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Classical music recording....
Old 23rd January 2009
  #1
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
Talking Classical music recording....

I have the following.....

Mackie 1604VLZ
SM Pro Audio PR8E with LM4562 opamps
HD24XR AKM converters
RODE NT1A matched pair
2 x Studio Projects B1's
2 x SE Electronics SE1A's

I am being asked to do a classical recording later in the year (very excited)
I might be naive but I think I can do it (to a quite high standard) with what I own already.

Any opinions? I believe the recordings will be of amateur musicians in an orchestra.

I imagine I could make some of the highest dynamic range recordings in the world (at least technically, excepting
room noise etc) 5dBA self noise of the NT1A and a 130dB dynamic range on the XDR Preamps.
Old 23rd January 2009
  #2
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thenewyear's Avatar
Oh wow. Stop reading specs and get out there and do the recording and learn from the experience.

You're going to be just fine with what you have. You've only got cardioid mics which limits things a little but really you've still got loads of options.

What I'd do is set all three of your pairs up in the sweet(ish) spot. I'd use ORTF for a nice pronouced image but you could also go XY. Audition between the three pairs and pick your favourite. Strike the other two and fine tune the position of your main pair. Then set-up one of the pairs as outriggers possibly at the back if you want a bit more immediacy to the percussion. Then you can if you want use one or both of your remaining mics as a spot for any soloist there might be and perhaps an audience/ambience mic (probably not necessary).

Make sure you've got enough cables to get you well out of the way. If it is a concert you're probably all set (but think perhaps about a back up two track), if it is a session then you should give some thought to talkback and maybe a cue light.

Hope this helps or at least provides some ideas...
Old 23rd January 2009
  #3
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
HD24XR AKM converters
RODE NT1A matched pair

I imagine I could make some of the highest dynamic range recordings in the world (at least technically, excepting
room noise etc) 5dBA self noise of the NT1A and a 130dB dynamic range on the XDR Preamps.
I am sure you can make quite nice recordings with those, but here is one reality check:

HD24XR spec sheet: Dynamic range: 103dB A/D, >103dB D/A (A-weighted)

That is exactly 17 bits. Many small field recorders (Sound Devices, Nagra) have 113-117 dB A/D converter dynamic range (about 19-20 bits worth), best high end converters like Lavry & Weiss reach 127-130 dB (21-22 bits).

I would not worry too much about that, though. Rather about the venue, mics and mic placement, stereo arrangement etc.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
You'll do fine, just remember the most important thing:

As you're mixing it all down, getting ready to say "that's it" and burn the CD to send to the people, take one final last reality check: does this sound awesome? Does it sound totally fricking amazing? Does it make people who weren't there wish they had been?

Don't settle for it sounds just like it did at the time or some lesser standard. Imagine for a moment this will reach the ears of [insert favorite all-time engineering idol] and treat it like your audition to work with the guy.

I always find that the tiniest little last tweaks, dipping the high end microscopically, or easing off on the attack of the compressor, is what takes material from perfectly good and representative to these guys are incredible players! Remember: the reality of what happened at the time is not your goal... it's the starting point.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #5
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson ➑️
...
I always find that the tiniest little last tweaks, dipping the high end microscopically, or easing off on the attack of the compressor, is what takes material from perfectly good and representative to these guys are incredible players! ...
In classical music it most often is switching the compressor off that would make material from perfectly good to incredible.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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Plush's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Since the sound of the recording is made by the players and the room, if they are good
then your recording will be good.

Your Mackie is perfectly good as are your RODE mics.

Just get in the proper position with them (through trial and error) and record that sound.

Boom-shaka -laka!!

"That's the way, unh-huh, unh-huh, we like it, unh-hunh, unh-hunh. . .that's the way, unh-huh, unh-huh we like it."
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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NetworkAudio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Do not record classical orchestra unless you are intimately familliar with the sound, the animal and the range techniques that work.

If this is a freebie, then go ahead and do it. You will learn a lot. If it is a paid gig, turn it down and help them find someone who knows the ropes.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
You see I think Klaukholm lives in a dangerous mindset.

I may not have great experience in recording classical, but I have decent (not high end) gear, lot's of sound recording experience (10 years), bloody good hearing if I may say so myself, common sense and the internet as a global source of info (including the respondants to this thread)

I have rarely turned a job away, paid or for experience on the basis of doubt that I can do it.

Now do forgive me but I gather we are talking..

Quality recorder + Back up (both multitrack)
Some stereo pairs
Tall mic stands
Plenty of long pre tested mic cables
Manual notes
Good headphones
Some reference recordings
A couple of LDC's for solo instruments
Liability insurance

Now the one issue of concern is a good tall mic stands that won;t cost more than the job will pay !

