Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Apr 16, 2006.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Last weekend we did a recording of a children's choir. I do this about 5 times a year. I know what to expect BUT this time they threw us a big curve. Normally this choir is done a cappella with some songs being accompanied by piano. I got a copy of the program at the beginning of the week (something that we ask for all the time) and did not note any real problems with the music. Well we got to the church and "discovered" that they had "decided" to use amplified music from a CD for their medley of the songs from RENT. They had a PA system and CD player all set up and were rehearsing with it when we arrived. We were about 11 miles from home base and I had not brought any direct boxes or other ways of getting the sound out of the amplified system so we had to do it with our normal microphones. We were using two AKG blueline cardioid microphones in a coincident pair for the main pickup and an AT 4051 for the piano (placed under the piano since they did not want to open the lid) and I did have a microphone splitter so we were able to split the soloist microphone that was being used for the PA system. The recording came off well and we had no problems with the pickup and it sounded very good. Needless to say I was sweating bullets and will never again take anything for granted when it comes to recording this group. I talked to the business manager afterwards and she said she knew about the amplified piece but had "forgotten to tell us". The only other problems we ran into were that the room they had for us to record in was the sacristy which had a large refrigerator used for flowers in it (we were able to turn it off for the concert) and their was a very strange rumbling sound that came and went a regular intervals throughout the performance which we finally decided was an ancient elevator used for bringing handicapped persons up from the rear parking lot and was used throughout the concert by others. All in all a good experience with some white knuckle time interspersed.
  2. mud5150

    mud5150 Guest

    It makes you feel accomplished at the end of the night though doesn't it. Props to you. A childrens choir singing songs from rent? I love rent but I wouldn't classify it as something thats appropriate for kids.
  3. BigRay

    BigRay Guest

    Seasons of Love??Rent?

    wow. not a musical I associate with kids either...though the message(sans foul language) is great
  4. guitardad72

    guitardad72 Active Member

    You could have tried, if recording on multi track... recording the whole thing best you can getting the amplified track on another channel (hopefully), and splitting up the mics as best as you could, etc...

    Then at home mixing it on the right software or workstation you could import the CD track into the mix and line it up. It may require some delicate pushing, pulling, time stretching or shrinking BUT will sound great in the end.

    I've done this task in Pro-tools more times then I wanted to. Confusing at 1st but once you get the hang of it's it's quick and fun.

  5. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    I feeling really stupid... must be the only person who has no idea what RENT is. :oops: Pray tell.

    I've had to mic an SR speaker before for lack of a DI box or sometimes, enough set-up time to run a line from the PA system. :(

    On a related note, a problem I would like to hear suggestions on is when the concert is acoustic, but uses sound reinforcement un-necessarily. For example, I recorded a Celtic harp concert recently (ensemble, solo, and trio acts) that was in a small and acoustically OK church. But they insisted on using the church's PA to make it louder. They asked me to give them a feed, which I did, but the PA really spoiled the nice sound.

    Short of changing strategy to a really close-mic'd approach and losing the acoustic of the church, I couldn't come up with a good solution.
  6. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    The show must go on.

    Old saying, but so true when it comes to live recording. Thank you for sharing the experience. Been in similar situations feeling the sweat trickle down my neck so I can definitely relate to it.

  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    This "children's choir" is open to kids from 1st grade to seniors in high school and each of the choirs is made up of a certain age group. The ones we were working with at this concert were the older students. I am sorry I did not make that clear. The concert was done in a church and I can assure you there were no songs with XXX rated lyrics. RENT is a Broadway musical you can read more about it here

    As to recording acoustical concerts with PA. Yes it is a GROWING problem. More and more artist ASSUME that they need some kind of amplification in order to provide the larger audience with good sound. In my life I have recorded quite a few famous and not so famous acoustical musicians with and without amplification and I have to say that most times the performer without amplification was "easier" to record. The one that were amplified were harder to do but we still got acceptable results UNLESS the PA operator was inexperienced or was trying to prove how loud he or she could make the acoustical instruments.

    I did a very nice concert with Pete Seeger out of doors with 3500 people in attendance it was amplified and you cannot even tell there was a PA system in use. I also recorded Pete Seeger in a 1250 seat concert hall and I was lucky enough to have control over both the recording and the PA system so we got a good recording and the audience could hear every nuance of the concert. I also recorded The Association in what was billed as an "acoustic concert" but was done out of doors with a PA system and the PA guys were either stoned or did not care and over amplified the whole concert to the point that the feed coming from the on stage monitors was so loud it was over whelming the singing into the microphones.

