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PaulMac
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28th September 2010
Old 28th September 2010
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Recording bagpipes?

Hey. I'm doing an entire project on recording techniques for the Great Highland Bagpipes. Have so far consulted 5 respected engineers to essentially find out what mics & mic positioning they used for recording some of the best-known recording pipers. I plan to recreate these 5 techniques in similar environments and with as exact a set-up as possible, and then create several other techniques.
I've arranged for dozens of Grade 1 pipers, engineers and other technically-minded musicians to listen to the recordings of the techniques and provide some feedback. I'll obviously then summarise the data and add my own views on the techniques.

Sorry if I've bored you already! Basically I'm wondering if anyone else has recorded bagpipes and could provide further advice. I'm open to all suggestions and will hopefully develop something that no one has yet produced - documentation/references for recording these specific bagpipes containing detailed information and audio excerpts.

Thanks in advance.
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29th September 2010
Old 29th September 2010
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anyone...?!
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29th September 2010
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My experience was limited to recording a single player of Uilleann Pipes to be used as a color instrument in a fairly dense contemporary folk mix. The piece was in F#, so transposing the guide tracks to G was needed. We tracked the drone with a LDC as a separate performance. The chanter was recorded with a SDC. It was not a difficult sound to capture, and it was not difficult to fit into the mix. Watch being too close, like for most things of course.

Your needs may be hugely different. Hope this helps.

John-
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29th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul. View Post
Hey. I'm doing an entire project on recording techniques for the Great Highland Bagpipes. Have so far consulted 5 respected engineers to essentially find out what mics & mic positioning they used for recording some of the best-known recording pipers. I plan to recreate these 5 techniques in similar environments and with as exact a set-up as possible, and then create several other techniques.
I've arranged for dozens of Grade 1 pipers, engineers and other technically-minded musicians to listen to the recordings of the techniques and provide some feedback. I'll obviously then summarise the data and add my own views on the techniques.

Sorry if I've bored you already! Basically I'm wondering if anyone else has recorded bagpipes and could provide further advice. I'm open to all suggestions and will hopefully develop something that no one has yet produced - documentation/references for recording these specific bagpipes containing detailed information and audio excerpts.

Thanks in advance.
I'd love to hear what the techniques are. I have never recorded pipes, but I play a lot of Celtic music and I have recorded a number instruments common to the genre, but pipes have yet to come up for me.... but they probably will at some point. I would probably experiment with a three mic set up. Mic the chanters and the drones separately (gotta be careful about phase cancellation). I'd actually put a room mic up as well (recording in a great sounding room would be a given!).

Not sure what kinds of mics I'd use on the instrument. The chanters can be a bit shrill (esp. the Highland pipes). I might be tempted to use a ribbon to tame some of the highs. A nice LDC on the drones would be the obvious pick.
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29th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarmax_99 View Post
I'd love to hear what the techniques are. I have never recorded pipes, but I play a lot of Celtic music and I have recorded a number instruments common to the genre, but pipes have yet to come up for me.... but they probably will at some point. I would probably experiment with a three mic set up. Mic the chanters and the drones separately (gotta be careful about phase cancellation). I'd actually put a room mic up as well (recording in a great sounding room would be a given!).

Not sure what kinds of mics I'd use on the instrument. The chanters can be a bit shrill (esp. the Highland pipes). I might be tempted to use a ribbon to tame some of the highs. A nice LDC on the drones would be the obvious pick.
I'll post the stripped-down version of the project for people to have a listen. I essentially want to make a 'rough guide' and somewhat of a standard for how people approach bagpipe recording, depeneding on their own requirements.
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29th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell View Post
My experience was limited to recording a single player of Uilleann Pipes to be used as a color instrument in a fairly dense contemporary folk mix. The piece was in F#, so transposing the guide tracks to G was needed. We tracked the drone with a LDC as a separate performance. The chanter was recorded with a SDC. It was not a difficult sound to capture, and it was not difficult to fit into the mix. Watch being too close, like for most things of course.

Your needs may be hugely different. Hope this helps.

John-
John, thanks for your input. It seems engineers apprpoach the instrument entirely differently and I hope the project reflects this.
The drones of all pipes tend to be a problem. A few engineers I've spoken to did as you did, and then one completely corked-in the drones alltogether!

You've just helped remind me that other bagpipes, although some have less drones, still require a similar type of approach one way or the other. Irish pipes are a bit less harsh and seem to have even less of a reed-sound. I'd love to record them too at some point, whether they be Uilleann or Warpipes.
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29th September 2010
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Anything else anyone has would be great
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29th September 2010
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I've only recorded a single Great Highland piper for use in a rock mix, and had to do it in a fairly small space. The piper had recorded in regiment previously, and recommended a mic in front about waist high, and a mic behind about head level. These were placed about 5-6 feet away, or about 12 feet away from each other with pipes in the center, and placement was checked for any obvious phase issues in mono. It worked well for the purpose, considering the track, and the less than ideal space.

Having heard pipes in many different locations, the biggest thing that sticks out is the effect of the space on the sound of the instrument. After getting quality pipers, I would think the space would have to be the 2nd biggest determining factor. The sheer volume and spray of the sound is meant for outdoors, and there are many different resonant effects that can be attained in various enclosed spaces.
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29th September 2010
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Hi...
I was involved in recording 28 bag pipes for an album. We placed the pipers in a semi circle with the leader (whom they follow) in the center so they could all see him for visual cues. We used a pair of u47s to capture the stereo image (like a string section) and mic'd the leader with his own mics on the drones as well as the chanter. Beware... bagpipes are LOUD.... use lots of mic pads!
good luck
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29th September 2010
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Recording bagpipes?

