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Violin & piano, positioning of players and microphones Condenser Microphones
Old 11th October 2018
  #91
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imo no format/technique is capable to play back exactely what we hear in reality. of course i'm trying to come close with all my work and regardless of delivery format, but mixing just in stereo (and mostly not hearing the results in the same places as the recordings were made) isn't helpful.

i prefer to mix in surround which i think is much more capable of mimicking reality than stereo (we're now talking about phantom centers between multiple speakers though unless we'd use all discreet routing/mixing/panning). also, mixing in surround is more work, there are far too many formats, no format other than maybe 5.1 is widespread (but has many limits) and playback systems are often badly installed.

not sure whether this will lead to 'surround-ears-carnivores' in the anthropocene...
Old 11th October 2018
  #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post

Real life is all about thousands of discrete sound sources.

I just fail to see why it is such a big deal the violin would be 95% left. If it sounds great & lifelike, why compromise the recording by trying to pan it centre (where the musician maybe was not standing), and at the same time screw up the tonality ?
Our ears/mind create a phantom image.

A soloist can be centered in a recording without any panning.
Old 11th October 2018
  #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
I love 2ch stereo. I love piano&violin. I just fail to see why it is such a big deal the violin would be 95% left. If it sounds great & lifelike, why compromise the recording by trying to pan it centre (where the musician maybe was not standing), and at the same time screw up the tonality ?
I see what Yannick is saying. He is saying the tone of the instrument sounds better when it is not a phantom image so why not let the violinist stand where they like and avoid the phantom image altogether.

One issue I have with it is the asymmetrical nature of that sort of stereo imaging. It feels off balance to me. Does it fit musically, I guess is my question? Maybe it would work better in a modern composition that is more angular.

And does it also communicate an unspoken message? I can see it in an early Beethoven sonata where the piano is prominent much of the time. But in a Brahms sonata, for example? I still need convincing.

And what about using headphones? Those are more common these days with the younger crowd that true stereo listening. I'm not sure many would like it with cans. Some might find it irritating.

I'm open to it and think Yannick's arguments are totally valid, but I'm not sure I would like it for the reasons above.

Interesting points, though.
Old 11th October 2018
  #94
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Of course I take exception to the notion that in a Brahms sonata the piano would be less important

I am convinced the solo in the middle approach is for a large part responsible for the much too wide piano approach.
If we take this one step further, how are you going to place a 2m75 piano centrally ? Surely, the strings get longer towards the bass register, which can clearly be heard on a good coincident pickup. This always means, in a equilibrated stereo soundfield, the treble leans to the left.
In a typical 20th centrury orchestra, the violins are all left, do we need to pan them central ?

I am at a complete loss as to where this need comes from, although I have a strong suspition it actually is the result of a desperate lack of convincing stereo recordings, which have a solid and lifelike image. A lot of recordings indeed sound as clouds of instruments hanging somewhere between L and R.
Old 11th October 2018
  #95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
That is a realistic experiment.
Where are you going to find two identical violin players, who can then play identically out of tune at the exact same time
Yannick, stop being obtuse. Just imagine you can for the purpose of thinking about the image rendering.
Old 12th October 2018
  #96
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
Of course I take exception to the notion that in a Brahms sonata the piano would be less important

I am convinced the solo in the middle approach is for a large part responsible for the much too wide piano approach.
If we take this one step further, how are you going to place a 2m75 piano centrally ? Surely, the strings get longer towards the bass register, which can clearly be heard on a good coincident pickup. This always means, in a equilibrated stereo soundfield, the treble leans to the left.
In a typical 20th centrury orchestra, the violins are all left, do we need to pan them central ?

I am at a complete loss as to where this need comes from, although I have a strong suspition it actually is the result of a desperate lack of convincing stereo recordings, which have a solid and lifelike image. A lot of recordings indeed sound as clouds of instruments hanging somewhere between L and R.
I'll think on it more but I'm still not completely convinced.

With the orchestra, there is symmetry within the violin family much like a string quartet. And although the high register is to the left with the piano, again, there is symmetry within the instrument.

With a violin/piano sonata, the set up you propose seems to me a bit asymmetrical because of the lack of a similar timbre to the right to balance the sound of the violin. If the piano were a little more to the right, my need for symmetry might be met.

