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So a piano trio consists of 3 elements: a piano, a violin and a cello. I was thinking of buying a mixer board so I could record them simultaneously. Is that a good idea or is it better to record the violin, piano and cello part all separately?

(I will use 3 mics for the piano; 2 small diaphragm (cardioid)f left and right and one large diaphragm (cardioid) for the center. For violin one small diaphragm (cardioid) condenser in front of the body, maybe a second one on the side and lastly for the cello one large diaphragm (cardioid) condenser in front of the f holes / bridge and maybe one small diaphragm (cardioid) condenser on the side.)


bouldersound Sat, 04/25/2020 - 12:17

The odds of getting them all live mixed optimally are pretty slim.

Recording piano is a large subject all on its own. I don't think there's one right answer for every situation, and it's highly dependent on the instrument.

I'm not sure if two mics per violin and cello will be an advantage. You could be setting yourself up for phase interactions, and it might make leakage from the piano more difficult to control.

paulears Sat, 04/25/2020 - 13:55

Personally - I'd never buy a mixer nowadays for this kind of thing - just a multi channel audio interface. Stereo technique for the piano and a single mic each for the strings.

This sounds simple, but isn't. The overall process will be very different depending on the music. If it's old ensemble music, then you have lots of decisions to make. You can record them with a single stereo mic - which can produce excellent results IF, and only if, the room sounds nice. If the room is less good, then close miking the cello and violin will enable room simulation with reverbs, and some left to right placement. My experience is that good rooms are quite rare. Pencil condenser for the violin, probably a large diaphragm for the cello, on it's left side from the perspective of the player - 500-600mm away from the bridge, maybe a little less if the room isn't big, pointed halfway between there end of the fingerboard and the bridge. I'd probably use a boom stand for the violin and go overhead looking down at the bridge to fingerboard area. Piano with lid off and a couple of condensers - but the exact position would have to wait till I could hear the piano. From the audience perspective I'd prefer to have piano, violin then cello left to right.

The trouble with recording this kind of thing is that these instruments all have very personal sounds, as do their players. Closed headphones or even better, a pair of speakers in another room are really important. A strident and quite hard violin probably needs a mic swap from a violin that is mellow and warm. The cello sound varies hugely and needs the same consideration. You might discover the piano is far too loud and lid on on half stick might be better, but that gives you even less space for the mics.

The only rule is that the rules bend depending on space, instruments and repertoire.

pcrecord Sat, 04/25/2020 - 16:27

paulears, post: 463980, member: 47782 wrote: Personally - I'd never buy a mixer nowadays for this kind of thing - just a multi channel audio interface.

I agree, A mixer isn't so popular anymore and we often get better preamp on interfaces (per cost) because of all the parts save.. Mixing could be done easily with a DAW.
But If you have to go from place to places everyday, a stand alone recorder could be a good option too.. I have the Zoom F4 with the 2 ch preamp option. It gives me 6 channels input, well enough for small ensemble and it sound very good..
For my studio, I got the RME UFX, it wasn't my plan to use it for this purpose but it includes a stand alone recording to usb feature..

Back many years, ensembles were recorded with just one mic.. the challenge was to put them at the right spot in a great sounding room..
I guess it's still what counts the most today, but we have more mixing option using multiple mics ;)

paulears Sun, 04/26/2020 - 02:57

I used to be the Principal Examiner for Music Technology A Level here in the UK, and my exam history started with the introduction of digital multitrack, taking over from four track analogue reel-reel - cassette and ¼". Part of the process was a stereo recording of live musicians - which while allowing jazz and big band, tended to be more traditional music, and the other half was more pop based - guitar, bass, drums, keys, saxes bit of brass - that kind of thing. Each year would generate stuff that at one end could have been released on CD and nobody would have guess a student produced it, to absolute drivel - a HUGE range.

A few things popped out as they were continually repeated. The 'natural acoustic' recording was thought easy - because it was two mics, so a five minute setup, stand back and press record - done! The other thing in the multitrack was recording drums - easy! one drum to one mic, faders in a row and bingo - done!

My conclusion was few people had the ears and the science for a stereo recording, and even fewer really understood how to make drums sound 'commercial'.

Many people would tell us they'd used a modified ORTF, and loads mentioned Decca Trees - but most only had a mic box with a few cardioids in it. Very often, they'd include photos of the session, and you'd see microphones with 3ft too little cable, that had been tugged upwards pointing at the ceiling, or a boom drooped down on the kit, explaining the crazy tom prominence.

I was convinced they were following a miking by numbers handout from the teacher, with no realisation that they really ought to listen to set these things up. One year, we had an upsurge in entries and too few examiners, and we advertised in Sound on Sound magazine. Got some really decent musicians, studio people and technologists. Five mins in to the training session I realised we had a problem. Part of the standardisation process is play a recording from last year - ask them for a gut reaction grade, then reveal what it really got, and explain the features that generated that grade. A to E. I pressed play. 3 minutes later I got confirmation of what I suspected. "Who thought E?" the newbies produced a show of hands! The old lags sitting there mystified. "That was a B. Here is an E". Shock horror. We lost probably 50% of the new intake because their studio head could not cope with the products from the schools and colleges. One complained that these people shouldn't be able to pass. The reality is that with E, through to A - there probably should be four or five better grades above A if you use commercial recording quality as the holy grail.

We forget this when newcomers join here and want to record to the highest levels, too quickly. All those grades above A need ears and science. Whenever somebody posts about recording a string quartet for their first project and want to know what to buy, I think back to the exam system. It's an ambitious project for a first one - so much that can go wrong that cannot be remotely predicted. Most of us who plonk microphones on stands make very small adjustments, but the casual viewer doesn't see the careful angling (and the reasons for it), or why exactly we picked that very odd microphone from the box for the beat up old acoustic the muso just pulled out of the case. How often do you read on here somebody suggesting the 57 as the mic to use, when there are cleverer and much more expensive ones in the box?

The students have a sort of rule book - guitar=57, voice =58, kick = D112 and so on - because that's what the school has, and teacher has told them these mics are the best/most appropriate. Present them with something rarer or more expensive and they're stuck. Nobody ever let them put the 58 in the kick or put the 112 on the guitar. I always find counting the sound sources and counting the mics then picking the most appropriate ones quite fun. That's where you suddenly discover the things that really work nicely that you didn't;t expect.

For the people who buy a mic or two and learn from Youtube - they're working with a hand tied behind their backs.

I bet there's nobody experienced here who hasn't picked out the best mic, then stuck it back in the box because you remembered you left the clip for it at home! Your second choice did perfectly well!