micing suggestion for strings section

Discussion in 'Strings' started by tsunami, Aug 15, 2003.

  1. tsunami

    tsunami Guest

    Hi guys,
    I'm going to track a small quartet strings section for a pop song.
    How should I mic them up? what mic? how many? And also should it be track all together or separate (violins, viola, and cello)?
    How about some suggestions for a bigger section say 4 1st violins, 3 2nd violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos.
    Also, for a typical pop song how big the the strings section usually are? (for smaller budget!)

    Please advice!

  2. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    1. What's the space like?

    2. Usually a good place to start is a Stereo pair or Decca Tree (L,C,R ) high up facing the section or orchsetra. Then mics about 8' up over each section. In your case maybe a little lower and over each two. The key is to set them up as they would normally. Mic with a set that captures the whole space, and some spot ones to help with a little rebalancing later.
    Large Diaphram condensers are the mic of choice.
  3. Tsunami,
    There is no single answer to the question of how many string players you need for the song. If we could here the track we could probably give you a bunch of opinions, but in the end you would have to decide which opinion you liked.
    I would guess that you are in charge, otherwise someone else would be telling you how many string players would be coming in, and I would also assume that you haven't got charts (or you would know how many players were needed). I would recommend going with a crew that works together lots, because they ill have an easier time with letting their parts fall in together. I would say if you track them all at once you will get a more lively feel, and if they have played together for a while they should have a good feel for one another. If they are creating parts on the spot for you, try to shoot them a rough mix before the date so they can get some ideas. David
  4. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    He is asking two questions. First he is planning to record a string quartet, and he is asking how this is done.

    Secondly he is asking how to record a larger string section, and he is asking typically how big sections can get. For the last part of that-- how big a section can get-- I recommend a good arranging book like Don Sebasky's. It gives you examples of what he did and how he did it from as an arranger, especially for how it's done in pop music. for Classical I really like the way Rimski-Kosocov explains the sizing of the various sections. Neither talks about how to recording them.

    How to record a string quartet has to do with how good the room sounds an what equipment you have. If you have a great sounding space try spaced omni's or M/S (i'd lean towards MS). Record a little and play it back to see how balanced they sound. If you can't get it with just the stereo pair try adding a spot mic on on the one you want to bring out. Close micing can be a mistake because violins make a bit of noise that the performer hears but don't really project like the music does. Low self-noise good mics and preamps are key to classical recording and even though you tune is a pop tune your recording classical instsruments here.
  5. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Mar 31, 2002
    For the small string ensemble I use a spaced pair of small diaphragm omnis. Like the Earthworks TC30k or QTC.

    For classical recording I go for the flatest response I can get so I also use my earthworks preamp, I mix and balance by moving the 2 mics to get the balance I need, kind of like the overheads on drums.
  6. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    There's no one right answer. It's taste and genre related.

    For a quartet, i agree with Recorderman that i would probably start with a stereo coincident pair.
    But many people would also, or instead, mic them individually.
    Bear in mind that the closer in you get, the less 'classical' and natural it will sound.
    Sometimes that's what you want though (think Eleanor Rigby)

    For a larger section it very much depends on the room.
    In a GOOD room i tend to use as few mics as possible... one mic high over every 3-4 violins works for me.
    In a lesser room, one over each pair might be necessary.
    I like KM-86's for this but that's just ME.

    Celli probably want a mic on each except for the most classical applications and in the best halls...
    87's work well.. any large condenser.

    it should be pointed out, although more of an arranger decision, that typically the right 'weight' balance is more like 6-2-2 (12-4-4, or even 12-3-3)
    the section you describe (7-3-2) is probably a little unevenly balanced.
    for a typical pop overdub, 6-2-2, then doubled, works well.
    good ARRANGING makes all the difference.
    As Don Sebeski says, the trick is to make 10 players sound like 20... most arrangers can make 20 sound like 10!
  7. Musicalhair (and Tsunami),
    I hope I did not coming across as condescending. I sensed from the questions that this might be a first time experience; while my suggestions might be not direct replies to the questions, the suggestions might help the session go more smoothly. Also, RM had already offered some tips on mic placement.
    Tsunami, please let us all know how the session went. Cheers, David
  8. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Actually when I posted my response it was kind of weird. As I saw recorderman's response, I didn't see the text he wrote, just the quote of the question in bold, and his sig at the end, like there was no answer. The next time I looked I saw his full response. I don't know why that is, but at least for now I'll chalk it up to needing new glasses. Anyway when I posted, it looked like the guy hadn't actually gotten an answer, though your advice was on point and all.

