Recording a Harp - Concert and Folk harps

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by Graek, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. Graek

    Graek Guest

    A friend of mine is an excellent harpist, and plays both full sized concert harps as well as smaller folk harps. She wants to get a small "studio set-up" to record some of her playing. She knows NOTHING about recording and asked me about a $40 mic she saw...anyway...I decided I'd look into for her, since she has NO clue what's good and what's not - and that you're not going to get much for $40!

    So, I'm looking to set her up with a pair of matched condensors and a small audio interface for her Apple Laptop...

    She's on a very tight budget, so I was thinking something like:

    1 Presonus FiREBOX (or the M-Audio 410)
    and a matched pair of MXL 603s

    - or maybe spend more for a pair of Studio Project C4s?

    I'll admit I haven't recorded a hapr before, so my mic choices may be a bit off. I definitely think some warm, full sounding mics would suit a harp, rather than something that emphasizes the high end too much. The setup will be mostly (99%) for home recording, not live.

    Any sugestions?!?!?! Some better mics for less money? Or even a tad bit more money? Better firewire interface?

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Numerous performance Harp's, limited budget, $40 microphone? Can you say Penny Wise and dollar foolish?

    This is where the Beyer M160 ribbon would truly shine over any condenser microphone. Harps and ribbons are made for each other. That along with something like the MOTU 828 FireWire enabled interface with 4 microphone inputs makes the most sense. A ribbon offers better transient response than any condenser microphone. It would have a lovely full tone, instead of a thin strident one that she would get with a small capsule condenser microphone and/or large capsule condenser microphone.

    Plucky broad
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. Graek

    Graek Guest

    Well, I shouldn't have pluralized the concert harp...but still, just one of them costs$15k, so... Yeah, micing it with a $40 mic? She was a little off the money there...pun intended.

    However, at this time getting a pair of M160s for $900/pr is out of her current budget... I'm (or rather, she's) looking more for something in the $300/pr range. Times are tough....
  4. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Mar 29, 2005
    WY / CA
    Home Page:
    The aforementioned advice regarding ribbons and harp would deliver the above request. Cheapy condensors probably will not. The problem with ribbons is that you need more gain than most inexpensive computer interfaces provide (cleanly, anyway).

    If the harpist is only looking to record for her own rehearsal and performance evaluation, then the $40 mic solution would fit the bill.

    But if she is looking to enter these recordings in competitive circumstances (auditions, grants, etc.) then her money will be better spent on hiring a professional engineer and acoustic space.
  5. recordista

    recordista Active Member

    Sep 7, 2001
    Silver City, NM
    Home Page:
    Harps love Blumlein. I've had reasonable success with a local harp teacher using a pair of Studio Projects B3 (just a tad over $300 for both.)
  6. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    Remy suggests ribbons, Zilla supports that, and Recordista suggests Blumlein. I recorded an entire album of harp music using nothing but a Royer SF12 (Blumlein ribbon) in the beautifully live chapel of St Patricks in Manly, Sydney. It sounded great.

    But... as Zilla pointed out, ribbons need good clean gain (unless you've got an active ribbon) and, personally, I think Blumlein should be reserved only for situations where the room itself is very good sounding and of considerable size. Putting Blumlein's 360 degree polar response on a single instrument such as the harp means that at least 75% of the information reaching the microphone will be room sound. If it's a small room, you'll get a small recording. If it's a bad sounding room, you'll get a bad recording. If she's recording at home, she's likely to get small and bad recordings...

    The reality is that it's an insult to put a $40 mic in front of a $15k harp! It is likely that your harp playing friend is not yet aware of the importance of the right microphone, but no doubt will recognise a bad sound when she hears it. So...

    If you really want to help her, make it an educational exercise by taking a few different microphones, with differing polar responses and at different price points, to her house and using them in-situ. Then let her decide. The microphone will be far more important than the interface, so take along any interface you've got that will work with her Macintosh laptop's hardware and software - what's really important is letting your friend hear the different mics and techniques in order to find the preferred combination for *her* harp in *her* room.

    Doing anything less than that is not really helping her at all, and falls back on the old and unreliable 'painting by numbers' approach - "this mic and/or technique is always good on harp", etc. It is rarely that simple outside of the concert hall or scoring stage, unfortunately!

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