Skip to main content

Recording an Opera demo track

Hi everyone. I'm trying to help out my wife, she's an opera singer. I simply HATE her demo recordings to send to apply for an audition. The Piano is ALWAYS super loud, and she sounds far away. This is a woman who can over power a full orchestra no problem. I've never been at her recordings, but supposedly the little mic has been between her and the piano. That is what it sounds like to me.

I bought the CAD GXL2200, and the blue icicle to try and get a better sound, the other mic was always a portable recorder deal, and we didn't own it.

I'm not looking to be a pro and do this for a living, but I want a better sound for her.

I do not have any other equipment besides the mic, shock mount, boom arm tripod and the things needed to make it record on my laptop. simply can not afford it.

My question is... How do i set up Adobe to get the best sound for her. How do i set it so that I get a better High and Low note sound from her? Is that gain staging? Do i set that up BEFORE recording?

I am assuming i'll need to record the piano separately from her voice, and place the piano recording back to her so she can sing to that?

I have only 1 mic, set up. it's a small practice room.

Any help dealing with WHAT i have would be wonderful.



TheJackAttack Sun, 03/09/2014 - 21:59

Recording separately isn't going to work for you for opera audition recording. You need to find a bigger room even if you have to schedule time in a church. Make sure the reverb isn't too long though as that will cause problems too. You will need to get the singer further from the piano as it has much more core energy to the sound than any singer-and BTW no singer can cover an orchestra really including the great Wagnerian Flagstad. Student orchestra....maybe maybe not.

To recap, you need a much better room and better position of the singer in relation to the mic versus the piano.

Bethany Mon, 03/10/2014 - 07:04

We had only the room, but thank you, I'll keep that in mind for the next time. We will be trying to record often, but she's Loud! I'm hoping I can tweak these recording to be useful. I'm brand new to recording, totally trying to teach myself... So can I deal with reverb in the daw? I really need to understand how to set up the daw to record her properly. I'll try to upload a clip of her before edits, the mic was at peak unless she whispered, and I had her as far from the mic as the room would allow. I set the daw for a bit depth of 32 float, mono, and I believe 4800 .

Thank you for your help!

Bethany Mon, 03/10/2014 - 08:16

I have no idea. i think the knob on the blue icicle was turned all the way. I think it's how it came to me. I had no clue what it was for. Honestly i thought it was for power. I read the paper instructions. It made no mention of the knob. I am a total newbie. I've been watching a lot of youtube but clearly i don't have a grasp on all of it yet.

Boswell Mon, 03/10/2014 - 09:49

My guess is that it isn't "static" you are describing, it's overload, and there's nothing that you can usefully do with recordings that have that. Record her again with the gain turned down on the Blue Icicle. You could try 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 settings and see which gives you enough signal level without getting anywhere near the overload point.

Bethany Mon, 03/10/2014 - 12:20

Well thank you for explaining the knob Boswell! I hope that makes the difference... and since the two arias i tried to record didn't save properly, we have to do it all again anyway. Do you have any reccomendations for the daw set up? Bit depth, i recorded in 32 float... and i set it to 4800 is that hz? I'm not sure. I just tried to follow what people said. should i record in mono? because it's just one mic? and because i'm really just mic-ing the room

paulears Mon, 03/10/2014 - 13:33

People always think recording is something so simple! Firstly, it's perfectly possible to make a good recording of an opera singer with a piano accompaniment with a single mic. The BBC did it for radio for years. The difficult thing is placement of the singer, the piano and the microphone within the space. The mic you have is perfectly able to do this, although being a cardioid, you may well have trouble finding positions that work well. Figure of 8 mics were great for this - the rear working for the piano and the front for the singer. With a cardioid you're going to have to find a direction that bisects the piano and singer, and then bring the singer forward or backwards towards the mic to get the correct balance between her and the piano. The distance of the piano and the acoustics of the room will set the furthest distance - too far and the piano gets wishy washy and weak. Sometimes you may be able to move the singer to one side and get her to sing across the mic line, rather than directly at it. You will need isolating headphones to be able to hear this, or be prepared for lots of test recordings. The piano can be closed, half or full stick, again depending on what it sounds like. Once you have the location sorted, setting the gain is a simple thing. Look for any FFF passages and make sure they can be handled without distortion, the rest, should then be fairly simple. I'd suggest that getting another mic, or a pair would really help you, and instead of going direct to stereo, you could have piano on one track and singer on the other, then blend them together afterwards.

TheJackAttack Mon, 03/10/2014 - 18:13

Paul, I get the impression we have been talking about an indifferently maintained studio vertical piano in a very tiny college practice room with every hard surface imaginable like most college practice rooms.

Yes, a single mic can record a singer and a piano. No argument. It still comes back to my first statement about the room not being up to the task making it fifty times more difficult than it needs to be for a beginner.

TheJackAttack Mon, 03/10/2014 - 18:29

For Audition, 32 bit float is just fine but you should try a 16 bit setting since the Icicle only outputs at 16 bit . The Icicle also only outputs a sample rate of 44,100 (44.1k). The Icicle settings cannot be adjusted which makes it limiting but takes the guesswork out for a beginner.

Do not adjust any virtual knobs or sliders within Audition as it won't affect anything in the recording process. Those are for playback and mixing. As Boswell states, the analog gain control on the Icicle itself should be in the mostly turned down position. The phantom power should be on for the CAD condenser mic. You will adjust the Icicle gain based upon what you see in Audition. You want your loudest peak to be no more than -12dB and certainly -20dB peaks are just fine. As long as you don't hit 0dB you will be fine in any case. Make sure you have headphones on and no speakers turned on. Then check the I button on the track so that you can monitor while recording. Move your mic around until you get the best sound possible then hit the red record button.

paulears Tue, 03/11/2014 - 01:31

To jack attack I totally agree! For many years I was principal examiner for music technology A level and back then one task was what was called ' the natural acoustic' and it was a direct to stereo recording. Dreadful acoustics rotten pianos and even some trying to record amplified bands like this made the listening quite painful. Clearly, the real problem was not equipment, it was poor rooms and trying to follow written guidelines and not using ears! With most recording techniques there are well established 'how to do it' guidelines, but they fail for acoustic stuff. We'd often get people using clever techniques they'd read about, like Deccan Trees, but in a dead room they sound very odd! Even a cheap mic in the right place sounds better than an expensive one in the wrong place.



Your recently read content