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Recording Mohan Veena and Tabla in a Hindustani Classical style
Old 14th October 2009
  #1
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Talking Recording Mohan Veena and Tabla in a Hindustani Classical style

Big up and respect to the forum - I was thrilled to find so much knowledgeable information being transmitted back and forth.

I will soon be traveling to India to continue my study of the Mohan Veena or Indian Slide Guitar:


(just an image I pulled from Google)

For those who don't know, it is played on the lap with a style bar in the style of a Dobro - the extra bridge and strings are sympathetics and so vibrate when the corresponding frequency is played on the main strings. My favorite recordings include Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's 'Lure of Desert', and Debashish Bhattacharya 'Young Masters'.


I am bringing my Yamaha multitrack HD recorder and plan to record my guru along with a Tabla player. I am not yet a professional engineer (only an assistant) so I do not have a host of awesome (slutty? ) mics to choose from. So I was planning on using my GHS soundhole (A131) mic just inside the F-hole of the guitar near the sympathetics (I have done this before with a fair amount of success as long as it is mixed with a signal being recorded from outside the guitar) and a SM57 close-mic'd on the Tabla - aimed in the center of the two drums 6-8 inches away as has been mentioned in previous threads. Then I would set up my Rode NT1A to crown the top of a triangle facing the two instrumentalists. This would probably be at about sitting level to give the impression of being 'right there.' Then pan the tabla and guitar a little to the right and left respectively, keeping the Rode in the center. What do you think of this?

I also have some other not so amazing mics to work with:
two MXL 990s (be kind..)
Shure BG 5.0 (omni SDC)

I have limited funds but could possibly buy another microphone if it would greatly aid to the recording. Would be worthwhile to buy some sort of outboard preamp to do such things? The pres are pretty amazing on my Yamaha AW1600 considering..


Any info/response would be greatly appreciated.
Old 14th October 2009
  #2
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YUGA's Avatar
 

Mohan Veena sounds pretty similar to sitar so I think SDC(s) or ribbon(s) would do the job. If the budget is limited, a used Shure SM81 or Oktava MC012 would be a good choice. Get a pair if you can afford.

Definitely get mics first. I don't know about the quality of preamps on your Yamaha multitrack recorder but cheap preamps usually don't really improve the sound quality. And good preamps are expensive and heavy.

I saw Vishwa Mohan Bhatt in Varanasi in '97. He's really amazing.
Good luck.
Old 14th October 2009
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Wow, nice project!!!thumbsup

I didn't even heard about that instrument, I can't help, but would love to hear the results some day!!!
Old 14th October 2009
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Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is for me one of the most inspired contemporary Indian musician, music really flows through him. I myself would record him with a SD stereo pair ...
Old 14th October 2009
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Hi,

is Vishwa Mohanji your guru?

Here's what I would do with the gear you've got (my approach in Classical Indian Music would always be close-micing, as opposed to Ivo's suggestion):

NT1a on the guitar (add the GHS to taste if you like), and the BG 5.0 on the Tabla. Haven't actually tried this one, but I did use the 4.0 on a live Tabla once (for the late Shafaat Ahmed Khan) and it worked very well. The mic basket will protect the diaphragm from talcum powder. According to the user guide, the mic's presence peak is not exaggerated.

Then set up your 990s in some kind of free-floating (i.e. not strictly ORTF or so) stereo configuration for an added touch of ambience, if the room is good.
Pan the guitar center, or very slightly to the right, and the Tabla a bit more to the left. I think that will sound pretty good...
My suggestion would be to work and experiment with the gear you've got, and upgrade mics later. Keep the preamps if they don't get in the way... You want transparent preamps, not something with "character".

What kind of budget would you have for additional mics?

Quote:
Originally Posted by YUGA View Post
Mohan Veena sounds pretty similar to sitar
Not really. The sound of the main strings isn't anywhere as "open" and resonant. The guitar has got more bass, too.

Daniel
Old 14th October 2009
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Hi,


Here's what I would do with the gear you've got (my approach in Classical Indian Music would always be close-micing, as opposed to Ivo's suggestion):

l
No no, my suggestion is the same ) I would definitely put the SD stereo pair close to his "guitar", AB cardioid or wide cardioid. In that way, it would bring a big, focused and magnificent sound of it. Then something for tabla and maybe more distant room pair.
Old 14th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek View Post
No no, my suggestion is the same )
Sorry, so you meant the pair just for the guitar. Ok... But with the gear he's got, that won't work, at least not if one wanted stereo ambience.

