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Removing Reverb from Concert Recording

I need some advice on how to get rid of the reverberation from a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that I made in a large stone church last month. The concert producers had a narrator read the sonnets associated with the concerti while a violinist standing behind the narrator played snippets of the solo part. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a mic close enough to the narrator to capture her AND grab the violin. I should have had two mics on them but this was sprung on me an hour before the concert when my setup was otherwise complete and I had run out of mics and channels. All would have been fine if the violinist had played from concerto position in front of the orchestra, but the violinist wanted to play from where the narrator was standing – on extreme stage right, way outside my setup. I was recording for radio broadcast and now the radio station, knowing that the narration was recorded on a separate track, wants me to somehow eliminate the “boominess” from the narration. By the way, my recording of the concert itself sounds fine and is easily my best work in that rather difficult acoustic environment (basically a pair of DPA 4006TL’s in omni with omni outriggers and some spots on the violin soloist and harpsichord). The narration was picked up with a single RØDE NT5, which was the last mic I had in my bag.

I recorded in Samplitude and used no eq and no reverb (obviously). Here’s the narration from Vivaldi’s Winter. All the other tracks are muted except the RØDE NT5:

Vivaldi - Winter Narration.

Is there a plug-in or some eq’ing that will help eliminate some of the reverb? I think they are looking for the sound as if the narrator were in a VO booth at the radio station. Impossible to achieve here, I know, but I’d like to try and re-submit something better.


-- James


RemyRAD Wed, 07/19/2006 - 02:43
Even though you recorded this in a church no manner of praying will be able to remove the excessive reverb which you captured. No magic plug-in. No magic pill. No magic Jesus.

First off, I would never use omnidirectional microphones in an over acoustic environment like a church, especially when broadcast since every radio stations dynamics processing at evening public radio stations, will only make the problem that much worse. That's just plain crazy. Who taught you that? The Acme weekend school of broadcasting?

Only had an hour for a couple of microphones?? Were you having lunch for 45 minutes before setting up the microphones?

Son, you didn't grab the violin. The violin grabbed you. Can't hear it? Here, let me give you a gun.

Narrator on a separate track? So what might be the problem??

Have you considered Alcoholics Anonymous?
Ms. Remy Ann David

JimboJ Wed, 07/19/2006 - 07:14
Hey RemyRAD:

Guess you must be suffering the DT’s. Sorry for your pain.

Here’s the concert part of my recording with the musicians sitting and standing where they're supposed to be:

Vivaldi - Spring Excerpt

Want to send me a really good pair of cardioids so that I can record ORTF in this church? Or maybe you’ve got a spare Royer SF24 lying around. My budget’s a little thin at the moment but I’ll gladly send you a six pack for your trouble.

Yep, I should have used two mics to get the narrator and the violin on separate tracks – or I should have insisted that the violinist play from concerto position where I had a mic waiting for her. But I ran out of tracks/mics and didn't think to steal a mic from the orchestra set-up. Next time.

Here’s mud in your eye!

-- James

RemyRAD Wed, 07/19/2006 - 09:43
Well JimboJ, that musical excerpt sounds quite nice. I hope you took no offense to my rather cocky response and delivery?? I apologize as I did not intend it to be a personal attack on your obviously superfluous, I mean, superb recording chops. There I go again.

I was just trying to throw in a little fiery humor? Although I must admit, I was a little taken aback by your description of the problem and the associated example of your "concert recording". It's obvious to me now you were providing us with a "soloed" couple of tracks and not the whole deal?

Where once I was presented with a similar dilemma, many years ago, I had a DBX119. Which was a cool little box that provided me with 2 important functions. Unlike their 117 model unit which only offered both linear compression and expansion, the 119 also allows you to use it as a conventional " threshold set" limiter/compressor including the additional linear function. It was that linear function, in combination with a limiter after the 119 unit, that allowed me to appreciably reduced the reverb length and intensity. You might be able to locate one of their other units such as the 3BX and/or attempt a similar downward expansion in software, followed by limiting in an attempt to lessen the decay time? Of course, it will do nothing to balance the difference between the narrator and the violin.