But...like I said...I'll think on this more...
Old 12th October 2018
  #97
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Recording this configuration is such a pain. For me, I want the violin and piano to exist in the same plane, but with only a main pair (especially omnis) the violin sounds very present while the piano sounds like it's in a different room. Album recordings are easier because the violin and piano can be arranged in such way that they are balanced. People here have already suggested having the violinist face the pianist, which can work well (with the provision that the musicians don't flip out about it).

My solution for albums: violin facing piano, about 10 ft apart; omni AB between the two, blumlein pair on violin, AB cards on piano.

Here's a video I just made that had to retain the standard performance arrangement of performers. I couldn't use close spots on the piano because the piano has terribly unstable tuning and I didn't want to draw attention to that. I do like the violin sound.

YouTube
Old 12th October 2018
  #98
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Interesting this.
I agree, somehow the violin & piano should sound more or less equidistant. (IMO the violin should sound a little bit closer, that is how I appreciate it when sitting in the audience, radiation patterns etc.)

Here it becomes complicated. When you ask the musicians themselves, you are likely to get the answer of the pianist: "the piano sounds too close compared to the violin" & at the same time the violin says "not enough violin". Or vice versa. Everybody listens to recorded sound differently. Everybody listens to themselves differently. I know instrumentists who always find themselves loud, even if the level is at the very minimum for me. I know just as many that think the opposite. How many of us have had the problem of musicians insisting on putting the main mic further (no, it sounds awful, too close) and then after first edit the main remark is it sounds to far, undefined and blurred ?

How can we solve this ? Not, probably. I try to maintain my easthetic, and in 99,9% I have a better room & playback then any musician, and more experience working with recorded sound.
Old 12th October 2018
  #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
With the orchestra, there is symmetry within the violin family much like a string quartet. And although the high register is to the left with the piano, again, there is symmetry within the instrument.
But even with orchestra, there are issues then ? Horns are often far left (with a big reflection pulling them even more left). Sometimes the timpani are really off-center, although many conductors cannot stand it. Generally, treble is left, bass is right - completely unbalanced if you ask me. It never bothers me, unless it is poorly played or badly recorded

Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
With a violin/piano sonata, the set up you propose seems to me a bit asymmetrical because of the lack of a similar timbre to the right to balance the sound of the violin. If the piano were a little more to the right, my need for symmetry might be met.
Yes, but then you actually need to put the violin to the right ...
Just out of curiosity, it is flute and piano of course, do you find the following example utterly disturbing ?
Attached Files

flutepiano.mp3 (7.89 MB, 787 views)

Old 12th October 2018
  #100
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
With the orchestra, there is symmetry within the violin family much like a string quartet. And although the high register is to the left with the piano, again, there is symmetry within the instrument.
But even with orchestra, there are issues then ? Horns are often far left (with a big reflection pulling them even more left). Sometimes the timpani are really off-center, although many conductors cannot stand it. Generally, treble is left, bass is right - completely unbalanced if you ask me. It never bothers me, unless it is poorly played or badly recorded

Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
With a violin/piano sonata, the set up you propose seems to me a bit asymmetrical because of the lack of a similar timbre to the right to balance the sound of the violin. If the piano were a little more to the right, my need for symmetry might be met.
Yes, but then you actually need to put the violin to the right ...
Just out of curiosity, it is flute and piano of course, do you find the following example utterly disturbing ?
Nice sounding recording. It's fairly symetrical, with the piano a bit to the left and the flute bit more to the right. The entire image could be shifted slightly to the left, but it's not necessary.
Old 12th October 2018
  #101
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brawee View Post
Recording this configuration is such a pain. For me, I want the violin and piano to exist in the same plane, but with only a main pair (especially omnis) the violin sounds very present while the piano sounds like it's in a different room. Album recordings are easier because the violin and piano can be arranged in such way that they are balanced. People here have already suggested having the violinist face the pianist, which can work well (with the provision that the musicians don't flip out about it).

My solution for albums: violin facing piano, about 10 ft apart; omni AB between the two, blumlein pair on violin, AB cards on piano.

Here's a video I just made that had to retain the standard performance arrangement of performers. I couldn't use close spots on the piano because the piano has terribly unstable tuning and I didn't want to draw attention to that. I do like the violin sound.

