1st Post: Live acous/elec gig room micing - sml or lg dia?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by TORSPASS, Apr 10, 2009.


    TORSPASS Guest

    Hello. This is my first post here on the forum. I've posted in quite a few other groups but hadn't found recording.org before. I thought I'd start with a question that I've tried improving on with fairly poor results:

    I have a very nice acoustic/electric stage setup and sound. I play guitar (a Larrivee acoustic and G&L ASAT tele). Both sound great through my Fender Acoustasonic SFX II amp (their latest acoustic flagship). It's got incredible 3d sound and outstanding effects/depth. It's a two channel amp with dual effects processors so you have lots of versatility. Mostly, I use the second channel for vocals if we don't have PA access.

    The bass player's using a LINE6 Low Down LD150 amp - great sounding modeling amp, especially for our volume levels. He also plays keyboards and feeds his vocals through his keyboard amp. The drummers (we play with a few different drummers) are usually playing with steel brushes or those bundled wooden sticks to keep the volume down to a reasonable acoustic level.

    The main problem I've had recording is that each time we seem to get different recording levels and balancing between musicians. Our recordings overall were inconsistant so I started experimenting with different setups. I'm using a Roland VS1680 recorder and a Mackie 1604 VLZ mixer to feed it a cleaner, stronger signal. I've tried a few setups in multiple arrangements including...

    (1) large dia CAD E300
    (2) large dia Groovetube 5SM's (in various polar patterns).
    (2) small dia Octava MC012's.

    I've tried various placements and heights (front of band/above band/behind band) and once in back of the room at the "mix" position (too distant and crowd too loud).

    I'm wondering if someone has advice without giving up and going mono. Mono seems to help the balancing issue but then it just sounds... mono!

    So far, the best sound I get is raising the stands as high as they go and putting the mics up out front of the group. The drummer generally comes through clear enough but someone's always too loud or soft even though what we all hear from our own ears while we're playing is pretty balanced - volume wise.

    I should mention that I've had a lot more experience with studio recording - including my own stuff and some friends recordings. I've taken some audio recording classes and hung around while professional recordings were being setup and mixed, so I have some useful experience with mic placement, preamp levels and eq (easy always does it), but not much in the live setting.

    So, my first question here on the forum is mainly hoping someone can help eliminate problems and sort out the best techniques for these medium volume live recordings (generally without a PA). Any advice from a pro would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Welcome to RO.

    I'm not sure I have the situation correct. Are you trying to record the whole band direct to two tracks with a stereo pair? Are you using any spot mics?

    There is a lot of information on stereo recording techniques on the web. Our acoustic music forum is a good place to browse. But a web search on "stereo recording techniques" will get you descriptions of XY, ORTF, M/S, Blumlein, AB and others. Do you have a stereo bar? If not, I'd get one. Of the techniques that I like for a whole band, the easiest to start with is probably ORTF - use your two SDCs with the capsules 17cm apart at a 110 degree angle. (XY is easier, but I usually use if for single instruments.

    On another note, we discourage cross posting questions to multiple forums. Helps keep the discussions on track.

    TORSPASS Guest

    Bob, hey, thanks for getting to my question so quick...

    Sorry, I didn't mean to cross post - I just realized after I hit send that I had gone back to the wrong thread to post this question and didn't think there was a way to transfer it. I think this probably belongs in Live Sound where I reposted, but I was also thinking maybe a compressor or leveling amp might help our situation - so maybe this is the right place to post.

    Anyway, I have some limited experience in the studio watching an engineer set up a mid/side pair with matrix encoder but, I've never tried it myself and couldn't stay for the recording. I believe it's also one of the most expensive ways to go. I do own a mounting bar and I did use it in the pub where we play. I tried it in an X/Y and ORTF arrangement. I had phase issues and tried repositioning over and over - no luck.