I may have to add an extender to an existing stand and check it for safety, will 3meters tall be ok, above and behind the conductor?

I have also heard the Mackie XDR mic preamp is better sounding than Millenia preamps for orchestral work.

thanks
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 15 years
It's not a professional orchestra and if they are better than my recording techniques
I will eat my hat !
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #10
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DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by klaukholm ➑️
Do not record classical orchestra unless you are intimately familliar with the sound, the animal and the range techniques that work.

If this is a freebie, then go ahead and do it. You will learn a lot. If it is a paid gig, turn it down and help them find someone who knows the ropes.
This is good advice; it's the approach I've taken (doing "volunteer" recording for a local orchestra). I've learned a LOT, and while everyone's been very happy with the recording quality, I've had way less stress than I would have if it were a paying gig, and a much better ability to relax, listen, and learn. I *do* get a mention in the program, which is a nice bit of marketing.

That said, the hardware should be fine - but the real trick is in mic placement, which is an art in itself. The OP would probably benefit (as I did) from reviewing Michael Williams' outstanding Stereophonic Zoom paper - an excellent overview of two-mic setups:

http://www.microphone-data.com/pdfs/Stereo%20zoom.pdf
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 15 years
I will read that paper with glee, thanks.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 15 years
I think a very, very, long headphone ext lead would be helpful too.
Old 26th January 2009
  #13
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d_fu's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
I imagine I could make some of the highest dynamic range recordings in the world
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
I have also heard the Mackie XDR mic preamp is better sounding than Millenia preamps for orchestral work.
I guess it's ideas like these that make Kjetil (and myself) a tad skeptical about your qualification for the job... heh
You could mention what kind of job this is. If it's an amateur ensemble's live recording, why not... If it's supposed to be a commercial CD, you might want to reconsider.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️

Now do forgive me but I gather we are talking..

Quality recorder + Back up (both multitrack)
Some stereo pairs
Tall mic stands
Plenty of long pre tested mic cables
Manual notes
Good headphones
Some reference recordings
A couple of LDC's for solo instruments
Liability insurance

Now the one issue of concern is a good tall mic stands that won;t cost more than the job will pay !

I may have to add an extender to an existing stand and check it for safety, will 3meters tall be ok, above and behind the conductor?

I have also heard the Mackie XDR mic preamp is better sounding than Millenia preamps for orchestral work.

thanks
Are you OK with some good stereo bars? They're essential equipment for this kind of thing (and surprisingly pricey).

You'll also want a tape measure so that you can be sure your mic spacing is correct and reproducible, and so that you can document your setup in your notes. I also bring a protractor to check mic angles, and a cable tester with test tone generator.

Is this a performance or a recording session? If performance, the stands could be an issue and you will probably need to explore flying the mics from above. You might want to do this in any event, depending on the space.

That said, I made a nice tall stand by adding a length of pipe to a heavy-duty camera tripod; it's very stable even at a bit over 3 meters, but no one wants it sitting between a live audience and the conductor!

There are probably several hundred people here with more knowledge than I'll ever have about mic technqiues. But based on my experience, especially if it's a performance and time is limited, I'd suggest investing the vast majority of your time in getting your main stereo pair sounding great, and then worry about spot mics and outriggers if you have some extra time - those things are add-ons to the nucleus of the main pair.

One other silly thing that might help with chemistry and atmosphere - dress nicely! The whole classical scene is much more upscale that most pop situations, and the music directors, musicians, hall management, etc., all respond better if you're in a sport coat and khakis instead of jeans and a sweater.

Good luck!
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #15
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
...common sense and the internet as a global source of info (including the respondants to this thread)
Oh dear, what happened to this world. When will we have the first threads: "I have a good knife and a first aid training, could any of the surgeons please let me in how to transplant my liver."
...
Quote:
I may have to add an extender to an existing stand and check it for safety, will 3meters tall be ok, above and behind the conductor?

I'm sure you will be able to find out with your common sense and maybe you can stream the sound live to the internet through your iphone and get some advice from the internet on location live, that would be cool.