YouTube
Very clean, well recorded sound, but the violin is firmly centered with the piano too far to the right. The entire stereo image should be shifted to the left.
Old 12th October 2018
  #102
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aracu View Post
Nice sounding recording. It's fairly symetrical, with the piano a bit to the left and the flute bit more to the right. The entire image could be shifted slightly to the left, but it's not necessary.
Thanks. I know it is not perfectly symetrical, as that shifts depending on which piece is played. As I noted before, the more loud bass the piano plays, the more it shifts to the right. Even the medium register can make the piano shift a bit to the right. Actually, the 2 bridges at the right hand side of a concert grand produce quite some decibels, I am not sure they behave linearly.
Old 12th October 2018
  #103
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Quite a few issues being juggled simultaneously here....volume balance between piano and violin; violin (and/or) piano being centred or not with respect to a centre-line; how 'wide' should the piano image be, etc.

it's very difficult to come to a satisfactory balance between violin as solo and piano as accompaniment...it's a constantly moving, dynamic target and I suspect that's how it should be: an interplay or weaving between the 2 players, interactively...so that at any given slice in time one might be the equal of, or louder than, the other.

If you kept a time-averaged mental/auditory score-card however, the piano would be somewhat recessed... and the violin somewhat more dominant.

Ultimately success of this depends on the skill and maturity and confidence of the players, and their ability to lead or recede, as the score dictates.

If that can't be achieved by playing style alone, mic them each separately, put a heavy limiter on the piano .....and see what results Not a good solution !

It's a situation where the player's understanding of the piece and their musical relationship to one another will exceed any miking variant you can throw at the problem....the solution is literally (and solely) in their hands !

As for centreing, I'm happy for both instruments to co-exist either side of a centre line (ideally with neither too far displaced from it, lest it sound like an early Beatles record....)

I'm even happier if the mic pair is in line with the violinist, dead ahead, and the piano is directly behind the violin (almost in the shadow of the violin) This will allow them both to occupy the visual centreline, but then with miniscule body and instrument movements the violin gains a little body and dimension in auditory space....while the piano behind changes in apparent width also, as notes are played louder or softer.

To me this is the ideal, as each instrument occupies a (nominally overlapping) centre ...but as each plays and varies in volume and pitch, the space & width they occupy ebbs and flows slightly (and at different rates also....)

If I'm sitting front row centre, as an audience member (and if I were raised up to stage floor height !) and closed my eyes...this is what I'd expect to hear.

This is simply what I call 'true, natural stereo'

But.... I can still handle departures from it quite easily too
Old 12th October 2018
  #104
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
I'm even happier if the mic pair is in line with the violinist, dead ahead, and the piano is directly behind the violin (almost in the shadow of the violin) This will allow them both to occupy the visual centreline, but then with miniscule body and instrument movements the violin gains a little body and dimension in auditory space....while the piano behind changes in apparent width also, as notes are played louder or softer.
Yes, ideally. Alas, in my experience, this puts the violinist in an awkward spot, as he will not be able to see the pianist. Some players agree, and of course it works. Who looks at the pianist anyway
Old 12th October 2018
  #105
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
Yes, ideally. Alas, in my experience, this puts the violinist in an awkward spot, as he will not be able to see the pianist. Some players agree, and of course it works. Who looks at the pianist anyway
Yes, that's fine if the violinist turns to establish eye contact with the pianist...my main pair mic position would remain as explained above. The mic pair would be pointing directly at the head of the violin player, and their body would appear to be shadowing the piano to some degree (although the piano is a lot wider than the violin player, so no shadowing or obstruction of piano takes place...it is a huge radiation source).

I even don't care if the violin itself is not facing directly forward (towards an imaginary audience) ....it propagates enough of its sound to dominate the balance regardless.
Old 13th October 2018
  #106
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Yes, that's fine if the violinist turns to establish eye contact with the pianist...my main pair mic position would remain as explained above. The mic pair would be pointing directly at the head of the violin player, and their body would appear to be shadowing the piano to some degree (although the piano is a lot wider than the violin player, so no shadowing or obstruction of piano takes place...it is a huge radiation source).

