guidance needed

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by David French, Jun 23, 2005.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hi all.

    I'm doing a cello and piano recording tomorrow night. It's the dreaded 'soloist off to the side' setup. I had a sound check this morning, and it didn't go very well. I had an M-S pair on the piano, sopt on the cello, and omnis on opposite sides of the hall up on the balcony. My concept was to get a nice, wide, bright piano sound with a warm, smooth cello up the center. The piano sound came with little difficulty, and the room sounded great, but teh cello sound just would not come to me. I tried a CMC6/MK2 and a R-122 hi, low, near, far, to the side, every which way, but despite my efforts, it always sounded equally bad. I listened to him with my ears for a good while, and his tone is not the best. The sound is scratchy, and I think this may be due to his instrument as much as his technique. I need advice on how to get a smoother sound. I have MK2, MK4, R-122, and KM183/4 at my disposal., maybe a few others if anyone can think of a popular mic that will be better than any of these. So, what would you choose and where would you place it?

    I have other options that i'm keeping as backup plans.

    One is to, instead of the spots, shoot them from the side with a fairly wide pair of omnis, which would compress their width. Obviously it wouldn't be cool to have the soloistonly in the left speaker. I think this might work because from the side, the width of the group is naturally compressed when compared to a frontal attack. I'm thinking omnis over cardioids so that the reverb isn't so lop sided. Blumlein would sure be nice because of this reason, but I can't get away with this because of the width issue.

    Another option is M-S out in front. This seems safe but boring. This way I could choose the width myself (very narrow). Also, XY out in front would really clamp down on their width as well. Again, safe and boring.

    I hate this situation! Why can't they just sit in front of the damn piano?!

    So, should I keep on with my original plan or bail out?

    Thanks in advance.

    p.s. - I am multitracking this time
  2. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I think you may have to let go of your pre-conceived, soloist-center imaging concept. The cello is sitting on the (audience) left: accept it, work with it. There is no law that the cello HAS to be in the center. In fact, you may find that the fidelity of this troublesome sounding cello improves when emanating predominately from a single speaker. My gut feeling is that all this m/s-from-the-side-up-balcony-over-the-hill-and-through-the-woods idea is just beyond.

    The problem with recording the soloist left of the piano is a disconnected image between the players. Avoid that empty gap. Compressing/narrowing the image is a poor solution because it just makes the recording sound small and monaural. Instead, let the recording be wide and open, but still find a way keep the two performers connected. Multiple mics may help, but I think your overly exotic proposal is uncalled for. You just need to find the right mic positioning.
  3. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    There's no law, but I really wanted the cello in the middle. So you think this is too much? As I understand it, this is a standard technique: soloist spot, piano pair, ambient pair. It doens't sound to extravagant to me.

    Thanks for your input Zilla.
  4. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I would tend to be with Zilla on this one... You may want to experiment with a good main pair that is positioned slightly off axis of the performers. There isn't any rule that says the mic needs to be directly in the center. That may help get the connect between the two performers.

    When I have multi-mic'd performances like this, I've found that a m-s pair on the piano works well and a boundary mic can be good on the cello. The best (discovered by mistake) that I've found for boundary micing is a B&K 4006 sitting on the floor using a touch of foam as a shockmount. PZM's don't sound particularly good, but the Schoeps boundary mic is pretty nice too... Plus, it gives you the advantage of having clean sightlines from the audience.

    In the end, though, I'd still go with the single pair idea and work with the position to get a good sound.

  5. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    No, it really isn't all that extravagant. But I am comparing this to my own experience in the same position-locked situation. I have made many successful recordings in such a scenario with just two mics. By contrast, my feeling was that for a simple recital, all those mics and m/s processing and multi-tracking seemed a little much.

    (please re-read my earlier post, I was editing it while you were responding).
  6. David French

    David French Well-Known Member


    I never thought there was a rule that the mics had to be in the center. I even suggested a pair from off to the side. Did you see that? 2nd full paragraph in my first post. Also, my approach here came from what you said in this post

    You're the man, Ben. I've been very impressed with the recordings i've heard of yours, and I tend to trust whatever you have to say. So, If you had to, how would you spot this cello?


    Don't get me wrong, I believe as you do that the fewer mics, the better. I wish I could use just a pair (I probably can), but if I really wanted the cello in the center (which I do), this is what I think it takes.

    I reread you post. Thanks for the additional and very helpful info.
  7. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I guess I can't make up my mind... :oops: I guess either way can work depending on the day. I guess I'm not overly fond of the instrument coming way out of the far side, but it is ok if it is partially off to the side. When I use a single pair, I'll often move it to the cello's side to center it a bit more.

    When I spot, I usually use a Royer ribbon (when I have one), a Beyer ribbon, sometimes a Sennheiser MKH 40, or a B&K 4006.

    Another thing I do is I usually delay the spot on the cello (if I use one) by a few milliseconds (perhaps 4-6). The delay helps push the cello further back in the image and therefore it may fit better in the image. BTW, the cello in the flash animation of my opening of my website was done with a 426 in M-S and a TLM 103 on the cello.

  8. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks Ben. Can you tell me where you usually end up putting the cello spot? After this morning's debacle, i'm really not sure if i've got a clue anymore, so could you please spell it out for me? :(

    I've decided to throw up a main pair on the stage, off to the cellist's right (the piano is on his left). I've picked out a pair of CMC6|MK4, 25 cm apart, angled 60 degrees apart. This will compress their width a bit as well as give precise imaging. I'm wondering how far off center i'm going to end up, and how off-balance the reverb is going to be. I'm multitracking and I have the balcony mics, so I'm guessing I can make up for it with those.

