How do I record an orchestra?

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by kazam, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. kazam

    kazam Active Member

    Hello everyone, I am new here.

    Not having the budget to hire a sound engineer, I have been asked to record my orchestras upcoming concert. I've tried to pick up as much as I can but don't get a really good sound. Can I please get some pointers about how best to record a symphony orchestra with the following equipment:

    * Two audio technica 4047 large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphones
    * tascam DR100 digital recorder
    * XLR cables
    * Shure S15A mic stand (so it can go up to 15 feet high)

    The orchestra has 70 people in it. I recorded our last concert and a few rehearsals to test out the process and overall get a muddy sound I think. Where is the best place to put the mics? How high up and how far in front of the group? Where should they be pointing? Any and all help to get the best acoustic sound is very much appreciated!

    I'm not looking for the concertgebouw or Disney Hall sound, but looking for the best I can do with my equipment.

    I have attached a picture of the orchestra and if you look closely, you'll see my mic set up and placement in the front. I am overall not very happy with the results. The sound was way too distant, diffused, and just didn't like it did when in the room.

    Attached Files:

  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Your best bet with the equipment you describe is to use an XY pattern. Remember these are side address. You will want to put the stand about six feet behind the conductor and send it all the way up to 15'. Point the microphones down into the orchestra towards the last stands of violas and 2nd violins. If you aim at the winds and brass they will overbalance the strings in the recordings. It would be better to aim closer to the middle of the strings than too far to the bones. They're in the back for a reason. If you're lucky they will be so far into their crosswords they'll forget to play. As to the XY, if you have a stereo bar you can flip one of the mics so it hangs upside down almost tip to tip. Strictly speaking XY is 90 degrees coincident but you can be a little liberal if the orchestra is spread wide or is real narrow. It is always better to track a little soft than have the preamps clip on a field recorder. You can always import the cda or wav into an editor and normalize it. Another benefit to tracking a little quiet is that it benefits the noise floor of the microphones. If the audience is too close to the microphones I often select the applause within the DAW and limit/compress it down to the RMS prior to normalizing. You may also want to consider a high pass filter around 100hz to get rid of the heat/air conditioning and traffic outside.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Now THAT is funny!!!

    How do you get the trombone player off your porch?

    Pay for the pizza.
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    That was true in Chicago too. Even in the big orchestra. Of course Pokorny and Kleinhammer never missed an entrance but the hi jinx were real. Sometimes they bought the pizza........
  5. kazam

    kazam Active Member

    Thanks for the very helpful information. Exactly what I was looking for. I see now I was too far - about 10 feet behind the conductor, so I'll try to move it up a bit. PS: I play the trombone in the orchestra, so I understand your point about overbalancing the strings. One other very important detail I forgot to mention - we'll have a pianist there. So right behind the conductor is a piano and I will be 6 feet from the piano, right? So I should not face the piano because that will be way too loud compared to the strings since it is close and a brittle instrument? The XY pattern means the mics should face away from each other or towards each other?

  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Microphone practice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Yes, to include the piano you will have to have your mic's on the audience side of the piano. It is unusual to have the conductor's back to the piano. In a pro orchestra of course you'd have a couple of spot microphones hanging near the piano to pick up detail and you'd still use the main stereo pair in the hall as primary sound source.
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    It is a balancing act between being far enough back to get a blend of all the instruments after the bloom of sound and being close enough to not have everything be a watercolor sound. The issues with trombones and trumpets (other than being constantly late to the ictus and the malarky-check my sig, I'm right back there with you) is that they are directional sound sources and strings and winds are not generally half as directional. Throw in the fact that the trombone is the most efficient producer of sound in the group and your up on a riser which of course points you even more at the mic and you only get trouble.

    .....Nobody knows.....the treble I've seen.......
  8. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    You might also try the website called Innocent Ear. This is very good information that ANYONE learning to record orchestras
    can use. BTW, I have a pair of AT4047s, they are a very good mic, yu'll just have to learn how to position them.
  9. NorseHorse

    NorseHorse Active Member

    I would encourage anyone recording an orchestra to consider approaches other than XY, which results in a narrow stereo image. Related link: Recording the Wren Organ · TechDeck: XY and MS

    This recording below was done with just two mics. Well, almost... spots were used on the oboe and flute, but only when needed.

  10. kazam

    kazam Active Member


    Your recording sounds great! Please give me more details on the equipment - mics/preamps? How high and far from the orchestra were they? Was this an MS setup? I'll try that at our next concert.

    Here are my samples recorded with two microphones in ORTF configuration:
    YouTube - ‪LADRSymphony's Channel‬‏
    YouTube - ‪LADRSymphony's Channel‬‏

    The mics are close to the conductor because he likes that "close" sound rather than the room sound.
  11. audios

    audios Active Member

    While recording the Cleveland Orchestra with a fellow engineer a number of years ago, we used 2 AKG C-47's in the European "X" pattern with great success. They were hung to 25' from the floor and center stage behind the conductor. Spots (KLM 24's) were used for the piano and the flute. With the "X" pattern you will need to most likely reverse phase on one of the mics for better frequency response and stereo imaging.
  12. NorseHorse

    NorseHorse Active Member

    Thank you! Spaced omnis in an NOS-like arrangement. More details via email...
  13. BobJackson

    BobJackson Member

    hi NorseHorse, thats a great recording. Was it XY, spaced pair or other and how far from the orchestra? also, what mics did you use? Bob
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Bob, the post you are referring to is almost three years old now... just saying you may or may not get a response from the original poster, it depends on whether they are still around or not.

    For future reference, it may help to point out that the original date of the posts appear at the top of the post, on the left side of the colored (blue) bar, above the member's name.

    I see you are a new member, so I just thought I'd point that out to you.

    Welcome to the forum. ;)

Share This Page