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Piano/voice with just two pairs?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Piano/voice with just two pairs?

Hi, I'm preparing to record myself (piano + baritone) in a few weeks singing Schumann. I've always used a single wide-cardioid ORTF pair and then had great difficulties with singer/pianist balance. I also would like to stand facing the pianist, if possible. Unfortunately I only have a pair of very good mics that can be omni or cardioid, and a pair of Line Audio CM3s. Setup time is limited in these sessions (by venue and singer fatigue).

I'm trying to follow the Decca engineers' advice in Classical Recording. They recommend several studio layouts, but all include 1–2 ambience pairs. For a concert-style layout, they do allow for a single spaced pair of omnis with a tail pair on the piano, but elsewhere they warn that a main pair of omnis might pick up too much piano.

1. If I recorded facing the piano, with a pair on me and an omni pair on the piano but no ambience pairs, would it be difficult to get realistically unified sound? Also, since my omni/cardioid pair is much better than my CM3s, would I lose out by not having that as my vocal mic?

2. If I recorded in concert arrangement, should I use spaced omnis as the main pair (how spaced?) and then add a tail pair for potential use in post?

3. I also have a Sony PCM D-100 and a cheap Zoom H5. I'm guessing small sample rate variations (?) would preclude using these as ambience pairs and combining in post, but I figured I'd check.

Thanks!
Ben
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
i am a classically trained pianist. for me, a pair of omnis sound great on piano, and ortf cardioid also sounds great on piano. if you have to ration good mics, i wouldn't waste one of them on a room mic. you can add some bricasti reverb later to get more depth to the recording.

definitely put a directional mic on the voice. you don't want to have to compete too much with the piano and you want balancing options during mixdown.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
king2070lplaya's Avatar
I’ve recorded this way, with just 2 pairs, and it works pretty well if you like that sound. You can add reverb later but it’s not quite the same as having ambience mics, especially in terms of how the early reflections are rendered. But it can and has been done, and can work well.

I don’t know that I would recommend it if the performers aren’t prepared to be immaculately polished as such a focused perspective leaves little to question. A 3’ish AB for example, with a single spot for the voice for focus and to help correct imbalances, is a much more forgiving setup in my experience. And self-recording ime is all about not trying to do too much, so that you can focus on music making and not on technology.

This is also a great reason to have a colleague record with you as a producer, who’s ears you trust for questions of balance and sound. Balance problems are always best corrected when fixed on stage, in performance, and having someone to check your work and give instant feedback would I think lead to better results than adding more microphones.



Quote:
Originally Posted by bkazez ➡️
Hi, I'm preparing to record myself (piano + baritone) in a few weeks singing Schumann. I've always used a single wide-cardioid ORTF pair and then had great difficulties with singer/pianist balance. I also would like to stand facing the pianist, if possible. Unfortunately I only have a pair of very good mics that can be omni or cardioid, and a pair of Line Audio CM3s. Setup time is limited in these sessions (by venue and singer fatigue).

I'm trying to follow the Decca engineers' advice in Classical Recording. They recommend several studio layouts, but all include 1–2 ambience pairs. For a concert-style layout, they do allow for a single spaced pair of omnis with a tail pair on the piano, but elsewhere they warn that a main pair of omnis might pick up too much piano.

1. If I recorded facing the piano, with a pair on me and an omni pair on the piano but no ambience pairs, would it be difficult to get realistically unified sound? Also, since my omni/cardioid pair is much better than my CM3s, would I lose out by not having that as my vocal mic?

2. If I recorded in concert arrangement, should I use spaced omnis as the main pair (how spaced?) and then add a tail pair for potential use in post?

3. I also have a Sony PCM D-100 and a cheap Zoom H5. I'm guessing small sample rate variations (?) would preclude using these as ambience pairs and combining in post, but I figured I'd check.

Thanks!
Ben
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Head
 
I have asked the same question a few times here, and I just spent the summer recording opera (vox + piano) demos. The Decca book is great. The only thing I will add, which is obvious but I'll say it anyways, is that the much more important thing is to make the singer as comfortable/happy/ready to give a great performance as possible, and also, find a venue with good sound. If you're the one singing, put together your setups beforehand and get everything ready so you can set up in 5 minutes instead of 30 and go kill it. (Speaking from experience having flustered a singer by using extra setup time to make a great multi-mic setup a few weeks ago).

