First classical concert recording

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by David French, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hey guys.

    A couple days ago, I made my first serious attempt at recording a live classical concert. The file, a very high quality 40 second mp3, can be found here.

    Please be as critical as possible, and feel free to guess about things like setup, mics, mic technique, room size and type, or anything else you can think of. Also, I'd prefer to keep the discussion here.

    You guys are all great and I value your opinions greatly. Looking forward to being torn a new one. Thanks in advance.
  2. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    I'll go along with this...but please remember these are my opinions based on a 40 second mp3, played back in Samplitude on el cheezo PC speakers....

    1. Overall sound quality pretty good...the entire example is not centered in the stereo field, averaging 3-5 degrees to the right, never really getting centered...I missed the high end a bit both on playback and on the scope...I would not even venture a guess as to your signal chain, but it kinda sounded like either an XY or ORTF a little off center to the sources....perhaps even a single point mic, cardiod, again off center...

    2. The little I heard, it sounded like a pretty small room...again, impossible to guess without hearing more...I've done concert recordings (quartets, piano/violin kinda stuff) in people's homes with the same 'feel' to the environment.

    3. The performers seemed to know what to do...and I think you did a good job (again from what little I heard) of not getting in the way of me, that is a critical element to this kind of music; not overdoing it....

    4. I'm not gonna rip ya, I'm gonna suggest though to pay critical attention to centering your main mic array...I would like to hear a bit more on the highs (assuming they were there in the 1st place)...All in all, I think you are off to a good start....

    So, when you gonna spill the beans and let us know what's what?
  3. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi David
    I think the way the bowing is captured is nice -I like this quality in the small Oktavas, when you can get a some that aren't pieces of crap. What mics did you use?

    At the risk of being flamed to death, one thing I never cared much about is accuracy in stereo imaging, once the soundstage isn't dead or flat, and there is no problem here in that regard. If your mics were not really centred, and you use panning, you can end up with a situation where the timing cues and intensity based stereo aspects won't meet up and I think it's better to leave it as it is -not everybody will agree with this. I had this problem when my stereo bar began to turn clockwise very slowly during a concert, but when I tried to correct this with panning, things started to go a little weird, although this was an extreme case.

    My instinct would have been to give the piano more definition, but this is by no means necessary, and could sacrifice some aspects of the overall blend, which is quite nice. I actually really like this type of piano sound, especially when it's an accompaniment/collaboration.

    I really like this recording.

    Nice start!


    PS I should say here that I don't generally perceive stereo the way other people do. My left ear is not very good, yet I can hear higher frequencies with it than i can with my 'good' ear, so any remarks I make about stereo should be taken with a pinch of salt. My brother who has perfectly good hearing doesn't perceive stereo very well either, so maybe i just come from a family of freaks!
  4. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input guys.

    Yeah, my meters showed a hang to the right, but it sounded fine to me ears, so I left it.

    John, I had the same mixed feelings about the piano sound, but I ended up leaving it alone.

    I'm waiting to see what the forum mods say before I spill it, but I'll let some out now.

    That's Sursa Hall, the new 600 seat concert hall at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. It has variable acoustics (half live for this recording) and the entire 'shell' (the front wall) is a big QRD with a max well depth of about 1 foot. Also, this was recorded straight to two track, no post production at all.
  5. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Hi David,
    a really nice recording as a documentation of a performance.

    Some ideas from a rather new amateur here.

    I will start out that there obviously is a lot of right things here. The musicians know how to play, the room seems good, the balance between violine and piano is right, there is no obvious hiss or other disturbances. From that point you can go on and make it even better as always.

    First, the violine in my ears sounds a bit "scratchy" or "harsh" or how shall I put it. This can be from many reasons, but one of the reasons could be that you are a bit too close or not in the very sweet spot. In some directions the sound from a violine (in my small experience) can sound more "harsh" than in others. One classical position where it can sound really bad is from straight above the violine on top of a hardwood floor. There is of course quite a bit of taste involved in what you want to have here.

