Full orchestra in a small space

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by Danielle, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. Danielle

    Danielle Guest

    Hi all,

    I need some advice on recording a full orchestra in a rather small space, with high ceiling. Standing in the back of the room, the orchestra didn't sound too bad, however, if moving toward the orchestra, where the mics will be allowed, the orchestra sounded like a huge mess, with no woodwinds! You might have guessed by now that the stage area is also very limited, but will spot mics be a good idea if I can actually find the space to put them? Please, any advice is greatly appreciated!

  2. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    How large is the orchestra: 25, 50, 70 players?
    What compositions are the performing?
    What mic technique(s) did you try that sounded so messy?
    What equipment do you have available to use?

    Need more details.
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Here's what I have done for the National Cathedral Symphony Orchestra when they recorded in my basement.

    For the brass players, I cut the ends off of some microphone cables and wired the negative to their cheeks (duct taped them there) and the positive to their mouthpieces. I then ran each player to an individual channel on my console. For woodwinds, I would do something similar, but because the clarinetists kept yanking off their reeds to dick around with them or somehow imply that their mistakes were reed-bourne, I had to actually place the lead in some of their tone-holes.

    Then, for the strings, I simply installed individual pickups on each instrument.

    As for the percussion, hell, they played loud enough that it created the necessary impressions on my hard drive without mics even being needed.

    What was really cool about this setup was that, if the winds or the brasses made significant mistakes, I could turn on the phantom power and remind them "who was in charge." Of course, I have to switch it on in 4 channel banks so I was unnecessarily pissing off the other 3 horn players all the time! :twisted:

  4. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member


    That is classic... :cool: (y) I never met a brass player that didn't need a little 48v DC to the cheek...

    Anyways, to answer the question- I would go with a 3 point array across the front of the group (stereo pair and omni flanks or perhaps 3 omnis a la Mercury) and if you need to spot the woodwinds to hear them, then spot the woodwinds with another pair.

  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey - don't forget, I got a dig in on you reed-lickers too!

    But seriously--

    The three point array works in just about any situation, so as Ben says, this is a good approach. Be careful with the direction that you point the mics - even omnis exhibit some beaming at higher frequencies and in a small room you will have serious issues with early reflections mucking up the works.

    Best bet would be to aim down 30 to 40 degrees into the orchestra so that your higher frequencies hitting the mics are almost entirely direct sounds. You'll obviously not get good, usable reverb in a tiny space so be prepared to add some in post.
  6. Danielle

    Danielle Guest

    Thanks to all, I am thinking along the same line of having a main system and spread 2 more omnis across. If I can squeez in the spots for woodwind, I think I am more or less covered. Is there a way to get the timpanis to have some definition, not just rumbling in the room?

  7. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    You may find that if you can't get a woodwind spot in that using a mid-side pair may help your woodwind pickup. If you put a hypercardiod in as your mid, it is like focusing a laser into the center of the group. It will really help your pickup of the woodwinds.

    You can try spotting your timps, but I'd be careful as timpani needs space for the sound to develop. If they are on a hollow platform/stage, figure out a way to strengthen the floor underneath- it will help the projection of the instrument.

  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Doesn't the score for a brass player simply say ... suck, blow, suck, blow, blow, suck ....

    Q. How do you get a trombone player off your porch
    A. Pay for the pizza.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I don't know, I never actually pay attention to what's on the music. :lol:

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