    So far, a pair of stands in an AB up high in front of the band has been the least problematic for phase issues but now that I think about it, it's also likely the reason we're getting inconsistant volume levels. We're probably just too close to the mics for the "room" sound.

    The thing is, my experiences recording have been where you have no crowd, fixed room dimensions, and lots of time. I've read a few books about recording techniques and had classes - most of which gave vague answers to this question - I suppose because it's hard to answer if you can't see the room and/or hear the mix of volumes.

    Perhaps the most difficult thing about chasing down a level sound is that the room in the pub where we play is very, very long and fairly narrow - roughly 40 feet long and 15 wide. But, the band is pushed all the way to the back and if you place the mics above the band (very high ceilings) or above out front I would think most of the effects of the room length would be moot. We don't even face the length anyway, more sideways because people sit pretty close.

    So, the VS1680 is capable of 8 "at-a-time" but I've been reluctant to drag a lot of valuable mics, cables and stands into the bar along with all our guitars and gear. I may resort to it, but I already tried a three mic technique on the drum kit and found I liked the stereo mics alone better than the kit miced up. It just sounded more natural without them. It may be the best way to balance the keys/bass/acoustic and vocals, however.

    I guess we'll try this next...

    1 (L) room SDC
    2 (R) room SDC
    3 Direct out from SFX amp
    4 Direct out from LD150
    5 (L) drum overhead
    6 (R) drum overhead
    7 (L) Keyboard amp
    8 (R) Keyboard amp
  4. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    I started my foray into recording doing exactly what you're talking about - recording my band and other bands at pubs/clubs/etc.

    I've found a stereo mic setup to be sufficient - unless the crowd noise was too distracting. There's nothing worse than having a good live rec ruined b/c you have to hear all about "Jenny"s love life and trials and tribulations.

    The only other input I'll use would be a soundboard feed for reinforcement if available.

    Here's a few suggestions.
    1. Walk around while everyone is playing. Find the spot where the instruments sound most balanced out there. What sounds balanced on stage may not sound balanced off stage.
    2. You shouldn't have phasing issues w/ XY. ORTF offers a wider stereo spread, but introduces more phase.
    3. I've had to play with the mixes a lot to get it to sound right.
    One thing I did a lot of was to make a couple of copies of each track. Take the L1, pan it pretty centered, and put an LPF on it. Do the same for R1. These are your "bass" tracks. Then pan each subsequent copy further out and focus more and more on the HF content. You can even use one to bring out a specific instrument.
    Yes, you're using the same source content. But by using frequency filtering on the copies, you CAN bring out /diminish certain elements enough. And I think it makes for a more lush ST recording.

    TORSPASS Guest


    Thank you! That's exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. Perfect. And, something I never would have thought of. So, the idea is to route the stereo inputs to, say three pairs of tracks, and set each track pair up with different filtering/eq? Very clever. I might even try that with some of our old tracks - I'm pretty sure I can go back and bounce + alter the filters for previously recorded tracks. I'll definitely try it out next time.

    I have to say I absolutely LOVE the Roland VS 1680 - even more now than when I bought it! I think they're just about the greatest musical tools ever to come down the pike. Incredible sound in a portable package with amazing editing depth. And, now they're even down to a reasonable price range (especially used). I hate to sound like a ludite, but fifteen years ago I was standing in a multi-million dollar studio that used computers that couldn't keep up with my cell phone today! I never would have imagined such a thing as the VS 1680 would be possible ten years later! And, I can tuck it under my arm and take it with me!?!

    I'll definitely try out your suggestions and post the results when I can. Your comment about overhearing the personal soap opera of the crowd is dead on. We had one nights' recording turn out totally unuseable because of a chatterbox in the front row. We had to ask her to move for the second set. It was hilarious because she threw a hissy fit in front of the whole place - but once she left people came up and said thank you for booting her. You gotta love playing out - between the musicians and the crowd and the owner/managers - sometimes it's like herding cats! ;)

    Thanks again!

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