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clarinet choir

Discussion in 'Woodwinds' started by Robfh, May 13, 2017.

  1. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    Texas
    Any suggestions on recording a clarinet choir from people who have experience with this ensemble? This will not be a concert, so I have time to do whatever is necessary to get the best results. It will take place in a rehearsal hall which is fairly dry. I'm just not sure if I should approach it from a simple main pair in ortf or ms, or if I should use spot mics (or a combination).
     
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    What skill level and instrument quality level? The real reason for asking is that if they are good, then they will be aware of the internal balance and stereo techniques will work well. However, as I had to do a year or two back, it was a clarinet ensemble of 6, and they were all early teens and pretty terrible to be honest. They were six players and not really an ensemble as they were unable to blend properly. In the end, after making some excuses, and not telling the truth, I close miked them, and added eq and effects to try to gel them together.

    However - this technique is flawed by cheap instruments - the damn things clack and bang when the players play quickly. More expensive instruments are quieter in their action.

    Given a bunch of decent musicians, in a decent sounding space - a stereo pair would be my choice overtime.
     
  3. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    Excellent musicians on good instruments (well taught high school players), but I have not heard them so I want to be prepared for perhaps "helping" an instrument show up that might be hidden a bit. The room is pretty dry - it's a rehearsal room. I don't have a lot of time (probably 1 1/2 hours of actual recording time). I plan on starting with the stereo pair, but wondered what I might need to be prepared for just in case. I'm not sure if I could add outriggers to hopefully warm up the space, or if I would be better adding a bit of reverb in editing after the session. Thanks for your input. I have not posted before and realize now that I should have given more information.
     
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    how is the rehearsal room set up? some schools have very nice practice spaces that are well suited to recording. just wondering what the room you will be in is set up like? any pics?
     
  5. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    fairly large band rehearsal room - I do not have any pictures, but I have been in the room and so I know it is pretty dry. The players are used to the room and I will be able to set them up or move them as needed.
     
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    are there risers set up already? is the room set up for a stage band (curved rows on tiers)?
     
  7. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    There are risers available if needed. Would you suggest using them?
     
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    School risers are rarely steeldeck, and they make loads of noises and creak like mad. I'd strongly advise NOT raising them up onto potentially noisy risers.
     
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    What your ears hear and what a pair of microphones hear are different. I think you will find that the room can be a problem, even though you hear it as "dry". The sort of reverb you would like to hear in a recording is not the same as slap-back echoes off the floor, walls and possibly the ceiling that you get from an untreated room.

    I would certainly try an X-Y stereo pair, preferably using microphones that have a tight pattern to keep control of the reflections. The one thing that is easy to control is the floor, so consider borrowing a large woven mat or something similar to place between the musicians and the microphones, or if it's large enough, place the musicians on the mat as well. Position them asymmetrically in the room so the reflections coming from each wall are at different times.

    Sorry to harp on about the room quality, but it's the one non-musical thing that can spoil an otherwise good performance and recording. I've done very many wind group recordings (and have played in them myself), and fairly quickly came to realise why proper well-designed recording rooms are expensive to build.

    From the description you have given, for a good clarinet choir, I would not use spot microphones. I would position the players in an arc (subtending not more than 60 degrees) and put the microphones about a foot behind the focal point. If necessary, get a weaker-sounding player to take a half-step forward, if this can be done without causing embarrassment. Set the X-Y microphone pair above head height pointing down at about a 30 degree angle.
     
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    i wasn't advising anything. i was wondering. i've seen school rooms with permanent built in risers. like i said, some school rooms are quite nice to record in. others aren't.

    the ear responds differently than a mic does. best to put up a mic and do a test to listen for problems. it might be fine, it may not. you never know until you try.
     
  11. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    The room is carpeted and treated, but not to the extent that would be considered ideal. The room issue is my biggest concern because I'm used to recording in halls and auditoriums. I was not thinking of using risers because I don't think they practice with them when they are playing in the clar. choir. Thanks for the suggestion about moving a weaker player forward in the arc. I am used to asking players to move and am pretty good at being diplomatic to prevent hurt feelings and potentially damage their playing and/or upset other players as well.

    What microphones are recommended to use as a starting point? I have plenty to choose from, but I tend to mostly use Schoeps CMC6 omnis and/or cardioids. I lean toward SDCs for woodwinds, but also have LDCs as well as Coles and AEA ribbons available. Thanks also for the suggestions on height and angle.

    Thanks to you all for the advice and suggestions.
     
  12. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    Also, I understand the arc and the focal point, but I am lost at "subtended no more than 60 degrees". Can you explain that to me?
     
  13. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    The subtended angle at a point is the number of degrees (or radians) between lines drawn from the point to the outer edges of the subject. In this case, it's the angle between the leftmost and rightmost instruments as measured at the microphone array.