    The best way to handle this is to have a sit down talk with the concert sound people, the recording people, the owners of the venue and if possible the musicians themselves. There should be a plan of "attack" and everyone should sign off on it. The promoters are looking for good sound for everyone attending the venue, the artist wants to get a good recording but understands that he or she is getting paid to provide a concert for the people coming to the venue, the recording crew understands that good concert sound is important but they need to interject their needs so there is an understanding of how best to provide the concert sound and do a good recording. None of these needs is mutually exclusive and they all need to be talked out by all the parties. I have found that if this can take place BEFORE the concert that everyone should be able to do their job without compromising too much. It is only when one person or provider gets really upset or thinks that their part is the MOST IMPORTANT that things do not go smoothly and believe me I have been in those situations more times than I care to admit.

    The one thing that you do not want to have happen is a "surprise" when you get to the venue. If you have talked all of this over in advance there should be no "surprises" but as we all know "surprises" are a way of life in the remote recording world. You have to be able to adapt and to have a contingency plan in place for the unforeseen "surprises" that can rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time.
  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    We do a lot of these, mainly for schools. Each school seems to want to TOP the last concert or last school with more PA channels, more speakers, more multimedia crap, big screens showing aimless DVD's, anything to take the audiences attention away from the mediocre musical performances.

    Here the very directional mics are your friends. Schoeps MK41's, nice steerable MS pairs, the wonderful Neumann KMR-81's. These mics and techniques are great at excluding overblown PA and can help rescue a recording that everyone else is trying to wreck.

    Wherever I go these days as a listener or recordist, it seems PA is always woeful and disruptive, the operators seem to be deaf, and the result unlistenable. Not sure what the solution is. Education should help.

    Mr Cranky.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Haha...I get surprised like this so often, it's not even funny!!

    I have a questionnaire that I send to new groups which asks all of those kinds of questions and you'd be surprised how often people don't think about the back-tracks that they'll be using or how they forgot to tell me about the four vocal soloists who are wandering around the front of the stage mic'ed and will be using floor wedges!!! Or that the sax section will be specially mic'ed and played through the loudspeakers (let's face it, why should sax players ever get mic'ed??? They can be heard in neighboring counties!!!)

    Anyway, I have a semi-local orchestra for whom I no longer work. I absolutely refused to (for various reasons including non-payment!!) Anyway, they've begun mic'ing ALL of their performances and play them over the loudspeakers at the same time that they are playing. Seriously!!! I mean, what the heck?!?!? That's right, it's an 80+ person orchestra on an orchestral stage with 12-20 mics strewn randomly throughout which they feed into the house speakers WHILE they are playing!!!

    They claim it really "FILLS" out the sound!!! OMG!

    I'm afraid education wouldn't even help the dumbest of ignoramuses!!! I'm fairly certain this level of incompetence and ignorance in music is isolated to this "wonderful" country here...Seriously, would you ever think of travelling to a fine European concert hall and expect to hear the Berlin Phil sound-reinforcing themselves???? Not in a million years!

    I think our problem (the US's specifically) is a complete and utter lack of respect. Respect for art, respect for music, respect for others, respect for history. I mean, there's great things happening in technology and that's all good and well, but there's a fine line between using technology to enhance art (such as valves on instruments - which were widely debated in their time) and using technology to trounce all over art!!!

    Sorry - soapbox time is over now...
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Wow, what a GREAT topic this is turning into!

    Tom, I feel your pain - I've been recording a "kids" choir for several years now, and all's well, but the very first time we recorded them, we showed up to find a cheap (SM-57 & 58-style mics) PA system in place, with speakers IN THE CEILING above the heads of the kids, aiming right into where we were planning on putting our omni outriggers. (Miraculously, we got them to turn them OFF. I suggested to the director that 75 kids in a room that holds 150 should be able to be heard just FINE!)

    Hopefully, you got a copy of the CD, to drop into your mix for a little more direct sound as well.

    I too am finding that more and more folks want to amplify, esp when it's not needed. The best one can hope for in a recording situation is to be the FIRST mics involved, and give a split to the house. That way, at least it will be YOUR mics used, and along with a couple of ambient mics on the audience, you can have a fighting chance at making it sound "real" afterwards.

