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Recording Choir and Organ in a Church

I've got a recording to do in a church on Saturday - it's a public event, and I'm going to record it for them. Not a church I have been to before, so I'm going to put up a heavy duty stand centre and am thinking maybe a chance to try out some more microphone experiments. As I think I can get up quite high I might be able to rig a pair of the 414s, in fig-8 for a Blumlein stereo pair and squeeze in M/S - with the ribbon I didn't destroy the other day and maybe the U87? I've not tried M/S with it, but I think I can make the 4 mics fit in the right places with a bit of 'bracketry'.

Or - I could use the 87 for the side and the TLM103 I have for the mid? Any suggestions?

I don't know what the choir is like, so that I will have to wait and see, but they've given me permission to put the audio up here. I will report back.

Church Organ Recording

Over the years I have recorded quite a few pipe organs in different venues, some more successful than others - but yesterday doing some prep work for a project in the summer, I came across a really knowledgeable organist - who is also an old school recordist, 78 restorer and collector of old and rare BBC broadcasts of organ music from the 1930s. He has a huge collection of stuff and while the site visit was really to check the space, the facilities and the layout, we got chatting - and as he was a 'sound person' I was deemed suitable enough to help him a little in some 'tuning' work INSIDE the organ. So much of my negative experiences recording organs were brought into focus, so I thought I'd share some of what I discovered in the hope it might help a few people.

The organ is (or rather, was) a magnificent 4 manual instrument built in the 1870s. What I didn't realise was that pipe organs were built to be modular and expandable - it's not a new feature. Some of my long term knowledge was also flawed. The decorative pipes - gold in this case, are not all dummy ones, for visual purposes. Out of a rank of 20, 8 actually function. I looked quizzical - when the organ was brand new, it had 3 manuals, but only 2 were connected for economic reasons. A benefactor paid for the addition of the choir pipes, and then an entire new solo section and a new keyboard - this one using pneumatics via lead piping. Space within the organ was at a premium, so many ranks had their pipes squeezed in wherever they physic ally fitted. The upshot of this is that the Great organ has pipes in different locations - some 'aiming' down the church, shielded from the organist by the swell cases (2) inside the organ - while the Swell pipes aI'm out from over the organists head, into the area where the human choir is. The choir pipes being quieter, are also more distant, making balance next to impossible. For economic reasons, some new ranks of pipes added in the 1890s change pipe design at a certain note - so a woody tone suddenly gets brighter when the rank starts using metal pipes. Inside the organ, there's clear evidence of nearly 150 years worth of modifications and repairs - junk everywhere. Piles of unused pipes, or replaced ones. Chopped of lead piping where pneumatics have been replaced by electrics at some point. Some ranks of pipes were tiny - the shortest being perhaps 6" long and as slender as a pencil. He simply lifted one of these out, and blew it - it coughed and then produced a pure amazingly high pitch - like a whistle. Fixed - he declared. Turned out that it was simply dust - and that note was faulty when last played. Some of the pipes even had dust deflectors on the top - which also serve as directors for the sound.

The upshot of all this is that I'm having to re-evaluate how on earth I've recorded stereo. I'd assumed, for years, that there was a balanced left-to right output. So I'd often set up a stereo pair in the choir area, and blend this with another stereo microphone in the congregation area for the pipes directed at them. This in some churches was the only way to get a proper balance, but was randomly successful.

What I'm now realising is that as the organist plays a single manual on the organ with just one stop active, the pipes begin in one area of the church, then suddenly appear from a different location, AND, in some cases could change their timbre. This might explain some of the results I have had - that I assumed were caused by me. Shifting stereo images, peculiar tones and other small but annoying features.