Last edited by d_fu; 15th October 2009 at 12:42 AM.. Reason: Correcting sloppy typing
Old 14th October 2009
  #8
Gear addict
 

I think that it would make most sense to rent a studio in india. They are quite cheap and nowadays many of them have good gear and guys that know how to run it. You can then focus on producing the music. I lived in India for a long time and I regreted bringing all my recording gear from the US when I moved there. Also studio are some of the only quiet places with decent acoustics available in the country anymore. Most likely you will only get 1-2 days of recording out of the musicians since good musicians in India work alot. The biggest reason to not bring your own gear is so you dont have to deal with customs at the airport as well as having to take care of your gear and keep it from getting damaged with dust and humidity. Also lugging it around is a total pain. Maby just bring a small cheap zoom recorder for your lessons and capturing concerts, ambience frm the street etc.
Just my opinion from living there as a musician for 5+ years
ranjit
Old 14th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Here's what I would do with the gear you've got (my approach in Classical Indian Music would always be close-micing, as opposed to Ivo's suggestion):
Close-micing works well for single-toomba sitars with Vilayat Khan-style tuning (Imdad khani/Senia Gharanas) but since the mohan veena has more bass as you said, it can sound too boomy if placed too close. Do you also do close-micing when recording double-toomba sitars with a "low-sa" string (a.k.a. Ravi Shankar style)? The proximity effect can significantly alter the sound in this case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
NT1a on the guitar (add the GHS to taste if you like), and the BG 5.0 on the Tabla.
Also from my experience I can tell you LDCs can't capture fast Jhala. His NT1a is good for Alap and Jod but he needs at least one SDC or ribbon to record his guru jee's Jhala. But decent ribbons are expensive and usually require good pres so I recommended reasonable SDC(s).

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Not really. The sound of the main strings isn't anywhere as "open" and resonant. The guitar has got more bass, too.
So I said "pretty similar." Never said "very similar."

peace.
Old 14th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YUGA View Post
Close-micing works well for single-toomba sitars with Vilayat Khan-style tuning (Imdad khani/Senia Gharanas) but since the mohan veena has more bass as you said, it can sound too boomy if placed too close.
I'm not talking about extremely close, just about close as opposed to a setup with a stereo pair at a certain distance, which is where I'd start in Western Classical, possibly adding spot mics. My ICM approach is reverse, direct mics plus maybe some ambience, if needed.
Quote:
Do you also do close-micing when recording double-toomba sitars with a "low-sa" string (a.k.a. Ravi Shankar style)? The proximity effect can significantly alter the sound in this case.
Not at the distance I'm referring to.


Quote:
Also from my experience I can tell you LDCs can't capture fast Jhala. His NT1a is good for Alap and Jod but he needs at least one SDC or ribbon to record his guru jee's Jhala.
Sorry, but why would an LDC fail to capture Jhala? You're not seriously saying that the mic is "too slow", are you?
AKG 414 is my favourite Tabla mic, and it's definitely "fast enough" even for the fastest Rela patterns. I would not hesitate to use it on a Sitar, Sarod, or any other ICM instrument. There is no way music can be "too fast" for any decent mic IMHO.

Quote:
So I said "pretty similar." Never said "very similar."
I wouldn't even call them "pretty similar".

Daniel
Old 14th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Sorry, but why would an LDC fail to capture Jhala? You're not seriously saying that the mic is "too slow", are you?
AKG 414 is my favourite Tabla mic, and it's definitely "fast enough" even for the fastest Rela patterns. I would not hesitate to use it on a Sitar, Sarod, or any other ICM instrument. There is no way music can be "too fast" for any decent mic IMHO.
Yes. Most LDCs are too slow for recording sitars. I'm not referring to tablas. I'm a sitar player myself and sick of engineers who just put an LDC in front of me. Maybe "fast enough" for tablas but not at all for sitars.

