String Quartets

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Midlandmorgan, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Just been commissioned to do several recording projects of a couple of the symphony's string quartets (finally...!) Although 2 pieces will be recorded remotely at a performance, the remaining 8-10 will be done in house...performers will be set up in the traditional semi-circle....sooooooooooo, my question is:

    When doing these types of events, my first reaction is to go ORTF 3-4 feet back from the middle of the arc, and perhaps an older ribbon overhead at 10 ft or so...

    Also looking at whether I should place GOBOs in a similar semi circle behind the performers to reduce reflections...

    But, I am open to all other suggestions. JoeH? Ben? Rudy? :shock:
  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I have one way that I always use to start out recording string quartets... It is a bit unorthodox, but I've always been happy with the ending sound. That is to take a single poing stereo mic (traditionally an AKG 426, more recently sometimes a Royer SF-24) and to place it about 3 feet high and about 3 feet out from the players. Basically have the mic at roughly shoulder level and a bit out from the ensemble.

    Things to watch for:

    ** Image width- I usually record in blumlein, but with the 426, the ability to change angles on the capsles is wonderful. If the quartet sounds too wide, I'll narrow the image a touch by making the capsules closer to 75 degrees rather than 90 degrees.

    ** If I need to cut out some of the room, I'll use the pattern box on the 426 to make my figure-8's more of a hypercardiod. Same lobe (basically) on the front and less of the rear.

    ** Proximity of the close players. Because you are micing the ensemble rather closely, you may find that there is an exagerated feeling of front versus back of the group. This is easily solved by moving the front two players out a touch and expanding the arc a little bit. Acoustics will do the rest

    ** Edgy sound... The whole reason this works is because you are getting off axis of the instruments. You get a wonderfully intimate sound, but if the mic is too high, you'll hear the production sound of the bow on the string. Adjust and you can take care of that...

    I think those are the main things to think about... Obviously you can make the same thing happen with a pair of microphones, but I've found a love for stereo microphones.

  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Ben's approach would certainly yield good results. As for coincident stuff, this would probably be the best approach.

    My take would be a spaced pair of omnis.

    I would go a couple feet above the heads of the players with the mics parallel to the ground and aimed in the middle of both pairs of players. This will look like a modified ORTF.

    I would then baffle between the two mics. A jecklin disc would be great, but very expensive. My cheaper version of a baffle is to take a wire music stand and put a couple pieces of Auralex on either side of the desk, then mount this to a mic stand between the two mics.

    With this setup, you will get minimal bow/string interaction (enough to make it nice and authentic, but not too much) and since you aren't on a direct axis with any of the players, the HF will sound rather pleasant and naturally diffused. Of course, in this method, the bass portions of the cello will be naturally centered and you will get very good imaging of the mid and high frequencies.

    Play around with distances to the front of the group, but you'll likely find that you won't want too much distance at all. Just make sure that your aim of the axis of the mics remains constantly between the two pairs of musicians.

    What I mean by this, in case I'm not clear, is...
    If you have the setup so that the two violins are on the right and the viola and cello are on the left - aim the right mic between the two violins and the left mic between the viola and cello. Of course if it's violin and viola + violin plus cello, it's the same, just aim between the violin and viola then between the violin and cello.

    Personally, I think that ORTF would be unnaturally wide for this set-up and XY would be too tight and unnatural. Blumelein would be good as well as the spaced omni.

    Just some thoughts,
  4. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Both very good thoughts indeed...from experimenting with the chairs properly set (but only one player, pulling everything together with an untouched mix, this is what I found so far:

    - Shoulder level micing by far gives the best result in my tracking room...
    - A mono ribbon mic on the same planar/phase distance brings everything together pretty nicely (at least with 2 acoustic guitars) plus added a nice ambience...but a little goes a long way.
    - Since I am (for now) limited to no stereo mics (I know...I know...I'm working on it...) I have to run something with cardiod....that said, setting the ORTF further back and the XY up a bit closer may get what I need...but once I decide on one, its pretty well the only pair I can use....(its just a phase, you know :wink: n )

    - Placement of gobos is a real science with this choice of music...resetting absortion/reflection to get the best seems to be the most dofficult part of this thus far...

  5. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I'd forget about the gobos and just record the ensemble naturally... If you don't have a stereo mic, that is fine- I use it because I have it and like it and I like the flexability. I'd say, go for the X-Y pair at shoulder level a few feet out... If you want some extra room mics to open up the sound, that may help (omnis in the room perhaps?)