    There is hope for live sound, however. I saw Luka Bloom (Irish male singer/songwriter) here two weeks ago; in a very small (long and narrow) little club in Philadelphia, (The Tin Angel). The sound - though amplified - was warm and natural. So good that I went to the mix area afterwards to compliment the guy. He had a small Midas board, JBL speakers up front for the mains, and subs hidden under the stage. The acoustic, nylon string guitar (tuned in almost baritone fashion, down to a Low C) was warm, full, and never obtrusive, while the vocal was present, clean, lightly seasoned with the barest trace of reverb. Amazingly, the vocal was NOT routed to the subs, either, which was brilliant, IMHO. (The sound guy was smart enough to avoid the temptation of making the male vocal boomy and overly resonant. ) It was one of those rare times when the live act sounded about as good as, or perhaps even better than the CD.

    As for "RENT" - MDmeyer, you're not missing much. It's a bad musical, and from what I've heard, it's an even worse movie. You'd be better serverd to go watch or listen to "La Boheme" instead.

    After years of hype, I finally (almost accidently) saw it in NYC and was horrified at most of it. It was probably in violation of every OSHA standard for amplitude (big EAW boxes all over the theater - this was/is a "ROCK" musical!). Thank GOD I had my hearo's with me.

    There's not a single redeeming or lovable character in it, and by "modernizing" it, they ruined what was an already fine and wonderful story. (La Boheme.) Instead of a poor girl dying of consumption, "Mimi" is now an HIV infected, herion-addicted prostitute. The lovely and romantic scene where Mimi is looking for her "lost" key - with the candle blowing out, etc. is now a moment of sleeze. The lost key is now a bag of crack (or herion) and while bent over on the floor searching for it, Mimi asks: "Are you looking at my ass???" And so it goes....

    For most of this too-long mess, we're asked to sympathize with some lazy, barely talented guitar player who's searching for some kind of 'Lost chord" idea to write the definitive song (so he can become rich, famous, pay the rent, yada yada yada.) He keeps playing bits of a theme, which of course at the end is the love theme from LaBoheme, grafted into a love ballad in Rent. P-U. The four (Bohemian) friends in LaBoheme mysteriously morph into FIVE people in Rent, and they're all deadbeats anyway.... It's a story now set in NYC, asking us to feel sorry for a bunch of brats who don't feel it's necessary to have to pay "RENT" to survive. The "Man" is being oh-so mean to them!!! boo hoo hoo...

    By the end of this thing, I was rooting for the landlord.

    Sorry, rant over! :twisted:
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Wow! It's worse than I thought. I was assuming that I'm an old fart because I think that subwoofers are overused in ROCK. I've never seen an amplified orchestra.

    I swear the whole country is suffering from subwoofer addiction. Doesn't matter what type of music - they want 40hz smacking them in the chest. I play electric and double bass as my main instruments, and I keep telling the sound guys to roll off the bass and bump the low mids. They don't think I'm serious.

    I swear that every form of music gets the same type of sound support as a metal concert. The worst thing is that people expect it that way - country, contemporary christian - crank the smiley face on the EQ, turn up the subs, close mic the kick drum and make it twice as loud as anything else. I've seen this bleed into jazz, but I had not seen it in orchestral music. I sometimes wonder if there really is a future for live music.
  12. BigRay

    BigRay Guest

    There's not a single redeeming or lovable character in it, and by "modernizing"
    I dont agree at all. All of the characters are touching(Maureen is annoying I admit) and it is their humanity /imperfections/ that myself and others can identify with.

    Violations aside, I am very fond of the musical. Being a classical singer myself I have done or seen Various Incarnations of La Boheme through the years, some awesome, some horrible.

    I think RENT really brings the message home to the younger generation, kids that cannot recognize Pavarotti or Freni or Puccini for that matter...but can relate to the characters in this sort of modern setting, people that are dealing with the same issues they are, (AIDS, Addiction, No money, Love Lost). The music is in step with the times, the characters are modern, and the story is every bit as intact as it is in La Boheme. The message is the important thing here....

    Sure the lyrics are vulgar,, the characters and situations are offensive(at times), but these are the times we live in, this is life as seen by GENX, Y, Z....

