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Mic placement for recital recording

I have seen a couple of recordists [?] place their microphones [stereo bar] on the floor in front of an elevated stage at about stage floor level, slightly to stage left to record student recitals at the school where I work.

They have done this to be visually unobtrusive.

Is this a common practice? I have always elevated my mics but sometimes feel a bit in the way placing Manfrotto stands in front of the stage.

Has anyone else seen this 'low mic' technique.

Any comments on it's effect on the recorded sound?


RemyRAD Fri, 04/07/2006 - 21:19
Yes, placing the microphone at the very edge of the stage is not only a good practice, it eliminates the reflections from the stage that can create that Hollow sounding effect. So be sure that the capsule is no higher than the floor. Basically it creates a boundary style microphone. Crown also has a series of microphones that sit directly on the stage and are a type of Pressure Zone Microphone or PZM. They are popular for theatrical productions and also make some surprisingly good musical recordings but when people are too close to the edge of the stage, then you'll have some balance problems. I have used this technique many times in the past for both video and less esthetically obtrusive requests.

Esthetically Obtrusive
Ms. Remy Ann David

Zilla Fri, 04/07/2006 - 21:24
I have had to do this on a few occations, usually involving nervous performers or insistant video types. The events where either just soloists or vox+piano type recitals. Actually, the results were not all that bad. The "foot" mics actually avoided floor reflections (less comb filtering). Obviously, this technique would not really get proper balance for an ensemble or orchestra.

bap Fri, 04/07/2006 - 21:47
Thanks, I also desire to be 'Esthetically Obtrusive'!

I will be recording a clarinet recital this Sunday [I'm not a pro] that will include pieces for clarinet and piano, of course, as well the Mozart Trio for clarinet, viola, and piano and the Mozart Quintet for piano and winds. Some great music, good players, a good room [200 seat], and a half way decent piano - Steinway 7 ft not maintained as it should be (I'm a piano snob....).

Is stage level mic placement ok off to the side? Should mics be tilted? Level?

I think I'll give it a go but will only have headphones.

RemyRAD Fri, 04/07/2006 - 23:12
Because this is a small ensemble I would keep them within 6 feet of each other. You can angle that capsules up for better more direct coverage. Omni microphones would be preferable but cardioids should also work fine with this edge stage miking. If they are quite close together, I might even suggest an XY configuration also at the edge of the stage? And of course XY are capsules almost touching together at a 45° angle to each other. With the right microphone facing towards the left in the left microphone facing towards the right. I recommend this if the soloist is centerstage as ORTF might put the soloist in a hole within the stereo sound field. ORTF is essentially the 2 microphones quite close together but the left microphone is facing left in the right microphone facing right with approximately 6 inches separation between the capsules which would again yield a hole and somewhat miss the centered soloist. So I do not recommend ORTF, at the edge of the stage.

Edgy broad
Ms. Remy Ann David

bap Sat, 04/08/2006 - 05:50
Thanks. The stage is not deep and, for the quintet, the piano will be within 3 feet of the back wall and the front players will be slightly closer than 6 ft from the stage edge.

For clarinet solo pieces the player will probably stand a little over 6 ft from front edge.

Do you think this is too close with clarinetist facing forward?

I will not have a chance to hear all instrumental configurations but will bring omnis as well as cardioids. There won't be much time for 'flip-flopping' (political terminology!)

Have you ever used figure 8s at stage edge?

zemlin Sat, 04/08/2006 - 06:18
Hey, BAP!
Something that took me a while to learn, as bloody obvious as it seems, is to LISTEN when setting up mics.

What finally made it work for me was getting a monitoring setup I could use in the field. I have decent quality in-ears and some good 30dB hearing-protection muffs that I wear when placing mics. I've also made up some patch cables so I can use a long mic cable (or a channel in my snake) for the headphones.

When I get the in-ears stuffed in my head and the muffs on, I have GREAT isolation and hear ONLY what is coming through the wires - even if I have my head inside a piano or right in front of an operatic soprano.

You can ask all the questions you want and make great plans, but moving the mics a little bit this way or that can make all the difference in a recording. Figure out how you can listen to what's coming into the mics and wave them around during a practice or warm-up until you find the RIGHT spot for them.

Then you'll KNOW you have them positioned properly. Make sure that whatever you listen with can give you a good stereo image. A few degrees on an ORTF setup can be the difference between a great recording and a hole in the middle. You need to be able to hear that when you're setting up.

bap Sat, 04/08/2006 - 07:01
Thanks Zemlin.

I realize that a great recording cannot be made merely by asking questions on the internet. It is difficult sometimes for me to assess actual sound with headphones, even with good isolation.

For this recital we all get into the room 1 hour before recital begins. Doors open 30-40 minutes later. After setting up I will not have a lot of time for fussing that would normally happen at a dress rehearsal.

That is the only reason I am asking anal questions.

I will listen to whatever I am able to in advance, make my best call and go with it. Sometimes there's not that much choice!

zemlin Sat, 04/08/2006 - 07:39
bap wrote: ... we all get into the room 1 hour before recital begins. Doors open 30-40 minutes later.
Uff Da! I hope you're a lot faster than I am. There's no way I'd be ready in that amount of time unless I was just going into my MD recorder. I usually ask for 90 minutes to haul in and setup before the talent shows up - then at least 30 minutes for warmup and tweaking. Depending on the hall (distance between the gear and the stage) I might ask for 2 hours to setup.

bap Sat, 04/08/2006 - 08:33
Yes indeed - it will be a bit hurried! The room entrance is indoors and I will have my gear and be waiting. Set up will be compact and the venue is not large enough to require great amounts of cable.

I can set up in half an hour if only doing one pair of mics with no close micing or spots.

Thorough sound checks and experimentation will definately not be possible. In busy university halls this seems to often be the way of it when there is no house system.

Simmosonic Sun, 04/09/2006 - 05:52
Two thoughts, too late?

1) Is this a recital that you can afford to experiment with? I mean, is it a paid job? What is the client expecting? What's at risk for you? If it's not something you can afford to experiment with, stick with what you know. If that means a Manfrotto in front of the stage, well, so be it. Most clients will forget a slight visual obtrusion after the event, but the recording will be with them for years so you need to make it good. I have two Manfrottos, one black, the other plain aluminium. Depending on the room's decor, one of those two will usually blend into the room better than the other. Usually it's the silver one, believe it or not!

2) I am not sure that the floor miking approach is suitable for this particular combination of instruments. I have seen and heard it work very well with classical guitar duos, also classical guitar and mandolin, and similar. I heard it used on a string quartet once; great cello sound but no definition on the violins and violas (not surprising, they're facing upwards!). Piano and clarinet? I dunno... Sounds like a good idea if you want to capture a lot of piano pedal noise and the squeaking of leather shoes, accompanied by off-axis music!

I suspect that, given a choice, you'd go for the mics on the Manfrotto. So, be careful not to put the cart before the horse. Visual unobtrusiveness is good, but not if it means a sub-standard recording - that's no good for anyone.

bap Sun, 04/09/2006 - 09:19
There is a small payment - a token - and some opportunity to experiment but not a lot of time to decide.

I will bring cardiods, omnis, and figure 8s. I'm a little hesitant to place floor mics when the under side of the piano is so close but will give it a quick listen, if timr allows, to see what it sounds like.

I may just end up with the mics elevated.


[It's still morning here. I have a brother in law in Perth who religiously called at 3:00 A.M. until he finally got the time difference straight.]