If you're all set up with mics on bars/tripods in your car, recorder gains pre-set the night before, etc., you can save a lot of stress on the day. In your shoes, my goal would be to be able to walk in, drop 2 stands (a stereo pair on each), hit the red button, and sing.

Most opera demos I see were recorded with a potato (Have seen pros doing these with a $50 mono Rode shotgun video mic from 120' away, or with a pair of HF-bumped pop mics, etc.). From what you describe, you'll already be way ahead gear/sound-wise (assuming this is mainly for demos and not a CD). Find a great venue and accompanist with a freshly-tuned piano and do whatever you need to do to sing great.
Old 2 days ago
  #5
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Thank you all for these great perspectives! I think given my preference for a realistic sound and simplicity, and since the venue has very good acoustics, I'm going to use a spaced pair of omnis and then add use my pair of CM3s as a voice spot in case I need to adjust voice presence at any points.

It does always take me about 30 mins to setup, and it definitely distracts me from singing. How do people safely transport expensive mics pre-attached to stereo bars? That could save a lot of hassle but seems risky.

Thanks again,
Ben
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
hbphotoav's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkazez ➡️
Thank you all for these great perspectives! I think given my preference for a realistic sound and simplicity, and since the venue has very good acoustics, I'm going to use a spaced pair of omnis and then add use my pair of CM3s as a voice spot in case I need to adjust voice presence at any points.

It does always take me about 30 mins to setup, and it definitely distracts me from singing. How do people safely transport expensive mics pre-attached to stereo bars? That could save a lot of hassle but seems risky.

Thanks again,
Ben
Everything has a cost... in Time, Treasure and Experience. In my experience, arriving as early as I can to do setup and (sometimes) a soundcheck is always preferable to doing anything quickly (which happens often enough). Also... if you're going to pre-rig, you may find that the setup initially chosen might not be the best for the venue.

I don't do this type of work as often as I did pre-Covid... so I'd work at planning and streamlining the pack, and practice setup (especially) so as to not fumble... and teardown (often the verger/building manager is keen to leave as the last notes fade) so the brain and fingers are all on the same page, especially if time is of the essence.

While I might pre-rig my stereo bar at home (with clips for ORTF or a "Faulkner/Boojum" array... it's a 4-point K&M) I wouldn't ever pre-rig, especially with the mics themselves, or even travel with the "loaded" bar on a stand. They are tools, but not hammers, and are mostly "somewhat" to "very" expensive. Clipping a door or a stumble could very well wreck even CM3s upon contact with concrete or hardwood, and every bit of me quakes at that thought.

If I knew a "short" timeframe was ahead, I'd likely revert to a simple single-stand stereo pair setup like ORTF (with cards) or AB (with omnis) and a DR-60D recorder powered by a battery pack with the onboards as backup, which would take about 5 minutes (having been set, tested and struck at home before packing and leaving the house) ... and spend any available remaining time deciding the placement. With 45 minutes or an hour to burn, I'd opt for a setup requiring a chunk of that time to set, listen, move, set, listen... etc, through outboard mic amps, an interface and a computer (also having setup, tested and struck at home in advance), and choose, as I saw fit. Either one can produce decent results, though the latter is my preference.

You were correct to assume traveling with a fully rigged stand would be risky. I have plenty of mics that are 20+ years old and still work well, mainly because I'm risk-averse. That has worked so far... and all this is one old guy's opinion, of course.

Sorry for a sermon... but I like mics too much to remain silent.

Good luck, and post up a sample or two from wherever you end up, with some production notes. That's how we learn stuff.

Cheers!

HB
Old 2 days ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
HB’s reply is pretty much on the money for this context…about the best on-site time saving you can accomplish at home (assuming you’re set on a particular main pair and spots deployment… and won’t change your mind !) is to pre-rig your spacer bars, shock mounts and tape the coiled xlr cables to these.

You might also attach these to boom arms at home. Then on site, you just add the booms to stands, unbox your mics and uncoil the cables, and connect to preamps.

That’s about the maximum of time you can save at home while keeping your mics safe…if you have a bag to carry those pre-cabled boom arms ?

