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Advice for miking a solo cello in a reverberant room
Old 7th April 2021
  #1
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Advice for miking a solo cello in a reverberant room

I’ve been asked to record a solo cello performance, both video and audio, under some challenging circumstances. The room is basically a dome, approximately 13 meters across, without any acoustic treatment other than a thinly carpeted floor. I’ve attended a similar performance in this space before, and I don’t remember it sounding particularly terrible, but the cello player seems concerned about the reverb being overwhelming. She will also sing and play a small nylon string guitar during her performance, as well as speak to the audience. A PA system will not be used.
Adding to the challenge, I only have 1 hour to set up all the equipment including 3 video cameras, so there really isn’t any time to test and finesse the positioning of the mics. Also, as this is a filmed event, I want to avoid as much as possible obstructing the performer with mic stands.

My plan is to use a variety of mics, each recorded to a discrete track on my digital recorder, and try to get an optimal sound by mixing in post. I have DPA 4099’s for the cello and guitar. These will be my safety audio in case the other mics fail at capturing a decent sound from the room. As a backup for her speaking voice, I will probably have the cellist wear a wireless lav, however I can’t imagine this would be suitable to pick up her singing voice.

Other mics I have at my disposal are
2 x C414 XLS
2 x NT5’s (I have omni capsules on order but I doubt they will arrive in time for the event),
TLM67
Sennheiser MK4
I also have a variety of dynamic mikes; SM57, 58 etc.

I’m thinking of using the 414s as a stereo pair in figure of 8, placed in front of the cello. Unfortunately, there isn’t much space between the performer and the audience, so the mics will have to be fairly close. See the attached photos.

For her singing voice, I’m thinking of placing a mic on a boom stand off to her right side, getting as close as possible without blocking her face. Perhaps an NT5, since it’s discrete? I realize something hyper cardioid would probably work better.

I'm mainly a video producer, so most of my audio experience comes from recording dialogue with shotgun and lav mics. I really want to capture the best possible sound of this performance so I’d love to hear your suggestions.
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Advice for miking a solo cello in a reverberant room-omigakudo-zumen.jpg   Advice for miking a solo cello in a reverberant room-62541025_10218715451493337_7938593872324591616_o.jpg  
Old 7th April 2021
  #2
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I would probably use the rodes as a NOS pair maybe 5-6’ out, not very high (4-5’ to minimize visual intrusion on the video), use one of the 414s to spot the cello/guitar, and use a lav to capture her voice.
Old 7th April 2021 | Show parent
  #3
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1 Review written
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single tlm67 in cardioid at relatively short distance, whatever pair (also in cardioid) as spaced ambis, clip mics as safety.
Old 8th April 2021
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Wow, that's like playing in the focal point of a parabolic reflector ! I bet there's no problems of hearing oneself...nor needing monitor speakers or a PA system in a place like that...everything projects, like a sound bowl.

Those reflections probably get too intense for the player....and more importantly they're going to be less randomised and time-displaced like you'd get in a more conventional rectangular room....yer archetypical European concert shoebox.

One way to avoid the 'focal point parabolic buildup' could be to deliberately play off centre in the space (closer to one wall).....but that might not jive with the (an)aesthetic sensibilities of the stage manager....and ruin the Feng Shui of the room

Funny how people making those sorts of decisions on a visual basis alone are never those who have to live with the sonic consequences of actually making the music themselves

Invite the players to experiment with stage placement ...if they dare (and are permitted to do so) !
The floor plan makes it look less like a dome and more a 4 leaf clover ?

