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Hoping to improve my cello recordings
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usinjin
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#1
18th December 2011
Old 18th December 2011
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Hoping to improve my cello recordings

Hello all,

So I'm fairly new to recording and I have a pretty inexpensive setup. I'm using a single mic, a Studio Projects B1, interfaced with a Firebox. I'm trying to make some recordings of my cello, but I'm not feeling very satisfied with the results. So far, in all of the recordings I've made, the cello sounds very thin and kind of nasally. I'm not sure how else to put it. It doesn't sound warm at all, and it's not very full-sounding. I've tried a wide variety of locations for the mic--close to the bridge, farther, higher, lower, I've put the mic on thick cloth and with carboard reflectors behind it, nothing's really made that much of a difference. Unfortunately, the room I record in is pretty dry--it's carpeted, and fairly small. It's the only room I can use, unfortunately. Aside from switching rooms, is there anything I could do to improve the quality of my recordings? Should I add eq, or try to get a different/additional mic?

Thanks!
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18th December 2011
Old 18th December 2011
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I'll make a big statement here that you won't be able to get the sound right by tweaking it after. You really need to capture your instrument well and that's that.

I'd heartily recommend putting the time into finding a larger room with a nice acoustic to it, and recording in there. It'll be worth the effort of you are going for as pro of a sound as you can get. Try local churches, or schools etc.

I recorded Bach cello suites in a local church. I think the mics (spaced pair) were placed about 1.5m away, and 1.6m off the floor. That gave us a good balance between direct sound and reverb, and also faithfully captured the tone of the cello.

We did around 30 mic position tests (same few bars, note the mic position, record, chop it all up, listen and analyse and pick the best), after several guesses and an amateur insistence on my part that I could just EQ and process it into sounding good. It was well worth the effort.
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18th December 2011
Old 18th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by areyousure View Post
I'll make a big statement here that you won't be able to get the sound right by tweaking it after. You really need to capture your instrument well and that's that.
I agree with what he said.

Getting it right at the source is key. Mic choice and preamp are a big deal. If your source is sounding thin with the mic and pre you are using, maybe switch to a mic and/or pre that has more of a lower mid presence. I'd shoot for a warmer, less bright mic, before changing preamps. Usually mic color works better for me then preamp color, but I could be alone in this camp. An AT4050 is a good choice for a warmer sounding condenser. Maybe even even a C414, but it really depends on the source.. Something like an SM7b with the Mid Boost off, or the E609 could work well. But I'd probably favor a condenser for that kinda work. It just picks up that bow on string detail a bit more. Maybe a small diaphragm would work better for a more even low and low mid.

For less highs, I'd mic closer to the bridge. Maybe even below the bridge aiming upward. Almost even with the bottom of the cello, facing upward at a slight off axis. The further away the better to keep those lows, and low mids, nice and even. Maybe a large diaphragm for the bridge, and then a small miced closer to the bottom of the fret board. It just depends on how much bow on sting noise you want. I'd say using several mics could help. Maybe one further away getting the lows and low mids, and then once closer up for detail. If you use two and space them further away from each other, just use the 3 to 1 rule. The far mic should be at least three times the distance from the closer mic and the strings/body.

At the same time, I've had great success with EQing a high end hyped mic on a brighter source. The key is to roll a little off the top. Maybe 6dB per octave on a LPF, and then use a shelf to reduce the higher frequencies. With the high shelf, us a Q that keeps the shelf flat, then mess with the gain and frequency till it feels right. Maybe start with a -3dB cut, and start at 8k. Then lower the frequency till it starts to sound a little less thing. Maybe cut a bit more, maybe a bit less. Just depends on the source. At the same time, try boosting some of the frequencies between 500 Hz and 1k. That usually helps for me. For brighter sources, the warmth is usually between 500 Hz and 1k. But depending on the source, it can go lower. Just watch for the frequencies that create mud. And if you boost the low mids, us a wide Q, and then maybe find that mud frequency and cut using a more narrow Q. The key is to boost the mids that help balance the high end, and at the same time, try to avoid boosting low mids that add to the muddyness.

I record Mandolin and Violin often, and those have a lot of high end info. This process seems to help me a great deal.

BTW, are you into doing over the net session work. I've been looking for a Cello player for a while. I'd love to know. If you are very good I've even be willing to pay some $$. Let me know via PM is you are interested.
usinjin
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18th December 2011
Old 18th December 2011
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Thanks for the replies. The ideas on mic positions are very helpful. Obviously my key to getting decent recordings comes down to the essentials--a room with good acoustics, and a good mic. The room would probably come a little easier--I can't really drop $500 on a better mic ATM. For room acoustics, would it be better to have more hard surfaces (floor)? Or would it make more of a difference if the room was simply larger? Thanks again!
#5
19th December 2011
Old 19th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usinjin View Post
Thanks for the replies. The ideas on mic positions are very helpful. Obviously my key to getting decent recordings comes down to the essentials--a room with good acoustics, and a good mic. The room would probably come a little easier--I can't really drop $500 on a better mic ATM. For room acoustics, would it be better to have more hard surfaces (floor)? Or would it make more of a difference if the room was simply larger? Thanks again!
I'm not one for real live rooms. Again, in the minority. I've recorded strings in a larger room that has little close reflection and it sounded very full and warm. We used overhead type mic positions with a combination of ribbon and condensers.