    There is some great info here, Especially if I could point it out, WWhitman's post which addressed the arranging, corrected my spelling of Mr Sebesky's name, and the recording. But all the experts (of which I have no illusion of being one at this point in time) have added great info. I didn't read and condesencion in any of it. In general the recording.org forums are really polite and informative, I learn a lot here, and where I think I know a lot (guitars) I think I share as best I can.

    It's all good.
  9. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Poperly positioned, at 4050, sm81, c414, gt55 and C300B, reasonably cheap microphones, can help ya achieve very nice results.
  10. Musicalhair,
    Thanks for the explanation- I couldn't figure out exactly where you were coming from. I thought your post had great recommendations, hopefully we will hear back on the final results. BTW don't feel down that WWittman corrected your spelling... it happens. David
  11. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Jan 27, 2002

    I ususally mic string sections and orchestras with a combination of a stereo pair (my favorite is ORTF for smaller ensembles, and I'm experimenting with Decca Tree with larger ones), and spot mics placed over the sections; in your case (for the quartet) I'd go with the ORTF pair using a pair of LD mics (I like AT 4033, 4050, 3035 for this task, but many other will work fine like the good ol' U87, or AKG 414TLII) approx 10' form the players and 10' up, get closer if you need a more "dry" sound, or if the room doesn't sound good; I'd spot mic each player, 2'from above and in front say 2', angling the mic towards the soundboard of the instrument ( for violin, and viola), a little lower for the cello, also pointing at the middle of the instrument so as to get a balanced tone, be careful not to get too much bow sound, don't get too close to the bridge, unless you need that sound; spot mics I like are Neumann KM184, AT 3050, Schoepps CMC5, Rode NT5 for violin and viola, I like large dia mics better on cello (my favs are 414TLII or AT 4033, 3035); record multitrack on your selected medium; watch out for phase when close miking several instruments like in this case: put everything in mono and check phase for each track with the others, if you spot some problems reposition the guilty mic. I usually get the most of the sound from the stereo pair (depending on the sound of the room), and use the spot to add focus or underline certain passages (this for the more straight classical material), but for a more pop sound you may want to have the spot mics higher in the mix and lower the stereo pair a little more, depending on the song.

    A crucial thing is the setup of the players: let them set up like they would normally do (usually in a semi circle with, starting from left, 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello, but sometimes these last two reverse)and then ask them the farthest distance they can keep in between them without having any problems with the interplay.
    If they have to play along a track you'd need to set up a monitoring system (at least for the 1st violin) and make sure they feel comfortable with the headphones (sometimes taking a can off is enough to listen clearly to the track and themselves).

    These are just basic guidelines that however proved to work in all of the string sessions I have done so far, but every engineer has its own methods and tricks and experimentation is the key (provided that you know what you're doing ;) ), so don't be afarid to try different solutions.

    Good Luck


    [ August 18, 2003, 07:16 AM: Message edited by: gerax ]
  12. tsunami

    tsunami Guest

    Thanks everybody for the great input!
    The quartet I've said was intended for a pop song. A friend of mine did the arrangement.
    I've did the session with violins & viola together and cello separate by him self! I miced up the violins & violas using AB technique with KM184, 5' away from them, 7' off the ground & bout 6' apart. 414 for the cello about 3’ away 3’ about floor.
    The room is pretty small, roughly 16'x20'x10'. Wooden floor, not too dead & no funny flutters… sounds okay to me(how do you guys classified a good room!?)
    Okay, the session went on quite smoothly! The player was excellent! The sound?! Hmm.. sounded much better then any module or samples we’ve ever used!
    Well, but its still not as good as we’ve anticipated! Maybe I should post it so you guys can have a listen n comment on it!
    Be back with the link soon!

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