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A little chamber music
Old 12th April 2017
  #1
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A little chamber music

I recently recorded a live concert given by a professional string quartet performing, among other things, Beethoven's masterful No. 14 and Dvorak's No. 14 (excerpts below). The venue was a small all-purpose auditorium suited not badly, I think, to chamber music.

I vertically mounted two omni SDC's 28" apart, about 10' high, and nearly bisecting the 'front' and 'rear' performers, the mics being aimed ever so slightly off vertical toward the group's rear to add depth. Signal went into my SoundDevices 302 --> Korg MR-1000 recording at 5.6 MHz DSD.

RX removed persistent HVAC noise and a high-pass filter at ~60 Hz attenuated frequent traffic rumble. I wanted a more intimate sound; even so, the auditorium was so dry that I added some reverb in post.

I didn't identify mics (yet): my first choice of omnis not being at hand, I selected a pair that I haven't tried on strings. Jury is still out (in my head), but I think they might be a touch bright. What do you think?
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Old 12th April 2017
  #2
Gear Addict
 

The auditorium is pretty dead and could use extra reverb, overall a very good job. I hear what you're saying about the mic brightness, noticed it more in the Dvorak, hardly at all in the Beethoven, but it was not distracting. Did you try more reverb to see if the brightness was smoothed or reduced?
Old 12th April 2017
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sd270 View Post
The auditorium is pretty dead and could use extra reverb, overall a very good job. I hear what you're saying about the mic brightness, noticed it more in the Dvorak, hardly at all in the Beethoven, but it was not distracting. Did you try more reverb to see if the brightness was smoothed or reduced?
Yes, thanks, I played with a few reverb plugins and settings before I arrived at what initially struck me as "OK." I also recorded video, and I realize now that editing to video motivated me to choose a conservative amount of reverb because, well, it's plain from the picture that one would not expect to hear much (in fact, I certainly did not during the concert). More reverb does indeed tame the brightness without muddying the music.
Old 13th April 2017
  #4
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You're right, since video was involved it makes sense not to use too much reverb.
Old 13th April 2017
  #5
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The reverb is about right in level and pleasant, apart from the tails it doesn't draw attention to itself unduly.

You might the "Abbey Road approach to reverb", which is to roll off both low bass and treble in the reverb return to mix, which can disguise its presence even more...there are a few YouTube videos outlining the process.

What you're stating as 10 feet height looks more from the photo to be around 8 to 8.5 feet in height ? This might account for the stridency in tone...with omnis, inches in height matter !

10 feet wouldn't have gained you more room ambience, if it wasn't there to be extracted in the first place, but it would have given you a slightly more rounded tone, as well as a better gel between instruments.

That said, what you've got here is quite laudable, and a little more height next time (or different mics) might get you closer to your ideal ?
Old 13th April 2017
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
The reverb is about right in level and pleasant, apart from the tails it doesn't draw attention to itself unduly.

You might the "Abbey Road approach to reverb", which is to roll off both low bass and treble in the reverb return to mix, which can disguise its presence even more...there are a few YouTube videos outlining the process.

What you're stating as 10 feet height looks more from the photo to be around 8 to 8.5 feet in height ? This might account for the stridency in tone...with omnis, inches in height matter !

10 feet wouldn't have gained you more room ambience, if it wasn't there to be extracted in the first place, but it would have given you a slightly more rounded tone, as well as a better gel between instruments.

That said, what you've got here is quite laudable, and a little more height next time (or different mics) might get you closer to your ideal ?
The very first thought I had whilst in the control booth during the concert was a small regret that I had not raised the microphones by, say, another two or three feet during a brief sound check. Hardly an excuse, but there were no rehearsals and this was my first visit to the venue. Hence, I take your point well.

Yes, thanks for the remark on the reverb. My reverb plugin does have a built-in EQ to accomplish what you're suggesting. Already I rolled off the bass; I'll try rolling off treble, too.

I'm not sure that I can fault the mics so much as their positioning and a dry venue. I've used them to great effect as drum overheads, and their brilliance there may not have served me well here.

Cheers.
Old 13th April 2017
  #7
Lives for gear
The mics themselves sound quite balanced and true to source instruments.

Even with my somewhat darker-hued MKH8020 pair, I aim for 9 to 10 feet height in such a situtation, and rather than siting the stand in the centre of the quartet I tend to go a little further (2-3 feet) out toward the audience, from the front pair of players.

The main reason for this is that it gets a richer sound from the cello, which tends to be a more forward-projecting instrument.... than violins/violas which project skywards quite strongly.
Old 13th April 2017
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Firstly, good job on getting rid of the HVAC noise and traffic rumble in a non-intrusive way. I've heard many an overzealous mixer ruin golden age recordings with noise suppression techniques. The quartet sound great and the room is pleasant and provides a suitable intimacy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrReid View Post

Yes, thanks for the remark on the reverb. My reverb plugin does have a built-in EQ to accomplish what you're suggesting. Already I rolled off the bass; I'll try rolling off treble, too.
That doesn't matter, you should be setting up reverb busses anyway. These are fully wet signal paths that you can eq to your heart's content without effecting the dry signal. I would also look at reducing the reverb tails, as soon as I heard them I knew that artificial reverb had been added (without reading your comment). It's tricky to get right because I do think you nailed the reverb level.

