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String Quartet and separation Condenser Microphones
Old 18th November 2012
  #1
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

String Quartet and separation

Hey,
Next year I'm recording a string quartet, but this particular piece will feature distinct sounds and lines from each instrument, as well as homogeneous passages.

So I'm thinking about separation - I will need mics that can capture all the detail and nuance as per normal, so condensers of some sort will be the way to go, but what about close micing to capture that separation and precise detail? Something directional maybe?

Any suggestions are welcome for people who've had experience here.

Cheers.


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Old 18th November 2012
  #2
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drBill's Avatar
You need to think (IMO at least) of the quartet as a instrument in itself - not as 4 instruments. Trying to get separation is great, but the closer you mic, the less it will feel like a group playing together, and you will loose the "sound" of it. I do it like this : KM84's fairly close and above the Vlns & Vla. U87 on Cello. Again, fairly close. Then a Blumlein pair back about 10 feet and slightly above the group. I like to use long Ribbons or warm condensers like Gefell UM70's. If you really want a "concert" style sound (which it doesn't sound like you do), than also another spaced pair back in the room to suit your taste.

Ultimately, 80+ % of my sound is from the blumlein pair, with the individual mics there to chase a line if needed or to add some extra presence if they are jammed in over a rock track or electronics. Room mics added as needed for reverb/ambience.

However you approach it, just don't isolate them so much that they don't get a feel of playing together and off each other. That's really where the magic is. Don't underestimate that aspect. Loose that, and you might as well overdub them individually.

Hope that is helpful.
Old 18th November 2012
  #3
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Lala Land's Avatar
 

Above post is spot on.. you could use small partitions /dividers so that the musicians can still see eachother - then place the close mics behind those if you wanted a bit more isolation or detail in parts, but you would need to be careful the dividers dont get in the way of the stereo pair as to affect the entire sound of the quartet as a whole. but you shouldnt need to.. but give it a go
Old 18th November 2012
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
You need to think (IMO at least) of the quartet as a instrument in itself - not as 4 instruments. Trying to get separation is great, but the closer you mic, the less it will feel like a group playing together, and you will loose the "sound" of it. I do it like this : KM84's fairly close and above the Vlns & Vla. U87 on Cello. Again, fairly close. Then a Blumlein pair back about 10 feet and slightly above the group. I like to use long Ribbons or warm condensers like Gefell UM70's. If you really want a "concert" style sound (which it doesn't sound like you do), than also another spaced pair back in the room to suit your taste.

Ultimately, 80+ % of my sound is from the blumlein pair, with the individual mics there to chase a line if needed or to add some extra presence if they are jammed in over a rock track or electronics. Room mics added as needed for reverb/ambience.

However you approach it, just don't isolate them so much that they don't get a feel of playing together and off each other. That's really where the magic is. Don't underestimate that aspect. Loose that, and you might as well overdub them individually.

Hope that is helpful.
It is, thank you - very helpful. I certainly understand about the "single instrument" thing - if it were a traditional string quartet piece I be with you all the way here. But this piece is non-traditional and unusual in its aims - it actually has a lot of percussive elements to it - and I have a feeling it will demand a non-traditional recording approach too. I'm hoping to be able to capture both aspects.... the close micing is primarily for the detail and character of the individual instruments, or so I'm thinking.... a degree of separation here might be useful for mixing purposes.... again I imagine this will be "non-traditional" and the degree of mixing and editing will be more than normal.

Those mic suggestions are very helpful. I was thinking about the Neumans. Any suggestions on preampage for this? Crystal clear or some character, and if so, any thoughts?
Old 18th November 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lala Land View Post
Above post is spot on.. you could use small partitions /dividers so that the musicians can still see eachother - then place the close mics behind those if you wanted a bit more isolation or detail in parts, but you would need to be careful the dividers dont get in the way of the stereo pair as to affect the entire sound of the quartet as a whole. but you shouldnt need to.. but give it a go
I had thought about small partitions - just moving them around, and moving the players around too. I know this will be a non-traditional kind of recording. I might end up having the players sitting a little further away from each other than is customary, and avoid the partitions that way. It'll be experimental anyway.
Old 18th November 2012
  #6
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No, there is no separation in this quartet style.

You have received very good direction in this thread.

Everything will be heard and everything will appear in the stereo picture where it should be.

Don't over think something that you don't know anything about.
Old 19th November 2012
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
No, there is no separation in this quartet style.
How do you know? I disagree. Actually I happen to know a thing or two about string quartets. They aren't all the same. Recording Bartok would be very different to recording Haydn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
You have received very good direction in this thread.
I agree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Everything will be heard and everything will appear in the stereo picture where it should be.
Ideally. But the whole reason I started the thread is because this is a non-traditional approach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Don't over think something that you don't know anything about.
I know a good deal about string quartets (I've written many) and I know a little about recording them. I started this thread in case anyone has suggestions about novel approaches. I know what a standard string quartet recording sounds like, and I basically understand how that's achieved.
Old 19th November 2012
  #8
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I agree with Dr Bill.
The only concern could be where two violinists playing counter point you might want to place them on either side of the other two for a left right image.
Old 19th November 2012
  #9
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Lala Land's Avatar
 

I understand the direction the original poster is going in .. this day in age of composition we don't always want to go the tried and true method. I have recorded performances of new composers works - chamber ensembles where players were mic'd and the signal was undergoing live processing through a daw and max/msp, in this instance the partitions were absolutely neccesary. I have also set up the mics for a George Crumb Piece .. Vox Balaenae which is sort of similar, were a bit of isolation was required. Of course if youre recording Haydn/ Shotakovich Quartet X, you dont mess with the sound you are capturing. But if its a new work and the composer is requesting isolation and detail in parts .. you do what the composer wants .. good luck experimenting.
Old 19th November 2012
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jinksdingo View Post
I agree with Dr Bill.
The only concern could be where two violinists playing counter point you might want to place them on either side of the other two for a left right image.
Sure. I understand the string quartet as an ensemble is often meant to achieve an homogeneous whole. This is tricky piece, though, in the following respects (hence why I've begun a thread). It's no mozart...

