Recording Orchestras

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by TheFraz, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Recording Orchestras So after some hard thought, I think this is something I am going to aim to get into.
    I may be able to get my foot in the door at CBC studios in Toronto, but I also would like to freelance.
    I figure I should be able to find a few choirs or orchestras around the city that need archival work done.
    so this leads me to the equipment I will be needing.

    I would like two condensers. two preamp (or a duel) and the rest I am sure I can figure out on my own.
    I don't exactly have a clear budget, but if it worth the money for the fidelity I am willing to spend around 3 grand on the mics.

    I have been looking at a telefucken m16 MKII, and I have a summit audio pre amp.
    They dont have to be matched, as I would like to record in an MS style, so one of them being bi bidirectional is a must.

    Any advice, tips, or what ever is ,as always, greatly appreciated.
  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Take some time and do a search here on this web board. This topic has been covered numerous times before. As to Mic Pre amps. Are you going to have them "duel" it out or do you want a dual microphone preamp? Inquiring minds want to know.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Um, how much orchestra and choir recording have you done? Saying that you "would like to record in an MS style" is all very well, but it's not the technique one would routinely use for that type of recording, especially if all you had was a single pair of microphones. To cover the most usual situations, I would look for a pair of top-quality SDCs with interchangeable capsules that could be used A-B omni, and ORTF or other X-Y variants as cardioid.

    M-S is a great technique (that I use a lot) for individual instruments or small ensembles, particularly where mono compatibility is a big issue, such as sound for video. It needs a nice fig-8 as the S-mic and a cardioid with good off-axis response for the M-mic. A pair of fig-8s in MS-Blumlein can also work well if you can control the acoustic at the rear of the M-mic.

    The "telefucken m16 MKII" is primarily a studio mic, and evidently one that people swear by. Not, I would have thought, the best choice for your intended purpose, but others may persuade you differently.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I would agree 100% with Boswell.

    IF you're looking specifically for gear to record orchestras with (not gear that will do double duty) then the list is all wrong. The telefunkens (please note the spelling...the other way just means "phone sex") are, as Boswell states, studio mics mainly designed for vocals and perhaps some solo acoustic instruments.

    For $3000 on mics, you have a bit to choose from -
    Schoeps, Sennheiser, DPA, Neumann, Gefell, and many others (with smaller followings such as THE, pearl, etc.)

    If you need mics to do double duty, I would STRONGLY recommend the Gefell M930. These would work VERY well in a studio and also perform phenomenally over an orchestra.

    In regards to MS - don't. If this is you're only pair (in other words, no flanking spot mics), you're going to lose the last few violins and the entire bass section and the brass section will begin to narrow unnaturally. As Boswell suggests, MS is a great pattern when used on smaller ensembles (wind quintets, small chamber ensembles, etc.) but not alone on full orchestra.

    If you're only going to record with a stereo pair, ORTF is almost always the safest/best bet and will get you the best sound in most situations. Then, maybe adding a little (undetectable to the ear) reverb.

    As for the preamps - I love the Summit 2BA-221s, but these are not the preamps that you'll want to use on orchestra. While you may be able to keep the sounds similar with the tube gain completely left out of the equation, the moment you engage the tube drive, the pres take on a new characteristic. And matching the two pres' characters is very difficult with the continuously variable potentiometer on that preamp. And besides, if you're not going to use the tube portion, why buy them in the first place.

    You would be better off with a pair of Grace 101s, or a Grace 201, a DAV BG1, Millennia HV3C/HV3D, Hardy M1, Great River, or numerous other pres designed for this kind of thing.

    I guess my point would be -

    Get into recording orchestras if you can and want to. But don't do it half-assed. There are already WAY too many people doing it this way and you don't need to add to that insult. If you're going to do it, at least start off in the right direction.

    The great thing is, if you learn how to record orchestras and do it well you'll find that:

    1 - you get lots more business from it
    2 - it will help you by making you more of a perfectionist in the studio and your regular (rock/country/etc) recordings will improve dramatically.

    Cheers -

  5. Plush

    Plush Guest

    RE: "telefucken m16 MKII"

    First of all-----hilarious!
    That fugger is a mudderdugger of a mic for close in use. It ain't, however, for use in a main array.

    What youse wanna do is hook up with the oldest most grizzled ex-CBC balance engineer to learn that craft. Have him tell you what you don't know and have him kick your behind each and every day. Git yerself some Schoeps or Sennheiser mics and get to work. Don't assume you'll be paid much in the beginning because you will be screwing up the recording and it won't be useable.

    Do a minimum of 200 recordings a year for 8 years and then you will be ready to assume your rightful place as an assistant to a real tonmeister.