Put your mics wherever the unique characteristics of the space best support a good balance...that might involve moving towards or away from those focal points, created by the curved surfaces
Old 8th April 2021
  #5
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Sharp11's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I’d put up a good shotgun mic as a safety, then I’d look for hyper cardioid and/or figure 8 (because the front and back polar width is narrower in fig 8). There’s going to be plenty of verb available, so the trick is narrowing the focus.
Old 8th April 2021
  #6
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Before placing mics, have the cellist move upstage and downstage until she's comfortable with what she hears. The 414's are without a doubt your best available choice for cello. I like the sound best when switched to hypercardioid, but in this case I would deploy them as a M/S pair, (hyper/fig-8) for quick control of the direct/reverb ratio. Aim at the bow contact point from 4-8 feet out, with the height chosen so that your mic is looking perpendicular to the face of the instrument. Choose the distance so that it sounds slightly dry with just the center mic and be certain that the mics are not at a parabolic focal point. Then bring up the side mic to taste. Be prepared to fade it down a bit when she is singing. A lavalier mic or a NT5 on a boom may be useful as a spot for her voice. If you use a lav, be careful about how you route its cable: A female cellist may lean into the instrument in a way you don't expect.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 8th April 2021 | Show parent
  #7
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
I would probably use the rodes as a NOS pair maybe 5-6’ out, not very high (4-5’ to minimize visual intrusion on the video), use one of the 414s to spot the cello/guitar, and use a lav to capture her voice.
Would he/she need to 'spot the cello/guitar' when there are already DPA 4099s on those instruments?
Old 8th April 2021
  #8
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
James - I would not use the 4099s in this situation.
Old 8th April 2021
  #9
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Agreed. I would suggest first of all getting away from the center of the dome. Don't put microphones there, don't put instruments there. Have the musicians move around until they are happy, then set up an ORTF pair where you're happy with it. Then add spot mikes.

I bet a nickel you won't need any of the spot mikes. But if you need them to reduce the room sound, you'll have them.

The dome will create horrible flutter echoes in some locations, so your job becomes finding those locations and avoiding them. Flutter echoes are not reverb, they are their own thing, but they might be the thing that the artists heard and want to avoid but don't know what to call properly.
--scott
Old 8th April 2021 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
Agreed. I would suggest first of all getting away from the center of the dome. Don't put microphones there, don't put instruments there. Have the musicians move around until they are happy, then set up an ORTF pair where you're happy with it. Then add spot mikes.

I bet a nickel you won't need any of the spot mikes. But if you need them to reduce the room sound, you'll have them.

The dome will create horrible flutter echoes in some locations, so your job becomes finding those locations and avoiding them. Flutter echoes are not reverb, they are their own thing, but they might be the thing that the artists heard and want to avoid but don't know what to call properly.
--scott
That was the gist of my general advice...with the caveat that the "Feng Shui stage management police" might dismiss these audio concerns, in favour of visual symmetry and harmony

Harmony for the players might be matters of mere inches however...so a happy compromise might still be attainable
Old 8th April 2021 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
That was the gist of my general advice...with the caveat that the "Feng Shui stage management police" might dismiss these audio concerns, in favour of visual symmetry and harmony

Harmony for the players might be matters of mere inches however...so a happy compromise might still be attainable
And if it's not... you have the spots.
--scott
Old 9th April 2021
  #12
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I truly appreciate your valuable input!

Moving the performer and the mics around the room would be ideal, but unfortunately not possible. Another major challenge of the situation, besides the room itself, is that I am only allowed 1 hour to set up all of my equipment including the video cameras. I’ll be lucky if I can just get everything connected before the doors open. So I was thinking that using a variety of mics would give me a better chance of getting some usable audio in post. I’m not expecting a miracle, and the cellist is well aware of these challenges, but as a professional I would like to deliver the best result possible given the situation.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #13
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
single tlm67 in cardioid at relatively short distance, whatever pair (also in cardioid) as spaced ambis, clip mics as safety.
I really want to use the TLM67 as I’ve heard it can record a cello beautifully. But I thought the stereo pair of 414s would be the better choice. I really wish I had more time to set up to try all these suggestions.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #14
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
I would probably use the rodes as a NOS pair maybe 5-6’ out, not very high (4-5’ to minimize visual intrusion on the video), use one of the 414s to spot the cello/guitar, and use a lav to capture her voice.
Thanks for the suggestion. My lav mic is a COS-11d. Good for voice, but I wonder it would be sufficient for her singing? Perhaps with careful placement a single spot mic could give a good balance of instrument vs voice?
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #15
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick ➡️
Before placing mics, have the cellist move upstage and downstage until she's comfortable with what she hears. The 414's are without a doubt your best available choice for cello. I like the sound best when switched to hypercardioid, but in this case I would deploy them as a M/S pair, (hyper/fig-8) for quick control of the direct/reverb ratio. Aim at the bow contact point from 4-8 feet out, with the height chosen so that your mic is looking perpendicular to the face of the instrument. Choose the distance so that it sounds slightly dry with just the center mic and be certain that the mics are not at a parabolic focal point. Then bring up the side mic to taste. Be prepared to fade it down a bit when she is singing. A lavalier mic or a NT5 on a boom may be useful as a spot for her voice. If you use a lav, be careful about how you route its cable: A female cellist may lean into the instrument in a way you don't expect.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Thank you, David. Using an M/S setup did cross my mind, and I like the idea of having control of the reverb in post. The challenge, as you said, will be avoiding a parabolic focal point!
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 ➡️
I’d put up a good shotgun mic as a safety, then I’d look for hyper cardioid and/or figure 8 (because the front and back polar width is narrower in fig 8). There’s going to be plenty of verb available, so the trick is narrowing the focus.
Well, as video production is my main gig, I do have plenty of shotgun mics lying around.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #17
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediakobo ➡️
I really want to use the TLM67 as I’ve heard it can record a cello beautifully.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediakobo ➡️
Using an M/S setup did cross my mind...
If you go with M/S couldn't you potentially use the TLM67 as the Mid and a 414 in fig 8 for the sides?