    The "scratchiness" can also be more or less prominent depending on the kind of microphone I use. In my experience my pair of Neumann KM-184 (cardoids) tend to enhance that sound, while my pair of KM-183 (omnis) tend to diminish it. In general I have quickly become a fan of using omni mics in this kind of recordings. They sort of have very warm round, beeing there sound to them. Some of my best recording has been done with four omnis, two in the center as main mics and two outriggers to get just a little more stereo and room feeling. A jecklin disc is also a really good device for some recordings.

    As for the room feeling, I sort of get the feeling that the violin is very close and the piano in a completely different room. There is almost no "room" in the violine sound, while almost too much in the piano.

    Now in my mind there is a bit of post processing you can do to enhance the sound a little. The following is what I tried.
    - increase left signal about 2dB to center the balance
    - increase the stereo spread a little. I went to about 130% in my Samplitude effect.
    - perhaps slightly lower the area around 3kHz, a few db to make it a little less harsh sounding.
    - a tiny bit of room simulation will also help in smoothing things out.

    There is a difficult place around 18 seconds into the piece where some kind of phasing effect makes the violine sound a bit off. I havenĀ“t worked on it but it can probably be postprocessed out as well.

    Good luck

  6. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I actually like this level of scratchiness, just like the breath of a singer. One thing I hate is when the scratchiness and smoother tone separate from each other, and you end up with an incoherent mess at the top -it can also happen quite easily with flute where you can hear a very unnatural fafafafafa on vibrato. The other extreme would probably be the 'stream-lined strings' that enabled Herbert von Karajan to turn the Beethoven symphonies into lift music (or maybe I should say elevator music :wink: )

    I like the balance here.

  7. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    John is right on the money. It is a question of taste very much.

    Just for the fun of it I will stick my neck out and make a guess on what mics and placement has been used. You can all laugh at me afterwards when the truth is revealed.

    My guess is: pair of cardoids in ORTF or similar, perhaps a pair of Studio Projects C4. Placement about 1 meter above the hardwood floor. (If this is correct, an change to a higher stand would change the sound for the better). Violine player in front, piano farther away, and we are seeing the back of the piano player from where the mics are.

    My clues: not much energy in bottom octave, say below 50 hertz points to cardoids. The stereo image is a bit diffuse (ORTF generally is a bit more "sharp" there), but could very well be cardoids. The piano lacks a bit of the high frequencys, so the mics are not quite in the "sweep" from the reflections of the lid.

    Now, go ahead and tell me the thruth. I actually enjoy beeing wrong in these things. It is part of the learning experience.

  8. snyderman

    snyderman Active Member

    Sounds good. Isn't that a viola, not a violin?
  9. violaman

    violaman Guest

    sounds like a viola to me

    Yeah, I would say Viola. Needs darker, smoother tone.
    I played the f minor for my Carnegie debut in 2000. It was recorded by the hall engineer.
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I really like the sound of the hall, David. Sounds like you're going to have a lot of fun working in there, if this is going to be a regular thing. (It looks a little bit like the Perelman Theater here in Philadelphia, in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The side balconies look similar, too.)

    My guess is you were limited by where you could put the mics, etc. (And I suspect it was from a lower vantage point as others have mentioned....?)

    At first glance from the picture, I'd attempt to fly a pair of omni's with the intention of getting the best blend of the pair, and then spot-mic as needed. You could also go with stand mic'ing a pair on the piano, a spot mic (preferably overhead) on the violin, and then an overhead omni pair a bit out in front of the front line of the stage, MAYBE even 1/3 of the way back for hall ambience, but watch out for time delays and smear.... That's a bit of overkill, but if you're making a multitrack live recording and want the best of both worlds, you'll get detail on the performers, some natural house ambience/reverb, and good applause level (which can get lost if you're too close to the performers anyway...)

    I think you've got a great space to work in, regardless, and it's lovely for a quick 2mic recording!
  11. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Aaah. Viola. There you see how much my guesses and advice is worth.

    only excuse might be that I play trombone, whatever that is worth.
  12. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input guys. I agree that a slightly darker tone would have probably been better. Gunnar, I admire your bravery in guessing! I'll tell it all after I hear from Ben and Cucco.
  13. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The definition of a gentleman is someone who owns a trombone but chooses not to play it.