I've never recorded bagpipes, though man would I love the chance to...

I've talked to a few people who have. They all report that they should be tracked outdoors, as that is where they were meant to be heard. Now I have tracked drums outside before. That was an enlightening experience to say the least. Far less problematic than I was making it out to be in my head.
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29th September 2010
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If you can handle a light hearted comment.... :-)

I always wondered if AC/DC put them through a marshall in that song...

Seriously though - you can't really close mic them too easily, the sound comes out all over the place afaik.

good room, mic a few feet away - just off the top of my head.
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29th September 2010
Old 29th September 2010
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do it outside...

I play several types of bagpipes and am an engineer, so have hit this situation multiple times now.

For Highland pipes (What you think of as normal bagpipes) I would second the recommendation to do it outside, for the chanter at least. This is because there aren't a lot of rooms that won't be excited too much by the combination of SPL and quickly changing notes - you _will_ hear the old note ringing for a split second upon a note change in any reasonable tracking space, and room sound is not the way pipes are meant to sound.

Like all woodwinds, sound emanates from all the toneholes, so you'll need a mic back 1-2 feet pointed at the center tonehole (say, the right index finger of the player.) A SD condenser is fine but you don't want an overly bright one - the presence peak is not your friend here. You can point more toward the side of the chanter to roll off some highs.

Finally, you can cut everything below 400 hz or so, as the pipe chanter's lowest note is something like 430 Hz (this is a rough estimate but it's no lower than 400, for sure.) This will help with any rumble / wind you pick up outside.

Drones are a different story. Cork up the chanter stock and have the piper play drones only - mix them at your chosen level or not at all. Because there's no dynamic component, and they're not nearly as loud, you can mike them in stereo with a pair of SDCs or ribbons inside and they will enter into a steady-state relationship with the room tone, which shouldn't be too noticeable. Just be sure to watch your height from the ceiling to make sure you don't get some ugly comb filtering if you have a low ceiling.

Last point: Highland pipes are not in A440 or even close - they're meant to play with a notated A sounding significantly sharp of Bb. People deal with this different ways, but these days I think I would use a digital pitch shift after the fact to fix it down into Bb rather than the chanter modifications that have been done in the past. you can insert weedwacker filament into the chanter to drop its pitch, but it affects the response. Also, pitch reference aside, the pipes are intonated in Pythagorean/just temperament, not equal. This means the 3rd and 6th notes are way flat compared to piano, guitar, etc. It's the only way to get the chanter to lock in with the drones. _Don't autotune or pitch-correct notes unless you use Pythagorean temperament! Equal-tempered bagpipes sound godawful because they beat strongly against the drones.

Traditional music rant over!

Michael
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29th September 2010
Old 29th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul. View Post
Hey. I'm doing an entire project on recording techniques for the Great Highland Bagpipes. Have so far consulted 5 respected engineers to essentially find out what mics & mic positioning they used for recording some of the best-known recording pipers. I plan to recreate these 5 techniques in similar environments and with as exact a set-up as possible, and then create several other techniques.
I've arranged for dozens of Grade 1 pipers, engineers and other technically-minded musicians to listen to the recordings of the techniques and provide some feedback. I'll obviously then summarise the data and add my own views on the techniques.

Sorry if I've bored you already! Basically I'm wondering if anyone else has recorded bagpipes and could provide further advice. I'm open to all suggestions and will hopefully develop something that no one has yet produced - documentation/references for recording these specific bagpipes containing detailed information and audio excerpts.

Thanks in advance.
Only did it once. It was a huge, extremely well designed and treated live room and the pipes still lit up the room pretty good...

We used a 'close' mic, around 5 or 6 feet, IIRC, and then one pretty far back... can't remember what the balance (if any) between the two was like.

I've heard/read several people suggest simply recording pipes out doors. It is their natural environment.

In fact, on the handful of occasions when I've been indoors with pipers, it was hard to imagine how you could ever get a reasonable sound indoors. That said, I can imagine it can be difficult to get outdoor recordings of the pipes to 'fit' with conventionally tracked instruments. Uh... actually, maybe that's just plain true of the pipes in general.


Looking above (to glance over the answers I didn't read before commenting ), I notice that, once again, my contributions are pretty superfluous.

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PaulMac
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29th September 2010
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Thanks for your input guys. PMed a couple of you for more info thumbsup
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29th September 2010
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Recording bagpipes?

I did 2 records by a band that featured Galician pipes, probably more like the Uillian pipes than highland. Used an SM7 in front, figuring that the chanter was most like a soprano sax, and that's my goto mic for soprano. Also used an Sdc above for the drone. On a few tunes, we corked the drone so we could punch in parts easier, but I think we all preferred the sound of the chanter and drone live.
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30th September 2010
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I've recorded pipes a few times mostly for movies. I found a pair of M50's in a big room (Capitol A in my case) was enough. I just moved them around a bit to find the sweet spot, anywhere from 6 to 12 feet away depending on how many there were. It does get loud, I would recommend staying in the control room as much as possible.

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30th September 2010
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we recorded several records with bagpipes. what we do is:

1. recording in our big room with 2 Gefell M71 mics thru a Mindprint DTC
facing the walls
2. another M71 about 3 feet away from the melody- pipe (dont know the right expression, but hope you know what I mean)
3. a last M71 placed like a overhead to record the bordun (the steady tone)

for tuning problems: it can be usefull to record the bordun on its own to tune it with melodyne...

room is VERY important to capture this kind of instruments right
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