The AKG 414 seems to have faster transient response than other LDCs, but most LDCs fail to capture fast Jhala play that often goes beyond 200 BPM. Fast transient response is very important for recording plucked Indian string instruments, especially for faithfully capturing the sound of the Chikari strings IMHO.

You said "you would not hesitate to use it on a Sitar." Do you prefer LDCs even when you have access to SDCs or ribbons? What's wrong with my SDC/ribbon recommendation?
Old 14th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YUGA View Post
Yes. Most LDCs are too slow for recording sitars. I'm not referring to tablas. I'm a sitar player myself and sick of engineers who just put an LDC in front of me. Maybe "fast enough" for tablas but not at all for sitars.
The AKG 414 seems to have faster transient response than other LDCs, but most LDCs fail to capture fast Jhala play that often goes beyond 200 BPM.
Fast transient response is very important for recording plucked Indian string instruments, especially for faithfully capturing the sound of the Chikari strings IMHO.
Sorry, but that is both technically and musically wrong.
You can not tell me that a sitar's jhala patterns are faster than e.g. a Tabla's "Dhere Dhere" pattern. And my good ol' 414 EB (from 1985 or so) captures that just perfectly. I've used it live for Zakir Hussain, Anindo Chatterjee, Abhijit and Shubhankar Banerjee, and many more, and it certainly was never "too slow"...
And besides that, there is no way a microphone could be "too slow" to capture any musical phrase, even at 500 BPM. What is "transient response"? Think about it, it's nothing but frequency response essentially. Do you think that a microphone that easily captures frequencies of 20.000 cycles a second (a.k.a. 20 kHz) could fail to "handle" 200 beats per minute?
This is a rather strange esoteric idea. A mic that is "too slow" for a certain type of music.
I also wonder what that would sound like... Would the mic miss beats? Would it just drop things? Or would the Jhala become slower in the recording?

Quote:
You said "you would not hesitate to use it on a Sitar." Do you prefer LDCs even when you have access to SDCs or ribbons? What's wrong with my SDC/ribbon recommendation?
Nothing, but not for the reason you have presented here. I didn't say I would prefer it, but I would certainly not refuse to try it out, knowing that e.g. my nice pair of AKG C 414 B-TL (not TLII) would do a great job, even with the fastest sitar player on the planet (whoever that may be...) Or even with a Santur, which is certainly capable of even faster patterns...
Old 14th October 2009
  #13
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Thread Starter
Wow! Thanks so much for all the feedback.

Quote:
is Vishwa Mohanji your guru?
- no, V.M. Bhatt is not my guru - though I am flattered to have someone ask me such a question. My guruji is Dr. Ranjan Kumar of Delhi. Not so famous, though highly accomplished in his own right. I have had the incredible blessing of seeing V.M. Bhatt perform twice in Delhi in 2007 (once at the technical college near Dwarka and once at Delhi University).

You're talking sense d_fu!
I like the idea of spot mic'ing with the Rode (as it is the best one I've got) and using the 990s as ambient room mics - also great thought on using the BG5.0 on the tabla - maximum SPL is rated at 132 dB, is that sufficient to handle a fairly loud and masterful player at close range?

In terms of budget...I really only have $200-$300 extra to increase my outfit before I go.

The Yamaha preamps are very transparent - very similar, to my ear, to the preamps featured on the large digital consoles (02R).

Quote:
I think that it would make most sense to rent a studio in india
I understand what you're saying bigos - I really have very little cash to spend on such a gander however. What is cheap? I have lived in Delhi before and also know what you're saying about finding sound isolation - it's impossible. I have many friends there though and hope to find a decent space somewhere - one possibility is at the school where my guruji teaches in the countryside in Haryana.

Any suggestions for achieving isolation in a mostly quiet area with the occasional chicken or truck outside the window?

In terms of "lugging" equipment - it's really not that much at all that I'm talking about: my Yamaha AW1600 and my mics. I know how to keep dust and dirt out of my things and so am not terribly worried about it.

Also, the main idea behind me doing the recording would be to maintain control over production and have the experience of mixing and mastering it myself. A very valuable and relevant thing for a student of engineering to be able to do. Bringing the hard disk recorder also opens up the possibility of recording some of my other friends while I'm there (a vocalist and sitarist).