The particular organ has actually passed on some of it's sections - ranks of trumpet pipes for example, to other instruments, and added some others from notable organs that have been dismantled, or improved. Famous organ makers of the past were expert at bodging - removing sections and selling them on to new homes, and squeezing them inside the case, making manoeuvring inside the organ very tricky. This organ needed new bellows - the leather having perished. However, to replace them would have meant dismantling the entire thing, as the bellows had been split into three separate units, and one was under the swell case - so they installed one new bigger one, and simply cut up and removed the old one. This, apparently is amazingly common as organists do more and more of their own modifications and tuning. The manuals are totally work out after 130 odd years playing and they have been donated a 4 manual much newer console - and they're going to site it somewhere else and then link it with fibre-optics to the organ case on the other side of the church. Was I seemed keen - he asked if I'd play a bit while he wandered around, as although I'm not a organist remotely, I c an noodle a bit. He identified a list of dodgy notes, high and low pressure balance problems and some we actually fixed! Some of the pipes have tuning adjustments - strange spring type devices near the reed, or adjusters on the lengths. The organ has a tuning pipe. Like a tuning fork, but specific to this organ. All the pipes are then tuned to it. Remember those topics about A=440Hz? Those sonic reasons designers apparently chose frequency standards - well, clearly the designers of this organ simply tuned each organ to these tuning pipes. The one in this organ has also been used as the tuning pipe on at least two other local churches from the documentation the organist has found. They have a piano, that annoys the tuner, because it is tuned to the organ - NOT the usual tuning fork.

I now have loads of useful information that will help me determine where to NOT put microphones in the future, but I still don't know how on earth to cope with these 'broken' ranks of pipes, where notes suddenly change tone and location. I suppose that it depends on the registrations the organist chooses. If they pick one that features these ranks of pipes - the stereo imaging will suffer, perhaps with no chance of 'fixing' it? If they don't use them, stereo is perfect. This perhaps explains the randomness of organ recordings.

From now on, I'm going to spend fare more time talking to the organists, checking if their organs are laid out bizarrely. I asked if this is a rare thing, but he told me almost every early organ was built in this way - the initial build would be laid out conventionally as more money became available, extra ranks would be added, and as organs were built into specific spaces, this meant breaking the ranks. Some ranks of pipes would be built from new and unusual alloys that sounded better, or just different, and these became sought after when a good organ was taken out of service. To record these things properly, you really need to know how they are put together before you start planning mic positions.

I learned so much from the visit that will help in the future. Do we have any organists on the forum? I'd love to hear more technical stuff on organ history.

Pipe organ recording for local radio station

Hi all, I am a new member of this forum. I read quite some interesting infomation on this forum about recording the pipe organ. And I would really appreciate it if you could provide me with some tips as well.

In my spare time I am working for a local radio station in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We are planning to do a (musical) documentary, for which we need to record a pipe organ also.
The organ we want to record is a 20-stop romantic organ placed in the alcove/choir in a relatively small church (don't know the exact dimensions).
Our very small budget won't allow us to buy/rent gear for just this occasion. And the gear we do have is not really high quality stuff. This, I think, is the best I could find:

- mic: RODE NT5 (stereo matched pair)
- preamp: Focusrite TwinTrak Pro
- recorder: Tascam HD-P2 (with Super MOD by the Oade Brothers)

I have never recorded an organ before. What would be the a good option to start off with, considering the gear I mentioned? Any advice on mic placement (height, distance, angles, etc.) would be very welcome.

Thanks for your reply in advance.

P.S. We have to possibility to use a scaffolding in the church (almost to the roof); height and distance are no problem.

John Eargle Discusses pipe organ recording technique on CD

Saw this referenced on another forum, and thought that some here would benefit from the purchase. I lucked out and got one for 2.50 on ebay, but they are cheap anyway.

Recording engineer and sometime organist John Eargle selects examples from several Delos recordings of organ, mostly recorded by Eargle himself, who provides brief notes about recording technique on each selection, how that technique was chosen based on repertoire, room acoustic, and the organ, and he also writes a short but very helpful glossary of organ terms such as “imitative flue stop” and an explanation of stop pitches such as 8’, 4’, 2-2/3’, etc.

