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The mics in the center of the circle scheme worked okay, thanks!

Hi folks, I got some advice here about a scheme to set up a simple unobtrusive set of mics in the middle of the circle at our weekly Irish session in order to have a collection of recordings to help us hear ourselves afterward, and, you know, for the same reasons people take pictures of each other I guess. So, I got the two ribbon mics (two cheap used SE X1R ribbon mics) and a Cloudlifter CL-2 and the whole thing runs off AA batteries and phantom power through my Tascam DR-40x. The gain on the Tascam ended up around 50% in order to peak mostly around -12 dB. The only thing that was dumb, in hindsight, was the Tascam DR-40x; if I had known these preamps were noisier than every other portable recorder available I would have chosen something else. But oh well. The two ribbon mics were set up as a Blumlien stereo pair, one upside down and directly above the other, each 45 degrees from the "center stage." We sat on either side, about 4 feet from the mics. Note that you can sit in front of or behind a Blumlein stereo pair, but it seems there would be problems if people played into the sides (the front on one mic and back of the other mic), so we avoided that.

It turned out alright! I attached one track of Irish polkas as an example of the result (but not a great example of musicianship). All I did was open it in Audacity and add a notch filter at 63 Hz to remove a mystery hum, EQ a little, and add a bit more reverb. The room had nice ambiance, but it can always be bigger, lol!

So, I wanted to say thanks for the help and encouragement! And, I'd appreciate any advice of mistakes that I could remedy in the audio. I am not trained or experienced in audio stuff like this, and I'm sure there are lots of boneheaded things I did that could be avoided in the future. If you recognize any issues, please feel free to express this in any manner you see fit. Thanks!

My main gripe with the outcome is that it's hard to tame the harsh frequencies without making it sound muffled; I don't really know how to accomplish this. I did as best I could finding the worst screeches and bringing them down a few dB. Harshness and a distorted sound is especially a problem if I try to blend the two stereo channels to make it less wide; if I do that the fiddles seem to build on each other at times in the high frequencies in very unpleasant ways. And, if I can save up with something with nicer preamps than the Tascam I will do so.

The other thing I will try that is free and maybe better for stereo blending is to us a M/S configuration instead. You can still sit on either side of a M/S setup if the M mic is figure eight, right? I just saw that the Tascam has an option to automatically decode M/S, which is cool. We'll see how that works. I do want to keep the workflow simple though because the plan is to record a two hours of session sets every week.

Anyway, not sure if anyone cares, but this is what happened! :P

Also, if you like to polka, I apologize; Irish polkas are sometimes played a bit fast for the way most folks dance it. And, sorry, our piper was out of town this week!

Comments

jjw Mon, 11/28/2022 - 19:22

Also, note that the sloppy fiddle on stage left with the noticeably scratchy and nasal sound to it sounds like that in real life. That's me, lol! The two microphones do in fact have the same sound to them.

jjw Mon, 11/28/2022 - 19:28

As another example, here's a set of reels led by a nicer-sounding fiddle player in the session. This one was stereo blended, I think panned maybe 60% each way or so. I feel like stuff sounds distorted at times, and also it could sound better in a lot of ways, but at least Bill's fiddle playing is lovely so that's nice.

  • 36_maidsreels.mp3

Boswell Tue, 11/29/2022 - 10:07

That's pretty good for a scratch recording of a session. I particularly liked The Maid Behind the Bar set.

If what you wanted is some record of how the session sounded, you probably don't need to worry too much about going for better equipment. However, the thing that you could look at is the radial positioning of the players so that the sound is more balanced between the instruments. For example, the whistle doesn't really get a fair hearing.

I'm not sure why you are scared of players being directly in front of one of the microphones. The polar pattern of a pair of fig-8s at right-angles is perfectly circular, so all the players would get the same treatment no matter the angle they sit at. When mixing, you can perform rotations in 45 degree steps by how you select the ins and outs of the M-S decoder, including omitting it. Within each step you have the option of narrowing the resulting stereo image, which you mention you already used.

jjw Tue, 11/29/2022 - 11:58

In reply to by Boswell

Boswell wrote:

That's pretty good for a scratch recording of a session. I particularly liked The Maid Behind the Bar set.