    Rich (a recovering bass trombonist)
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I always thought it was the sax...

    David -

    In all, I think the recording is good, especially considering the fact that it's your first venture into classical. Let me tackle a few things here, but I'll preface it all with the fact that I only got the opportunity to listen through cans, not my Dynaudios, so I'll say I can give you an 80% answer.

    1st - yeah the stereo was shifted a bit - not much though. I don't see this as being something that would drive me nuts. In other words - don't worry too much. If it were a larger orchestral work, I would worry. An interesting note - you mention that you saw more amplitude on one side of the meters... The interesting thing about recording classical is that you really can't rely that much on the eveness of the meters. Often, the left will appear far stronger than the right b/c the violins are on the left - their sound is more directional and aimed at the mics. The basses are more omnidirectional and get picked up quite well by both mics. So, detented pots are super when recording classical - that way you always know your levels are matched. In the absence of detents, you can always use a good uncorrelated noise source as a level baseline. (AC hum should be equal through each pair of mics.)

    Okay, so the bowing was rather pronounced - often due to too close of proximity or a directional mic aimed directly at the bridge. This is my first clue that directional mics were used. My second clue is the bass on the piano - not quite as present or full as an omni would present.

    The balance between the instruments was fine on the recording, but I agree that it sounds as though the piano were in another room. Often, this is caused by poor spacing between the soloist and the piano or worse - the soloist is afraid they'll be covered up by the piano, so they go short stick. I'm guessing this was the problem. The HF is lost giving the impression of further distance.

    Again, I think this is an excellent recording, you should feel quite happy.

    My guess is definitely ORTF placed between 6 and 8 feet high (above the stage floor) aimed between 15 and 25 degrees down towards the stage and back from the soloist approximately 12 feet.

    Of course, I'm probably WAY off, so don't laugh at me too much. I might re-assess once I hear this through my monitors.

  15. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Yup, it was half stick alright. I had no control over their setup or placement. It was a concert, not a recording session.

    Thanks for the input J.
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Oh, we never do. :cry:
  17. violaman

    violaman Guest

    where should the mics be angled for strings?

    Dying to hear about the mic placement... I was "taught", as a starting point, to position the directional mics a meter away and pointing directly at the bridge. I fear that this is why those recordings have bow noise. Of course I like to experiment, and have found ways to smooth things out (to the diss-approval of my instructor at the recording class).

    It is interesting to note that a famous violinist, let's say Mr. P.Z. prefers a Coles ribbon "about a bows length off the bridge".

    I think that you are doing some fine things with this recording. I would recommend listening and analyzing recordings of the great artists from each particular instrument(whether it's Violin, Viola, kazoo, etc...) to see what great violists sound like on record. Examples such as Kim Kashkashian, Nobuko Imai, Yuri Bashmet. All amazing recordings and the benchmark for classical violists. Some of these Cd's even come with recording notes such as the gear, etc... Try an check them out with a variety of monitors.
  18. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Re: where should the mics be angled for strings?

    That will a very different sound than a non-ribbon at that distance. The Zuckerman/Barenboim live CD is a very nice sound from both vln and pno

  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Re: where should the mics be angled for strings?

    SSSSSOOOOOO True! I'm usually not a big fan of ribbons, but if you gotta use one, this is a good time and place. (Almost as good as shoving one in the bell of a tenor or alto sax).

    My personal favorite for recording violin or viola is the Schoeps Colettes with MK2 or MK21s. With these mics, you can get surprisingly close to the instrument and still have fantastic sounds. For a more directional sound but slightly more distance, the AT 4040 is quickly gaining favor in my book for bowed or plucked instruments.

    For cello, my favorite is quickly becoming the Gefell M296 - oh such a sweet cello sound.

    I've rarely gotten the pleasure to use the DPA 4061, but I understand they are phenomenal for violin/viola/cello too.

  20. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the tips everybody. I will spill it once I hear from Ben.

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