Quote:
Also from my experience I can tell you LDCs can't capture fast Jhala.
Huh - I've never encountered this line of thinking before. How can a mic be slow? What's it sound like to let you know it's too slow? If this were the case, wouldn't the combination of the 990s as room mics and the GHS inside the soundhole make up for such a thing?

So with my equipment, YUGA, perhaps you would suggest spotting the guitar with a SDC or ribbon? I do really enjoy the way SM81s pick up most acoustic string instruments - never tried it on the veena. I have experienced that they overload rather easily..

Quote:
I wouldn't even call them "pretty similar".
Just to weigh in on the battle...because I gotta represent the veena - if you've ever heard a sitar and slide guitar side by side you'll know you're dealing with very different instruments. Sure, they both have strings and sympathetics but a sitar is much louder at an audience listening distance. Also, the sound is projected up towards the artist's face in terms of the slide guitar while the sitar projects outwards. The gourd resonating chamber of a sitar is closed while the slide guitar is open with two F-holes ("traditionally'). Not to mention that the slide guitar is not fretted but played with a steel bar over raised strings.

Quote:
I would definitely put the SD stereo pair close to his "guitar", AB cardioid or wide cardioid. In that way, it would bring a big, focused and magnificent sound of it. Then something for tabla and maybe more distant room pair.
Cool idea..just worries me in that the tone varies very radically if the player chooses to pluck further or closer to the bridge - almost like a notch filter effect, believe it or not. The stereo pair would perhaps pick up and mix together the sound from two distinct sources close to the guitar when really what we hear, as listeners, is the sound already naturally 'mixed', if you will, as the player intends it to be by the time it reaches our ears. Maybe this naive of me to worry about.
Also, having trouble imagining the physical layout of the musicians with what you're describing. Wouldn't a more distant room pair just make it sound like a gigantic guitar playing with a far away and small tabla? I'm interested in featuring both musicians equally as they are both outrageous.

You all are awesome! Thank you so much for the great discussion.

Big up
Old 14th October 2009
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RagaAmbesa View Post
- no, V.M. Bhatt is not my guru - though I am flattered to have someone ask me such a question. My guruji is Dr. Ranjan Kumar of Delhi.
Haven't heard the name, although I've spent a lot of time in Delhi... But that was in the late eighties and nineties. Does he teach at one of the colleges or so?

Quote:
You're talking sense d_fu!
Shukriya...
Quote:
also great thought on using the BG5.0 on the tabla - maximum SPL is rated at 132 dB, is that sufficient to handle a fairly loud and masterful player at close range?
The Tabla isn't really all that loud... Certainly not 130 dB. BTW, don't worry about a few digital overs on the Tabla tracks - it usually just doesn't matter, i.e. there is no audible distortion.

Quote:
In terms of budget...I really only have $200-$300 extra to increase my outfit before I go.
Oh well - not worth bothering for now, I would say. Buy some presents for the musicians or their kids instead...

Quote:
I have lived in Delhi before and also know what you're saying about finding sound isolation - it's impossible.
Where in Delhi will you be staying? I've recorded a CD in a studio in Old Delhi in 92 or so, that was ok - no idea whether it still exists.

Quote:
I have many friends there though and hope to find a decent space somewhere - one possibility is at the school where my guruji teaches in the countryside in Haryana.
I have no idea whether they actually let people hire the room for such purposes, but I would approach Triveni Kala Sangam, they have a nice little auditorium (near Mandi House / Bengali Market). Gee, gettin' homesick...
There's another place coming to mind, but darn, I can't remember the name right now. Further south... Will look it up or try to remember. If you're there for a while, why not offer to do a concert in exchange for a (hopefully) quiet night of recording...
[EDIT] Found it - India International Centre. Here's a nice list of auditoria etc., BTW...

Quote:
Any suggestions for achieving isolation in a mostly quiet area with the occasional chicken or truck outside the window?
Good editing skills... which you also need for tuning breaks etc.

Quote:
Bringing the hard disk recorder also opens up the possibility of recording some of my other friends while I'm there (a vocalist and sitarist).
Does the unit allow you to back up data externally? I guess that is quite important.