Caveat - I've never heard a TLM67 so I honestly can't comment on that mic but I have owned a C414 XLS and I must say it didn't hit the spot for me on acoustic guitar. Sounded nice enough and definitely something you could use in a mix but front'n'centre in solo mode it had nothing of the faithful realism of even a humble CM4; for this reason I'd be tempted to use something else as the M in your set-up.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #18
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
the tlm67 is (almost) everything the u67 is, at least when used with a tube mic pre/channel strip...

...and as much as i love using about a dozen of different approaches depending on situation, i have yet to come across a situation in which a 67 wouldn't do the trick, pretty much regardless of the source!

adding a side mic certainly helps as the ambient part of the sound in mono always sound more coloured than any stereo technique - however, i prefer largely decorrelated ambient sound stemming from mics in very wide a/b; hence my suggestion to use the tlm67 on its own as main mic but add a spaced pair for ambis.

why not use the c414's as pseudo-pzm's, with the absence of early reflections mimicking the effect of a large room/position in the far field even though the mics can get positioned just a few meter from the source?

cardioid for rejection of crowd noise or - if facing away from the source - direct sound.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #19
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediakobo ➡️
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I truly appreciate your valuable input!

Moving the performer and the mics around the room would be ideal, but unfortunately not possible. Another major challenge of the situation, besides the room itself, is that I am only allowed 1 hour to set up all of my equipment including the video cameras. I’ll be lucky if I can just get everything connected before the doors open. So I was thinking that using a variety of mics would give me a better chance of getting some usable audio in post. I’m not expecting a miracle, and the cellist is well aware of these challenges, but as a professional I would like to deliver the best result possible given the situation.
Stick a finger in your ear, listen with the other. Have the band play. Find a place where there is balance and no weird comb filtering. Then take your finger out and listen with both ears... if you move your head back and forth in that area and the stereo image jumps from side to side, forget it and try someplace else. But otherwise put the microphones exactly there, at that distance and height. It is a good technique when you have a limited but nonzero amount of time to put the mikes up.

And the person putting the mikes up should not be the person putting the video camera up.... but the mikes need to be set before the final camera placement is done. This is a three-person job if you can't get in any earlier.
--scott
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #20
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediakobo ➡️
Well, as video production is my main gig, I do have plenty of shotgun mics lying around.
The shotgun mike is about the worst possible microphone in a highly reverberant room. It eliminates correlated sounds coming from a specific location, like birds and airplanes, but does nothing for uncorrelated sounds coming from multiple locations like room reverb.
--scott
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #21
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1 Review written
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
The shotgun mike is about the worst possible microphone in a highly reverberant room. It eliminates correlated sounds coming from a specific location, like birds and airplanes, but does nothing for uncorrelated sounds coming from multiple locations like room reverb.
--scott
i fully disagree and the second part of your quote if it's meant on absolute terms!