I do enjoy a wood floor, but maybe use a small rug or towel below the instrument to prevent and phase issues with mic and very early reflections. If u feel ur room is sounding too thin or bright, maybe use some light foam or blankets just to tamp down the highs. Also try recording in a corner or close to one. Might increase low mid response.

I really think ur gonna be better off getting less of the room sound in the mics though.

If u like u can email me a file and I'd be willing to work with it a bit. See if maybe some EQ and compression might solve the issue.

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19th December 2011
Old 19th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usinjin View Post
Hello all,

So I'm fairly new to recording and I have a pretty inexpensive setup. I'm using a single mic, a Studio Projects B1, interfaced with a Firebox. I'm trying to make some recordings of my cello, but I'm not feeling very satisfied with the results. So far, in all of the recordings I've made, the cello sounds very thin and kind of nasally. I'm not sure how else to put it. It doesn't sound warm at all, and it's not very full-sounding. I've tried a wide variety of locations for the mic--close to the bridge, farther, higher, lower, I've put the mic on thick cloth and with carboard reflectors behind it, nothing's really made that much of a difference. Unfortunately, the room I record in is pretty dry--it's carpeted, and fairly small. It's the only room I can use, unfortunately. Aside from switching rooms, is there anything I could do to improve the quality of my recordings? Should I add eq, or try to get a different/additional mic?

Thanks!
assuming the playing is good then
tv show last night showed cello duet with the mikes
at the top of the cut out curves and about 3-4 feet away.

one mike for each instrument. performers about 5 feet apart.

you could try a stereo xy or ms set up at that height and distance and see how it works for you.
usinjin
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19th December 2011
Old 19th December 2011
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Originally Posted by newdigitaluser View Post
assuming the playing is good then
tv show last night showed cello duet with the mikes
at the top of the cut out curves and about 3-4 feet away.

one mike for each instrument. performers about 5 feet apart.

you could try a stereo xy or ms set up at that height and distance and see how it works for you.
Thanks for that info, I may try this as well. BTW, do you know what show it was?

I think I'm going to aim for three things: a better room, a better mic (maybe two), and a better preamp. Upon some additional research, it seems like the preamps in the Firebox aren't that great...they only offer like a 45db boost, and they make an audible hissing.
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19th December 2011
Old 19th December 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usinjin View Post
Thanks for that info, I may try this as well. BTW, do you know what show it was?

I think I'm going to aim for three things: a better room, a better mic (maybe two), and a better preamp. Upon some additional research, it seems like the preamps in the Firebox aren't that great...they only offer like a 45db boost, and they make an audible hissing.
I'll tell you right now, the mic and preamp you are using are fine.

It's the room.

What kind of music are you recording? The reason I ask, is that it changes how you want to record your cello. Most people will understand the difference in sound between a fiddle and a violin. They are the exact same instrument... but, in the context of the music they sound completely different and are mic'd differently.

For classical recordings and more of an "orchestral" sound. You need distance between you and the mic.

For recording cellos on a pop album, you need to get closer. And that nasal/thin sound you get will help the cello cut through the other instruments...

Here's a pop/emo track I did with cello in it...

Download PILLS FOR A LIE by LANGUAGE ROOM - Rock - Pop Rock, Sentimental/Ballad, Electric Guitar (Clean, Overdriven)

That cello was recorded with an SM57 into a 001 mic preamp in a living room, the mic was maybe 6" to 1' away from the cello. By itself it sounds really bright and nasal and nasty... but in the track it works because the other instruments fill out the sound.

On this song, the mic was close to the cello, but it was a large diaphragm condensor in a small dead studio.

megatrax + music + song details


but then for a song like this, the mic is a large diaphragm condensor mic about 3' away in a large, live studio...

megatrax + music + song details

With cello, the instrument is subject to the sound of the room it is in. If the room is small and has a lot of acoustic problems, those will effect the sound you capture regardless of the mic or preamp you use and regardless of how close/far you are away from the instrument.

With a larger room, acoustic problems get moved to lower and lower frequencies. So with a larger room you have a better chance of just "getting" a good natural sound from your instrument to begin with. In a smaller room you can get a good sound, but you have to research and buy a lot of acoustic treatments to make it sound good.

Once you start getting a good sound in the room... then you can look at other mics and preamps. It's just that changing a mic or preamp isn't going to make something that doesn't sound good, into some thing that does. Changing rooms (or adding acoustic treatments) will do that though.

At this point you are better off spending $500 on acoustic treatment instead of a new mic. But that's just my professional opinion...
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