improving my orchestra recording technique

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by tunefoolery, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. tunefoolery

    tunefoolery Active Member

    Jan 26, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Hi all -- I just recorded a live orchestra with piano (Rachmaninoff's third concerto) for the first time. Can't say I did a terrific job... But I think the recording will be adequate; I just want to learn to make it better next time. I know now that I probably should have used an X/Y setup; I used ORTF instead. I also didn't have the mics placed the proper distance from the stage or at the proper height. What I need now is your help in pinpointing how particular aspects of my setup may have caused particular problems.

    The recording took place in a high school auditorium.

    Here was my setup:
    two AKG CS 1000 mics (small condenser), in ORTF setup, at about 10 or 11 feet high, about 15 feet from the stage (in the audience seating, which was lower than the stage). BTW, there was NO room on the stage for a mic stand; the piano was literally hugging the edge of the stage extension. My mics were probably only about 5 or 6 feet above the stage floor. Also, the piano's lid was removed altogether, so there was no sound bouncing off of an opened lid. I know these mics aren't the beefiest, but they're what I have.

    I recorded through a Yamaha mixer into a TASCAM cd recorder (with a TEAC recorder as backup).
    So here are some of the problems:

    My mic setup didn't pick up a lot of the hall reverb; effectively, it was close micing. I felt wary of placing the mics further back than I had them.

    My mics picked up a fair amount of audience noise: chairs creaking, etc.

    When the piano and orchestra were playing together, the piano seemed a little soft at times. The pianist had asked me to mic the piano separately, but I was worried about phase problems. As a reminder, I was recording into a single stereo track.

    But the main problem I hear is that the recording doesn't sound nearly as full and wide (voluminous) as the orchestra sounded live.

    So, any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks!
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    Why did the soloist ask for/agree to the lid being off the piano? What was the acoustic balance like for the audience? Piano lids are designed to do a job, and musicians have had a few centuries of refinement to get it right. You were on a bit of a hiding to nothing trying to get a good recorded sound from an instrument without the lid.

    The CS1000s are some way off being my favourite mics for orchestral work, and that coupled with your not having the opportunity to get them up to a useful height above stage level all adds up to a recipe for a recording that would leave something to be desired. However, it sounds as though you did the best you could in the circumstances, and given all the factors going against you, I doubt whether XY would have made any difference over ORTF as a microphone configuration.

    Incidentally, a microphone positioned under the piano and facing upwards towards the soundboard can often be used as a spot mic without incurring the wrath of the conductor or other impresario.

    Recording direct to stereo demands a good monitoring environment, not least at the time of the soundcheck so the level of any spots can be balanced relative to the main pair before the performance.
  3. tunefoolery

    tunefoolery Active Member

    Jan 26, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Thanks for your response, Boswell. I can't answer your first question regarding the lid, but I will find out... I don't think the acoustic balance of the piano and orchestra were great for the audience; the piano wasn't as loud as it should have been.

    There were some problems in this recording due to my inexperience, but also some due to difficult circumstances... I had set up my equipment off to the side in the audience seating when the house manager came over and told me no, no -- you have to set up in the back. So I had to scramble to move all the equipment to the back and add extensions to my mic cords. That ate up a lot of time and threw me off a bit. It didn't leave me a lot of time for making adjustments to the setup.

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