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Recording Violin and Piano Separately to Mix - Questions
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Recording Violin and Piano Separately to Mix - Questions

Hey gearslutz,

I have some questions about how best to record for an upcoming project. Here are the details:
-The piece is a short, classical-style composition. It contains both piano and violin. The composition is playful, and both instruments take turns with the melody. The piano plays throughout, the violin intermittently.
-The space I am recording in is treated and relatively large. If I had to guess the dimensions, I would say 50ft wide x 40 ft wide x 12ft high.
-It is a grand piano, I do not know the make/model.
-I have to record the musicians separately. I will record the piano first. Both musicians will be recorded in the space above-mentioned.
-I have access to one AKG C414, one AT4040, one Rode NT1-A, a matched pair of Rode NT5, and one MXL V67G. I can record only two of these sources at a time.

While I have quite a bit of experience recording acoustic guitars and vocals, this will be my first time recording both the piano and the violin. With that said, I would like to come away from this project with a decent, balanced mix of these two instruments. I would rather the recording be good, than shoot for something over the top and come away with nothing.

So, how should I record these instruments in a way that will allow them to work well together in the mix?

I was originally thinking of recording the piano in a spaced pair setup, 12" up from the strings, with the C414 on the highs and the NT1-A on the low end. This seems simple enough, but my one concern is that the piano will sound too close up and dominant to allow for a violin (recorded a greater distance, of course) to enter the sound space naturally. Maybe I'm wrong about this? Like I said I have no experience recording these instruments.

I have also been wondering if MS would be a good technique, I could "standardize it" for the two instruments (i.e. similar distance, same mics, etc). Maybe that would be the most mix-able? But the problem posed in that case is that MS seems a bit daunting having never done it before.

I guess my two main questions are..:

1. How should I best mic the piano to get a good sound without filling the entire sound space and overpowering the violin, or sounding unnatural with it, in the mix?
2. How should I mic the violin?

Thanks! I hope I haven't left any information out, but if I have please feel free to ask away. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
I'd use the approach of a stereo pair as your main source, find the sweet spot with the piano, record that part, then move the violin (not the pair!) during the overdub to where you get the sound you want. Add spot mikes as insurance while recording.

If you have the ability to decode a mid-side pair, you might try using the 4040 (mid) and the 414 (sides) as the main pair. Otherwise, use the NT5s as your pair and experiment with the other mics for spots as required.

Good luck!
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Head
You will not get a good result by recording separately. Why can't they pay together in a normal fashion?

The best distance for recording violin is between 5 feet and 9 feet - depending on the acoustic.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurcher_lover View Post
You will not get a good result by recording separately. Why can't they pay together in a normal fashion?
Yes to this. The piece will sound SO much better as a collaboration. Did I say SO much better? Add another SO to that.

The only reason that I can imagine that you don't want to record this as an ensemble is that, for some reason, you can't. One player lives in NYC, the other in Moscow. Maybe something less drastic, but that you can't put the two people in the same space at the same time for some insurmountable reason.

In that case, and the pop approach would seem to be, record the piano; use a nice main pair and spot the instrument. Then have the violinist play to the piano track in headphones and record the violin with a slightly closer spot, maybe on the five foot end of Lurcher's spectrum. No closer than 1 meter. Then mix to taste. Make sure to use the main pair so that it sounds like the finished piece has some air.

Better yet, have them play together with the above mics. I predict that you won't need much (any) of the spots if you position you main pair and your two plays appropriately.

Just my thoughts, as they were.

Edit: re-read your post and see that you only have two inputs on your recorder? I was assuming four, sorry. That does make it harder. If it were me, I'd just make a two-mic main pair recording of the duet and move the pair around until I got a nice balance of the two instruments and the room. And that would be that. Still better than two close mic separate recordings to my mind. Can you borrow or rent two more inputs? That would give you a main pair and two spots.

Good luck.

D.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
<humor> The artists could be married to each other and unable to stand playing in the same room </humor>
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for the input.

I have a follow up question, when you say "main pair" do you just mean two mics sitting next to each other, like NT5s set up in stereo. Having never recorded like this before, I just want to make sure that I know what you mean as far as the mic configuration.

And I appreciate the comments, guys. I know the far and away best option is to record them together, but that is just not an option in this case. So I'm doing the best that I can without it.

And tourtelot, unfortunately I am stuck with just two inputs.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
The only reason that I can imagine that you don't want to record this as an ensemble is that, for some reason, you can't.
Many people produce music for libraries, and they want all the versions possible. It's a numbers game; the more variations you provide, the better your chances of getting something placed.