Quote:
I have also heard the Mackie XDR mic preamp is better sounding than Millenia preamps for orchestral work.
Oh sure, that is very important when recording amateur orchestras. Actually the best investment would be a bottle of champagne for everyone before the concert...
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #16
29327
Guest
Possibly against my better judgement, I'll say go for it! One word of advice, though: The biggest issues I've seen non-classical (or classically-trained) engineers doing classical recordings is concept of sound. I don't doubt that most engineers could, in fact, learn to make great classical recordings. However, if you don't know what to listen to, you're going to get into trouble real fast. In the situation you're in (impending session with somewhat limited prep time), I can only suggest that you get some truly excellent orchestra recordings and become familiar with the timbre, sense of space, dynamic range and sense of depth. There's no better place to learn than from the masters' recordings!*

Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
I have also heard the Mackie XDR mic preamp is better sounding than Millenia preamps for orchestral work.
Well, in a world with very little black and white, cut-and-dry right and wrong, I can say, unequivocally, without a doubt, that statement is untrue.

* Author's note: there is a better way. Years of classical training, a great depth of understanding of the orchestra (usually through playing in one or more such ensembles) and honing one's ears to the amazing sonic details present in such an ensemble.

Last edited by 29327; 26th January 2009 at 07:04 PM.. Reason: Author's note
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #17
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d_fu's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by audio ergo sum ➑️
Oh dear, what happened to this world. When will we have the first threads: "I have a good knife and a first aid training, could any of the surgeons please let me in how to transplant my liver."
True, but OTOH, come on... A stereo pair 3m above and behind a conductor shouldn't be too far from how many of us started classical recording. I am quite sure there is no one here who never made any recordings until the day he got a degree and then went straight for the NYPO or so with fancy multi-mic setups...

I started with a pair of AKG 460s (ORTF and AB), a Behringer stereo pre and a DA-30. (What about a new thread on "what was your first remote setup?"). There was no internet to provide knowledge about these matters, all I had was a few books and catalogs (hope I'm not sounding too nostalgic here...).

Let's just hope the OP isn't getting the job at the expense of an experienced classical recordist like Mike, who happens to charge a few Dollars more...

If it turns out good, fine, then he can go on, if he mucks it up, maybe the ensemble will hire someone else in the future.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #18
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NetworkAudio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I do not care how good of an engineer you are, - if you have not heard a good orchestra play live in a good hall numerous times, and if you have not listened to a number of good recordings you have no place taking professional work - period!

I don't care about equipment. The engineer I learned my craft from got great results from an orchestra with two km183 and 4 km184. His recordings were and still are standard NPR material and they sound great! mackie mixers and all.
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 10 years
Back to practical matters: Before I got my own tall mic stand I rented a tall light stand with horizontal boom (max reach 7 meters up...) for all of 15 euros per day from a local cinema gear rental house.

Stereo bars can be expencive, if you want a DPA carbon fiber affair, but basic steel bars 20 and 30 cm long (good for basic ORTF, DIN, AB etc.) need not cost more than 10€ (KΓΆnig & Meyer). Or go to a hardwear store and buy 20mm aluminium U-profile meant for bookshelf edges and stuff, few euros per meter. I made 60 & 90 cm bars from that, cost something like 3€.

Yes, forget compressors, limiters etc. Just a clean minimalistic CLASSICAL recording. Finding the right place for the microphones is the key, and a good hall.

I even have some greal orchestral recordings done with just an omni pair; keep it simple.

My first serious classical recording was done with Shure VP88 and a minidisk recorder. Made some transfers from the original disks (1997) just some time ago, they did not sound half bad actually...
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #20
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🎧 15 years
You'll learn by starting simple. It isn't about just the gear but learning where to place it.

I spent the first several years of my audio journey using a pair of SM-81's and a Mackie 1202 (pre- VLZ) into a Panasonic DAT. The thing I had going for me, though, was a lifetime of experience with classical music. I've played in orchestras as long as I can remember and listened to recorded classical music for even longer. When you have that baseline for work, it is amazing what you can do with gear that has no right to sound good.

That being said- klaukholm has a point. If they are hiring you professionally and expecting a professional product, it is best that you not spend your time experimenting. When dealing with pro groups and pro situations, it is expected that you are up and running at full quality almost instantly. It isn't always fair, but that is the world we live in.

--Ben
Old 26th January 2009 | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 15 years
I want to get something straight, the orchestra is amateur and it's a live audience attended performance not a session.

I am a professional sound engineer and I have recorded a great deal of jazz amongst other music, sure it's not the same but it's acoustic and dynamics (especially in the avante guarde sector) are not incomparable.

Now if I was actually joking when I said the XDR was better than the Millennia pre's and all respect to Klaukholm he did not rise to it. A little juvenile humour.
Isn't it the most important to hear how the musicians sound in the current room
not any other room, sure for a reference but surely it's most important to get the sound right in the moment there and then.

Thanks for all the help there are some great tips here.

The venue has been chosen so given that is unchangeable I will focus on my stereo pairs, I plan 3 (min 2) to give me options. I will spend the most time on these and positioning which again I may or may not have a lot of choice in.

