How to Mic a Flute

by Curt Taipale

How do you typically mic a flute? That is kind of a loaded question because the answer depends on the application. Are you simply recording the sound of the flute? Or are you miking the flute for sound reinforcement? Both? Are you looking to capture a natural flute sound? Or is a close-miked sound preferred for that instance. Are other instruments or sounds nearby that should not be picked up or at least reduced in level compared to the pickup of the flute sound? Those are just some of the points to consider in choosing how to mic a flute.

If the intent is to capture the natural sound of a concert flute, you will want to place a high quality microphone at some distance from the instrument. If the goal is primarily to record the flute and picking up the sound from other instruments isn’t a concern, then I might try placing the mic one or two feet away from the instrument. If sound reinforcement is not required and the room acoustics enhance the sound of the flute, then I would move the mic two or three feet away.

For live sound, the usual method is to place a microphone on a stand positioned so that it is within say six inches of the flute. I will ask the player to position the instrument so that the embouchure is a few inches to the left of the microphone as they stand in front of it, specifically so that I don’t pick up their wind sound as they blow across that embouchure.

If the breath sounds bother you, try placing the mic above and slightly to the instrument side of the player’s head; that will lessen the breath sounds while still capturing the sound of the instrument.

But what if you don’t want to see a mic stand in front of the player? A few years ago, the worship pastor at one of my church consulting projects requested just such a solution. I approached the folks at Audix to see if they had anything, and just two days later they sent me a photo of a prototype.

Their solution comprises a clip that attaches one of their small ADX-10 microphones right to the head stock of the flute. The player removes the tuning cork, slides the clip on and replaces the cork. It places a very nice quality microphone just an inch to the side of the embouchure.

Audix ultimately made my requested prototype into a product called the ADX10FLP. Here’s a link to that product.

With DPA, you can secure their d:vote 4099 instrument mic to the flute with their fastener strap.

Applied Microphone Technology, Inc. offers their Z1 mic that clamps on to the head stock of the flute and allows the player to position their mic as preferred.

Another great solution is to have the flute player wear an earworn microphone (DPA d:Fine, Countryman E6, etc.). Again, it places a good quality mic close to the embouchure. Would you like to hear what that sounds like? Check this out.

    Listen to a flute miked with nothing more than an earworn microphone.

That’s good and bad at the same time. It’s great because the player can move around freely and the sound will stay the same. But it’s a potential issue because if their mic is left turned on while they’re not playing the flute, the audience will hear any talking or coughs from the player.

Remember that you will always achieve a much more “natural” flute sound if you mic the instrument from a foot or so away. That said, using an earworn mic or clamping a mic onto their instrument has several advantages. It may mean that you hear more breath noise as the instrument is played, but in a live sound setting those sounds will be “swamped” by the sound of other instruments on the platform.

Which approach is best? It depends. So trust your ears, and don’t be afraid to use the mics you already have.

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