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Mics for cello recording

I spent a lot of time today on my cello quest. In the end, I picked the SM57, and the Sennheiser e906 (mainly because I'd been using 3 of them for a Queen Tribute - and they did quite well on AC30 amps. I went with the AKG 414 and the U87.

For those who didn't read the other topic https://recording.o… , I'm doing a project where there is 8 bars of low cello, and the samples I have sound kind of exposed and wrong, even when low in the mix. I thought I'd try playing a real one, but my cello is frankly awful. Probably made by the apprentice who had two other to finish before going home. It's quite bright, not at all mellow and sort of shreeky up high. I need just a few low notes, which will later with two more.

Cellos, unlike bass guitars and double basses are tuned in 5ths - so they start on C, and go C-G-D-A. Bass guitars however, are tuned in 4ths. My idea is that if the strings are under less tension, they will be more mellow. That's the premise for the job. I used a hacksaw to get the nut slots deeper to make the effort needed to turn the C into a C sharp less wrist bending, and I sliced a big chunk off the bridge to get the action down to something less painful. It's uncovered a few issues - the lower tension makes the strings tend to start very scratchy when played quietly, but I can probably learn to minimise that.

I'll share the end result as it's pretty much obvious. The SM57 is sort of just OK - you could use it with a bit of EQ and it would work if you were cash strapped. The guitar mic - the 906 is horrible. I suspect the thing is really designed for guitars with their bags of energy, and it sounds pretty awful. It's not bad speaking into it, but the capture is very middy and rather nasal in character. The 414 did it's usual good job on all things, but the winner to my ears was the 87 - warmer, less strident and more pleasing than I expected - the rotten cello didn't sound as rotten through it. It's condensers clearly the winner, with the 57 in 3rd place.

What I did was take one simple section of it with long slow notes and let you hear it first in the context of the piece - no reverb, no compression or treatment, plus the few instruments done in the track so far - a bass and piano with a little bit of guitar in the background. Then, the same 4 clips again, without the track. The second one is the 906 - it's a big shock when you hear it. It works brilliantly on guitars, but it is not for the cello.

The need too explain the tuning took a bit of time, but without it, tuning in 4ths won't mean much. I hope it makes sense. 

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