Quote:
Huh - I've never encountered this line of thinking before. How can a mic be slow? What's it sound like to let you know it's too slow? If this were the case, wouldn't the combination of the 990s as room mics and the GHS inside the soundhole make up for such a thing?
Forget that - there is no way a mic can be "too slow" for any acoustic instrument...

Quote:
I'm interested in featuring both musicians equally as they are both outrageous.
Who's on Tabla?


Daniel
Old 15th October 2009
  #15
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If you want to bring your own gear try and bring the smallest set up that you can. You can get mic stands localy and for very cheap. I know that " Ahuja" the common gear company in india makes a tiny and portable stand for 100-200 rupies. Also bring some of your own cables and a few extra xlr end pins. There are tons of good electricians who can repair cables there for very cheap. Buy a voltage stabalizer when you arrive there. They can be had for under 1000 rupies for a decent one. Your system needs to have back up power so a battery based system would be best otherwise expect power outages when recording. Most studios in India has 20-30 car batteries. You can buy cheap headphones there but bring one good pair for your self to moniter the tracking.
Old 15th October 2009
  #16
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Thread Starter
Respect

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu
Does he teach at one of the colleges or so?
He studied up to a doctorate in music from Delhi University and now teaches at DPS Sonepat - a children's school.

Great - thanks for the tabla info, I do tend to obsess a little over overs, as it were.

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu
I have no idea whether they actually let people hire the room for such purposes, but I would approach Triveni Kala Sangam, they have a nice little auditorium (near Mandi House / Bengali Market). Gee, gettin' homesick...
I've been there! As well as the International House, actually the head of the study abroad program I went with in 2007 is a member - so that might work out very nicely...Great idea! Simultaneously promote my guruji as well as achieve on a chance for quality recording.

The tabla player will be either Pt. Subhash Nirwan or his son, Suraj Nirwan. I am forever in their debt for helping me to find my guru.

I will be staying in north Delhi, just to the northeast of the university near King's Way Camp. It's pretty amazing if you haven't been since the 90s, as they now have the must functional subway system I've ever been on (except for people rush the doors getting on or off)

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu
Good editing skills... which you also need for tuning breaks etc.
Like.. inserting silence over breaks between bits where the chicken crows or something? Or some intense anti-fowl parametric EQ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu
Does the unit allow you to back up data externally? I guess that is quite important.
It sure does - the Yamaha AW1600 connects via USB to a computer - I figure I will use one of the labs around and backup to DVD after each session. It also burns CDs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigos
Buy a voltage stabalizer when you arrive there.
Great idea, bigos. Nice to know they're so cheap. I was planning on buying stands there - I will definitely bring my own cables now that you mention it. Power outages...good point, our power went out once or twice everyday we were there (usually not for more than an hour). The Yamaha machine is not battery operated - is there some sort of device I could bring from the states to provide just an hour or two of backup power? Or is that better purchased over there? Or maybe pick myself up a car battery and inverter...?

Once again, expressing gratitude.

Here's a treat for those interested in some fine slide guitar playing: Brij Bhushan Kabra with Zakir Hussein (he plays quietly! ha!)
YouTube - Indian Guitar by Brij Bhushan Kabra 1
Old 16th October 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RagaAmbesa View Post
The tabla player will be either Pt. Subhash Nirwan or his son, Suraj Nirwan.
Excellent - I've not seen Suraj, but of course I've heard Subhashji many times...

Quote:
inserting silence over breaks between bits where the chicken crows or something? Or some intense anti-fowl parametric EQ?
Nah, just knowing what and how to edit.
Old 25th October 2009
  #18
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Thread Starter
Small change of plan - no longer going to bring my hard disk recorder and instead use a small two track from Maudio that records in 24 bit, has balanced ins and phantom power. Should I just use some room mics (my MXL 990s) or just the Rode over the Veena and Shure BG 5.0 on the tabla?


Thanks!
Old 25th October 2009
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RagaAmbesa View Post
Should I just use some room mics (my MXL 990s) or just the Rode over the Veena and Shure BG 5.0 on the tabla?
I probably would go for the latter - more options, you can mix and process to taste.

What caused that change of plans? Why not get something that will do 4 tracks at least?

Or a little analog analog mixer that will mix 4 or 6 tracks down to stereo? That would allow for a tanpura mic and two room mics - but you'd have to do the mix before you hit Record...
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