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Recording cello and piano, I am going with XY stereo far and above, and spot mics for both instruments (two for piano amd one for cello).

I pan only the spots, and not the XY stereo track, right?

Thanks in advance...


Boswell Sat, 05/23/2020 - 03:34

Positionally, yes. But you have to be careful how you use the X-Y pair in the final mix.

If it were an orchestra with instrument spots and/or with outriggers, the main sound is from the front pair, and the others are lower-level detail. I regard it as important that the onset of a sound comes from the centre pair, so normally at mixdown I would delay all the detail mics by about 1 millisec per foot of their distance from the centre pair. This is in addition to panning the spots to fit with what the centre pair is telling you.

If you choose the main sound as coming from the instrument mics (the spots in this case), then you can regard the X-Y pair as giving both the pan position for the spots and the room sound (ambience). Delays are not so necessary in this case.

paulears Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:01

Spot mics as Boswell suggests, are so difficult to place in a mix. The solution here depends on the recording space. If it is big enough and wonderful sounding enough then the stereo pair will be the most natural sounding, and with changes in position, the two instruments will record well. In practical aspects, this really means you are recording in a room where a 90 degree angle between the mic position and the instrument position can be achieved - that sets the minimum size of the room where genuine stereo techniques work. At the mic position you hear the balance and blend of the two instruments perfectly. There will then be no need for spot mics and all the hassle of making the stereo field support itself and not do odd things. Odd things like the stereo width of the close miked piano fit into the narrower sound field of the stereo pair. That's very tricky to do.

If the room is smaller, or excessively reverberant, or has other recording issues, then I'd abandon stereo recording and use the close mics and 'create' a realistic stereo field afterwards. In most recordings I do, I adopt the belt and braces approach. I have plenty of tracks so I'll record a stereo perspective, but also use a number of section microphones - especially when there's little chance to rehearse or experiment. Usually the stereo pair is too reverberant and the result is stereo wise, a bit of a mess - so the section mics get panned, delayed and reverbed till they align and become solid. Sometimes the stereo pair can be blended in as the 'room', but sometimes they just fight. I've never been stuck re-creating the space, but I have messed up big time with stereo techniques when I didn't have the backup of more mics. My experience is planning is difficult when venues get awkward. For me, I like to fly the stereo pair in the right position, usually on 3mm aircraft cable and soft straps on suitable supports, and then you discover the musicians/orchestra/choir have been moved to a place where there is no support available. These logistic problems seem to pop up all the time, and it's rare to have enough rehearsal time when you can experiment.


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