    I dont think the crudeness is overdone either. Ive seen movies that are far worse with no message. I wouldnt want my 10 year old child watching it, but I belive it is an important piece of musical theatre history. Every bit as poignant as Les Miserables, Assasins, Showboat, Into the Woods, Forever Plaid, Joseph or any other musical that has gripped the American Psyche. The message is great, and the presentation is something youth can relate to.

    I also know that interest in RENT has also sparked interest in La Boheme..
    some folks love the story so much, they wanted to see the original.
    Thats a beautiful thing!

    Mind you I grew up in the Bible Belt South(southern NC) and am Southern Baptist to the core. I first saw it on Broadway right after it made its debut(at the urging of some college buddies who were also theatre majors(I was at the time)....I thought I was going to be disgusted completely. The contrary. I was touched! I hadnt been touched by a musical like that since I saw Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson do a touring production of JC Superstar(my favorite musical)..It is very well put together, and was a labor of love by the creator who actually lived the life those characters sing about....

    I love it.


    EDIT: Check out the movie. Very good, and the vulgarity is toned down to make it fit for consumption by Joe Public...Original Cast(mostly) and on one of the discs is a documentary about the birth of the musical. Pretty fascinating. Jonothan Larson was a brilliant mind.
  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    I have recorded the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom (their summer home) and they amplify some of the sections to get a better blend in the outdoor hill seating but don't do anything inside the pavallion. I also recorded the Cleveland Opera and when they started talking about adding some amplfiication to the venue I was shocked. They never did but some of the cast had "smaller voices" and they were afraid they would not carry to the back of the house.

    I also attend various church services around this area with friends and I have to say that there is NOT a chuch I go to that does not amplify part or all of the service and that includes the choir, the soloist and the minister, rabbi or priest. And we are not talking small pa systems. And in many of these churches we are talking LARGE systems with sub woofers, and stacked midrange and hi frequency drivers. It is amazing to hear what the average church has become. It is more like a rock concert than a church service.

    As to acoustic concerts it is become the "norm" for it to be amplified even if it is in a small hall with less than 100 people in it, which to my way of thinking is strange to say the least. It seems like people cannot perform if they are not amplified and I was at one concert recently with a very small audience in a small hall that had not only a large main system but the artist (who was singing and playing guitar) had to have a major on stage monitor system with a 15" cabinet....and the purpose of that was.....??????

    Even at the college I once worked for they have installed "ambience" speakers" under the balcony for better sound from the orchestra and solo performers. When I was there that would have been a big no no.

    I guess this really is the MTV generation.
  14. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Big Ray; We're in complete agreement about JCSuperstar; I have always liked that one. I was fortunate once as a young kid to see (and work on a local presentation) of the original touring production, with Yevonne Elliman in the cast. (Don't remember the rest, but it was wonderful.) I particularly liked the Judas role, and am not at all surprised to read about the new "Gospel of Judas" that's causing a stir these days. (well, duh! ;-)

    As for RENT, well, that's why they make so many flavors of ice cream at HoJo's. (FWIW, my background is not strict anything (if anything at all, I'm a somewhat lapsed Catholic) but my leanings are definitely on the 'smart/liberal/independent" side. Generally I hate the dems as much as I hate the republicans. Idiots all! - Meaning I opt for law and order along with common sense and a dash of scientific method thrown in as well.)

    I admit I'm probably biased because I knew the real LaBoheme first. (And what's WRONG with teaching kids the GOOD version first, eh? Does everything have to be hip, vulgar, trite and shallow?) Believe me, I went to that show intending to enjoy all that I'd heard about it, and believed the hype. I felt insulted intellectually, sonically assaulted, and disappointed at the overall message. I felt no connection with or pity for these characters; they were/are a symbol of so much of what's wrong with society today: this ridiculous sense of entitlement flying in the face of their own obvious shortcomings. I felt it particularly naive and insulting seeing the show in the very city where EVERYONE learns to survive or go elsewhere: NYC.

    Which brings me to subwoofers... (nice segueway, eh? ;-) )

    I agree they're probably the most over-used live sound tool today, esp in the hands of misinformed and untrained sound "engineers". I once saw Iris Dement performing at a local show, with SO MUCH tubby low end on her VOCAL mic, I nearly flipped out. How is it possible a skinny LITTLE woman like her (a soprano at that!) have so much LOWWWW END resonance as to be shaking my seat cushions when she spoke? We all know the answer to THAT! (Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD!)

