What’s the Best Mic for Recording High-Pitched Percussion?

Consider this: you’re recording a Merengue ensemble and the microphones are picked out for the marimba, accordion, guitar and tambora.

But the güira, with a metallic sound extending well into the high frequencies (and at higher sound pressure levels), demands special attention. How do you address this issue?

First, let’s take a look at exactly what a güira is for those readers who may be unfamiliar with the instrument.

What is a Güira, Anyway?

The güira, popular in the Dominican Republic, is a variant of the güiro and the guayo. In recent years, the güira has grown in popularity within the US and is increasingly featured by US bands.

It is a cylindrically shaped metal instrument with hundreds of small round indentations. When held by an attached handle, the güira is played with a wire scraper and is used to play rhythms with combinations of downstrokes and upstrokes.

The sound produced by the güira is used in a way similar to that of maracas i.e. to create a complementary beat.

So how do you capture it’s sound and amplify it for your audience? It all comes down to selecting the right mic.

Which Recording Mic Should You Choose?

Dynamic recording microphones are usually preferred for a live performance. In particular, dynamic microphones are better at handling the higher SPL (sound pressure level) that a güira and other percussion instruments put out.

This is most likely the reason the güira is often miked with a dynamic microphone during a live performance.

When it comes to recording the güira for a demo tape or CD, you’ll most likely want to turn towards condenser recording microphones as their frequency response is flatter and extends further into higher registers, making them ideal for recording high-pitched percussion instruments.

Features you’ll want to look for in a recording mic include a low noise level and high-end clipping, so you can play with freedom and not worry too much about distortion.

Any condenser mic with a flat frequency response of up to about 20 kHz is a great choice for all kinds of high-register (and high-volume) percussion, including cymbals and hi-hats.

Whether you decide to go with a dynamic or condenser mic, its always a good idea to experiment with different microphones — as well as different mic placement techniques for recording — as you may find something that you like simply by trial and error.

Let your ears be your guide!

For further sound advice, call AudioLink’s staff of professionals at 407-757-3326, or drop us an email.