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Author Topic: Recording your orchestra  (Read 565 times)
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cozzagiorgi
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« on: Oct 29, 2017, 08:42AM »

Hi there

How would you go at recording your own orchestra performance? For now we are just recording with a zoom Handheld recorder. But the quality isn't what I am looking for.

What would be some alternatives?

I don't want to go over the top with equipment, but I could totally see myself managing 4 or 5 mics to a preamp etc. But I know nothing about how I would have to go about that. Any experiences?
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tbathras
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 29, 2017, 08:51AM »

I use a Zoom H2N and seem to get good results - the biggest factor is placement, choice of XY vs MS and post-processing.  The device itself does a pretty good job.

I have a large lighting stand (because it was waaay cheaper and beefier than a mic stand) so I can get the Zoom up to about 12'+ high if I need do.

Biggest consideration is getting it close enough that you're inside the critical distance (the distance before which the echo & reverb is as loud or louder than the primary sound coming from the group) and height - too low and all you'll get is clarinets (I record symphonic wind bands) and too high and you'll get too much of the saxes & euphs.

I like the simplicity of the setup myself.

I tried using multiple mics and  USB interface to a laptop and the H2N sounded better.

I'm still learning how to get it right on the Zoom.
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robcat2075

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« Reply #2 on: Oct 29, 2017, 09:14AM »

Placement is quite a bit of it.

The Mercury Living Presence series made great recordings that are still admired today with one mic location, 12 feet over the conductor.

I recall one of my college theory teachers playing us a modern (this was 1980) stereo recording of an orchestral piece, done with separate mics covering each section of the orchestra and then the same piece by the same orchestra in a one-mic mono Mercury recording from the 50's. The Mercury recording was obviously better. Clearer solos and yet better blending of ensembles and less noise overall.

Of course they had great engineers and fine mics but that single location technique, even for stereo, is regarded as essential.

Your hall may be different and maybe there's a different spot but experimenting would be worthwhile.
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jimkinkella
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 29, 2017, 10:55AM »

Step 1 would be moving your current equipment around with relation to the orchestra, to try to get the best performance out of what you already own.

If you're still not happy, the next step is a stereo setup. Once you move beyond 2 mics you're spending a lot more time and money, and not necessarily getting a better result.
There's much more value in having a pair of high quality microphones and a higher quality but simpler recording setup than having to buy cheaper parts because you want to try having more.

There are a few different versions of stereo microphone techniques, depends on the room, ensemble, and equipment as to which works best.
There's a bunch of information out on the web and a whole bunch of books, but only a couple of basic ideas to try, which makes it fairly simple to go back and forth.
While there can be very complicated setups (look up the Telarc tree), many current professional recordings and quite a bit of what you hear on the radio was recorded with 2 or 3 microphones.

Something like the following is a simple way to implement 3 or 4 different methods:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/286149-REG/AKG_KM235_1_KM235_1_Stereo_Microphone_Bar.html

The downside to any recording setup is cost and time spent learning how to use it correctly.....
It can be quite a rabbit hole.
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Le.Tromboniste
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 29, 2017, 02:58PM »


If you're still not happy, the next step is a stereo setup. Once you move beyond 2 mics you're spending a lot more time and money, and not necessarily getting a better result.


A Zoom H2 or H4 IS a stereo setup in and of itself.
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Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 29, 2017, 03:05PM »

A Zoom H2 or H4 IS a stereo setup in and of itself.

True, but the best stereo comes from separation and the device Kinkella linked to puts the two mics on a 36 inch (90 cm) separation.  We used one to record a concert band performance last summer and it came out great.  Again, the two mics were about 10 feet over the band at the front of the stage and pointed slightly downward.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 29, 2017, 04:35PM »

True, but the best stereo comes from separation and the device Kinkella linked to puts the two mics on a 36 inch (90 cm) separation.  We used one to record a concert band performance last summer and it came out great.  Again, the two mics were about 10 feet over the band at the front of the stage and pointed slightly downward.

But yeah of course two good microphones on a crossbar, especially omnidirectional ones, will do a better job.
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Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 29, 2017, 05:27PM »

