Recording a Sitar At Home

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Kruddler, May 11, 2011.

  1. Kruddler

    Kruddler Active Member

    May 2, 2011
    So, I've got a dude coming over to play some sitar for a recording. I will be using an AKG Perception 420. Bare in mind that P420 mic has three modes: omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure 8. I will be recording at my small house. The problem is that I have wooden floors and not much stuff in the hoiuse to soak up reverb. Any tips on how to record here?

    I have the option of recording in the living room or one of the two bedrooms. The living room is a medium sized room with only a sofa to soak up reverb. This room would be my favourtite room just because there is space to move but I am anticipating reverb. If I move to the bedroom, the sitar player could sit on the bed. However, this introduces problems because there is no hard surface to rest the shock mounted mic on.

    I know very little about recording. What are some ideas here? Sit on couch, attach mic to stand? Sit on bed edge with stand next to bed? Sit on wooden floor? Go out and buy some rubber padding for the floor? Will I need to pad the walls? Is a smaller, less reverby room always better?
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    In many ways I think you've already answered your own questions. This particular instrument has generally been played in rather ambient environments. Lots of hard surfaces. Lots of bounce. I really don't think you're going to have a problem in the living room on a wooden floor. In fact, I think that's exactly where you should do it. The positioning of your microphone is really the key issue. This is a hugely resonant instrument. Positioning your microphone a foot away from its resonant body is probably a good place to start. This can get pretty thin sounding and you don't want it too thin. This is when you start moving your microphone 1 inch at a time. An inch over. An inch higher. An inch lower. Why not stereo? Probably because you only have a single microphone? Do you have anything else you can combine as a second microphone? Utilizing 2 microphones? We call that stereo you know. Most everything since Fantasia has been that way even though we don't need panoramic potentiometers with bicycle gears and chains anymore, thankfully. Not my cup of tea. I like to play with the smaller thingies.

    You are an audio engineer now and you are required to experiment even on your clients dime. They want the best sound in order to give them the best sound that isn't a book of instructions to give you. One issue that you will have to consider is that headphones DO NOT GENERALLY RELATE TO SPEAKERS. This can make your job unduly confusing. In order to make the proper judgment calls you need to be monitoring on some kind of control room monitors either big or small. When you are restricted to just headphones you can only hope to get close to what you want. And generally you won't. At least not until you learn how your headphones relate to your control room monitors. If you don't have that everything will be a difficult call. 1 inch speakers in laptops or $20 Computer speakers are not a good reference. Of course, if it sounds good on those, you're probably in the ballpark in an overall like way. The last thing you want to do is start playing with any kind of equalization. Most of your equalization should be realized through proper microphone placement. And nobody can tell you where to put that microphone unless we are just being plain nasty. I've occasionally told people where to put microphones and they haven't appreciated it.

    As you probably guessed, because this is a very resonant acoustic instrument acoustics will play a big part in how it sounds. Quite frankly, I don't think a crispy condenser microphone will do well on this instrument. This is an instrument better covered with a dynamic or ribbon microphone. Now even one of those $100 or less dynamic microphones such as the SM57/58/56 or anything similar may be a better choice. I would personally use one of my ribbon microphones. But I know other colleagues of mine would rather use one of their Neumann TLM170 and others like that. But I like a lot of beef and it's not exactly a beefy instrument. It's one of the few instruments I've never actually recorded myself. Ever try recording Caribbean steel drums? They're fun also. But that twangy Sound the Sitar makes is perfect for condenser microphone nastiness to get even nastier. So really I don't recommend that but if that's all you have, it's all you have. In addition to your multi-pattern selection, you may actually need to engage the pad switch on the microphone, provided it has one. Percussive instruments can be particularly troublesome to try and record with condenser microphones. They get a splattering distortion sound which is not flattering to much of any instruments. This is why more bandwidth limited microphones work better. It prevents a situation in which you don't want accentuated with is what a condenser microphone will do. There is nothing wrong with microphones that have a 50-17,000 Hz passband restriction. This thing is already going to produce so many rich harmonics that it will make your microphone go crazy. If it doesn't have a capsule pad you may be SOL? That cheap Shure PA microphone makes a lot of sense in this situation.

    Any other questions?
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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