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Classical singers

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by ethandepuy, Oct 28, 2007.

  1. ethandepuy

    ethandepuy Guest

    Hey everyone,
    I was hoping to get some insight on recording a classical soprano soloist and piano accompanist... more along the lines of mic placement. I've done a few audition cds for students before, but this one is especially important to me because it will be helping to pay for a new large diaphragm condenser. I'll be using two Rode NT5s and one MXL 990 on a Steinway grand piano and Soprano soloist in a luscious old sanctuary. All input would be greatly appreciated!
  2. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Before I recommend something, what sort of music is she singing? Also, you say "luscious old sanctuary", any idea of the reverb time?
  3. ethandepuy

    ethandepuy Guest

    I can't really say that I know the exact reverb time because I haven't been there yet... I know that she is planning on singing Strauss, Mozart, and I want to say Bizet. I'm also not sure of exact titles. Sorry, I guess this info probably won't help you in answering much. I can say that she is an enormous, well-trained voice for her age (a 17 year old dramatic coloratura soprano) and I'm sure that her voice will fill the space. Even just generalizing would help. Thanks again!
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I have the immense pleasure of working with a wonderful up and coming Wagnerian soprano and have recently been doing so in a large, marble and mahogany sanctuary and I think I know exactly where you're coming from.

    The bad news is that I'd be hesitant to do what you're asking with the gear that you have.

    I'm not picking on the quality since I'm a firm believer that even modest gear can make good recordings. However, even with a minimalist approach, I found myself using no less than 5 microphones for her.

    In my situations, I did a solo mic (used a ribbon placed below chest level aiming towards the mouth but about 5 feet or more out), a stereo piano mic (Mid/Side ribbons to put the soprano in the rear null of the M/S pattern and get a good pickup on the piano) and 2 hall ambience mics. Also, I had a single condenser under the piano to help provide a little extra definition that was missing from this particular piano.

    That being said, if I were forced to use the gear you mention, I would go one of a couple routes.

    1- Rodes on the piano, MXL on the soprano (not too close...with this mic a 5' distance is a good starting place!) and then enhance the natural reverb with a little fake reverb - tastefully.

    2 - Rodes as overhead pair with the MXL on the piano as a spot to lend clarity. A booming soprano probably will not need the extra help whereas the piano will get lost in a sea of mushiness.

    Do you have access to other/additional gear as well? Borrow...steal, etc.


  5. ethandepuy

    ethandepuy Guest

    Thanks for the help, I may very well be able to get my hands on some better mics. I'm also looking to buy a few new mics soon, so any tips in that matter would also help!
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Not necessarily better...(remember, it's not always about the $$$ spent, it's the time spent). Even a few more mics would do well.

    If you can get your hands on a ribbon mic, do it. Soprano sounds lovely through ribbons. When they get to the biggest fortissimos, there's no crunching!

  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Great minds and great engineers think alike. I'm with Jeremy on this one as I too have recorded an incredible Wagnerian dramatic soprano. You're either a dramatic soprano or a coloratura not both. Although you can be quite dramatic as a coloratura. Or, quite colorful as a dramatic. A Porsche is like a VW but a VW is not like a Porsche.

    Most soprano's with the exception of mezzos and contraltos are more listenable on a ribbon microphone than on a condenser microphone. In spite of the fact that my Grammy nomination was for a dramatic soprano recorded on a AKG 414B-ULS than on my favorite ribbon. Mostly because the producer liked that microphone better since we compromised on which mixer was used. I used a supplied AMEK, instead of my API, which was mushier sounding than the more aggressive sounding API. In that situation, large diaphragm condenser over small diaphragm condenser.

    Compromise is not a four letter word
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Hopefully, you'll also want to stay away from any equalization. It really shouldn't be necessary. But watch that gain staging. Good dramatic sopranos, like the one I recorded, Alessandra Marc, can be rated in horsepower as opposed to decibels. Overload ain't pretty.

    Not overload (I lost 50 pounds)
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  9. ethandepuy

    ethandepuy Guest


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