Ideally a library-music producer would record this as an iso'ed duet, with the piano in a stunning-sounding hall and the fiddle in the clone-hall next door. Since that ain't gonna happen, you either do it using the isolation you can manage (which has to be total), or you overdub.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stobs View Post
Thanks for the input.

I have a follow up question, when you say "main pair" do you just mean two mics sitting next to each other, like NT5s set up in stereo. Having never recorded like this before, I just want to make sure that I know what you mean as far as the mic configuration.

And I appreciate the comments, guys. I know the far and away best option is to record them together, but that is just not an option in this case. So I'm doing the best that I can without it.

And tourtelot, unfortunately I am stuck with just two inputs.
yes, I mean a stereo pair, like the NT5s in ORTF or AB or XY or...

The question that many of are asking here is:
What's your final goal - a multitrack session with the instruments isolated? If so, then the posts about recording one at a time make sense. But if you're looking for a good stereo recording as your final product, then it's BETTER to just use two inputs (either use a stereo pair or rent/borrow a mixer and mix more mics live to your stereo inputs) with the performers playing together. TRUST ME - the performance matters SO much more than the gear and you'll get a much more engaging performance if the players are playing together.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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tourtelot's Avatar
I know a cellist and a violist who are married, but they still play together, albeit at some distance across the stage.

A main pair is a staple of classical music recordists and consists of a pair of matched mics at some distance from the performance. That is as opposed to close mic'ing in the more pop recording studio method.

There as as many main pairs as there are engineers but some typical examples are spaced omnis (lots of discussion about how far apart, but maybe start at a meter or so), ORTF cardioids, M/S, Blumlein, Faulkner, etc, etc. Lots of techniques and ideas discussed on this blog; too many to put in one post. But essentially, and in the most philosophic way, to mic an ensemble as it would sound 7th row center (???).

Spot mics can (or can not) be added for subtle reinforcement of one of more instruments in the mix later.

FWIW, most all of the recordings that I do are (basically) two mic main pair recordings; everything from duets like you speak of, to full 80-piece orchestras.

Now, this won't sound like a pop multi-track (as you can imagine) but it can sound very lovely and works really well for acoustic stuff.

But I also understand that this way of recording may not work/appeal to the final sound you are looking for. Then, maybe, you can just spot mic/close mic these folk in the pop manner, add a little tasty 'verb and mix 'em up.

There are a lot of classical recordists on this blog, and thus, the immediate jump from us to our normal way of recording acoustic instruments. Sorry, myself, for being a bit one sided.

D.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Lives for gear
Approaching this gig from a different angle....what's the illusion trick you want to pull off here as your desired result ? That the 2 musicians were playing together at the same time ?
If yes, then mic accordingly....as if, at each recording session you'll be managing, that you were miking each instrument optimally (ie incorporating some nice room tone) and not close miking.

If when you come to mix, the 2 sets of room tones cohere and reinforce one another, you'll maximize your chance of pulling off the illusion. Sure, spot mic each as well, if your input channels allow such, but don't neglect the sound of each/both instruments interacting with the same space. Record "the same piece of air"for both instruments as a priority....and you won't go far wrong
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMetzinger View Post
yes, I mean a stereo pair, like the NT5s in ORTF or AB or XY or...

The question that many of are asking here is:
What's your final goal - a multitrack session with the instruments isolated? If so, then the posts about recording one at a time make sense. But if you're looking for a good stereo recording as your final product, then it's BETTER to just use two inputs (either use a stereo pair or rent/borrow a mixer and mix more mics live to your stereo inputs) with the performers playing together. TRUST ME - the performance matters SO much more than the gear and you'll get a much more engaging performance if the players are playing together.
Ahh, yeah. Perhaps I should have included that information. The recording is a gift for the composer, who doesn't have a recording of the composition. It is just a personal project of mine own that I am doing for this friend, it is not for a client.

As I mentioned above, I know that it would be best if the players could do this together, I wish that were an option. But it isn't. And since I am only doing this as a project of my own, and not paying the musicians that are nice enough to be doing this, I have to do my best to work around their schedules. So, let's say for the sake of this thread, that there is no way to have this performed together. Because, although I know that's the best option, that suggestion just isn't helpful at the moment.

