Sister's Harp

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by bigshum, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. bigshum

    bigshum Active Member

    Hey there,

    my sister wants me to just put down a few tracks of her playing her harp tomorrow. Nothing really professional, just to have it done at the moment.

    I've recorded her before in a live room using a number of mics and it came out pretty well.

    Only problem is I'm going to be recording her in her conservatory due to space issues and my microphone choice for today is liited to an Audio Technica 4040.

    I know it's not the ideal situation at all but to get the best sound I can what can I do? Can I use the situation to my advantage, has anyone else been able to make half a silk purse out of a pig's ear?

    If it comes to it I will be able to move her into her front room which I'll be able to hang duvets in hopefully.

    I'll be recording into Logic Pro 7 on a Macbook Pro using an Echo Aufiofire 4 interface.

    Any help greatly appreciated

  2. d_fu

    d_fu Guest

    I'm sure the 4040 isn't all bad, but you can only get a mono recording out of it... Good enough for her to listen to her ow playing, but not nice to listen to, maybe...

    Can't you rent or borrow a stereo pair of some kind, or another 4040?

  3. bigshum

    bigshum Active Member

    Well I might be able to source another mic from a friend by tomorrow but am a Student, so most mics I have access to are on campus, and finance is also an issue when it comes to renting.

    If I were able to tho, what's your suggestion for a stereo pair?
  4. d_fu

    d_fu Guest

    Grab what you can (and can afford), I'd say. Any pair of identical condenser mics, omnis (AB) or even cardioids (ORTF or similar) will at least yield a half-decent stereo recording. BTW, is she playing solo?

    Seems the Audiofire only has two mic inputs, else I'd have said add the 4040 up close. But that may not be necessary.

    But if two is all you can connect, just see what you can get hold of for now. If you can mention a few available options, maybe I/we could suggest a preferrable pair.
  5. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Following on from Daniel's advice...

    If you are recording in a small and/or bad room, acoustically, sometimes close-miking is a better option in terms of getting something *acceptable* or even useful. Remember: a good close-miked recording can be just as valid as a good distant-miked recording, it just has a different set of values. Heck, you could close mic with your clean and quiet 4040 and add a bit of reverb to create a sense of size and width; for many people and purposes that would be acceptable for solo harp, provided you did a competent job.

    I've had good luck close-miking string instruments (harp, acoustic guitar, sitar and vina) with the MS technique, and also with XY cardioids - particularly low cost stereo mics such as Rode's NT4 and Audio-Technica's AT825. Both of these mics use a pair of cardioid capsules at 90 degrees, so they require a 180 degree soundstage to create a stereo image that extends from hard left to hard right. This means you can get up quite close without getting an excessively wide stereo image.

    To close mic something like a harp, either in mono or stereo, I'd begin at a position that was equidistant from the left and right edges of the instrument (i.e. forming an equilateral triangle), and then move closer/further, left/right and up/down until I got the desired sound. If there is too much room sound for your liking and you can't tone it down with duvets and similar, then you need to get in closer, so find out which strings are actually being played in the piece. Probably all of them, but if it turns out that only a handful of strings in the middle, for example, are being played, then there's no point getting far enough back to capture the whole instrument - just get that equilateral triangle happening between the lowest and highest strings to start with, and adjust to taste.

    One of the biggest problems when close-miking these kinds of instruments is a tendency to over-emphasize performance noises, particularly breathing and finger nail noise. But you can't have everything - as Steven Wright quips, "...where would you put it?" For breathing, you can try positioning the microphone so that the breathing is coming in off-axis and therefore will get a bit of side attenuation (on a cardioid, that is). For finger nail noise, I'd suggest a manicurist plug-in. But don't let those things drive you crazy; as sound engineers we tend to notice this kind of stuff much more than the average listener would (until you point it out to them).

    And go easy on your 4040; it may not be a mic to be proud of, but it's certainly not a mic to be ashamed of either!
  6. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    I love my 4040. It gets used far to often though. I need a sister for it.
  7. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I agree; the 4040 is a very good mic, if that's all you've got to work with. I love the 4000 series; all of them are terrific mics, and very versatile.

    Simmosonic has you covered; I'd only add that perhaps some of the rogue transients and peaks (finger noises, etc.) can be gently limited out or removed in post, and you can bring up the sound of the instrument a tad, if nec. When doing this kind of stuff, I often take a look at the waveform and see if there's any unnecessary peaks going on, and lower then a little to get back some gain. Mix in some stereo reverb to taste, and you should be on to something nice.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I also like my 4040s - they're a great, versatile, inexpensive mic that doesn't cause any offense within the sound (which is a lot to say for a $300 mic!)

    I do want to point out that, while Simmo's correct about being able to get pretty close without getting too wide, there is a limit to this.

    I've definitely found that if you push the wideness envelope too far with Harp, you get a very unnaturally wide harp sound. It will sound as though your sister's harp is 20' across and she has the long arms to match.

    I've also found that monitoring a harp recording through headphones can be dangerous in this regard.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, be mindful of the width. If it sounds natural, you've done it. If it sounds huge, you've gone too far (or too close??).
  9. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Speaking of anthropomorphic sonic width... I once heard an old recording of Eartha Kitt (Catwoman on the '70s Batman TV series), possibly made through a classic tube or ribbon mic, played back off vinyl through a Goldmund Reference turntable, Gryphon tube amps and a pair of [can't remember brand] electrostatic loudspeakers each the size of a door.

    I'll never forget it. The image was so huge that her mouth 'looked' like a big cavern placed between the speakers, extending to the ceiling of the room and about 4m back. I just wanted to walk on in, sit on a molar and wait for a smoking Marla Singer to gesture towards the huge tongue and say "Slide".

    Sorry to go harping off-topic...
  10. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    How did it go, Alex?

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