Recording Handbells

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by nocarsgo, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. nocarsgo

    nocarsgo Guest

    So I just realized my church has a huge set of really nice handbells sitting in one of the storage attics under some old tables, so naturally I'm going to put them to use. Since its not for a specific song in mind, I'm going to record each one and then use them in a sequencer. The problem is though, I've never recorded handbells, or any brass for that matter. So would you guys be able to give me some advice/tips? I can do some experimentation with micing techniques but I don't have a ton of time so I'd like to go ahead and get a general idea of what to do.
    The mic situation is probably not ideal; I have an SM57, Audio Technica AT2020, and a Sennheiser e609 silver at my disposal. Do any of these seem like it would do the job best? And if so, where roughly should I place it? Sorry for all the questions, I just want to make sure I don't have to travel with all my gear, get permission, set it all up/break down more times than I have to. Once, again, thanks so much, you guys are amazing!
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    My first guess would be to try the 2020 and see how you like it. OTOH, the SM57 may surprise you as well. Why not initially set up a rig and try all three, at various distances, make notes (or slate it during the recording) as to what you're using, and how, then go back to the studio and see how it translates after the fact?

    Once you have the right mics/distances, angles, etc., then you can go to work on capturing all of the bells, one at a time. You may also want to try different types of making the things ring. (Some have a clapper or kicker noise, may or may not want that sound included.) I've seen them run quite violently (loudly) and other times a lot softer. Perhaps you'll want to make several passes with them, loud, soft and moderate.

    I'd suggest a very quiet late EVENING for all of your sampling - perhaps a Sunday night or something, when there's no one around to barge in and ask "Hey, watchyou doing there?!?!?" ...and other dumb questions. DItto for cars and traffic outside. If you're looking to capture the long sustain/decay of each bell (esp the lower notes), then you're going to need some seriously quiet time.

    Most of all, have fun and learn as you go.
  3. hackenslash

    hackenslash Active Member

    Jun 9, 2008
    People's Republic Of Mancunia
    SM57 all the way.
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    We do a hand bell choir for a CD about every two years. The best microphones I have found to do the recording with are Cardioid AKG Blue line microphones which are small diaphragm condensers. The SM57 should work just fine.

    The biggest problem you will probably run into is traffic noise outside and the long decay of the bells which means you have to have quiet for a while. I find that for a hand bell choir up and over seems to work best but for individual hand bells Joe's advice is right on the money.
  5. Greener

    Greener Guest

    My 57 came with a pencil case and the worlds worst designed wrist band.

    Best purchase for '08.
  6. nocarsgo

    nocarsgo Guest

    Thanks so much for the info, I'll definitely try all of the mics with each of the settings on the handbells (these have two dampers as well as the unpadded) and see which works best. I think outside noises should be alright since I'm in a practice space which is insulated, but thanks for the word of caution, you can never be too careful :D Once again, thanks everyone, this forum is a lifesaver!
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