  6. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Good idea Ben...a few more random tests suggest your description works well...I actually put the omni up on the ceiling, just because it really does sound naturally spacious...if that don't work, there's always Samps RoomSim...

    BTW: The gobos are on the outside of the performing area, 2 behind (hard wall), two on each side...just to soften things up a bit. The performers themselves will be sitting close enough to rub thighs, if they wish... :cool:

  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Bear in mind, I'm not talking about using Gobos for the musicians. I would never do that for string quartet.

    I'm talking about a psuedo jecklin disc. I wouldn't poo-poo that idea so readily. It's likely to give you one of the most accurate representations of a smaller ensemble with very little effort.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I personally like the Decca Tree for recording string quartets and it has worked well for us. Usually about 6 feet back and 6 feet up. It gives a nice perspective and every instrument is very nicely recorded and in its proper place in the sound field. I do not use gobos and try for a very natural sound. Sometimes moving one or more the musicians a couple of inches will make a big difference in the overall balance.

    An aside "why do most 2nd violin players always want more of themselves in the recording?" Every chamber group I have recorded lately the 2nd violinist seems like he wants to be the featured artist so it in his mind it would be "the second violinist and his trio" Just wondering?
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    An aside "why do most 2nd violin players always want more of themselves in the recording?" Every chamber group I have recorded lately the 2nd violinist seems like he wants to be the featured artist so it in his mind it would be "the second violinist and his trio" Just wondering?

    Hee hee -- funny.

    Again, I have to stress, I never mentioned Gobos. I don't like gobos, I wouldn't use gobos and remember, I suggested going for a natural sound.

    I suggested a device much like a Jecklin disc. This is far from a gobo. I would never propose that each instrument be picked up seperately or without bleed through - this would make a very disjunct performance/recording.

  10. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member


    Can we please[/] forget about GOBOs now? As I had mentioned, they were originally planned to be used in a very wide semi circle about 4-6 behind the performers...this idea has long been sinced axed. I am very familiar with GOBOs, what their purposes are, lets just let it pass, shall we?

    As for Jecklin discs, I can fabricate one, but since I have only one omni, it seems like it would be somewhat a wasted, if you tell me of first hand knowledge of using such discs with LDC cardiods, I will MOST DEFINITELY give that a shot...

    As for second violins...of COURSE they want to be they can heard that the world should promote them to first violin...kinda like rock guitar players, but with bigger egos. :shock:

    (The 2d violin in this weekend's adventure is a close friend and performing I'm off the hook there.)

    Anyway, we're still experimenting...hell, who knows? Might find out a 57 ducktaped to the sleeping dog might be the best way to go.... :)
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    OKAY, Am I in the friggin twilight zone or something? :?

    I NEVER suggested Gobos! Why do people keep insisting that I have?

    Nothing I wrote above says that I would suggest the use of GOBOS.

    Of course, I haven't seen your microphone listing anywhere either, so I wouldn't know that you only have one omni. My suggestion - buy a second. Very few patterns rival a well done spaced omni. People that suggest otherwise simply don't have the experience in using spaced omnis and often place them incorrectly. The complaint that there is little soundfield definition is bogus and indicates improper placement. The argument that it is too reverberant also suggests improper placement. The fact that it's too "phase-y" - Gosh, I don't have that problem, I wonder what others are doing to make it so horribly out of phase... Hmmm, perhaps improper placement.

    Now, can we please drop the Gobo's idea - since I never had such an idea to begin with!

  12. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Hey, J...

    Maybe some GOBOs would help? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Actually, the only omnis I want at the time are beyond my modest means at this moment...I really like the idea of a designed set around a Jecklin disc and some Avensons, but its a bit beyond my cash means at the moment (and I refuse to do the credit card thing....reallllllllllly long, expensive, but educational story).

    In all seriousness, we've even begun scouting locations to do a couple of pieces in an outdoor environment...the project is planned to have a few done here, a few done at a live performance, and a few done outdoors in the desert....

    Sorry if I left my gear list off the original post - I guess I should learn some protocols for asking these types of questions....
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hee Hee Hee...

    I want to make sure you realize I wasn't mad in my last post. The tone I was after was that of the famous "Howard Dean Squeel..."

    I wouldn't worry about trying to post equipment lists too often, cuz they change within a few weeks any way.

    Let us know how your project turns out.


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