As for stridency, consider the following approach to mixing. Sweep for the harsh eq peaks and then make cuts where necessary:

Old 14th April 2017
  #9
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Thread Starter
Cheers, Studer and Ice. Most helpful input. I don't normally have to engage reverb, but this venue will be a regular for me, so I spent the time refining this aspect of my recordings.

Versions 2 are posted below. I'll spare you the sausage-making details. I'm not sure that they are whopping improvements, but to my ears they are better.
Old 14th April 2017
  #10
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Last edited by studer58; 14th April 2017 at 05:33 AM..
Old 14th April 2017
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrReid View Post
Cheers, Studer and Ice. Most helpful input. I don't normally have to engage reverb, but this venue will be a regular for me, so I spent the time refining this aspect of my recordings.

Versions 2 are posted below. I'll spare you the sausage-making details. I'm not sure that they are whopping improvements, but to my ears they are better.
Don't forget you probably have a few parameters at your fingertips for experimenting with, depending on how sophisticated your reverbs are....such as overall reverb decay time, pre-delay, early reflections, diffusion, room/space type and so on. Don't be afraid to combine 2 different types at lower levels..eg a plate or even a spring. Your experimenting time will pay dividends here !
Old 14th April 2017
  #12
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Old 14th April 2017
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icecoolpool View Post
I just linked to a video from grammy winning engineer George Massenburg performing in action. You've just linked to an article and video from a no-name. Either learn or don't learn but don't start undermining advice from the best with internet "wisdom".
An alternative approach is 'undermining' ? There's insecurity giving itself a loud voice....

Sweeping (or not) is simply a technique you can try at home and verify whether it works for you, or otherwise...that there is perhaps more than one way to bake a pie bothers you ? Do whatever it takes to get your desired result, but don't discredit others in the process.

I'm not impressed by anyone's Grammy tally or other qualifications...simply illustrating that there are valid alternative approaches. Look up Mike Stavrou/'Mixing with your Mind' if you desperately seek the 'credentials' of one exemplar who endorses this non-sweep approach.

Last edited by studer58; 14th April 2017 at 08:14 AM..
Old 14th April 2017
  #14
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
IMHO, there is value in all approaches and applications.

Even grammy winning engineer, George Massenburg was a "no-name" at one point in his journey. Sometimes the best ideas and solutions come from individuals that only have their imagination to go by.

YMMV




Quote:
Originally Posted by icecoolpool View Post
I just linked to a video from grammy winning engineer George Massenburg performing in action. You've just linked to an article and video from a no-name. Either learn or don't learn but don't start undermining advice from the best with internet "wisdom".
Old 14th April 2017
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

He literally said, "DON'T BOOST and SWEEP!!!" after I posted a Massenburg video. He wasn't tactful or polite. He capitalised his response and used 3 exclamation marks. If he said, "You can also try this other method, find a link here", I wouldn't have had a problem but he was just plain rude and disrespectful against well-intentiond, well-sourced advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post
IMHO, there is value in all approaches and applications.
With this, I respectfully disagree: some approaches are going to lead you down the wrong path. For example, I've read a lot of threads where people ask, "Why does my music sound worse now?" after following poor advice from the internet or trade magazines.
Old 14th April 2017
  #16
Lives for gear
I'm sorry icecoolpool, but I did nothing to 'amplify' the original URL in any way...I certainly didn't capitalize or add exclamation marks, I simply copied the original link directly from the webpage, since to do anything else would risk diverting it or having it crash or fail to operate/connect.

If you wish, you can try linking the original URL in Preview mode, and confirm how it appears for yourself. All the capitalizing etc is embedded in the original source link.
Old 14th April 2017
  #17
Gear Addict
 

Thank god it wasn't four exclamation marks, or the world might have ended.
Old 14th April 2017
  #18
Gear Head
I thought i could hear someone talking in the right channel?

I preferred the sound and the playing in the Dvorak. I did not think it too dry. Perhaps a foot or so out from the players and maybe a foot or so higher would have got rid of the need for artificial reverb.

Beethoven Opus 131 is so hard for the players and the recording - to get it exactly right. But maybe the greatest piece of musi ever written.

EDIT: Your later versions had someone speaking in the left channel ! I thought the Dvorak had the best sound - about 2 secs or less of reverb. The Beethoven was drier. The later versions not quite as good.

It's best not to mess with processing but get the sound right at source.

Last edited by Lurcher_lover; 14th April 2017 at 09:41 PM.. Reason: Heard later versions.
Old 14th April 2017
  #19
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurcher_lover View Post
I thought i could hear someone talking in the right channel?

I preferred the sound and the playing in the Dvorak. I did not think it too dry. Perhaps a foot or so out from the players and maybe a foot or so higher would have got rid of the need for artificial reverb.

Beethoven Opus 131 is so hard for the players and the recording - to get it exactly right. But maybe the greatest piece of musi ever written.
Thanks for commenting. Yes, you heard correctly: the audience was pretty quiet, but I did hear a few murmurs and phlegm-raising. As the picture shows, most were silver-haired, but a fidgety young family at far stage left was one likely 'culprit,' though not on my posted samples.

The hall is not reverberant at all, and I emphasize that all of my posted samples have reverb in post. I'll have the opportunity to record other chamber ensembles of various compositions, giving me an opportunity to experiment further with mic placement at this venue. I don't expect at all to avoid use of reverb, however.

Interesting comments on the two pieces in your updated post: both pairs of excerpts received the same treatment in post, respectively, but the latter pair reflects (I hope) a more carefully crafted dose of reverb (2.0s -- good ears).
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