If what you wanted is some record of how the session sounded, you probably don't need to worry too much about going for better equipment. However, the thing that you could look at is the radial positioning of the players so that the sound is more balanced between the instruments. For example, the whistle doesn't really get a fair hearing.

I'm not sure why you are scared of players being directly in front of one of the microphones. The polar pattern of a pair of fig-8s at right-angles is perfectly circular, so all the players would get the same treatment no matter the angle they sit at. When mixing, you can perform rotations in 45 degree steps by how you select the ins and outs of the M-S decoder, including omitting it. Within each step you have the option of narrowing the resulting stereo image, which you mention you already used.

Thanks! We will definitely experiment a lot more with placement of where people are sitting, and I will try M-S next time instead of straight up L and R. We would eventually like to settle on a few sets that we can make a decent enough recording of to share on the internet, maybe syncing the audio with a video of the session, for a couple. The plans are vague though, but we're having fun, and it's humbling to find out that what I sound like IRL is not what I hear in my head while playing!! Yikes.

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 11/30/2022 - 03:10

Sounds pretty darn good. 

Can you talk a bit about the room where you are recording?

If you want to listen to some really nice recordings of a similar group listen to "The Baltimore Consort" https://baltimoreco… It is in most cases "early music" but the group sounds amazing and your recording reminds me of them.

jjw Wed, 11/30/2022 - 15:44

In reply to by Thomas W. Bethel

Thomas W. Bethel wrote:

Sounds pretty darn good. 

Can you talk a bit about the room where you are recording?

If you want to listen to some really nice recordings of a similar group listen to "The Baltimore Consort" https://baltimoreco… It is in most cases "early music" but the group sounds amazing and your recording reminds me of them.

Thanks! It is a building that used to be a restaurant and is now a Quaker meeting house (they were kind enough to let us start using the space following Covid). The room is i dunno maybe 30 or 40 feet across. Hardwood floors, lots of windows with no curtains, ceilings are maybe 10 or 12 feet not super high, but the ceilings do have sound treatment, some kind of white bubbly coral-looking panels with little holes in them. Otherwise the walls are bare and flat drywall. I paced around the middle of the room whistling in order to pick a spot to put the mic stand and then set up the chairs around it. 

jjw Wed, 11/30/2022 - 16:22

In reply to by Thomas W. Bethel

Thomas W. Bethel wrote:

If you want to listen to some really nice recordings of a similar group listen to "The Baltimore Consort" https://baltimoreco… It is in most cases "early music" but the group sounds amazing and your recording reminds me of them.

Oh thanks I love that early music kind of stuff, and yeah they sound like they might have recorded while all playing together in the same room, it sounds really nice and organic! All those neat old instruments, too!

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 12/01/2022 - 03:08

In reply to by jjw

jjw wrote:

Thomas W. Bethel wrote:

Sounds pretty darn good. 

Can you talk a bit about the room where you are recording?

If you want to listen to some really nice recordings of a similar group listen to "The Baltimore Consort" https://baltimoreco… It is in most cases "early music" but the group sounds amazing and your recording reminds me of them.

Thanks! It is a building that used to be a restaurant and is now a Quaker meeting house (they were kind enough to let us start using the space following Covid). The room is i dunno maybe 30 or 40 feet across. Hardwood floors, lots of windows with no curtains, ceilings are maybe 10 or 12 feet not super high, but the ceilings do have sound treatment, some kind of white bubbly coral-looking panels with little holes in them. Otherwise the walls are bare and flat drywall. I paced around the middle of the room whistling in order to pick a spot to put the mic stand and then set up the chairs around it. 

It sounds very nice for the recordings you did of your group. Congrats on finding a good space to rehearse and record in.

 

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