Upcoming organ recording: suggestions?

Hi folks,

I have an organ recording gig coming up this week, and it will be the first time I use a 4-channel set-up for this kind of source (typically used 2 spaced omni). The organ stands high in a rear gallery of a VERY live stone edifice with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and about 5 seconds of verb. This organ carries a lot of LF info which has "overwhelmed" the balance in previous recordings I've made there using only 2 spaced Earthworks QTC1s. Also, my QTC1s lose a lot in HF reproduction in the diffuse field.

So, as my first set-up, I intend to use two Schoeps CMC621 in a "Jerry Bruck" arrangement (14 inches, 120deg) as mains ... not too close, but close enough to get some detail. I can get my mics up to 23', so no problem there. I plan to support the mains with two spaced QTC1, between 5-8' apart, 15' high and maybe 15' behind the main array, faced with the organ off-axis, perhaps facing down the nave away from the organ, and mixed in somewhat lower (perhaps 3-6 dB) than the main array. (Mixing live to 2-track).

Any comments on this approach? Should I expect mush, or should I just use my QTC1s as mains and move them closer than I did in the past?

I noticed that John Eargle used some fairly unusual set-ups for his organ recordings ... especially the use of a coincident pair of cards as room pickups far behind a main array of either coincindent cards or spaced omnis. I have a pr of KM184, but am not too crazy about carting them out for this gig. Has anyone here tried such a thing?

Just want to hear what you think about this approach as a starting point.


Microtech Gefell 296S Pipe organ recording


Here is one piece from the recording in finland with Markus Wargh.
But you must pay attention that it's a wooden church. So the
acoustics is pretty bad.

Sorry for the low compression on the file...But i don't have sufficient space on the web for my files.

What do guy's think about this recording ?

Link removed

Gunnar...Next week I'm going to make another recording.
whit the gefell 296 S..In lulea cathedral.


Pipe Organ recordings----- >3 pieces!

Im wonder if any one.. whant to listen to a recording i'll have done. The organist is from finland Markus Wargh..Now hi is working
in sweden as Cathedral organist (Lulea) and Concert organist .

The recording is made with Apogee MiniMe and RODE 's NT2-A in omni
mode. A-B setup

And give some tips about the recording if ther is any thing that isin't

What do you guy's out there think about the organist's Markus Wargh
performance as a improvisor.

Hi is very interested of your opinion

Is it to technical or can you enjoy the music ?

Sorry for my bad english :oops:

hammond organ recording tips

hi guys

i'm trying to accomplish two more things in my mix.

i'm trying to get the hammond organ to become more discernable and have its own little spot, right now it sounds like its super fat and in your face like every other instrument (and every other mix I seem to do.. haha) when i open mix in waveform view, its nearly at ZERO all the way through.. yet when i open others (like the cc.mp3 it actually has dynamics.. yet mine doesn't sound any louder than theirs... ahh the major plight of the home engineer with untrained ears! :-) )

if you take a listen to the organ in this clip

and then the organ in my clip,

you can get an idea.

i'm also trying to get the guitars to become more lifelike, more like they were actually mic'ed.. i'm not sure what they are lacking because they have the tone and sound i want, its just they are too, how can i say. "IN YOUR FACE" it seems that everything i mix, is always too IN YOUR FACE. i'm trying to remedy my ways. the clip i posted is similar to mine.. two hard panned guitars, bass, drums, etc.. but they also have a 3rd center guitar and they still get seperation.

as for my mix i'm using amplitube for the guitar and i lined in a telecaster through an Avalon m5.

i posted a post similar to this one in the home recording forum and they provided a bunch of help until we got to this point so they recommended i post here. I'm sorry if this is the wrong place. if it is, say the world and i'll delete the post.

thank you.

(i also played all the instruments and wrote the music to this track so if we could just bypass critiquing of the song itself and stick to the recording/mixing, that'd be fantastic.)