I think I will route a mic from me to a track for recorded notes.

I am not anticipating retakes etc. etc.

I have 2 months to consider and visit the venue.

I strongly imagine there will be a considerable rehearsal beforehand where I can adjust levels, the beauty of 24bit and 5dBA self noise mics is that I can run the gain nice and low and still capture a hiss free recording and avoid risk of distortion, almost completely.
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #22
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
"Forget compressors," someone said? Hoo boy...

The reason you need a compressor (or limiter) somewhere in the signal chain is this: from the quietest flute entry to the timpani crescendo, you got, I dunno, a good 60 decibels of difference?

If you hand someone a CD, in 2009, and the levels are traversing that kind of range, where the flute solo is down SIXTY DECIBELS when the movement starts, guess what? This is not a "listenable" product. Not in my world. Nor yours, either, if you think about it. THIRTY DECIBELS down from zero is purty damn whisper quiet.

Woe unto he who forgets they are making a CD they're not entering a contest who can reproduce the drastic swings in volume the most accurately.

A stereo pair in ORTF three feet over the conductor's head is an excellent place to start, and with a widely spaced stereo pair out at the edges, you should have all you need to work with. But then again, the most important thing-- as you're listening to the final product, does it sound incredible? Does it lift you up and carry you away? If it doesn't, then it's not done, yet.
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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hughesmr's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson ➑️
But then again, the most important thing-- as you're listening to the final product, does it sound incredible? Does it lift you up and carry you away? If it doesn't, then it's not done, yet.
And if the performance sucked, then what do you do?
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #24
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughesmr ➑️
And if the performance sucked, then what do you do?
Change your mailng addess and don't answer when they knock on your door?
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #25
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson ➑️
"Forget compressors," someone said? Hoo boy...

The reason you need a compressor (or limiter) somewhere in the signal chain is this: from the quietest flute entry to the timpani crescendo, you got, I dunno, a good 60 decibels of difference?

If you hand someone a CD, in 2009, and the levels are traversing that kind of range, where the flute solo is down SIXTY DECIBELS when the movement starts, guess what? This is not a "listenable" product. Not in my world. Nor yours, either, if you think about it. THIRTY DECIBELS down from zero is purty damn whisper quiet.

Woe unto he who forgets they are making a CD they're not entering a contest who can reproduce the drastic swings in volume the most accurately.

A stereo pair in ORTF three feet over the conductor's head is an excellent place to start, and with a widely spaced stereo pair out at the edges, you should have all you need to work with. But then again, the most important thing-- as you're listening to the final product, does it sound incredible? Does it lift you up and carry you away? If it doesn't, then it's not done, yet.
Bla, bla, bla
No compressor needed, you need to be able to read a score and have a fader...
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #26
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️
I can adjust levels, the beauty of 24bit and 5dBA self noise mics is that I can run the gain nice and low and still capture a hiss free recording and avoid risk of distortion, almost completely.
But with the spec of the AD you only have some 10dB or so up on 16bit media which would be like 17-18bit and you can't be all that sloppy with levels.


/Peter
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #27
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by audio ergo sum ➑️
Bla, bla, bla
No compressor needed, you need to be able to read a score and have a fader...

First word: good. Second word: luck.
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #28
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🎧 15 years
I would absolutely agree. When recording, leave the comps at home.

However, in post production, you may find that some manual level changes are what is called for. I would still leave comps off it 90% of the time. The other 10%, I'd keep it around as a sound on the mix bus. I would still not use it for controlling my levels.

With 24 bit audio, you have plenty of headroom to get a great recording. You just need to set your levels a bit more conservatively. Heck, with 16 bit audio, you still have plenty of headroom.

If you learn to gain stage properly, you will not need a compressor.

--Ben
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #29
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NetworkAudio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLR2XLR ➑️

Now if I was actually joking when I said the XDR was better than the Millennia pre's and all respect to Klaukholm he did not rise to it.
read the posts and notice I was not the person making that comment. someone who knows my setup did, and made an assumption on my behalf.

Like I said before if it is an amateur gig then go ahead and do it, thats how you'll learn. But I have seen to many capable engineers come from recording acoustic non orchestral/classical music and simply botch the job. Just the same I completely suck at recording big bands and jazz bands even though I worked as a pro jazz player for some time back in the US. I am sure I could get it right if I had a few weeks messing around with amateur dixiebands and such.

As for a compressor, I don't feel it is a tool that should be used on classical material except in very special cases.
Old 27th January 2009 | Show parent
  #30
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desotoslo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson ➑️
First word: good. Second word: luck.
sorry, I lol'd on this one.
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