    I'm going to keep the M-S on the piano, as it might prove useful at mixdown, especially since it will be significantly forther away from the main pair, but I really want to refrain from spotting the cello as this would give me three mic stands to move between pieces. Not only will this take too much time, but if there's even one recordist in that audience, I just know i'm going to hear "overkill" disguised in a cough. I am only recording one piece in a larger concert with other acts. First up is a pair of flutes, so I can't leave mics onstage.
  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    A couple thoughts... I'd really be careful with that many mics if they aren't going to be elsewhere on the concert. It will risk interrupting the flow of the show.

    A couple more thoughts. Keep your pair at a standard width, otherwise your main pair may risk having a strange image from not being wide enough. 60 degrees is pretty narrow. You may not want the full 110 degrees of ORTF, but 90 may be a good compromise. Also, you may consider pulling the main pair back a bit. When the pair is too close to the source, it will exaggerate any image of what is in front. When you pull back, you are pulling in a bit more room and therefore you have a somewhat less distinct image. Sometimes, this is a good thing...

    As for spotting a cello, I usually use a small tripod boom stand and place the mic a bit over the top of the music stand. Sometimes, I'll angle the mic down so it is pointing lower on the instrument if the top end is too harsh. Basically, I come in from about 3-4 feet high and aim the mic from there. Small adjustments in mic angle can make pretty huge differences in sound.

  10. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    The voice of the inexperienced here, but maybe you could use another perspective.

    There's a possibility this sow's ear can't be a silk purse, no matter what you do.

    You said the room sounded great, and the piano came in with no effort. So you've got a good room, good equipment, and you know what you're doing, so to an outside observer such as myself it appears that the only variable left is the questionable tone put out by the cellist. That itself would either be an issue of the operator or the instrument, both of which are out of your control.

    Could it be that no matter how much you mic this thing, the sound source is thwarting your efforts, or am I missing the issue?

    Just a thought

  11. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Well, it's all over, and I think I survived. Thanks very much to all that suggested going with the main pair approach. I'm sure it wouldn't've ( my new patented double contraction ) turned out as well as it did with my original idea. Mutitracking sure is saving my ass, i'll tell you that. Mix forthcoming.

    Ben, I'm a bit confused by something you said.

    A pair of cardioids 25 cm and 60 degrees apart has a recording anle of 104 degrees (at 2 meters from the source), while ORTF only has 98, which would make ORTF narrower that the setup I chose. From the mic distance I chose, my performers occupied an angular space of about 50 degrees. I went with the setup I did in order to compress their width by about 2:1. I think all my reasoning here is right, unless i've gone completely insane, which is always a strong possibility. Also, thanks for the advice on spotting. I will try that next time.

    Keith, you're probably right. I'm quick to blame myself, and I think this is a fairly healthy attitude, because it keeps me striving toward a higher standard. I am very new to this (but not to recording), and perhaps I shouldn't expect so much. This is like my 5th concert ever. Thoe onle thing that keeps the blame on myself is the fact that an older, wiser engineer like everyone else on this forum could've kicked my ass all over the place in the same situation. I'd love to hear anybody's approach to attitude if anyone would care to muse a bit.

    So, mix forthcoming, hopefully tonight.
  12. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    And here it is:

    Brahms Cello Sonata Op. 38 in e minor

    The file is snippets from each of the three movements, about 20 seconds each.

    I used a pair of CMC6/4, 25 cm and 60 degrees apart, about 7' from the cello, 6' high, 0 degree axis aimed at the cellist, 60 degrees to the cellist's right. The vast majority of the sounc comes from the main pair, but there is a bit of MS spot on the piano and a bit more very ambient room pickup, no time delay. I did precisely align the piano spot to the main pair, and there was very little cello in the piano spot.

    I think it came out ok, and it should please the performer, but i'm not that happy. Apparently, this particular 9' Steinway sounds like dog $*^t when recorded from its front left side (the main pair) It's odd, becasue the MS pair, in a completely different place, had the same unpleasant 1-2k ugliness. Either the piano sucks ass, or I do. Oh well, at least I greatly improved the cello.

    So, what does everyone think? What would you have done to get a better recording?

    What do you guys think?
  13. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Its not bad. I would have ditched the room ambient mics, as there is plenty of room sound in the main mics. This is also one benefit of an omni main pair, in a good room, you don't need ambient mics, two less channels.

    I think the piano sounds too distant for Brahms. Perhaps some more piano in the mix would be better for a correct balance. The locations of the instruments are a bit unorthodox, what would happen if you just swapped the channels in mastering?

    The room sounds pretty good. The cello has a good perspective, ie right distance from the mics but it still sounds a bit scratchy and lacking in tone, but I am not sure this is anything you did, I think its the instrument and the player.

    But its a very respectable sound. Nice one. Its fun isn't it, especially when you have to do this stuff live, and get it right.
  14. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input David. I forgot to mention that I used the most room in mov't I, less in II, and none in III. I thought it fit the mood and pace of each movement nicely that way.

    Swap the channels in mastering eh? Now that's a novel idea. ;)
  15. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Personal taste here, but I think you should not change the overall sound within a work-- it is musically distracting.

    From Brahms to Berg, yes, but not between movements.


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