the key instrument, isolating it from surrounding sound sources, such as other instruments onstage or the PA system. On the other hand, directional microphones suffer from the proximity effect and therefore require more adjustment to find the preferred position. Moving the microphone close to the instrument will increase the low-end response, which might be desirable.

Bear in mind that the cello reacts as a huge reflective surface. The incoming sound from other sources (instruments, PA system) might reflect off it and enter the microphone from the front even if the microphone is pointing away from the source. 

Tip: If the cello player sits close to louder sound sources (like a drummer), point the directional microphone away from the drum kit. This will minimize the bleed from the drum sound reflection off the cello.

Mounting the microphone

All of the above-mentioned microphones can be placed either on a microphone stand or directly on the cello using the appropriate microphone mount.

A great close-miking mount is the CC4099 Clip for Cello, which is sturdy and made to stay in place in almost any position. It fits over or under the strings and can be adjusted to reach across two to four or even between two strings due to its flexible design. The clip works together with a number of our goosenecks allowing you to not only place the microphones according to your taste but also taking the application and the surrounding noise into consideration. The goosenecks are extremely flexible and can be slightly bent in order to position the microphone as needed. 

Tip: If you prefer more volume from the cello, positioning the mic closer to, or pointing at, the F-hole, is ideal. This can be done by bending the gooseneck horizontally toward the F-hole.

The CC4099 Clip for Cello works with the GSM4000 Gooseneck Shock Mount, the GM1600 Gooseneck Mount and the 4099 Instrument Microphone.


Related content

In Microphone University we have loads of content that could be relevant to you. Learn more about how to mic various instruments in the articles below.


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