Alternatively, a bigger time-saver on-location is to bring along an experienced assistant !
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #8
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya ➡️
A 3’ish AB for example, with a single spot for the voice for focus and to help correct imbalances, is a much more forgiving setup in my experience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkazez ➡️
I'm going to use a spaced pair of omnis and then add use my pair of CM3s as a voice spot in case I need to adjust voice presence at any points.
Most folks suggesting an omni pair as the main feed, if you've a nice hall.

But what are the pros and cons of using a pair for the voice spot rather than a single mic?

OP says he wants to face the pianist, so is my back-of-an-envelope sketch broadly the right idea...?
Attached Thumbnails
Piano/voice with just two pairs?-e8264ba6-2fd5-4e0e-bc03-1c569720f7e1_1_201_a.jpg  

Last edited by James Lehmann; 2 days ago at 08:04 AM..
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann ➡️
Most folks suggesting an omni pair as the main feed, if you've a nice hall.

But what are the pros and cons of using a pair for the voice spot rather than a single mic?
As per “The Decca Book” referred to in these parts often lately, a narrowly spaced (8-10”) parallel AB spaced pair of forward facing cardioid mics, panned in to 10am & 2pm, will give you a narrow yet dimensional voice capture, avoiding the ‘pasted-on mono blob’ effect of a single voice spot.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #10
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
As per “The Decca Book” referred to in these parts often lately, a narrowly spaced (8-10”) parallel AB spaced pair of forward facing cardioid mics, panned in to 10am & 2pm, will give you a narrow yet dimensional voice capture, avoiding the ‘pasted-on mono blob’ effect of a single voice spot.
...except that any alleged negative 'pasted-on' effects stemming from a single spot are nothing but attributions and get used by the same 'recordists' over and over - gazillions of mixes prove that this need not be an issue; in fact, using more than a single mic on an instrument/source that physically isn't very large (such as a singer) is a waste of resources, certainly when working with limited equipment.

___


op: can you get 5 tracks going? then use a mono spot on the singer, a stereo spot on the piano (NOT on the tail end but that'd be another discussion...) and a pair of 'mains' which together would give you more options in terms of level balancing individual sources but also the dry/wet balance.

if you're limited to 4 tracks, i'd try to get a rather dry-ish stereo main pair and use another pair for stereo room ambis - or then a stereo mains which pick up a bit more room sound and two directional mono spot.

the one thing you need to consider is that any mono mic does impart a bit more coulouration in terms of room sound than any stereo mic system (which is why you'll want to use directional mics for spots: to keep out room sound).
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah;
in fact, using more than a single mic on an instrument/source that physically isn't very large (such as a singer) is a waste of resources, certainly when working with limited equipment..
https://youtu.be/LbRf9bPqGhI

“a waste of 2 voice mics” ?

No room-ambi mics necessary…use Lexicon or whatever you have.

Last edited by studer58; 1 day ago at 12:38 PM..
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #12
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
is this a recording that you are using in the sense of calvinist virtue-terror against the millions of other recordings that don't rely on the technology you propagate?

___


we can conduct a little thought experiment or two:

a) think of a drumset; most people will use a spaced a/b pair for overheads which can be seen as main mic system which pictures the entire drumset. some folks use two to three mics on kick and/or snare: not for capturing a stereo image though but to have the option of highlighting individual aspects of the snare and kick.
however, have you ever seen someone using stereo spots on each tom tom, hat, ride, timbale, second snare and whatnot?! me neither 'cause it's pointless! - in fact, i'd introduce a few issues i guess we don't need to discuss here...
pasted-on you say? well, just use a single mic on each tom, pan its signal accordingly in the steroo soundfield et voilà - it works!

b) imagine a whole orchestra with additional soloists, a choir and an organ: you want to mic all of them individually with (at least) two microphones, of course in addition to the different main mic systems or arrays and mics for ambis, surround and immersive sound.
in this case, the downsides become pretty much obvious so i think we don't need to discuss them either...

___


using stereo spots is not only not necessary for time and economic reasons, there is no inherent disadvantage of positioning a mono signal in the stereo or surround field - if you think there is, i'd really appreciate if you could point me to the relevant literature, not to anectdotal experience or whining of some recordists, regardless of their status!