    But I do agree they're wonderful in the right hands. The Luka Bloom show was wonderful, with beautiful, well-controlled bass that rounded out his guitar sound, and since the subs were cleverly hidden under the stage, it was felt more than it was heard. Sadly, as we all know, that's rarely the case elsewhere.

    Even with my own mix/mastering suite, my sub is there for a reason: To hear the full spectrum of sound, NOT to blow the roof off or impress the clients. A good sub should do its job without drawing attention to itself, not the other way round. That's rarely true these days, esp in live shows and movie theaters.

    Like overly compressed LOUD CDs, I'm hoping for the day when overdone bass is considered Passe, but I'm not holding my breath! :roll:
  15. srs

    srs Guest

    On the topic of increasing amplification, I wonder if it's partially in response to the increasing noisiness and other disrespectful behavior of the audiences? Here in San Antonio, high school band, orchestra and choir concerts are starting to feel like pep rallies. People scream out "Go-(Your Name Here)!" at the top of their lungs all during the performances. It's really sickening. Of course before the concert begins, the director always explains that this is a formal concert, etc., etc. It only seems to make it worse! Anyway, just a thought.
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    You are probably correct. There seems to be a lot more audience participation.

    One thing that is getting really bad here at classical concerts is people bringing really small babies to the concerts and thoughout the whole concert all you can hear is the baby crying. I know baby sitters are expensive and some people like to expose their children to music at an early age but it is distracting to the audience and especially to the performers.

    At a classical concert recently the pianist stopped playing and from the stage asked "if the baby was in distress" since it had been crying loudly from the beginning of the concert. The mother, who was not the least bit ruffled said "no" and asked the performer to continue. At that point the artist walked off stage and a few minutes later the usher came and escorted the mother and child to the lobby. Then the concert continued and the perfomer got a standing ovation. Talk about hutsba on the part of the mother.
  17. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Great story Tom. Some people's sense of entitlement is certainly elevated in these days of political correctness, and its not just in classical concerts. Mobile phones are the worst IMHO. People should be strip searched at the door, and their phone confiscated. :)
  18. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    That's a helluva story, and a great move on the pianist's part. I'm not sure I would have been as calm about that. I don't understand parents who let children talk/yell, or bring their very young children to events just to make noise. I dont buy the excuse that "we couldn't get a sitter" either. (Stay out in the hallway or the "Crying room", then...)

    I was at a Bat Mitzvah last week with a squalling baby. 5 minutes into the child's carrying on, the mother took the child out, much to the relief of the rest of us.

    I recorded a Christmas concert in '04 that was all but ruined by crying babies and talking children from 5-10yrs old. The conductor wasn't bothered by it, at least not until he heard the recording later, shocked him into realizing that all but one or two works were absolutely ruined by the noise. He said that it was "Traditional" for that Christmas concert to have lots of families and children in attendance. Traditional, fine, but WHEN did it become a room full of people who seem to think they're home in their living rooms, yakking away while the music is playing?

    I don't get it, nor do I accept it. (And I've raied a child who'd NEVER pull such crap in a public place or house of worship. He was raised better than that. He knew how to behave in public from early on. It's not rocket science!) I just don't agree that "Gee, it's great ANYONE comes out; let them bring the kiddies too!" THat's fine for Chuck E. Cheese and outdoor picnics, but concerts and worship services, no way.

    Well, that's the end of my rant on this one, unless you want to add cell phone behavior in public places to the list...
  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Great story about George Szell. He was conducting an afternoon concert of the Cleveland Orchestra. About half way through a guy starts to talk to his friend in the seat next to him (today it would be a cell phone conversation) and George stopped the Cleveland Orchestra and turned around and said to the person in the audience. "And when you are done I will continue" I guess the audience member turned every shade of red and sunk down into his seat. When the concert was over he beat a hasty retreat out of the auditorium with his head down. Needless to say the audience was VERY QUIET for the rest of the concert.

    I also use to record the Cleveland Opera. There were signs all over the place and on the program to TURN OFF YOUR BEEPERS AND CELL PHONES but right in the quietest part of the Opera someone's cell phone would go off with some completely outrageous ring tone and this happened maybe one or two times a concert. The management and the singers were NOT amused. The people who were doing this were all most always doctors and they said they had to have their cell phones with them and turned on at all times. I now think the CO uses one of those jammers so people cannot phone in.

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