I even don't care if the violin itself is not facing directly forward (towards an imaginary audience) ....it propagates enough of its sound to dominate the balance regardless.
This is exactly what I will be doing in a forthcoming recording. The idea of the violin facing the pianist means that the lower frequencies of the violin's radiation will not be neglected in the main pair. Blumlein crossed fig8 ribbons as main pair & piano spots with a pair of Beyer MC930s, or ribbons, in case they are needed, and also a pair of reasonably widely spaced omnis as room mics........also if needed.

One concern, is that the most beneficial sound height for violin, of the crossed fig8 ribbon main pair, may not be the best for piano. It's not a big deal, I'm sure a balance will be found. Getting an image for the piano first and then placing the violinist in the "frame" may be the way to go. The violinist in this case is quite happy to be positioned in the the best position for recording.

If the violinist is facing the pianist, with the side of the violin facing the main pair, a higher position should be possible if needs be.

A thought I had was for the use of a spaced pair of floor based PZMs, in front of the violin, but I'm not going down that path. I think though that they would have a number of benefits. That's for another recording, another day.

Last edited by Geoff Poulton; 15th October 2018 at 07:27 PM..
Old 13th October 2018
  #107
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Unfortunately this is the helicopter view, i wish I had a front-on/side view....but you can probably make some educated guesses from this pic anyway.

Soooo....choose your favourite frequency in the audible spectrum...and place your mics accordingly (judging by this, you can't have the entire cake)...

In fact, if you simply superimposed the last 4 images (800Hz to 5k) upon each other, and got a common overlap region for them all, you'd be safe for a large part of the instrument's typical range
Attached Thumbnails
Violin & piano, positioning of players and microphones-violin.jpg  
Old 13th October 2018
  #108
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And when standing higher and closer to a violin than an audience might normally be, there always sounds to be more than an abundance of high frequencies, with their attendant scrape noises of bow on string. Quite a lot of recordings I hear sound to be overly bright and contain too much of this aspect. My guess is that the soloists accept this as it's more or less what they hear - but not so much what the audience hears. I spoke to the violinist I am to record about the honeyed sound that many earlier great players seemed to achieve, and she agreed, she commented that those same instruments were being played today, but without that honeyed sound. I can't believe it's all to do with ribbons and valves!!

I did consider a pair of TLM170 spots on the violin, which I can place anywhere, but I'm not sure that an over abundance of mics actually achieves what one hopes for!! Better fewer mics and positioning. Although they could be there as another 'just incase' pair I guess.

Last edited by Geoff Poulton; 13th October 2018 at 02:53 PM..
Old 13th October 2018
  #109
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
And when standing higher and closer to a violin than an audience might normally be, there always sounds to be more than an abundance of high frequencies, with their attendant scrape noises of bow on string. Quite a lot of recordings I hear sound to be overly bright and contain too much of this aspect. My guess is that the soloists accept this as it's more or less what they hear - but not so much what the audience hears. I spoke to the violinist I am to record about the honeyed sound that many earlier great players seemed to achieve, and she agreed, she commented that those same instruments were being played today, but without that honeyed sound. I can't believe it's all to do with ribbons and valves!!

I did consider a pair of TLM170 spots on the violin, which I can place anywhere, but I'm not sure that an over abundance of mics actually achieves what one hopes for!! Better fewer mics and positioning. Although they could be there as another 'just incase' pair I guess.
I'm sure ribbons, valves/tubes and mics with deliberately rolled off tops all help to 'sandpaper off' those scratchy highs.

FWIW my favourite spot miking location height for fiddle is somewhere from waist to chest height....which can achieve something of the same burnishing and de-burring....
Old 14th October 2018
  #110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
But even with orchestra, there are issues then ? Horns are often far left (with a big reflection pulling them even more left). Sometimes the timpani are really off-center, although many conductors cannot stand it. Generally, treble is left, bass is right - completely unbalanced if you ask me. It never bothers me, unless it is poorly played or badly recorded



Yes, but then you actually need to put the violin to the right ...
Just out of curiosity, it is flute and piano of course, do you find the following example utterly disturbing ?
I see your point regarding the orchestra set up. I am used to the American style orchestra set up with the horns in the back in the middle with the trombones/tuba/basses to the right (low register). So there is a basic high register left and low register right. But I'm not sure comparing a violin/piano or flute/piano with an orchestra with its huge array of instruments exactly works.

