Recording Banjo


Alison Brown and Stewart Duncan Recording Banjo With Ribbon Microphones

Royer Labs and Deering Banjo Company teamed up with renowned musicians Alison Brown and Stuart Duncan, with engineer Matt Coles at the controls at Nashville’s historic Compass Studio, to make this video series on recording the banjo with ribbon microphones. Alison and Stuart have played on many hundreds of recordings and share their deep knowledge of recording the banjo. Matt Coles gives expert advice on microphone placement, working with the back side of R-121s, how to work with the ribbon microphones figure-8 pattern, phase relationships, and more.

Recording Engineer:

Matt Coles. Recorded at Compass Records Sound Studio, Nashville TN. 

Signal Chain:

Royer ribbon mics through API 3124 preamplifiers, recorded to Pro Tools. No EQ or effects used.

Episode 1: Alison Brown At Compass Records Sound Studio Recording Banjo With Ribbon Mics
Episode 2: Alison Brown & Stuart Duncan Duet Recording Banjo with Ribbon Mics
Episode 3: Stuart Duncan Recording Old-Time Clawhammer Banjo With Ribbon Mics
Episode 4: Stuart Duncan on His Favorite Ribbon Microphone Positions
Episode 5: Engineer Matt Coles Tips on Recording Banjo, with Alison Brown

Episode 1: Alison Brown At Compass Records Sound Studio Recording Banjo With Ribbon Mics

Alison Brown introduces this video series, which was shot and recorded at the famous Compass Records Sound Studio in Nashville TN. Hear Alison play “Steam Powered Aereo Plane” and talk about her Deering Julia Belle banjo and how she records it with ribbon microphones. Recording Engineer Matt Coles joins her to talk about his favorite places to position a ribbon mic on the banjo.

Episode 2: Alison Brown & Stuart Duncan Duet Recording Banjo with Ribbon Mics

Alison Brown and Stuart Duncan play “Arkansas Traveler” together, then recording engineer Matt Coles walks us through his banjo recording methods. Matt talks about mic positioning, using the R-121 backwards on banjo, phase relationships, and more, while Alison plays solo banjo to demonstrate. In this video, Alison plays a Deering Julia Belle miked with two R-121s and Stuart plays a Deering Vega Vintage Star miked with one R-122V.

Episode 3: Stuart Duncan Recording Old-Time Clawhammer Banjo With Ribbon Mics

Stuart Duncan walks us through how he uses ribbon mics to record old-style Clawhammer banjo, plays “Arkansas Traveler” and shares his feelings about using ribbon microphones throughout his career. Stuart plays a Deering Vega Vintage Star banjo in this video, with an R-122V tube ribbon mic in front and an R-121 behind picking up the tone coming off the rear of the instrument.


Stuart Duncan Talks About His Favorite Ribbon Mic Positions for Recording Banjo With Ribbon Microphones

Episode 4: Violinist and banjo player extraordinaire Stuart Duncan shows us where he likes to put a ribbon mic on his banjo, and explains why you’ll want to move the mic closer or further from the instrument depending on the recording situation. Stuart also pulls out a second ribbon mic and shows two positions he likes when recording with two mics. Stuart plays a Deering Vega Vintage Star banjo during this video. 

Episode 5: Engineer Matt Coles Tips on Recording Banjo, with Alison Brown

Recording Engineer Matt Coles summarizes his banjo recording tips and shares a few more pearls of wisdom on how to get the most from banjos with ribbon microphones. Alison Brown caps off this video series, taking us out with a beautiful rendition of “Oh Susanna” on her Deering Julia Belle banjo.   



Vocals – R-121
Acoustic Guitar – R-121
Drum overheads – R-121

Producer: Shawn Sullivan. Engineer: Kyle Homme.
Recorded to Pro Tools at World Class Audio, Anaheim, CA.

One back side R-121 on vocals and acoustic guitars. Two R-121’s on drum overheads.

Sean Sullivan was the original discoverer of the backward R-121 recording technique. Due to our patented offset ribbon element, the back side of the microphone is slightly brighter than the front side when placed within 3 ft of any sound source.

