Best way to record Cello?

Discussion in 'Strings' started by JOL52644, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. JOL52644

    JOL52644 Guest

    Ive been looking in previous forums but I can only find people talking about recording cello with a quartet. I want to know what A good way to record solo cello. The cellist will be playing along to acoustic folkish type tracks. We might be able to get access to a music practice room at the University in my town, but if not we are going to be in a house. Any Ideas or techniques?
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    (Dead Link Removed) and scroll down to Dave Spearritt's post.
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Or he could just scroll down to my first post where I suggest the same thing... :wink:

    Stereo recording of cello ensemble works very well in a Blumlein configuration. If that's not available, ORTF works well.

    What equipment do you have available to you? Are you looking at recording them in the practice room? I wouldn't. If you're at a university, try to get a bigger space - the concert hall or the band/orchestra rehearsal room, etc.
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    But it sounded so much more convincing when David said it.
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member must have been his accent.
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Let me just add a few more tips/advice to getting a good cello recording sound. No matter what pattern you choose, there's a bit more to it than just that...

    Cellos, like their brethren violins, violas, etc., radiate sound all over the place, and the room, instrument, player and mic placement are just as critical to what you're going to get. It will radiate sound OUT and above, like a spraying fountain, so there are lots of places to get a great sound. (Don't just point at the f-holes!)

    My own little trick is to make sure the front edge of my mic capsule(s) is on the same plane/angle as the strings of the cello, no matter how far away I might put it. I don't think it makes THAT much of a difference overall, but I like the concept of catching the waveforms in direct "line of sight", as it were. (yeah, it's a bit anal, but it works for me! ;-) )

    If you're totally new to this, listen to some of the better cello solo & ensemble recordings already out on CD to just get a bit of an idea on what's already been done, in terms of sound. Can you hear the bow? Can you hear breathing or other instrument noises? Is the blend of direct sound vs. reflected sound balanced in the recording? Is it dry, dead, or lively and full-bodied?

    If you have the time, (and your artist is patient with you), you may want to try various placements, or multiple mics.

    From what you're describing, you'll be recording a cello track to fit into or along with other tracks. You may not have the luxury of using a lot of room sound or ambience if this is the case. A classical "Solo" cello sound can be quite different than a tighter, more close-mic'd cello used in an acoustic ensemble (Blue Grass, Celtic, etc.) Sometimes in this case, less is more. Your goal may be simply to get the basic sound, and then finding how to make it sound "organic" and fit in with the other tracks, as if it's been done all in the same room/stage together. (I assume you already know how/where the other tracks were done?)

    If you're working in a living-room style of setting, you may have no other choice than to get closer to the cello than you would in a concert hall setting. Again, this may work FOR You in this case.

    You may also have to (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) compress or limit the track a tiny bit when mixing it in with everything else.

    Also, every cellist is different, so make sure you know what he/she is looking for in terms of their sound: Dark, little bow sound at all, vs bright, stinging, finger noise, etc.

    Good luck with it all!
  7. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    This is spot on. The "sound hole" (guitar) or F holes in stringed instruments do not radiate sound. Air oscillating in and out of them acts as spring in a Helmholtz resonator, extending the low frequency radiation of the "table" or "top plate" of the instrument, the bit that radiates sound.


    So the best place to mic a guitar or cello is at least one long dimension of the top away, ie at least 1m away from both a guitar and cello, to allow all the radiation from the top to mix properly in air before hitting the mic.
  8. Plush

    Plush Guest

    I most often use a Soundfield mic to record cello. A recent record I did was very successful with the SF. It was set to Blumlein, so this is also a good method. The mic was about 10 feet away from the playa.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Thanks Dave, I often think about your Helmholtz resonator explanation (in a previous post here) when I attempt to describe this to folks. :cool:
  10. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Yes, its a simple concept very similar to the port in a loudspeaker. If you have a classical guitar handy, you can hear the "wolf" note of the soundhole resonance clearly. It is usually tuned to the G# above the bottom E, ie 4th fret on the bottom E string. This note sounds dull and thuddy on a typical guitar, as the energy is sucked up by the resonance. Play a chromatic scale up from the bottom E and you can discern it clearly.

    Not sure what note is, in a cello or violin.
  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Not to hijack this thread, but I wonder if the resonance/sounds you're describing are part of the reason why sampled instruments never sound quite right. The resonance points don't change quite as easily or as uniformly as sampled notes would.

    Sampled pianos suffer from similar anomalies as well. There's a subtle "Thunk" under every key strike in a grand piano, and oftentimes, these are left out, EQ'd out, or get shifted around, up or down (I'm thinking incorrect formants here, not unlike a pitch-shifted voice). Good sampling involves taking a new sample every two or three notes, but there's a world of acoustic things that happen when a real piano is played (some freqs merge and build up, others cancel each other out, etc.) Chords vs. single notes are drastically different in real world scenarios, too. I can always hear a fake grand as soon as I hear "Chords" that are really layered triggered samples.

    A busy cello part must surely have similar things going on. Cello is one of the hardest instruments to simply get a good sound; everything you do critically relates to everything else, and the resonant points are what they are; a good player works with them, understands them almost instinctively after a while.
  12. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I always throw this link into any discussion of wolf tones or dead spots. I had a slot head EB3 bass with so many dead spots I named it after a girl I dated in high school.
  13. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    If I've understood you correctly, you are recording *solo* cello, to be mixed in with other instruments that have already been recorded. In other words, you are making a multitrack recording, not a direct-to-stereo recording, yes? (Or "eh?" if you're from Canada...)

    Building on what's already been said, and linked to, the most important thing (apart from a good cello and cellist) is a good room. As Mr Spearritt explained, you'll need to be at least 1m from the instrument. At that distance, the sound of the room is going to be quite strong - a typical room in a typical house is not going to give you a good result, it will invariably sound small and roomy unless you put a lot of acoustic absorption in the room, in which case it will sound small and dead. You might need to go to a tighter polar response (hypercardioid, perhaps?) to minimise the room sound, because moving closer is not going to help at all.

    Having said that, if this is an overdub situation where the track is going to be mixed with other instruments, you may need to keep quite close to the instrument or use a very directional microphone. Too much room sound (of any kind) might make it difficult to 'sit' the cello in with the other instruments. Also, in a multitrack/mixing situation, a natural sound may not be so important, you might have the option of using EQ and reverb to make things fit. In such situations, the fine nuances of an acoustic instrument are often lost, so it might be smarter to focus on capturing the 'character' of the cello, rather than the pure sound of one. By this I mean a bit of bow noise, a bit of a note, and a bit of resonance - all you need to 'suggest' a cello. The listener will fill in the blanks, especially if there are other instruments playing in the mix at the same time. If you are able to, do a quick monitor mix during the session and choose a microphone position that gives the most appropriate cello sound when heard in the context of the mix.

    If the cello is doing a solo part, where no other instruments are playing, you're back to getting the most pure sound you can.

    So many things to think about!

    And here's another... are you recording this solo cello in mono or stereo?
  14. basilbowman

    basilbowman Guest

    Other slight distraction, be sure to check out Mr. Gervais' Cello Concerto that he's got on his website, it's worth watching, and I'm sure the recording quality is phenomenal, though when I watched it I was too amused by the image of 50,000 Rod Gervaises to be paying too much attention to the Sound Quality.

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