a highly directional mic can be really useful in reverberant rooms: i regularly use a schoeps mk41 (or mini-cmit) on talking heads (and additionally use expanders) with great success - the only thing which indeed yields better results is getting the mic closer to the source and hence, changing the ratio between direct to reflected and ambient sound but using headsets isn't always possible; then, using highly directional mics imo is the next best option.
Old 9th April 2021
  #22
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🎧 10 years
i would bring a boom box with decent volume and fidelity with a dry, close-miked recording of a cello. there is probably a kontakt vst of a dry cello that you could use to create a test cd. put the boom box where the performer would be, elevated off the ground facing the audience.

i would take ten minutes to at least *try* things. if you have good noise cancelling headphones (like the Sony WH-1000XM4) you could literally walk around holding stereo pairs of mics and see what you are getting. plan your best two or three theoretical options, and then actually try them quickly. with the multi-pattern akg's, you could guerilla-test all sorts of ideas quickly.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #23
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
i fully disagree and the second part of your quote if it's meant on absolute terms!

a highly directional mic can be really useful in reverberant rooms: i regularly use a schoeps mk41 (or mini-cmit) on talking heads (and additionally use expanders) with great success - the only thing which indeed yields better results is getting the mic closer to the source and hence, changing the ratio between direct to reflected and ambient sound but using headsets isn't always possible; then, using highly directional mics imo is the next best option.
A shotgun mike is NOT a directional microphone! It does not behave anything like a directional microphone. The interference tube is a gimmick and actually reduces overall directionality. Too many people think a shotgun is just a super-directional microphone but it is not. It is a device with a very specific and very useful gimmick to remove correlated off-axis sounds.

The schoeps MK41 IS a directional microphone and it is EXACTLY the right tool for reverberant rooms like this.
--scott
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #24
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1 Review written
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
A shotgun mike is NOT a directional microphone! It does not behave anything like a directional microphone. The interference tube is a gimmick and actually reduces overall directionality. Too many people think a shotgun is just a super-directional microphone but it is not. It is a device with a very specific and very useful gimmick to remove correlated off-axis sounds.

The schoeps MK41 IS a directional microphone and it is EXACTLY the right tool for reverberant rooms like this.
--scott
hm...

i should have added the akg ck69 to the list of mics which i'm using in reverberant rooms...

...but maybe we're discussing semantics?

imo shotguns are directional mics in the sense that they dampen off-axis sound and are a suitable tool for getting a reasonably dry sound in reverberant rooms when going closer isn't an option - i never got to 'measure' my ck69 (or any other) mics (who can do so?) but ime the directivity graphs ain't THAT far from reality (well, the fr certainly is heavily smoothed if not downright wrong).

could you suggest another term rather than directional for shotguns?
Attached Files
File Type: pdf AKG_CK69ULS_Polar_Patterns.pdf (128.2 KB, 3 views)
Old 9th April 2021
  #25
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
When considering LDC's, I generally prefer C12-family mics to those in the Neumann "vocal mic" category. It has to do with where the principal resonance sits. The Julliard School of Music owns one of only 63 cellos made by Antonio Stradivari that have survived to modern times. It has been my privilege to record this instrument on three occasions with two different artists. The repertoire involved was mostly sonatas and string quartets but, on one occasion, the player asked me to make a quick recording of a movement from one of the Bach cello suites. We were in a large experimental theater space with dodgy acoustics and I had only five minutes to prepare. I put up a pair of AKG 414EB-P48's set to hyper-cardioid pattern in a tight near-coincident pair, quickly set the recording distance by ear, and hit record. The player, today a very well-known performer, said that it was the first recording of this famous instrument that actually sounded right. Alas I didn't keep a copy; we sent the DAT tape off to the contest he was entering and that was the end of it. Microphones vary and so do cellos, but I've had a soft spot for AKG 414's in this application ever since.

During COVID isolation, I made of project of learning how to use a new U47-lineage tube mic to record my cello. It is not a Strad and my untreated living room is a bad place to record. The necessity of close placement and the 47ish presence boost made a bad combination, so it took me about a week of experimentation to make it work, and some EQ was necessary. I used a M/S arrangement to allow easy control of the room ambience. A MKH 30 for the side mic sounded too "hard" in my plaster and lath room, but a 414 in figure-eight mode was perfect and required no EQ for the side channel.