A excellent "rule of thumb" when setting up a stereo pair of microphones is to take the width of the front row of the ensemble, divide by three, and place the stand with the mics at that calculated distance from the front of the ensemble.  As to the height of the mics, imagine a sight-line from the mics to the performing group.  The higher you raise the mics, the further you will "see" towards the rear of the group, enabling the more rearward seated performers to be part of the sound.  Unless you have a controlled recording situation [no audience], omni microphones will give a lot of unwanted noise both from "room sound" [AC noise, heating system noise, lighting system noise, audience noise] and tend to over-emphasize bass.  Far better control results when using "Cardiod" mics which tend to reject sounds emanating from behind the mic capsule.  An excellent and time-proven choice is the ORTF configuration in which two cardiod mics are placed at a 110 degree angle [facing away from each other] with their capsules about 7 inches apart.  If the afore mentioned spacing of the mic stand from the ensemble is observed, it provides an excellent stereo image with great balance control provided to the recording engineer.     Minimal number of mics = minimal phase distortion.  The more mics you use, the more mics there are for sound to enter from every part of the ensemble, and at different times [phase distortion], smearing the natural sound you are seeking.  These are the principle observations I've made from over 25 years of recording orchestras, choruses and even Big Bands.  Simplicity = clarity.  Just sayin'   Cheers !!   Bob
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cozzagiorgi
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 30, 2017, 01:30AM »

Bob, thank you for this great answer! Any tips on what mics to use? Do they go directly to a laptop or is there some other equipment involved?

How about post processing? Any tips?
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 30, 2017, 09:24AM »

Perhaps hire a professional recording engineer to record an upcoming concert, take delivery of their product and see if it is worth the cost to have it continue to be done this way.  If not, start your journey and buy some real equipment and do it yourself. 

This is what I did, and now I record quite a few on-location concerts.  My current equipment is:
 - Schoeps, Neumann and Audio-Technica mics.
 - Great River and Lavry Blue mic preamps.
 - Larry Blue a/d converters
 - Tascam DA-3000, Korg (forget model number) recorders (stereo)
 - Tascam 8 channel recorder.
And the list goes on and on.

This is a slippery slope.  You get GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and learn the meaning of "buy once, cry once" when it comes to the cost of the equipment as it relates to quality.

Gearslutz is a great website/forum to start leaning at.

Doug
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« Reply #10 on: Oct 30, 2017, 10:18AM »

There's a book about how Decca did it. They invented the Decca Tree. It's a profession.
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« Reply #11 on: Oct 30, 2017, 11:52AM »

I've used a zoom H2N with small groups in concerts with mixed results - sometimes good and sometimes not; mic placing and setting are important and it's difficult to do a sound check with a zoom and no-one to monitor.
I couldn't comment about equipment for orchestra, though I know mine has performances recorded using several mics.
My wind band sometime request a local film and video makers club to record concerts - they are bunch of enthusiasts just like us. They deliver very impressive results (and they don't charge us!) so it may be worth asking around for a club like that in case they would be interested. We are very grateful to them, because I know that video editing is incredibly time consuming.
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« Reply #12 on: Oct 30, 2017, 12:33PM »

Keep in mind that on top of needing to buy a good pair of mikes you need a good stand and cross bar, good cables and a decent audio interface and recording/editing software at the very least. It can add up pretty fast if you want quality. You can get quite a few concerts recorded by a sound engineer for the same price, so depending on how often your orchestra performs, it can take years to make it more economical having your own gear and doing it yourself... Plus the professional sound engineer will give you a much better result for the price. You could have the best gear and still have a terrible result if your mike placement is not spot-on...
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Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #13 on: Oct 30, 2017, 05:34PM »

Cozzagiorgi ! It seems fitting to mention, being as this IS The Trombone Forum, that it is possible to fall into "the microphone trap".  It is VERY similar to "the mouthpiece trap" in that you will find yourself seeking a little bit more of THIS or a little more of THAT in the sound that you are recording and you'll spend every dollar of profit buying microphones that provide that missing element, but that have some other shortcoming.  An endless loop of frustration.  To avoid that problem, buy microphones that record as "flat" as possible [no treble nor bass boost] and that have no euphonic characteristics.  They should be as devoid of editorialism as possible.  FLAT frequency response.  This, unfortunately, translates into "expensive".  The idea behind this is that you record the performance as FLAT as possible and, if you think it is required, add boost to whatever part of the signal you desire in POST production.  If you record FLAT, then you avoid the conundrum of not being able to remove what you thought was a good choice at the time and can avoid boosting or trimming the EQ [equalization] of the original signal.  It is amazing how good a recording can be accomplished with only a stereo pair of microphones if they are placed properly.  Neumann thought they solved the problem by developing "Oscar", a mannequin-style head with microphone capsules imbedded into the ear canals of the head.  What more natural way to record exactly what you are hearing ?
   A mention of the "Decca Tree" : London Records and Decca utilized a superb recording engineer by the name of Ken Wilkinson who was greatly responsible for the development of the "Tree" concept.  It really was designed for and works best with a full orchestra and really is a bit complicated for normal usage.  It sounded great, but as many techniques do [ORTF -- Mid-Side -- Spaced Omnis -- co-incidental] they all have their drawbacks ---- and pluses.  I still think the ORTF setup I described earlier to be a very flexible arrangement.  Some may disagree.  Most importantly ---- have fun ---- it's a great way to feel omnipotent !!   Cheers !!  Bob
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