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Recording Classical

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by dvdhawk, May 2, 2012.

  1. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I know many of the pillars here at Recording.Org do very well at expertly serving the needs of the classical community.

    This article in the regional section of my Google News caught my eye - entitled Local classical musicians gladly pay to record from a Philadelphia paper. [I don't know how long they'll archive the linked article - so good luck beyond today.]

    Of course skimming down the long page of news stories the words, "musicians gladly pay to record" triggered something in my brain that thought - I must have misread that. The article itself isn't that deep, but it did make me think.

    I guess in my mind I have envisioned classical musicians as either the 'starving artist' types who are too broke to record professionally - or the other end of the spectrum part of a renowned symphony hundreds of miles from here being served by the aforementioned pillars (in other words the 'big boys' of classical recording). Maybe I've missed the market in between due to my own misconceptions.

    Maybe the classical mind-set, at every level is, 'it's taken me X-number of years to master my own instrument to this level, perhaps I should hire someone equally dedicated to the art/science of recording.' As opposed to the mind-set of many of the more "instant gratification" genres - where they seem to think they can master recording in the same amount of time it took to master playing Louie Louie. (both in their bedroom)

    There isn't a ton of classical work to be had in my region, but I have recently expanded into some live big band / jazz band recordings and have enjoyed it immensely. I've enjoyed the music from outside my normal musical diet and I've enjoyed the challenge presented by the work. ( and gotten what I think are some excellent recordings appropriate to the genre )

  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I think that on average the "classical" musician is interested in quality recording because they have to use their ears more than in electrified music. I don't mean to be pejorative to non-classical musicians by any means. Those are different yet equally important skill sets that all of the above should cross over more often. Honestly, non orchestral musicians often strive for the actual musical implication more than the mroe technically proficient orchestral brethren.

    What I mean is that blending a section of 14 first violins and 12 seconds and 12 violas and 8 cellos and 6 double basses requires a different kind of tonal awareness than non-orchestral music. Also, the average classical musician does work harder mastering his/her instrument of choice than 90% of the average non-classical musician.

    As a result the orchestral musician maybe wants the best recording they can afford even if it is for their own archival purposes.

    *CAVEAT* There is no corner on the market for self deception!!!

    I have met many many classical musicians that were not up to the level they perceived themselves to be and quite frankly, wouldn't believe it even after they heard their own recording. Also, the orchestral musician still has to be taught how to go about the recording process and especially the bit that states: the number of takes is inversely proportional to the quality of the take.

    There isn't a lot of work in the non major symphony recording business. I mostly do chamber society recordings as well as student audition CD's and some teacher's recitals. This would be exacerbated if I were in a bigger town since a larger college would normally have students recording recitals as part of their coursework. An exception to this was at Northwestern where you had to hire your own recording done for your degree recitals.

    Just some quick thoughts in the middle of tuning pianos.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I think you'll find that most folks in the fine arts classical music field have spent years studying with individual teachers, going to universities, playing and civic orchestras, playing and regional orchestras, playing in state orchestras, touring Europe, all that stuff. So when they want a quality recording made of themselves, they'll generally seek out other professionals. But sometimes that doesn't quite work. I've posted this one before which I've always found very funny. When I was only around 15 years of age, I had already recorded operatic singers, concert violinist's because those were my parents. A friend of ours who was the principal harpsichordist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and her husband was the principal bass player for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, wanted a recording of herself playing her custom built Dowd Harpsichord. At 15, even though I had recorded her already, live, she had inquired around to find who was the best recording engineer in Baltimore. So she went to George Massenburg's, ITI studio in Hunt Valley Maryland. She simply hated the recording. She hated the way it sounded. When I asked her if I could hear it, I plopped it on to my TEAC 7030 at 15 IPS. I already knew who George Massenburg was. He had recorded the Towson State Jazz Band featuring Hank Levy. It was awesome sounding through his custom-built, parametric equalizer console. Through which she also made her recording. And her beautiful baroque harpsichord sounded like a piece of rock 'n roll because he had miked it that way. So I told her, it was the best sounding rock 'n roll harpsichord of baroque music I'd ever heard. He might be a great engineer but he didn't know how to record a harpsichord. I knew better at 15 how to do that. He later went on to record Earth Wind & Fire, Linda Ronstadt, the Emotions, Little Feat but I still wondered if he ever figured out how to record Baroque harpsichord? He sure did know how to design some fine equipment but did he actually know how to sound design? Accuracy is one thing technique is something else. You can have technique with crappy equipment like I did or, you could have accuracy with poor technique.

    Don't think about the equipment. Think about the technique.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Great story! Maybe George was just ahead of his time. I hope he got the gig recording Tori Amos' harpsichord through a Marshall amp.

    I think my technique is solid and instincts are good. I was extremely satisfied with the results I got first time out of the gate doing a big jazz band. I had a sound in mind of what that kind of recording should sound like, and placed my mics accordingly. Whether or not I have the sensibilities for that style of music aside, the recording I got sounded EXACTLY like I wanted it to - which in the end is all I can shoot for. I'd welcome feedback from both of you, but it's not my project, so I wouldn't want to step on anyone's toes or post copyrighted material to give an example. [PM if interested] The big swing numbers sound are big and bouncy and with the moody jazz tunes you can imagine the black & white smoke filled scene that goes with the sound of a muted trumpet and brushes swirling on the snare.

    It was done in an unfamiliar recording venue, with nothing more than a 20 minute pre-show soundcheck to make sure I was getting the levels I needed. I'd been in the auditorium before, but never recorded anything there. During mixdown I just had some questions about standard practices regarding the width of the stereo image, and panning the instruments to recreate their physical location on stage - which the folks here were very helpful with their advice.

    The second go-round I was able to improve some of the spot solos just by a couple minor changes. (They brought me back for the next one, so I must be doing something right.)
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I've actually never purchased a Tori Amos recording. I wasn't even aware that George Massenburg was her engineer? Funny, since Philip Brecher and myself recorded her first demo for her Methodist Minister father at our studio, Hallmark Films & Recordings, in Owings Mills, Maryland when she was just 14 years old and still known as Ellen Amos. Her father drove her 60 miles plus to our studios. Unfortunately, my copy of her first demo was lost when Phil's studio went up in flames some years ago. All I have left is from a contest for a song about Baltimore. We brought her together with a very talented, very young and very poor ghetto band from the heart of Baltimore city. I posted it here for you all to enjoy. Ellen Tori Amos Baltimore 1978 by user3139903 on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free It's pretty amazing to hear her singing the lead & backup harmony vocals. She was also playing the piano my Yamaha C three. We were looking for another Earth Wind & Fire type band. While she was only 14 the other 14-year-old kid was playing the drums. Recorded on my custom console and tracked to our brand-new Ampex MM 1200-16. We only had a single 1176 & an EMT plate. She was fabulous, is fabulous. We wanted to produce her but Philip's dad wanted her father to pay for the sessions. We told Max this kid is going to be a superstar and we have an unbelievable opportunity here. But he was insistent and so, it never came to be. C'est la vie

    Opportunity knocks but once
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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