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Recording Techniques for Single Violin (non-classical)

Greetings all,

I have an upcoming session with a violinist who will be playing over a couple of fusion-esque tracks and was hoping some of you might have suggestions on mic placement or other recording techniques for this kind of setting. I have no experience with recording acoustic violin in any setting, but have been getting great-sounding recordings of acoustic guitar and acoustic bass (in a non-classical context) for sometime now. I'd imagine that I'll be using a method of placement similar to what I've been doing already with acoustic guitar and bass, but thought I would seek input from folks who've got some actual experience.

The particulars are as follows:

A matched pair of Rode NT5 (small diaphragm condensor) mics run through a high-end tube preamp, then on to an audio interface. There may be a bit of processing later on down the line, but I want to capture as accurately as possible the tone and nuance of the instrument itself. Depending on how it sounds, I may or may not take feed from a bridge mic on the instrument. The recording room is a converted closet (approximately 8' x 10') which is pretty dead as is. The ceiling is presently bare, but I had planned to rig some sound-absorbing material prior to the session. I may have access to some decent additional mics (medium or large diaphragm), but I do not have the luxury of changing to another location for recording.

The violin will be fulfilling two roles in the tunes: 1) upfront - playing melody lines and improvising over several different sections; and 2) background - playing textural or more ambient parts. Overall, I'd say the type of sound I'm shooting for is somewhere in between Jerry Goodman and Jean Luc Ponty.

Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance! John F.


iznogood Thu, 06/16/2005 - 09:18

i don't think you need any advice!!

record the violin at 3-5feet and also record the bridge mic..... just bevare of the delay difference between the bridge mic (at 1 inch) and the room mics....

you should easily be able to align the tracks in your computer...

Skinnypuppy Thu, 06/16/2005 - 10:03

Trust me, I can use all the help I can get! You would not recommend placing the room mics any closer than 3 feet to the instrument? I had figured on spacing them about that same distance from one another - approx. 3' to 5'. Any other thoughts on placement - height, angle, etc.? I plan to experiment a bit, but having a couple of different, yet "tried and true" methods would be handy.

John F.

Profile picture for user Cucco

Cucco Fri, 06/17/2005 - 08:43

Hey Skinpuppy -

Got the pm.

Here's a couple ideas for non-classical violin.

For lead, you could always treat it as classical violin - use a directional mic (I like the AT4040) over the bridge aiming down onto the deck of the instrument. Vary your distance til you get the results you like but beware of errant bows - you could easily lose a mic this way.

You could also mic the bridge with a mic like the DPA 4061. This is a good, single mic solution.

For non-classical stuff, I would truthfully not take the approach of multi-mic's such as room mics plus bridge mics. Unless of course, you are kind of aiming for a classical sound, but it doesn't sound like you are.

Something else you can try that I've used with a little luck on a violin that I wanted to use for a soundtrack recording of Fiddler on the Roof (I wanted to kind of thin out the violin sound without making it seem anemic - more like an etherial sound).

Mic the body in such a way that you get a good full sound - bridge mic'ing is the best way (either close with the DPA or overhead with a directional mic) and then place another mic at the end of the scroll aiming down the fingerboard. Adjust the height and angle of the mic so that you get a good clean but not screetchy sound.

Blend this with your other mic to taste or even consider putting an effect of some sort on one of the mics (the higher sounding mic works well for effects.)

Hope this helps.


Skinnypuppy Fri, 06/17/2005 - 10:11

Thanks very much for the speedy reply! Definitely not going for a classical sound or "vibe" at all. Your latter suggestion is pretty much what I envisioned as a starting point, so it's good to have confirmation that I was basically heading in the right direction. Your suggestion is also essentially one of the same techniques I've been using on acoustic guitar - 2 mics spaced about 3' from one another, one approx. 10" to 12" away from the sound hole (usually aimed straight on), the other about that same distance from the middle of the neck (usually aimed at a slight angle towards the body).

Your suggestion on processing is right in line with what I began doing a while ago. I typically go with processing on the track for the neck mic. This technique has opened up a whole new world of tonal flavors for me.

I left word with someone who has recorded Jerry Goodman a fair amount in the past few years and am hoping they'll have time and inclination to reply. This is not someone I'm tight with, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. If I should hear something back, I'll pass along the info.

Thanks again J! John F.

Skinnypuppy Thu, 07/14/2005 - 06:04

Greetings all,

The recording went very well despite some limitations of the room and the player. The final set-up was:

1 small diaphragm condenser mic about 1' above the instrument pointing down towards the bridge (positioned over the left shoulder);

1 small diaphragm condenser mic a short distance from and slightly above the end of the headstock, pointing at an angle down the neck towards the bridge; and

Direct line from the instrument's bridge mic.

Both condenser mics (Rode NT5s) were run through an Audio Technologies TMA-2 mic preamp and the bridge mic was run through one channel of a Presonus Blue Tube with the drive setting pretty well cranked.

Once the final tracks were assembled, I ran the bridge mic track through stereo delay and leslie plug-ins. On the condenser mic tracks I used only a bit of ambient reverb. When bouncing the 3 mono tracks down to a single stereo file I added a bit of light compression. I did not EQ anything, but instead fiddled around with volume levels and placement of the individual tracks until I got the sound I liked. I'll post a short excerpt in the next few days.

Never did hear back from the guy who has been working with Jerry Goodman (not much of a surprise there!), but I did get some helpful feedback from a couple of other noteworthy players (Mark O'Connor and Joe Deninzon) in addition to the suggestions I received here. Once again, thanks to those of you who chimed-in!

John F.