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Piano concert - do's and do'nts

Discussion in 'Piano' started by ghellquist, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    I have been asked to do a piano concert recording. The program includes two piano pieces (Rachmaninov pianoconcert 1 mvt 1 and Mozart pianoconcert 23 mvt 1) as well as some symphony work. It will be a full symphony orchestra in a rather reverbant church I have been told. It is a really good amateur orchestra, I would say borderline pro level. (Way above my trombone playing level at least).

    I´ve done a bit of this before, but just maybe some of you could add some ideas, tips, eye-openers or whatever that will tip the scales in my favour.

    I will most probably run 8 to 12 channels as this tends to be the maximum my brain and logistics can handle. My thinking has been like this:

    2 - main pair omnis in rather close AB. I love DPA4003 there
    2 - omni outriggers, maybe MKH20-s
    2 - omni on piano, Microtech Gefell 296 I think. (Have to listen to the piano though, believe it is a largish Steinway but I have not seen i yet).
    2-4 - spots on woodwinds (mix of cardoids and omnis)
    1 (?) - close spot on timpani for definition, DPA 4007
    2 - extra main pair, going into backup recorder (SD 722) and also copied into main system, most probably ORTF (thinking about mics here, might rent a Schoeps MK4 setup for test).

    Not expecting to need any ambience mics, but I will see when on location.

    My setup is laptop based running Samplitude, this has worked many times before without problems. Each mic gets its own channel.

    I will definitely be there for an on-location rehersal and for the dress rehearsal. I have an "intern" helping me out as well.

    So can this be improved?
    What mics would you choose?
    Any ideas welcome as I am definitely not a pro in any way. (Long-time we will see, right now it is a hobby).

  2. larsfarm

    larsfarm Active Member

    I'm no pro. Far from it, but I record most often in churches. For me the balance between direct and reverberant is what most often surprises me when I get home. Too much guess and too little experience I'm afraid... Listening on headphones during rehearsals in an empty church is not the same as listening to the concert with lots of audience (or perhaps just a few (who knows before...)) over speakers back home... So, I've began toying with the idea of having two main pairs with different direct/reverb characteristics to hedge my bets.

    best regards

    PS when you say outriggers what do you mean? Where would they go?
  3. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    Since everything is tracked separately, your options are open for the final mix. I use Samplitude to record 26 tracks with no problems, but not to a laptop :wink:

    Comments -- I would use an ORTF or MS pair (MK4/MK8) over the woodwinds, at aproximately the same height as and horizontally aligned with the main pair which, in this case would be a pair of Sanken CU41 in ORTF. They would be flanked by a pair of omnis (same as your setup). In addition to the Timp/percussion spots, I might try a spot on the 1st Bass for a little low end texture/boost.

  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Here is my take on that, hope it to be the common way to name them.

    I put up two more mics on the same line (more or less) in front of the orchestra. Say on the width of 1/3 and 2/3 or so. One would then normally be around the mid of the first violins and the other around the cellos or basses in a typical symphony orchestra setup.

  5. mathieujm

    mathieujm Active Member

    ??? And you are not a pro ?

    I'm not a pro, SO i don't have Senh, DPA etc. and sometimes I record piano concerto in reverberant area with my only 2 or 4 MBHO (with my new infra cardio caps) and have decent natural sounding, for a non-pro work.
  6. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't recommend any omnis for your main pair- perhaps ORTF, Blumlein, etc... The issue at play is reflections of the orchestra off of the lid of the piano. It can sound really odd. With a Blumlein pair, you can position it so that the null of the crossed fig-8's is aiming at the piano resulting in good orchestral sound and a decent isolation of the piano. This may be difficult to get a good sound with if you have to use mic stands, though... I usually do this by hanging the microphone which allows me to position the mic over the instrument and out far enough to get a good orchestral sound.

    Omni flanks sound good, with that rep, I'd probably stick to 2 mics on the woodwinds. If you don't want to go with a stereo pair, split the mics on to 2 stands- put one stand in front of the clarinet/flute and the other in front of the double reeds.

    For piano concerti, I like using a mid-side pair more than omnis. Gives you good mono compatability as well as the ability to vary the width of the instrument (because you obviously won't want the piano as wide as the orchestra).

    If you think the timps need a spot- go for that... That would bring you to 9 channels.

  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    And that, dudes, is why Ben is the shiz-nit.

    This is the absolute best way.

    Personally, I might go MS on both the orchestra and the piano versus blum on the orch and MS on the piano, but that's because I like to get my reverb more from the omnis. I know both should provide a good, uncorrelated reverb, but to me, the sound is better from the omni flanks for reverb.

    Also agreed on the spots.

    IF you need spots (and that's a big IF), a stereo pair (ORTF or NOS) over the woodwinds about 6-8 feet up- just be sure not to obstruct the view between the players and the conductor. Play with panning - they may not need to be panned hard left and right.

    As for the spot on the timp - be careful. In churches, which often have unruly bass/mid-bass response - there can be a reinforcement of one or more of the timpani's notes anyway. An unchecked spot could seriously exacerbate that.


  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    LOL Jeremy...

    I should probably clarify why I use a spaced pair as my woodwind spots... It comes down to the way that I pan things when I record large ensembles. I will almost without fail pan hard L-C-R. Large image is created by the way I set up my main front mics (main pair and flanks).

    The woodwinds are part of this philosophy- I basically send them right up the middle. I find that the pickup I get has a bit better mono-phase compatability from a wider spaced pair than a near-coincident pair that has been panned center. Most coincident pairs don't have the dig at the ends of the section that I need (ie bass clarinet, contra bassoon, english horn, etc...). Spacing the mics out gives me better ballance of the woodwind section (including harmony instruments) and it sums to mono better...

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Ahhh... I thought you were advocating a stereo pair - I misread. (Though it would work, especially in this over reverberant situation.)

    My personal use for woodwind spots is typically omnis (go figure), but I've been finding great success using fig 8s in various techniques as spots too.

  10. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    I have nothing to add to all the great advice so far, except to check the architecture of the church - you said it is quite live. If it's a barrel-vaulted ceiling I'd avoid any kind of coincident pair (Blumlein, MS, XY, etc.) if it must be placed in the centre of the room's width (i.e. beneath the highest peak of the ceiling) - you'll get so much reverb you'll think you're in a bowl of jello. Near-coincident and spaced pairs seem to work much better for me in such situations.

    My 6 Rupees worth...
  11. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    I always concluded that its due to using a fig8 in such an array rather than the coincidence aspect. I agree that with spaced pairs you can achieve a drier sound with more reverb rejection, but that's just because BOTH your mics can be cardioids or tighter pattern. If they are omnis or hypos, you're still screwed just as much as with one of the coinicident pairs mentioned.
  12. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    You might be right, come to think of it. Most of the nasty experiences with barrel-vaulted ceiling experiences I can recall have been with Blumlein. I do know that ORTF delivers a more acceptable result in that environment.
  13. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Thank you for your help so far. I have been traveling, so just came back to reading this. Will have to ponder things, but it seems like I have to prepar for all possibilities and make sure I have access to an ORTF main pair. Beeing an omni man 8) this will take a bit of thinking.


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