Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recording Tip 1 When in doubt, use an SM57

The most common mic you’ll ever see or use is the SM57. You see it in front of every Presidential speech, in almost every session on a snare or electric guitar, and almost every live gig. It’s easily the most popular mic ever made. No matter where I’ve worked, from the dumpiest home studio, all the way to Abbey Road, I’ve always found it. And found it not lying neglected deep in a mic locker, but in daily use.

I can be a bit of a mic snob and it’s easy to overlook such a pedestrian piece of equipment. But I’ll say this; In a pinch, this mic can give good results for almost any recording need in almost any genre except classical music. It’s really easier to say what it can’t do that what it can.

It’s terrific on almost any percussion instrument, from drums to congas. Electric guitar? Are you kidding? If the recording gods removed every recording which used an SM57 on electric guitar, we’d have maybe two hours of recorded music. Okay…that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point.

I’ll not blather on about what else it can do, but I’ll just say again, when in doubt, use an SM57. Don’t use it on a kick drum, overheads on drums, or most instruments you’d find in an orchestra. But on most anything else, it will do at least a decent job. There are better choices at times, and hopefully your mic cabinet has better solutions when the need arises. But when in a corner, I’d pick it in a heartbeat.

History of the SM57


  1. Thanks Rob! First comment here! Thanks so much!

  2. We'll be using several different flavors of sm57 on a snare drum shootout this weekend. Like electric guitar cabs, 57s are insanely common for a close snare mic. It will be interesting to compare.

  3. Great post. Did you know that there was a session at the Fox scoring stage where the mixer actually did use 57s on the strings? And surprisingly (or not) it actually sounded pretty good in the mix I heard.

  4. Dynamic mics are often used to record electric guitars, drums and more and very common in live applications. They do not usually have the same flat frequency response as condensers. They are excellent for recording drums, guitar, and woodwinds. Their bright, clean sound and contoured frequency response make them ideal for live sound reinforcement and recording. Thanks for good post.
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  5. Thanks for the comment Craig and Travis!

  6. Subtract the "5" and you'll get a mic that could finish in close second? :)