___


in defendence of the approach as used in the video, one might argue that it's easier to counterbalance a stereo pair on each side but then, the stereo width of a piano and a voice imo need to be different anyway - also, with a single mk4 on the singer, you'd get less bleed and obviously, the use of processing doesn't seem to be an issue either so one could easily use a mono in/stereo out artificial efx to wrap a little enveleope around the signal of the vocalist's mic.

in a situation as in the video, i'd (almost) use the same amount of mics (albeit in different positions): stereo mics on piano, single mic on singer, main mic pair, ambient mic pair or if i'd feel fancy, i'd add single ic on the piano mainly for lf capture and another single mic, at a bit large distance, on the singer.

i have a little more sympathy for using stereo mics on physically small sources such as a singer when no processing can get applied or when the singer moves a lot - however, my first option would be to use a wider pattern, then two mic but a different distance and only then m/s - glue or belts would be the last resort before i would even consider using an a/b system... :-)

___

p.s. regarding the use of ambis vs efx: it makes a difference whether you feed an efx with 'direct' signals stemming from spot mics or from ambis - not all efx devices fair equally well though when using 'reverb on reverb'...

p.p.s. you really don't need to care about me that i would not have enough efx available :-)

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 1 day ago at 12:37 PM.. Reason: p.s. added
Old 1 day ago
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Do I have your blessing to add ‘Calvin Virtue Terrorist’ to my CV ? It has an appealing aura of mystique…. ������ !

The video I linked in my previous post provides the OP with enough info to make his own conclusions about effective deployment of his restricted mic resources…the proof is in the listening.

He can make his choices about the blend that appeals to his ears best
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #14
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Do I have your blessing to add ‘Calvin Virtue Terrorist’ to my CV ? It has an appealing aura of mystique…. ������ !

The video I linked in my previous post provides the OP with enough info to make his own conclusions about effective deployment of his restricted mic resources…the proof is in the listening.

He can make his choices about the blend that appeals to his ears best
i'm sure that if you'd be living in my little country, the devastating consequences of the calvinist terror of virtue would appear in another light (i strongly advise against it or else you could also use the symbols of current-day jihadists)...

...and the argument that the op can make up his own mind on the basis of a video is at the same time a truism and moot: of course he may! - but then we can save our thoughts on this and just click around on youtube until the algorithm gives us a few suggestions that it thinks we will like (or that will bring in the most money for the advertisers); if this video gets uses to feed the algorithm, then i'm sure it will soon suggest films directed by david hamilton...
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #15
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkazez ➡️
It does always take me about 30 mins to setup, and it definitely distracts me from singing. How do people safely transport expensive mics pre-attached to stereo bars? That could save a lot of hassle but seems risky.
I have attached CM3 and/or OM1 to a stereo bar w/shock mounts and the angles properly set (most annoying/time consuming part) the night before a bunch of times recently. These mics are super tiny & lightweight, so if you also have a lightweight stereo bar, the whole thing is light and can ride on a piece of foam (or hoodie) in an open box/sterilite in a seat/trunk of your car.

I wouldn't attach the cables in advance. But, I did just switch to 2ch snakes so that i have one (double) cable per mic pair.

The idea is that when I arrive, I drop a mic stand (light stand tripod---I use Manfrotto and also Matthews 7' Reverse stands with a Manfrotto adapter on top, as they weigh almost nothing and fold up to a tiny 19ish inches long.)

Then just put the pre-arranged stereo bar on top of the stand and click in the cables. It's literally 5 minutes to set up one stand (1 pair) or two stands (2 pairs). My gains and recorder are pre-set the day before, too (after a few times you'll know where gains should be, esp. as you're always recording the same singer!). So, drop two stands, pop on the two stereo bars, click in cables, hit the on+record buttons and we're on.

Again, I defer to others here with more experience, but I have recently been doing a lot of opera singer/piano demos, and people I've been working with want to walk in and sing with ~zero setup time. This approach has been working really well, and I learned the hard way that it is absolutely not worth it risk flustering singers by taking extra time to get an extra 5% in terms of mic setup quality.

I sometimes use bigger mics & ribbons, too, in which case I definitely *don't* pre-build the stereo bar in advance (ribbons esp. travel in padded cases). But, your CM3's are perfect for doing this.
Old 1 day ago
  #16
Gear Nut
 
The Decca book makes very convincing arguments against mono spot mics - well worth a read.
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