Metzinger, earlier you mentioned "decoding" a midside pair. Are you just referring to the post process that occurs? I use pro tools, so that shouldn't be a problem.
So maybe on midside pair with the c414 and the 4040 set up similarly for both instruments, a tad bit closer for the violin's take?
I'm curious also, then, where the best position is for an MS pair on a piano in relation to the opening.

EDIT: Thanks studer!

EDIT: Thank you tourtelot. Where would you position an MS pair to get a piano + room ambiance?
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Approaching this gig from a different angle....what's the illusion trick you want to pull off here as your desired result ? That the 2 musicians were playing together at the same time ?
If yes, then mic accordingly....as if, at each recording session you'll be managing, that you were miking each instrument optimally (ie incorporating some nice room tone) and not close miking.

If when you come to mix, the 2 sets of room tones cohere and reinforce one another, you'll maximize your chance of pulling off the illusion. Sure, spot mic each as well, if your input channels allow such, but don't neglect the sound of each/both instruments interacting with the same space. Record "the same piece of air"for both instruments as a priority....and you won't go far wrong
This is what I was trying to suggest in my first post, but you did it much better.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Approaching this gig from a different angle....what's the illusion trick you want to pull off here as your desired result ? That the 2 musicians were playing together at the same time ?
Sounds like it to me. Another big factor in the illusion is having the pianist lay back a bit in the spots where the violin plays, without the fiddle actually being there.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Approaching this gig from a different angle....what's the illusion trick you want to pull off here as your desired result ? That the 2 musicians were playing together at the same time ?
If yes, then mic accordingly....as if, at each recording session you'll be managing, that you were miking each instrument optimally (ie incorporating some nice room tone) and not close miking.

If when you come to mix, the 2 sets of room tones cohere and reinforce one another, you'll maximize your chance of pulling off the illusion. Sure, spot mic each as well, if your input channels allow such, but don't neglect the sound of each/both instruments interacting with the same space. Record "the same piece of air"for both instruments as a priority....and you won't go far wrong
This is awesome. Thank you. Yes, that is the illusion that I'm going for.

Also, thank you, Brent. The pianist is fantastic and he will certainly know how to be subtle in those moments. Good tip!

So at the moment I am thinking MS with the 4040 and the C414 for each session. 7ish feet from the violin, 10ish from the piano.

Still curious about how best to position an MS pair in relation to the piano (and at what height). Would it be, piano fully sticked up, 10ish feet from the center of the piano's curve?
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Sounds like it to me. Another big factor in the illusion is having the pianist lay back a bit in the spots where the violin plays, without the fiddle actually being there.
Very good advice...aim to 'fabricate interaction' between the instruments, even when there is none, by having them anticipate where the other might dominate....this all helps with the illusion !
Old 1 week ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 

MS pair 6' up looking at the fiddle in the knee of the piano which is say 10 ' from the mic stand
Lid up, stick to taste
Roger
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Perfect, thanks!
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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tourtelot's Avatar
Please post a snippet of the finished piece when you are all done. I am sure that it will sound great.

D.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Please post a snippet of the finished piece when you are all done. I am sure that it will sound great.

D.
I most definitely will, thanks for the help everyone!
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
One last question before heading into record tomorrow. Where should I place the MS pair in relation to the piano, and pointed where?
I realize this sounds like a stupid question, but I realized that, knowing little about piano, I'm not sure exactly where the sound travels. An overhead diagram would be helpful.

Is it as simple as facing the MS pair perpendicular to the lid (i.e. out to the right from the player's perspective), and aligning the mics with the midway point of the lid?
Or do I want to be facing more "into" the knee of the piano, at something closer to a 45 degree angle to the face of the lid?
Old 1 week ago
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Use your ears
I would aim for the fiddle
The piano has more weight (and a kilowatt of power)
Old 1 week ago
  #22
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
We recorded the piano today. I think it came out great! Also, it just reinforced, as it always does when I take the time to record something without rushing, that hands on experimentation is the best way to learn. I went in an hour and a half before the pianist just to try some different MS positions. Finally landed on one that really hit the spot (to my ears) and went with that.
I could definitely not have done it without the help of those of you in this thread. So thanks for making my first time mic'ing a piano a positive one.

It'll be a few weeks before I can get the violinist in, but I am very excited for that.

One last note. There was a pesky air vent unit in the room (that I did not have the option to turn off) that added some low frequency noise to the tracks, but a little bit of EQing has done away with most of it.

I will revisit this thread once I've had the chance to get the violin into the mix and post a sample. Thanks again everyone!
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