    When using coincident cardioid pattern microphones the microphones always need to be set up at a true right angle to one another, otherwise the centre will be emphasised. With a 60 degree spread of the instruments, your resulting stereo field from the instruments will not span the whole L-R width, but room reflections will, so you will keep the coherence of the group, and it's unlikely you will feel the need to carry out width increase using M-S techniques at mixdown.

    I would almost always use SDCs for standard X-Y miking for this type of work. Schoeps MK 4 capsules on CMC6U bodies should give excellent results, but need good pre-amps to match their sonic quality.

    Although I'm a great ribbon microphone enthusiast, I think for a clarinet choir I too would lean towards quality condenser microphones. There is a risk of the sound being too dark when using ribbons.
     
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  14. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    Thanks for the clarification. I can simply use a tape measure to get the details and figure it out that way. I also have the "Mic Tools" app on my phone to assist in setting this up. I will use either Prism Maselec MMAX4 or Forssell SMP 2A preamps. Again, many thanks for your help.
     
  15. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Tape measure???????

    While the science dictates perfection, useless performing environments need you to compensate. Boswell's providing the science and if you want some interesting reading Google for DPA microphone university and see what's on their site. In less than perfect spaces, the angle between furthest left and right, plus the 90 degree so often used might well need adjustment. The actual performance in polar pattern terms of your chosen mics in coincident arays also will change the angle - hence why point and record devices like zooms have adjustment on the angle. Widening the angle creates a hole in the centre, but sometimes this can work for you, not against, while in other spaces, narrowing the angle creates an improvement in stereo field. The adjustments of angle, seating, recoding position and height need ears, not a tape measure. The rules are good for starting points, but ideally a small pair of near field monitors in a separate room are the best way to finalise the setup. Even headphones can be less than truthful when considering stereo field success.

    I had to suffer thousands of recordings made in school and college performance spaces, and 90% were dreadful, yet the paperwork showed excellent mics, clever techniques and plenty of theory, but this 90% demonstrated clearly that the recordings were made by reference to published techniques and not by using ears.

    Having heard Decca Trees in terrible spaces, I know that this technique is totally unsuitable for compromised rooms. By far the most suitable for these rooms were a simple X/Y pair of cardioids, and maybe a little carefully applied artificial reverb. I remember very well on student who detailed their mic positioning down to mm level, who clearly had never listened to what he recorded. Trains passing outside, somebody using a saw, out of tune saxophone and an air conditioning unit on steroids - however, he clearly thought his technique was flawless.
     
  16. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    I completely agree. I always use my ears for final setup, but I am always up for learning and understanding different approaches to getting the job done. It helps me to hear other opinions and suggestions in order to be prepared and flexible when I'm "under the gun". I know what I like to hear in auditoriums and I don't always understand why one techniques works better (or doesn't seem to work) than another. Over time, I have learned how to and what to change. I do not, however, work in a rehearsal room often. I want to do the best job for them. I never quite know what I am going to need to do until I'm in the room and hearing whatever I've chosen through the monitors. Then I can adjust as needed. I just need some other opinions on different ways to approach this so I have as many approaches as possible that I can try quickly. I'm not dogmatic in my approach, but there's a reason these techniques are successful and I want to know what people have used so I can be prepared.
     
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I defer to my colleagues on the technical aspects of this project, as they have far more experience than I for recording scenarios like this.
    The only suggestion I might add, would be to see if you could possibly get the performers in early, even for a half hour or so -perhaps the night before or something - which would give you an opportunity to work with various coincidental arrays (or spot micing), to work on the sound of the ensemble in the room where you will actually record... as opposed to dealing with those things during the actual recording session, and eating into your limited recording time.
    Although, as I suggest this, I realize that this preparatory time isn't always feasible.
    Even if you could get one or two of the players in there a bit early, it might provide you with a better sense of the room's acoustics and mic placement.

    Just a thought.
    -d
     
  18. Robfh

    Robfh Active Member

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    I will be there early and will have an opportunity to listen to and make adjustments prior to recording - just not able to do anything the day before. Thanks for the input.
     
  19. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    One thing to do if any of the ensemble have n0t recorded before, and especially if the person in charge hasn't.

    Spend a few moments before you start emphasising the need to have some silence at the beginning and absolutely the end - get somebody to hold their had up at the end and count silently to ten, or you'll get a perfect take, then before the last note completes, somebody will cough, great loudly, clunk a stand or say loudly - brilliant! and wreck the take!

    If you discover they cannot play the piece in it's entirety, see if you can break it into sections that you can edit together. The frustration of always at least one mistake that they need to do again can't be over emphasised.
     
  20. rmburrow

    rmburrow Active Member

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    western PA
    Paulears... you are so correct. Any performer needs to know that the definition of silence is the absence of motion.
    As far as recording the clarinet choir, the Schoeps mics are a good choice in x-y coincident or near coincident. I use Schoeps M221's and the sound is spectacular in a good room.
     

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