    Also please clear your schedule! Your homework will be to do 3000 hours of listening to all the old RCA, Mercury, Philips and Argo two mic recordings of great orchestras.
  6. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Thanks for the advice, and the useful lessen in German. (and English refresher )
    I have used the MS style for recording group vocals. But I have never had the chance to mic something as large as an orchestra. (thats the dream). And I know that to get to that point, it is going to take years of experience and dedication. But hey I am young and naturally dedicated to the things I love, so this has never been to much of a concern.

    What does concern me is ending up spending allot of money on equipment that is not suited for my needs.
    I like the idea of the Grace 101's, since I have done allot of research on them after coming very closing to buying one. Plus at $1200 for a pair, that is not unreasonable at all.
    All my recording experience has been studio based, so my knowledge of mics for this application is rather limited.
    So most mics are going to be mics I have no experience with, so please don't be afraid to walk me through it.
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    The Graces are definitely a good choice. I would also urge you to consider the DAV BG1 - it's far less than the cost of 2 Grace 101s and sounds very nice. It's a different sound - perhaps more....smooth where the Graces are just crystal clear and very open.

    As for mics, there are a very small select few that are considered the norm for classical recording.

    Part of this is because these are the ones that are considered accurate and faithful as well as robust and well-made. The other reason is that classical recording engineers are a snobby group of people that would never get caught dead using a pair of Rodes when they could have 20 pairs of Sennheisers doing the job for them...

    However, this is not a field where quality should be skimped. You'll notice even minor differences in equipment if the hall and the performance are good.

    Spend some time here and read, read, read. Ask lots of questions - doubt every answer until you've verified it (such is the way life should be conducted) and then go have fun.

    In 8 to 10 years, you'll be kickin butt. Between now and then, bring a notepad and a digital camera - you're going to learn a lot on every gig.
  8. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Well I love to learn.
    I just figure, hey every one and their dog is trying to make it as a studio engineer, leaving very little job opportunities, and even if you do land the job, you may spend 5 years working your way out of a "gofor" job only to have the studio go under.
    Plus, my two favorite aspects of recording is setting up the mics and getting the best sound possible with them, and mixing. Spending all day making edits, trying to take bad players and give them a song where they sound good, is not my idea of fun.
    If I am going to dedicate my self fully to learning a craft, I would like the chance of job security.

    Plus who does not love working with unfathomably talented musicians?

    Could you please give me some background info on the mics you mentioned. Why you would use them, and what they are best suited for, and all of that jazz. It would go along way.

    And once again, thank you every one, and I apologies for my green horns.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I always seem to find these posts a little late, after all the good advice has been given out. :twisted:

    Still, I'd add a few tips to the great advice already given. For live use, as many have already pointed out, your mic choices should also reflect what they'll be used for. No matter how careful you are, some of this gear is going to get roughed up, dropped, tipped over, etc. (It's horrible when it happens, but sooner or later, something like that will happen...) This is partly why the more exotic studio mics aren't nec. a good idea out on location. There are a lot of great SDC mics out there to get you started, with interchangable capsules, etc. etc. You've got some great choices to make as you go along and grow.

    Ditto for stands and cables. Don't skimp on these, if you can. They are your life-line between the mics and the pres'. Sure, you'll need to make some hard choices when buying new stuff for the first time, esp on a limited budget. But remember you want reliablity as well as quality. While everyone talks about the esoteric side of this biz, there's the practical mundane side of things that can make your time enjoyable or a misery.

    Good reliable cables are important, ditto for connectors, tie-wraps, carry-cases, etc. There's a certain amount of drudge-work in this biz that's unavoidable. Depending on your perspective, it can be downright fun and enjoyable, even after years of doing it. (it could be your inner geek coming out!) But broken or intermittent cables and lame stands can really ruin things for you quickly. The last thing you want after setting up and running a dozen or so mic cables is an intermittent connection somewhere that you've got to spend 20 minutes chasing down, with only 15 minutes to the downbeat.

    Mic placement, setting levels and mixing/editing in post will be your main goal, but having your infrastructure solidly in place will make the rest of your experience in this kind of music a joy as well. You're in a great spot in that you're building from the ground up, and you've found a great forum to ask the right questions.

    Your instincts are correct about this biz. You seem to have some important things already sorted out, including going in the OTHER direction of the pack. For now, it'll be just our little secret, ok?

  10. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Sounds good man. Thanks for the insight.
    I am in a great school, sounded by amazing teachers, so I am rather lucky that I get to run allot of questions past them, so I don't look like a complete fool on here. (lets all try to forget telefucken as soon as possible)

    I must say I am rather excited about this whole thing. I have been rather unsure as to what I would be doing after school. This has always been something I wanted to get into later on, but the more I think abut it, the more I think it's the right choice for me.
    What I really like about the aspect of working at the CBC is that most of the work is done 9-5. so that would leave me structured time to work on my own projects. If I am living in Toronto I will for sure line up a few clubs to do live sound for.
    Plus a part time job will be a must.
  11. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    You're in Canada, yes?