“Again” (Dan Sistos & Jevon McGlory)

John Thomas

Acoustic Guitar – SF-12, R-121

Recorded by Dusty Wakeman
Recorded at Mad Dog Studios – Burbank, CA.

First rhythm track recorded on an SF-12 stereo ribbon mic (in mixing, one side was centered and the other was panned to left). Harmony/solo track was recorded on a backward R-121, panned toward the right.
The guitar is a Taylor 512 cutaway.

Recorded to 20-bit ADAT. No EQ, compression or effects.

John Thomas


Acoustic Guitar (nylon and steel string) – R-121
Drum Overhead – SF-12
Vocals – R-121

Engineer – Kyle Homme. Producer – Shawn Sullivan.
Recorded in Pro Tools at World Class Audio, Anaheim, CA.

Backward R-121 on steel and nylon string acoustic guitars.
SF-12 on drum overheads.
Backward R-121 on vocals.

“Again” (©2000 Dan Sistos & Jevon McGlory)
a) Full Mix part 1 – emphasis on vocals and acoustic guitar



b) Full Mix part 2 – emphasis on nylon string guitar and drums

Shawn Sullivan

Acoustic Guitar – R-121

Engineer: Shawn Sullivan
Recorded in Pro Tools at World Class Audio – Anaheim, CA

Two tracks of acoustic guitar, each recorded with a backward R-121.

John March

Acoustic Guitar – R-121
Electric Guitar – Jazz, Blues – R-121

Recorded and performed by John March.
Recorded in Pro Tools at John’s home studio.

1) “Maya’s Other Dance” (©2000 John March)
Martin D-35 with a backward R-121 placed approximately 2 feet from the sound hole, slightly closer to the neck, 20 degrees off-axis.



2) Improv.
Strat through a Line-6 amplifier in a hallway (you hear some natural single-coil hum).
R-121 centered 18-inches from the speaker, 10-degrees off axis.

John Jennings

Comparison tracks
Acoustic Guitar – R-121, Backward R-121

Recorded by Jeff Gross
Recorded in Cubase at Studio 144, Tarzana, CA.

“Give Me A Reason” (John Jennings)
R-121 front side on Taylor 512, 8-inches off the 12th fret


“Give Me A Reason” (John Jennings)
Backward R-121 on Taylor 512, 8-inches off the 12th fret

Robert Cray

Electric Guitar – R-121
Vocals – R-121

Recorded and mixed by Don Smith. Produced by Steve Jordan.
Recorded at Woodland Studios, Nashville, TN
From the Rycodisc, Inc. release “Shoulda Been Home.”

1) “Baby’s Arms” (Robert Cray)
R-121 on electric guitar.


2) “Help Me Forget” (Robert Cray)
Backward R-121 on vocals. R-121 on electric guitars.

Andy Georges

Acoustic Guitar – R-121
Baritone Acoustic Guitar – SF-24
Vocals – R-121
Electric Guitar – R-121
Percussion – R-121

Multi-Instrumental Musician/Engineer/Producer Andy Georges worked at Royer Labs for years and remains a good friend of the company. He created many recordings at home and in Los Angeles studios and you’ll find much of his work in this Library.

1) “My Guitar is on Fire” (Andy Georges)

Recorded and mixed by Andy Georges
Recorded at Andy’s home studio.

SF-24 on an acoustic baritone guitar, ten inches from the 12th fret, blended with a piezo pickup. SF-24 80%, piezo 20% in the mix.

Recording chain: SF-24 into a Royer custom built class A tube preamp. Piezo into a Motu 828 preamp. Compression on both mic and piezo. High shelving roll-off on piezo starting at 4K. Recorded into Digital Performer.


2) “Sleep Easy Hutch R” (Alex Wurman)

Recorded and mixed by Alex Wurman

R-121 turned backwards on an acoustic guitar.


3) “Music Of The Speres” (Andy Georges)
Recorded to Digital Performer and mixed by Andy Georges in his home studio. Vocals and all instruments tracked on a backward R-121.