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Flute recording and mixing

Member for

3 years 11 months
Hi frineds, I am new to this forum. 3 questions.
1. For home recording for flute what type microphone is preferred (condenser/dynamic) ?
2. I have recorded a flute mono track. Do i need to convert it to stereo prior to mixing ? I would like to add some delay and reverb to it. I need some widening effect too. What is preferred way of mixing ?

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Member for

5 years 5 months

Keith Johnson Mon, 10/09/2017 - 02:06
Welcome!

In order:

1) There's no real 'best' mic for anything...it depends on various things like the instrument you're recording, the acoustic space you're recording in and the sound you're trying to achieve.

That said, my personally preference would be to reach for a condenser mic with a flat frequency response rather than something that is hyped in the upper frequencies. Dependent on your room environment, on a budget I'd probably look at something like the Line Audio CM3 as a directional mic or an OM1 if the room acoustics are good and what you're looking for.

2. No - assuming you're mixing into a stereo master and your effects are returning stereo signals there's no need to covert the channel to stereo.

Remember, though, that a flute isn't naturally a 'wide' instrument...be careful that you don't unintentionally create something so artificial it's not believable...of course that could be exactly what you want to do! Under a lot of circumstances, a flute would be (almost) a point source within a stereo field that would be the room / acoustic space....or at most within a space that fits into your mix.

Member for

15 years 5 months

Boswell Mon, 10/09/2017 - 03:22
The key item in your post is "home recording". Getting a good recording of almost any classical instrument depends heavily on the acoustics of the room in which you are recording, and the acoustics play a large part in determining the type of microphone you should use. Your mention of adding reverb and particularly delay to the flute track indicates that this is probably not a classical piece you want to record, and the track may indeed have to sit in a mix with other instruments. Please correct me if I'm wrong in that.

As to choice of microphone, although standard microphones only "hear" what your ears can hear, they do not have a brain attached that can filter out unwanted sound without conscious knowledge of it doing so. A general rule is that condenser microphones pick up more of the reflections and other background noise than a dynamic microphone would in a similar acoustic environment. Without knowing more about the room (dimensions, furnishings, acoustic treatment etc) in which you intend to record, it's not easy to give recommendations. In addition, you don't say anything about the pre-amplifier and recorder you will use for the microphone, nor your budget.

A selection of low and medium-cost microphones that I have used for flute recording and that you might consider: Shure SM57 and Beta57A, Beyer M88, Electrovoice RE20 (all dynamic), Shure SM81, Audio Technica AT4033A (both condenser).

In the previous post, Keith gave you some very good information relating to recording a flute in stereo. Having done very many flute recordings (both as performer and engineer), I have found in most circumstances that it's best to use a mono microphone for the instrument, and then add a very little wide (stereo) reverb to the result if it's appropriate for the style of the music.

Bear in mind that the flute is not a stationary instrument like a piano that is always in a constant position relative to a microphone. It's in the playing style of any flautist to move with the instrument when playing, and this natural performer movement can play havoc with the sound field from even a carefully positioned stereo microphone. When playing live with a folk band, I sometimes use a clip-on flute microphone to control the sound field and allow substantial movement on stage, and it also minimises the bleed from other instruments. However, this situation is very different from giving a concert performance of a classical piece.

Member for

3 years 11 months

IndianFluteGuy Mon, 10/09/2017 - 05:14
Hello Keith and Boswell, your gave me valuable information which I should keep in mind to improve flute recording scenario. Thanks.
I am using Shure SM57 right now. I hope this would be ok since my acoustic is poor. Need to improve my room acoustic going forward.

Keith Johnson, post: 453273, member: 49792 wrote: 2. No - assuming you're mixing into a stereo master and your effects are returning stereo signals there's no need to covert the channel to stereo.

Boswell, post: 453274, member: 29034 wrote: I have found in most circumstances that it's best to use a mono microphone for the instrument, and then add a very little wide (stereo) reverb to the result if it's appropriate for the style of the music.
You lead me to mixing steps !! Thanks
Can you give little more clarity on how this could be done. I understand we don't require stereo convertion. Now 3 questions.
1. Does this means, insert some stereo widening effect in send bus ?
2. If yes, what is the usual PAN level of flute mono track (left/left-mid/mid/right-mid/right) ? And you saying the delay effect will comes through left and right speakers ?

Member for

15 years 5 months

Boswell Mon, 10/09/2017 - 05:53
An SM57 is a perfectly good microphone for standard flute recording. You haven't said what type of audio interface you are using.

You would normally keep the dry (original) flute track as a mono sound in the centre and mix in the output of a stereo effect to give apparent width. How you perform the addition of stereo reverb will depend whether you have an analogue mixer, a digital mixer or are using DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software on a computer.