    Have you considered signing up for McGill university in Montreal? They have an excellent course in sound recording. I have worked with two graduates from there, both were very good and fast-tracked their careers as classical/acoustic recording engineers by doing that course.


    As for MS and Telefunken, ditto what everyone else said... Get yourself two very good cardioids, a matched pair of Schoeps or DPA, with excellent off-axis response - most important for this kind of work, IMHO. With those you'll be able to do ORTF for larger ensembles where a sense of size and space is more important than pin-point imaging, and variations of XY for smaller ensembles where pin-point imaging is a virtue.

    Something like DPA's 3521 kit is ideal, containing all the hardware required to make ORTF or XY (90 degrees only) in a small and lightweight package. You can't go wrong, and you can have your mics set up in moments...

    Alternatively, if you prefer the sound of Schoeps, they also make useful brackets for their CCM series, making it very quick and easy to set up the standard configurations of ORTF and XY. Neither allows you to alter the angle between microphones, however. You'll need a stereo bar for that kind of thing - but messing with those angles is something you'd probably want to start doing after you've had a bit of experience with the standard configurations and recognise their strengths and weaknesses.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Since you're across a pond and hail from Oz, we here on the western hemisphere wouldn't expect you to know this, but the proper way to ask this question is:

    You're in Canada, eh?

    As a bit of assigned homework, go rent the movie "Strange Brew" with Bob and Doug McKenzie and you'll firmly get a grasp on the dialect of our northern neighbors.

    Some terms to watch out for -
    Hackey (the Canadian equivalent to "Hockey")
    PBR - This is a horrible creation and should not be consumed by anyone
    Hoser - This has almost universal appeal although deep-rooted in Canadian culture

    As soon as you grasp these terms, we can move on to other, more advanced Canadianisms.

  13. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    And yes I am from Canada, and thanks for the heads up for that school but I am in Music Industry Arts at fanshawe, kinda wildly considered to be the best music industry program in the nation.
    It may not have the orchestration part, but I am clearly no dumb ass when it comes to recording, and my program has every thing to do with that. Plus my teachers all have great connections. I am pretty happy, school wise where I am right now. Plus, it will take the better part of a decade to establish my self, so the last thing I want to do is delay it any further.

    Thanks for the info on the mics, this is exactly what I need. If nothing else, it is getting me more exposed into the whole unique world of it all.

    I hate to break it to cucoo, but Canada has changed since the 70's

    Well most of it, just America has the south that are behind the time with every thing, we have the north, and the newfies. So you travel far enough and you may just get called a hoser.

    We have not, nor will we ever, droped the 'eh'
    its a time tested standard. how else would we make half statements, half questions , eh
  14. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Great line for your signature, eh?
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yeah....I know...I'm just breaking your balls.

    Actually, 4 out of the past 7 years, I've travelled to various parts of Canada and plan on retiring in Victoria one day!

    If you want to see an interesting characterization of personalities and habits across a cultural divide, just go to Niagra Falls. On the Canadian side, people (tourists and locals alike) are kind, well-manored, well-dressed and genuinely healthy looking.

    Cross over to the New York side, people (locals and tourists alike here too) are rude, fat, dirty and would just as soon push you over the falls than tell you where a porta-john is!

    Anyway - it sounds like you're on the right track with your quest. Let me ask one crucial question -

    Is there any chance you'll be able to work along side a professional who does this kind of work or maybe get an apprenticeship in a concert hall where recordings are done?
  16. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Well, my one teacher said he will talk to his friends at CBC. to add to that, the head of the CBC studios is a close friend of our technician, who i am also on good terms with.
    They know I can act professional, and they know that I am driven by my passions, so I am really hoping that works out for me.
    I wont know until after Canadian Music Week (my teachers want us to network and all that jazz before they start handing us jobs) if i can get my foot in the door there. But I have high hopes.

    It would be the ideal situation. If it does not pan out, I am basically going to make my rounds around Toronto till I find something that does work out.
  17. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Oh dear, so much to learn... How can I possibly fit it all in, eh?
  18. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    You're getting it.
  19. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Speaking of McGill, my wife and daughter went up there for a tour and to meet the sax professor this summer. They raved about the new music facilities - especially the recording studios. Good school too - I think Canadians refer to Harvard as "the McGill of Boston." I just finished recording Alice's audition CD.
  20. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Yea it is a GREAT school. I think its number one in the nation.
    I am just rather pleased on where I am as far as schools. I mean right now we have employers coming to our class and giving us presentation about why we should work for them. Its kinda nice to go from listening to people tell us there is no work in the industry, to turning down people on job offers.
    Today we had a guy from the Royal Caribbean. sounds like a great job, but the whole "Cant have more then .08 the entire time i am on the boat" is kinda a deal killer.

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