recording help!

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Hideo, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    Hi guys, I am new to the recording thingy so I have a bunch of questions! this saturday I am going to record a violin and piano piece and I need to know how far the piano or violin have to be to the 2 mics do pick up eachother. I also wanted to know some equlizer tips for both of the insturments. I am using Adobe adution with a mobliepre and a M audio mic. Thanks soo much!

    edit. Also I need to know what is good for mixing ex. plugins. And I also need some tips for mastering.
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Welcome, Hideo. Pull up a chair and settle in, I suspect the regulars here will have a lot of tips for you. :)

    Before you get into mixing and mastering, let's start with the basics of mic'ing the performance itself.

    I suspect you may be coming to this from a rock or pop sensibility, and there are a few sublties to the process. For the most part, you aren't going to need much EQ. (If you are, then perhaps something else is wrong...) With most mics used for classical and other acoustic instruments, you will be working in a different way. (You are not nec. doing close-mic work, or building things up from scratch to rebuild a mix the way a traditional pop/rock song works.)

    Recording classical/acoustic music is a more holistic approach, if that makes any sense. You are capturing the sound of the room (assuming it's a good one), the sound of the instruments themselves, and the way they all work together. Forget about isolating either instrument on their own tracks, they will spill over/bleed quite a bit, you simply will find a way to make this work for you. You don't necessarily do "overdubs" in a situation like this either. (Repairs are done as edits/splices from other takes or performances or rehearsals, not overdubs per se.)

    You cannot be the tail wagging the dog in this situation, so to speak. Even though you will be putting mics up, you must still strive to be minimally invasive to the performance (Assuming that is what you're recording, instead of a session.) Don't attempt to move the players to favor the mics (big no-no in live classical performance), check out their interaction and plan your mic scheme accordingly. Chances are the violinist will be towards the front, perhaps in the crook of the piano, with the pianist on his/her right (audience left) Their positioning will enable them to swap subtle cues (shoulder, arms, head movement, etc.)

    They need to interact, and you can't attempt to separate the two for mic purposes, if that's how they choose to perform. There is much sublty and unsaid/unspoken communication going on in live classical music such as this. It's good to keep this in mind.

    Probably the easiest route, (based on your mic list - 2?), you may be simply put up a stereo pair (usually a good omni pair of mics, or an MS config) and find the best blend of direct and ambient sound for the room. This is often a matter of taste; the closer you get to the instruments the drier the sound, and less ambience. Move farther out, and the opposite occurs. Remember too that if you err too far on the side of ambience, it can't be undone.

    If you can squeeze out more inputs in your rig, you could up a solo mic in front of, (and perhaps above) the violinist. You may be able to fly it, as well, if the stage grid supports such a thing, and if you have the cables & rigging for it, otherwise go with a boom stand. Ditto for the piano; you may be able to at least get a touch-up mic on the piano for detail.

    I know it's probably beyond your mic & track limit this time around, but the combination of a stereo pair out in front with the one or two solo mics would be a good blend. How close or far away you place the stereo mics to the performers will be determined by the sound of them IN the room. (this is where your natural, built-in analog equipment comes in ((Your BRAIN)).

    You'll want to listen to them in the hall - preferable at a rehearsal or warmup before anyone else is in there. Walk around; get close, go to the back, go to the middle, etc. (If you have the luxury of course. Plan to get there early; don't interfere with their rehearsal, but DEFINITELY get what YOU need to capture it properly.)

    Hopefully, you can track the mics separately, and mix it all later, away from the hall, and after your ears have had a rest.

    That's for starters.....good luck!
  3. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    Wow, thanks soo much!! I will be sure to use all of this information when recording! As of right now I only have one mic, is this a big problem or can it be done?
  4. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    That's some damn fine moderatin', Joe! Good to have you here! :)
  5. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Under several occations I've experimented with recording demos with violin and piano in various stereo setups, but I haven't been able to get a decent result with neither spaced omnis nor XY configurations. (I'm still trying to figure out how the heck to record mid-side!) The violin always seems to bounce back and forth between left and right in the stereo image, and it's really annoying. Maybe I need to experiment more with the distance between the omnis, but still I would love the violin to be absolutely fixed on one spot, piano a bit to the other side and then a good blend of direct sound and reverb.

    I recently tried to split it up, put one microphone on the violin (about three feet away or so, don't want too much rosin and bow noise from the instrument) and one mic pointing at the piano. That was in our living room with horrible acoustics, so I smacked on some reverb to give the track some depth afterward, but the result was in a sens much more satisfying than the previous attempts to record in stereo.

