Radio Broadcast-String Quartet and a last minute request

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yesterday I did a string quartet live broadcast/2 track recording for a classical radio station near here. I used a pair of AKG Blue Line Cardioid microphones in a coincident-pair arrangement. I placed the microphones about 8 feet in front of the quartet and about chest high. The recording and broadcast came off very well*. The only problem was that at the last minute the cellist came up and asked me if I could at some reverb to the radio and recording mix since the room was so "dry". Luckily or unluckily I had a Roland SRV330 with me in my recording rack and was able to comply with his request. Since the request was very late (just before we went on the air) I had to do some really fast work to get it to work and did not have time to really dial in the best reverb for the session. It came off alright but I was wondering if anyone else has run into this type of "last minute" request and what you did about it. I honestly would have preferred NOT to add reverb when I was unsure of the outcome but I did as he requested.

    Thanks for any thoughts and or advice.

    *One of the pices was the Schubert String Quintet with two cellos. It was a piece I had never heard before but the quintet did a beautiful job on this 54 minute piece and it recorded very well.
  2. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member


    Sometimes it works the other way. Last night I recorded two Barbershop quartets in a live concert. (A benefit for Habitat for Humanity to fund Katrina/Rita efforts.) One of the quartets showed up with their sound-reinforcement setup and asked me to track the feeds from their 4 (!) Beringer (!!!) vocal mics for the recording.

    Time for diplomacy...

    I took the tact of setting up my own mics (experimented a little on this one, and put up a Brauner Phantom C with a Schoeps CMC58 on top in an MS arrangement), citing that fact that there were two quartets to record. I then offered them a split feed from the Brauner for the PA, which they took.

    After 1 piece in warm-up with my feed into the PA they had exactly the reaction I hoped for... "Can we take down our mics and just use yours?" This was judged just over the PA.

    What they really heard, though, besides the issue of mic quality, is that a quartet singing into one mic is a completely different performance experience than 4 people singing into 4 microphones. They told me afterward that they had a lot more fun singing then they do with their own setup.

    And I saved myself from having to do a post-mix to make the final product. :D

  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    Glad it worked our for you.
  4. ptr

    ptr Active Member


    I get these kind of requests quite often so I always carry a TC 3000 reverb when I do live broadcasts, just incase of that I would need it (I atually always have it online, but rearly activated), and I have half a dossin presets in the TC that I can apply on short notice. This said, I only do this I really must, if the recording will be used for an album or a broadcast at a later date as well, I do my absolute best to persuade the the muscisians to let me add any reverb at home in my editing room as I know I have much more controll of the finnished product there.

  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    I would have felt much better if I could have done this later since trying to judge reverb quality and headphones don't go well together at all.

    I would also have felt better if I had my M-3000 with me as I really like the quality of the reverb better than the Roland (although the Roland is not too shabby)

    Thanks for your input.
  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Yes this is the great Quintet in C, one of the most beautiful chamber pieces known to man, particularly the slow movement.

    Glad to hear the live broadcast went well, undoubtedly a real test of engineering skills.
  7. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    One of the (unstated) reasons I have it online all the time is that I can show the "Artist" when and if they ask for "some reverb, its so dry.." that I'm all ready ahead of the game (even if I deem it redundant), just the fact that they see the VU meters on the reverb moveing makes them more at ease...

    I can fully identify with the situation, sitting there and trying to judge the ammount of reverb on headphones is something no one of us enjoy. Unfortunatly its a part of the trade, the really complicated part (for me atleast) is how to educate the artist in the "hows and whens" the reverb (or any other process) is needed, or atleast in the "You have to trust my judgements" issue.

    I'm sure (atleast I hope) that every one here can agree on that it should always be our aim to help the artist sound its best on a recording or broadcast (No matter the quality or experience of the artist). I've always felt that If I can make someone sound just a tad better then they are with the "magic" tools I have at hand, that I've done my job just right! (Still knowing, that some cases are lost causes..)

  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the link. In all the years I did recording at the Conservatory I don't ever remember recording this piece. Too bad because it is a beautiful piece and sounds great. I did all the recording for the New Hungarian Quartet and they never recorded this piece maybe because they could not find a cellist equal to Andor Toth, Jr. who, by the way, just recently passed away. The recording sounds very good. I would have prefered to NOT have to add reverb but they were pretty insistant.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Well Tom, my .02 is probably what you already know: Advance planning with the group ahead of time to decide on this sort of thing is always preferable. Of course, that goes out the window when a know-it-all type shows up and wants some added reverb, and at the last minute!

    You probably made the right decision to go along with it, although I understand your misgivings. It's risky to say the least, esp with heaphones instead of good speakers and an iso room. (Were you able to get an air-check copy and see how close you were with your settings?)

    When it happens for me, I try to run with room/ambient mics and dial those in whenever needed for live b'casts, esp if it's in a church or ambient space. That way, at least you're being honest with the live audience: This is what it actually sounds like, in the real space. (After-the-fact mixes are much more manageable, of course.)

    I've been lucky enough to report that I only use the "live" digital reverb boxes for PA/Sound reinforcement work, and have not (at least in recent memory) been forced to dial in digital reverb for a b'cast.

    When I re-create a mix for "Live" (albiet delayed) broadcast, I still use the ambient mics for applause and some overall room sound, but I also will carefully dial in the appropriate room sim from Sequoia/Samplitue's fairly extensive list as needed.

    It's interesting, though, that one of the musicians got involved in "Helping" to do your job for you. I can't help but wonder if he's a part-timer in his own right; perhaps he feels he knows a thing or two about adding reverb. Hehehe....
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There seemed to be very little advanced planning - for instance - the radio station thought the group was to play a two hour concert. The group said they knew nothing about the two hour concert and were only prepared to play one number, the Schubert which was 54 minutes. After the station manager/president of the radio station got involved in the discussion it was again a two hour concert. The group was playing for a fund rasing including a silent auction and there was a 10 minute intermission in the middle of the concert to allow the donors to again browse the items in the auction which the group did not want but the fund rasier wanted. The announcer at the radio station did not have a copy of the script but after looking hard found it where it was suppose to be all along. The broadcast went off on schedule and even ended exactly when it was suppose to end. I listened to the CD/aircheck today and it sounds ok but it would have been better IMHO if we had left the reverb OFF since some of the tails sounded like we were recording in the Maltings in England. I am not ashamed of the work but it would have been better if they had not made me add reverb at the last minute. We also got the tinest bit of buzz from the cheap wall dimmers in the recording which may or may not have happened had we not tried to put in the reverb unit.

    I think the cellist fancies himself a recording engineer. He is a very good cellist and I think he should stick to something he knows.


    Oh well!

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