A purely analogue mixer will usually require external hardware for generating effects such as stereo reverb. You use an Aux output on the mixer to send the flute channel at line level to the effect box (e.g. Lexicon MPX550) and return the L and R effect outputs to a stereo line input channel of your mixer. You then add the required amount of the stereo effect channel into the main mix. It's the effect box that generates the stereo effect, and your mixer processes it as a stereo input.

Most digital mixers have basic reverb available internally as one of the built-in effects. You can use that, or maybe get higher quality effects by using an external effect unit as detailed in the previous paragraph for analogue mixers. Note that the better effect units such as the Lexicon and Yamaha have digital input and outputs available (S/PDIF) as well as analogue, so connection to a digital mixer would not normally need to be done via analogue connections.

With a DAW, almost all of this type of effect is available via plug-ins, so once you have the original track captured, it's up to you what effects you apply.

Member for

3 years 11 months

IndianFluteGuy Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:04
My setup is : Focusrite Saffire pro 14, Shure SM57, Cubase

Boswell, post: 453281, member: 29034 wrote: You would normally keep the dry (original) flute track as a mono sound in the centre and mix in the output of a stereo effect to give apparent width

This makes sense to me while flute mixing.

Member for

12 years 2 months

kmetal Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:29
Your in great shape with Keith and Boz’s advice, and the sm57. Your interface and daw are good too.

I will add that a few moving blankets hanging from mic stands are a great way to tame the acoustics of your room without spending much $. I get mine at a local discount tool store for $7 usd each.

Taming the acoustics will make a very significant difference in your recordings and the mixes.

Your 57 helps by not picking up as much of the room as a condenser would, but the blankets will still help keep things clear.

Member for

3 years 11 months

IndianFluteGuy Wed, 10/11/2017 - 18:33
kmetal, post: 453291, member: 37533 wrote: I will add that a few moving blankets hanging from mic stands are a great way to tame the acoustics of your room without spending much $.

Sounds interesting. You mean hanging blankets in front of mic stand by keeping some distance ? I am using a tabletop mic stand. So I think I need to hang the blanket in front of table ?

Member for

8 years 9 months

DonnyThompson Thu, 10/12/2017 - 04:20
Just a thought .. you may want to consider getting an actual mic stand instead of the tabletop model you are using now.
A standalone mic stand will allow you greater flexibility in placement in different areas of the room, and getting the stand off the table will help to alleviate any reflections you might be getting from the hard, flat surface it's currently sitting on.
There is no reason you can't get great results with an SM57, (in certain situations, such as spaces with reflective response, many times a dynamic mic like the 57 is preferred over a condenser, as they are typically less sensitive to picking up reflections and extraneous noises than condenser mics are)... you just need to be able to place it in a better position than on a desk top . ;)

Member for

12 years 2 months

kmetal Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:08
That’s good advice from Donny about the mic stand. You can score some budget boom stands in 3 and 5 packs sometimes for less than $10 each.

IndianFluteGuy, post: 453380, member: 50868 wrote: Sounds interesting. You mean hanging blankets in front of mic stand by keeping some distance ? I am using a tabletop mic stand. So I think I need to hang the blanket in front of table ?

Basically if you have a boom stand you can set it up so it look is like a “T” and drape the blanket over it. Ideally in a typical room you’ll have a Absorbtion above, to the sides, and front and rear. I’ve often built little ‘caves’ for drummers and singers with mic stands and blankets and panels w acoustic foam. I also tend to cover kick drums w a blanket in studio and drape blankets over guitar cabs and the mic out in the feild.

What your trying to do in your case is eliminate sound reflections coming back into the mic and interfering with the direct sound of your flute. Relatively close micing and using a dynamic mic like your 57 help this as well.

You can do a little cave type thing or set the stands/blankets near the reflective walls. I’d start with the closest wall, which often times is the front wall or ceiling if your at a desk.

I have to mention that fabrics affixed to walls should be fire treated according to fire codes. So just be careful. The mic stands are easy to set up and take down, and don’t violate code if placed near a wall because they aren’t considered permanent. You may want to double check that.

It really can make a nice significant difference when your dulling down these reflections. Think of what taking a photograph in a room with mirrors is like. That’s akin to how mids and highs zoom around an untreated room.

Member for

7 years 7 months

paulears Sat, 10/14/2017 - 11:23
I'd skip the delay, and add some gentle stereo reverb from a good source and even with your 57, the results will be quite nice. In fact, condensers can be quite a problem on poorly setup instruments, if their action clack and bangs - or worse, your flautist has one of those nasty percussive playing styles, and cannot stop!
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