    With classical music, the room is all and everything. Especially on recordings - I've read about a theory once, something about fast reflections to which the ear doesn't react the same way as a microphone. While medium-sized rooms with some ambience can sound quite nice for chamber music in real life, it might sometimes not be nearly as pleasant on 'tape', in my experience.

    I still have a whole lot to learn. I'm not nearly satisfied with my violin-piano recordings, but I hope to some day be able to get good results with it!
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    Not much to say - Joe pretty much got it all. Stereo pair good - spot mic'ing bad.


    You know, I saw that you mentioned that before, and I listened to the demo piece you posted before. All in all, it was a good sound, but you're right, there was shifting from side to side. That's just wierd. Truthfully, I can't say that I've ever experienced this and I use omnis for almost everything. (There are exceptions of course.)

    I guess, there is a couple things to take into consideration.

    1. Omnidirectional is a mis-nomer. In the lower frequencies, omnis are more "omni." But in higher frequencies, omnis can become quite directional. Don't believe me? Try this - set up an omni pair as an XY over an orchestra but angled slightly down as if aimed at the trumpet and horn sections. Strangely enough, you will get a coherent stereo recording. Perhaps not as wide as a cardioid XY.

    That being said, take care in how you aim the mics. If they are aimed in such a way that the capsule is pointed up towards the ceiling, it will just sound wierd. If they are aimed over the musician's heads, still some wierdness. But in the case of violin and piano, perhaps set the mics up 8 to 10 feet up and about 10 feet back and aim them so that one of the mics is pointed at the violinist's head and the other at the lid of the piano (approximately the same height unless the piano is on short stick or the violinist is a dwarf.)

    You shouldn't have wandering now.

    2. Don't space the omnis too far apart - for a soloist with accompinament, maybe 12-18 inches should be fine. If you want, angle them a little away from each other, but this is generally the reason people claim there is a "whole" in the middle of AB, cuz their aimed like ORTF. (Consult rule #1 for why this is wierd.)

    Just some thoughts...

  7. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Thank you very much for the tips, Jeremy, it's really valuable. Guess I'm gonna need some bigger mic stands next time then...

    I just recorded a few takes earlier today with the microphones in omni configuration just an inch or two from each other, and it was clearly better, although the room is everything but well suited for recording classical music. If I can make it sound good here, then it will undoubtedly be excellent in the concert hall!
  8. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    what are all of these configs you are talking about? Are there pics or anything so I can see whats going on?
  9. Danielle

    Danielle Guest

    Please help me, too

    Since we're on the topic of helping newbies, I'll jump on the wagon, too.

    Thanks to all the advice I got from my last post, I tracked my first Jazz quartet today. There were glitches and bumps, but I thought the I got some acceptable tracks to mix.

    Now my next task, in 2 days, will be recording a singer, piano, and horn in a small live studio. Since the space is limited, the piano is a mid-size grand, I've been trying to come up with a configuration that would give them good eye contact, but still have keep the singer in the center of the of the space.

    I'm planning to have a pair of omni AB as the main stereo, a support mic for the singer, and experiment with capturing reflected horn sound. Should I try to place the musicians as close as to the concert situation?

    Looking forward to all your suggestions!


  10. splurge

    splurge Guest


    As I've only recorded 2 choirs in my life (EDIT)oops, what I mean is that is all the classical work I've done(EDIT) So I'm not qualified to answer your question, I too pop in here to learn . I am in a position however to give you some pointers.

    I think it helps if you think of mics as been ears, so wherever in room sounds best to you is where you should put your mic(s).

    I used to use Cool Edit Pro, the forerunner to Adobe Audition, the eq and the compresser in this is awful, I used to use outboard. Unless of course Adobe have made some drastic changes to it.

    You say some configs are confusing you, is that XY ORTF M/S ?
    These are stereo recording techniques, do a google search and have a read jusy to give yourself some background on them. M/S is probably the hardest one of these to understand so may be best left alone for the moment imo, although I could be unfairly underestimating you here.

    Best of luck with the recording :cool:

  11. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    Thank you very much! But as for the compresser and eq in there you said an outboard? Where can I get this?
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hmm... too much to go into here. Try checking out and click on their "Microphone University"link. It will give you basic descriptions and pictures of various patterns. Don't buy too much into their so-called advantages of each pattern. Some of the information is helpful, but remember, they are trying to sell you a product.

    As for the outboard eq and compressor, these are physical boxes which are used and can be purchased at places such as Sweetwater or Mercenary. Outboard processing vs. "In-the-box" processing is a big debate amongst many people. Most people agree that outboard processing (anything that takes place outside the computer) is superior to in-the-box (or plug-ins, etc.). However, the big draw back to outboard, in most situations, is the need to convert from digital to analog, process the signal and then convert again from analog back to digital. These conversions are very noticeable in classical music and often thought of as much more detrimental to the sound than some of the good plug-ins available on the market.