Either way, for those of us that love reverb in a church, it is a lovely reverb and I believe provides a good example of what a female voice of God sounds like?

God! I need a drink.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Boswell Wed, 07/19/2006 - 13:50
I spent a while trying various algorithms on your narration sample. It's not easy to do anything useful to it, but it was considerably improved by using a noise removal process. Surprisingly, one that worked as well as any was the one in Audacity, but it took a bit of care to train it on joined-up "noise" only sections. Worth a try. It might work better on the original .wav files rather than those back-converted from MP3.

FifthCircle Wed, 07/19/2006 - 15:26
The only thing I've ever had any luck removing reverb from recordings with is the Cedar DNS1000 (you know, the one with the faders). You can set it with a specific fader setting that can remove reverb. Your ears will tell you when the artifacts start to kick in. If memory serves me right, the setting is all faders down except either the far right or left one which moving up and down will affect the perceived reverb level....

Other than that, there is no substitute for having the right mics in the right position. I find that when I'm in a musical barn (church, etc...) that omnis can work very well, but they need to be close to the performers. When recording orchestras and choirs in churches, I have been known to put my omnis right up against the edge of the ensemble and only a few feet up (ie at the edge of the orchestra and only 8 feet up or so). Sometimes that is what is needed to balance the direct with reverberant sound. Also, in a bad environment, I find that purist approaches usually get dumped in favor of the control of more microphones.


Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 07/20/2006 - 05:33
We work with a lot of vocal and instrumental ensembles in concert. Some of them are not too cool when it comes to last minute requests and some of their "ideas" are a real PITA.

Take the group that decided at the last minute to place the brass players in the balcony for an antiphonal effect. Take the group that decided to include a bell choir behind the children's choir and "forgot" to tell us about the change. Or the group that decided at the last minute that one part of the choir was going to be in the front of the church and another in the rear for an echo effect. Or the group that "forgot" to tell us that they were using amplified accompaniment for a whole suite of pieces in the middle of the concert and did not have an output to feed us with. Or the group that decided that the soloist would stand at the end of the choir flanking them instead of in the middle since he wanted a "stereo" effect. Or the church that told us that we could not have our microphones where we had them since they would be on "hallowed ground". Or the time that after we were all setup the priest told us that we could not be where we were since some members of the congregation would not be able to see the children's choir - this about 5 minutes before the concert was read to start and after we had talked to him for 20 minutes to make sure we could setup where we needed to be. His solution was to have us move 75 feet further back in the church and be outside the sanctuary proper.

You think you got problems bucky.... you haven't even scratched the surface.

No easy way to do what you want but could you simply have the narrator read the part and overlay it on the concert? Since you are individual tracked it should be a simple matter to have the narrator come in and do the reading over again in a quiet non reverberant room and you can add reverb to match that of the hall. If the narrator is any good at all he or she should be able to match what they said pacing wise and the original on location recording will just sound like a slight echo.

Best of luck. We have all been there one time of the other and some of my best recordings were because of last minute solutions to recording something when I did not have the microphones or the inputs to do what really needed to be done.

JimboJ Thu, 07/20/2006 - 18:23
Thanks everyone for your advice. I processed the file with Magix Audio Cleaning Lab 10 using a lot of noise reduction and a little bit of compression and e.q. I don't love the sound but it seems less "boomy." Nothing to be done about the violin/voice balance. Since the complaint was about the excessive reverb on the recording and not the balance, hopefully this will do the trick. I suggested re-recording these little spots on my dime but there were no takers.

Vivaldi - Winter Narration With Noise Reduction

The downside is that this bears no resemblance whatsoever to the recording of the orchestra. And listening to the orchestra recording again and hearing all the extraneous noise picked up by the omnis, I'm definitely going to ditch the idea of using a spaced pair in this venue.

-- James