I think the boombox strategy proposed by @ gearstudent will be a waste of time. A boombox does not radiate the way a cello does: The cello radiates different notes from different surfaces and its directionality is entirely different than a 4 inch speaker. Because sizes of the radiating surfaces are so different, the transition from near-field to far-field will happen at a different distance for any given frequency.

I have to emphatically side with Scott on the suitability of a hypercardioid SDC vs an interference tube "shotgun" mic.

David

Last edited by David Rick; 10th May 2021 at 03:37 AM.. Reason: "no EQ", not "to EQ"
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #26
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
imo shotguns are directional mics in the sense that they dampen off-axis sound and are a suitable tool for getting a reasonably dry sound in reverberant rooms when going closer isn't an option - i never got to 'measure' my ck69 (or any other) mics (who can do so?) but ime the directivity graphs ain't THAT far from reality (well, the fr certainly is heavily smoothed if not downright wrong).
No. No, they don't. The directivity graphs are accurate for point sources (as they are measured with point sources) but they are not even remotely accurate for diffuse sources.

It's worth reading the description of the shotgun in Olson's acoustical engineering book. It's a gimmick. You can't think of it like a conventional microphone because it's not one.
--scott
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #27
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1 Review written
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
No. No, they don't. The directivity graphs are accurate for point sources (as they are measured with point sources) but they are not even remotely accurate for diffuse sources.

It's worth reading the description of the shotgun in Olson's acoustical engineering book. It's a gimmick. You can't think of it like a conventional microphone because it's not one.
--scott
well, they do...

(or how else would you then describe the effect they have whithout any doubt when getting used in a reverberant room by comparison to a hypercardioid? - i don't really care if the result is due to some kind of air turbulence and/or is digitally filtered or if a line-array design is getting used: i just wan't the speaker to be understood and for this, shotguns are useful tools)

...but thx for the tip on literature.
Old 9th April 2021 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann ➡️

Caveat - I've never heard a TLM67 so I honestly can't comment on that mic but I have owned a C414 XLS and I must say it didn't hit the spot for me on acoustic guitar. Sounded nice enough and definitely something you could use in a mix but front'n'centre in solo mode it had nothing of the faithful realism of even a humble CM4; for this reason I'd be tempted to use something else as the M in your set-up.
this guitar sounds pretty good with 414s. xls I think.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez62cQPYyI8

Ray
Old 9th April 2021
  #29
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Mediakobo's Avatar
 
Thanks again for all the valuable insight and suggestions. I’m really learning a lot!

The M/S pair sounds like a safe bet.

What’s your thoughts on using boundary mics placed on the stage right near the cello?
The DPA 4060 with boundary layer mount looks interesting, and since I can use 4060 lavs in my regular video work I have no problem investing in a few of these if they could help capture some usable sound.

I forgot to mention that the cello player will be performing on a make-shift riser to make herself more visible to the audience. Imagine this could present even more problems with lower frequencies potentially being channeled through it.
Attached Thumbnails
Advice for miking a solo cello in a reverberant room-sukurinsiyotuto-2021-03-29-11.21.07.jpg  
Old 10th April 2021 | Show parent
  #30
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediakobo ➡️
I forgot to mention that the cello player will be performing on a make-shift riser to make herself more visible to the audience. Imagine this could present even more problems with lower frequencies potentially being channeled through it.
Such risers are very common in cello performance, particularly in string quartets. Usually it's one level, not 2 as in this case, and with all faces sealed, like a box, not open as in this case. The cello spike mechanically couples the 2 resonance chambers (cello body and stand enclosure) which theoretically lends a 'sympathetic radiator potential' to the pairing ?

The net height shown in your pic is a little higher than that of a typical single riser box...but not by much.

In practice, the coupling/amplifying effect is minimal, and beneficial...and the greater benefit derives simply from the increased height...which aids in cello projection and dispersion. Embrace it, don't fear or fight it...it might even prevent you from needing to use a spot mic, and leave all the work to the (appropriately placed) main pair ?

If you find they contribute a honky, saxophonic quality that's disagreeable, consider stuffing the empty chambers with pillows, rolled blankets, sheets of foam, yoga mats etc to damp them down....like the filling material in sealed speaker boxes.
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