    Hope that helps.

  13. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    Cool, now the big day is tomorrow! Lemme check If i have the procress right, record flat then mix and compress right? Is there any think else I need? Sorry I am very new and would like all the help I could get!
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Sounds about right - but watch that compression... There shouldn't be much if any need for it.

  15. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    well the recording went great!!!! But now I am doing the editing and there is tons of cracks and hiss on the piano track and I'v tryed to used the click elimatior but its really doing anything! I really am having a problem and need some major help with the cracks and pops!! Also what are some good dynamic levels and eq levels (and some in the box programs) for eq ans such?? Help is needed!!!! Thx!
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Oh boy, sounds like trouble. Clicks and hiss, to me, usually indicate that you recorded the tracks "too hot" - meaning too loud. The hiss is because either the mic is noisy and high preamp gain brought out this noise, or the preamp is noisy and the high gain brought out this noise, or worse of all, the preamp was turned ALL the way up, which many budget preamps exhibit a huge jump in hiss/noise at this point.

    The pops are likely caused by distortion from the sound being recorded too loudly. In the olden/golden days of analog, if you went past 0 dBVU, you simply had a great deal of compression - which sometimes sounds quite pleasing when manifested in this manner. However, in the new era of digital, you can't get louder than 0 dBVU. When you try, the top of the wave form gets chopped of and creates a square wave. If the sqaure wave exists for more than even just a few samples, it becomes audible to the untrained ear.

    To make a long story short - it sounds like the gain on the preamplifier was up too loud, which introduced noise and caused digital clipping. (Bear in mind, this is strictly a guess. Since I'm not looking at the waveform or your preamp levels, I can't give any more than a guess) The really bad news is that, especially as a novice/newby there is little you can do to fix this. The good news, or the silver lining, if you will, is that it gives you an excellent opportunity to experiment with the various noise reduction tools, etc. on the market as well as potential wave-level editing. None of this is easy and you will likely get frustrated. Take comfort in the knowledge that we have all had to do this at some time or another.

    As for the help with settings - that's up to you. Do what sounds good. My advice to newbys is simple - if you hear a drastic change due to the effects of a plug-in or processor, evaluate real carefully to find out if this truly is a change for the better. Most changes to the original source material should be minimal at best and only in the interest of making the sound better.

    Typically, for example, the majority of the eq changes that I make on a classical recording are minute (.5-1.5 dB) on a parametric EQ, with a relatively narrow Q (or bandwidth - the bigger the number, the smaller the range affected by the frequency/gain adjustment) of 1.2 to 2.5.

    I hope this helps - good luck!

  17. Hideo

    Hideo Guest

    ok get I will get on that, so as far as recording goes the gain should be low when recording? Now that i think about it, it was a bit high, so when ever recording record at a low level?
  18. mathieujm

    mathieujm Active Member

    My experience is that it's in these situations that the off-axis mic response is really an important thing. Here you could experiment the differences between a Schoeps and a 200/300 € mic. A good mic in a bad sounding room can give a natural sound (not a good sound !) but a less good mic will be harsh.

  19. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    It's easy to detect - just look at the waveform in your sequencer, and if the waves are peaking, then you've recorded it too hot and the playback will 'clip'.

    Always, as the first thing you do before any session, spend a little time setting levels. Ask the musicians to play the loudest passage and watch the meters - they must NEVER peak! Rather leave a little headroom than letting it overload.

    Also, as already said, be careful with the use of any plugins, EQs, comps, etc. Better don't touch it at all, is my advice - if you don't like the sound of the piano or violin, try a different mic position, but as a rule of thumb, don't use any EQ or compression on classical recordings. It is much likely to spoil the whole deal!
  20. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Are you recording 16-bit or 24-bit? I expect you're recording 24-bit. In that case, unless your preamps and converters are absolutely horrible, aim for an average recording level of -20dB FS. Peaks will go higher than that, but it is unlikely you will overload anything unless you are miking incredibly close (which is probably too close).

    There is no need to make the raw recording itself reach 0dB FS, especially if you're recording to 24-bit. At -20dB FS you are using 21-bits to represent the average signal level, so your average level is still way above the absolute best that CD can do with its 16-bits, PLUS you've got 20dB of headroom for the peaks. It's a win/win situation.

    You can always raise the level after the event, if necessary. The goal when recording is to capture the performance faithfully, and a conservative level helps greatly - especially with acoustic music.

    And if you're worried about -20dB FS being too low, consider this: it is the standard nominal (read: 'average') recording level for the film industry, and most major films have excellent sound quality.

    I hope this helps.

    - Greg Simmons

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