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I am new so be gentle. I am involved in a performance of an original musical and we are making a DVD of the performance. We will be in a 1000 seat theatre and my main question is about recording the pit band. I think the band will be loud enough for performances so the only microphones needed will be for recording purposes.

I have no experience with recording, but I have played in a number of ensembles that have been recorded. My initial idea was to have a couple mics more or less above the conductor rather than trying to mic the individual instruments or small groups of instruments. I figured this would simulate the balance that the audience would hear.

The band will have a flute, a clarinet/sax player, a trumpet, a french horn, two trombones, two keyboards, two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, bass and drums.

Someone else involved in the show, who I suspect also has no recording experience, suggested having the electric instruments played through the house speakers, but this sounds like a bad idea to me for a couple reasons: (1) it will make balancing the amplified instruments with the acoustic instruments more difficult unless we mic everyone, and send that through the house speakers along with the singers, (2) I think it will be easier for the keyboard and guitar players to play through their amps which they would be used to, and (3) it's been my experience that shows don't always go perfectly and making things more complicated will only make it more likely that something will go wrong.

We are by no means a professional production, and the goal is to be able to hear the band on the DVD, and it would be nice if it sounds similar to how it would have sounded in the theatre.

I hope what I said makes sense, and I would greatly appreciate your insight.

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Cucco Fri, 02/16/2007 - 11:58

Welcome aboard dthep!

Don't worry - we're pretty easy going folk here! You might want to also ask this question in the Acoustic Music Forum as this is where it is likely to get the most answers (us orchestra recordists do this kind of recording at least 1 to 2 times a month over there...)

You are absolutely correct in your assumption that firing the electric instruments through the house would be a VERY bad idea.

A couple questions for you.

1 - Where do you reside and where will the show be taking place? Many of the folks on this board are willing to help lend a hand often at no charge.

2 - Will there be house mics? In other words, other than the lavaliers on each actor (or the stage mics or some combination of each) will there be mics out in the auditorium recording the performance? If yes, much of the sound of the pit orchestra will be picked up this way and you will only need to reinforce your recording with spot mics. I don't feel that this is the ideal situation, but it certainly can work.

Many people just eagerly shove mics into each section and then "mix" them later. I think this is a big mistake in most situations.

If the pit is like that in many high school auditoriums, it's not truly below the stage but in front of it and essentially at floor (not stage) level. If this is the case, you're going to want a little isolation. If your musicians are in a "true" pit, they already have a fair bit of isolation.

In either case, I've had good success with a decca tree over the musicians in the pit using slightly more directional mics rather than the traditional omni mics.

Then I spot percussion as they're often placed in a horrible spot in the pit and they sound like they're a mile away on any recording. String bass needs special attention with a spot mic as well but you're likely using an electric bass. If this is the case, I would DI the electric and mix it in to taste.

As for the keyboards - I'm assuming you mean electric keyboards. If this is the case, you can either DI the keyboards or mic the amplifiers. Either will work just fine.

Don't bring these instruments through the house as you'll likely piss off the on-stage talent, but DI them into the recording and you'll be fine.

Oh...and by the way - don't be scared off by the decca tree technique. You don't need a fance ($1000) decca tree adapter. Three boom stands will do just fine.