There are many percussive effects derived from strikes on the body of the instruments, and using con legno techniques, sometimes at pp dynamics. Various other extended techniques are highlighted. There is a considerable amount of counterpoint, as well as textural differentiation achieved via ostinatos and other "groove" like passages such that the players are often playing independent lines, and only come together relatively infrequently. There is also a lot of multiple-stop playing, so my intention is to distinguish between this and homophonic playing between instruments. The separation is not especially desired as a sonic effect, but to isolate instruments so that in the editing phase some of these performance techniques can be subtly highlighted. I understand that extensive mixing and editing isn't a traditional way to produce classical music, and I'd of the "capture it in the tracking" inclination too, but this is a contemporary piece, quite unlike mainstay repertoire.

Basically I was after novel ideas. But if the best advice is just business as usual, I'll probably just aim for that. I can always experiment on the day.
Old 19th November 2012
  #11
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lala Land View Post
I understand the direction the original poster is going in .. this day in age of composition we don't always want to go the tried and true method. I have recorded performances of new composers works - chamber ensembles where players were mic'd and the signal was undergoing live processing through a daw and max/msp, in this instance the partitions were absolutely neccesary. I have also set up the mics for a George Crumb Piece .. Vox Balaenae which is sort of similar, were a bit of isolation was required. Of course if youre recording Haydn/ Shotakovich Quartet X, you dont mess with the sound you are capturing. But if its a new work and the composer is requesting isolation and detail in parts .. you do what the composer wants .. good luck experimenting.
Yes, this is what I'm suggesting. Perhaps it's just down to experimentation. Special mics to capture very specific nuance and not too much bleed is the main advice I was after.
Old 19th November 2012
  #12
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
the players are often playing independent lines, and only come together relatively infrequently. There is also a lot of multiple-stop playing, so my intention is to distinguish between this and homophonic playing between instruments. The separation is not especially desired as a sonic effect, but to isolate instruments so that in the editing phase some of these performance techniques can be subtly highlighted.
I'm pretty sure I understand what you're after. It's nothing too unusual in modern pieces. Close micing along with the room / overall mics will get you what you're after while allowing good interaction between the players. You can still rely on the more distant mics for your "overall" sound, while chasing the close mics when you need them. I have zero problems with close micing or with using NO close mics. It's all in what the piece demands, and it sounds like your demands close micing. I think where the rub enters is when you try to separate the players for the sake a less bleed between mics/instruments. It's here that you stand the chance of degrading the performance in search of more control. That's always the tradeoff. For instance, you could build a mock up, and then record all players separately. TOTAL control, but probably a lousy performance. Or you could record them all in the room together with two ensemble mics and no close mics or isolation - NO contol, great feel. It's a tradeoff. And it's a line that you personally have to draw in the sand. SOMETIMES (usually) bleed is your friend if mic'd correctly. I do not see it as a negative. IMO, for your needs close micing along with a traditional ensemble mic approach will give you the control that you need, the performance you are after and a great overall sound. Good luck with it.
Old 19th November 2012
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I'm pretty sure I understand what you're after. It's nothing too unusual in modern pieces. Close micing along with the room / overall mics will get you what you're after while allowing good interaction between the players. You can still rely on the more distant mics for your "overall" sound, while chasing the close mics when you need them. I have zero problems with close micing or with using NO close mics. It's all in what the piece demands, and it sounds like your demands close micing. I think where the rub enters is when you try to separate the players for the sake a less bleed between mics/instruments. It's here that you stand the chance of degrading the performance in search of more control. That's always the tradeoff. And it's a line that you personally have to draw in the sand. SOMETIMES (usually) bleed is your friend if mic'd correctly. IMO, close micing will give you the control that you need. Good luck with it.
Thanks. Good to get this sort of advice - what I'm trying to do is prepare a workable strategy for the day... obviously exactly how it works out will be adjustable.... but thanks for the mic ideas too. Yes, knowing when to let go of some "control" is probably good advice. Cheers.
Old 19th November 2012
  #14
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
Thanks. Good to get this sort of advice - what I'm trying to do is prepare a workable strategy for the day... obviously exactly how it works out will be adjustable.... but thanks for the mic ideas too. Yes, knowing when to let go of some "control" is probably good advice. Cheers.
I edited my post after you quoted me. Check it out & good luck.
Old 19th November 2012
  #15
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Lala Land's Avatar
 

Something like a C414 -XL with a hyper cardoid pickup pattern, or a similar mic will reduce bleed. You could use an SE Reflection filter for the instrumentalists - this brings another point - if going the partition route it may be a good idea to have your vlns & vla standing , using the reflection filter .. this way they will be able to pop there head out / move around more freely the filter if they need to see a que for entering (thier part) during the piece.
Old 19th November 2012
  #16
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Yes, close mic and stereo room...standard procedure...u could do mini gobos between the players as long as you dont obstruct the sight lines and vibe..
Old 6th November 2014
  #17
I had the pleasure of recording a string quartet this weekend. KM83s, U47s, and R122 as mains. They did a wide range of material - everything from folk to contemporary chamber to viol consort with a backing track. The mains give most of the sound. The spot mics (C48s and u67 and an RE20) are not used in the video, but are available if needed when they want to mix.



invoke | Bowed and Fretted String Quartet

Reducing bleed was very low on our priority list. Getting good balances and blend were high. We moved depending on the piece.
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