The recording sounds great, no doubt. After a couple listens the flute to the right sounded correct to my ears.

You mentioned that avoiding a phantom image in the middle results in a better tonality, and I can hear that. However, it's such a nice timbre that I prefer both of my ears basking in the sound of the flute. My left ear feels a little cheated, Yannick!

I can't match the timbre or tonality of your recording, but I find a spaced omni approach with the clarinet centered, in this case, to be satisfying too (live recording).
Attached Files

Brahms Clar Sonata.mp3 (3.69 MB, 572 views)

Old 15th October 2018
  #111
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
I find a spaced omni approach with the clarinet centered, in this case, to be satisfying
excellent ! clarinet/piano is tricky
Old 15th October 2018
  #112
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aracu View Post
excellent ! clarinet/piano is tricky
Thank you, aracu. The clarinetist voluntarily stood in the crook of the piano facing straight ahead, singer style. He said it's his usual way to stand.

I see clarinetists standing more in front of the piano, unlike violinists, but turning a bit to the right for eye contact. Makes me wonder where these traditions come from.
Old 16th October 2018
  #113
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
The clarinetist voluntarily stood in the crook of the piano facing straight ahead, singer style.
That really helps for a symetrical distribution of the sound of the instrument, and the room sounds right... if a room isn't spacious enough, the clarinet can sound piercing.
Old 16th October 2018
  #114
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I haven't heard a lot of AB clarinet recordings where the clarinet does not sound phasey, so hats off to you ! Probably helps if the player does not move a lot ...

Personally I always have problems with AB, although everything sounds L-R balanced, nothing sounds in the center to me. In this example I am Ok with it, the spacing was probably not too wide ?
Old 16th October 2018
  #115
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
I see your point regarding the orchestra set up. I am used to the American style orchestra set up with the horns in the back in the middle with the trombones/tuba/basses to the right (low register). So there is a basic high register left and low register right. But I'm not sure comparing a violin/piano or flute/piano with an orchestra with its huge array of instruments exactly works.

The recording sounds great, no doubt. After a couple listens the flute to the right sounded correct to my ears.

You mentioned that avoiding a phantom image in the middle results in a better tonality, and I can hear that. However, it's such a nice timbre that I prefer both of my ears basking in the sound of the flute. My left ear feels a little cheated, Yannick!

I can't match the timbre or tonality of your recording, but I find a spaced omni approach with the clarinet centered, in this case, to be satisfying too (live recording).
This is a nicely proportioned sound of soloist to piano, it sounds like it would if you were sitting listening. So is this just a spaced pair about 10 feet out and 10ft up?
Old 16th October 2018
  #116
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
I haven't heard a lot of AB clarinet recordings where the clarinet does not sound phasey, so hats off to you ! Probably helps if the player does not move a lot ...

Personally I always have problems with AB, although everything sounds L-R balanced, nothing sounds in the center to me. In this example I am Ok with it, the spacing was probably not too wide ?
I was probably lucky haha

The spacing was 66 cm - so about average, not particularly wide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
This is a nicely proportioned sound of soloist to piano, it sounds like it would if you were sitting listening. So is this just a spaced pair about 10 feet out and 10ft up?
Thank you. I admit I love the spacious sound of omnis in a nice hall. I attached a pic so you can see.
Attached Thumbnails
Violin & piano, positioning of players and microphones-20180926_222120259_ios.jpg  
Old 17th October 2018
  #117
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
I was probably lucky haha

The spacing was 66 cm - so about average, not particularly wide.



Thank you. I admit I love the spacious sound of omnis in a nice hall. I attached a pic so you can see.

That's how I thought it might look, and it's good to see the hall too, after all, it's quite a major performer in the finished job!
Old 17th October 2018
  #118
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Interestingly, the piano is a hybrid electric model
Old 17th October 2018
  #119
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
Interestingly, the piano is a hybrid electric model
Yes, a Steinway model 'E'! haha
Old 17th October 2018
  #120
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
That's how I thought it might look, and it's good to see the hall too, after all, it's quite a major performer in the finished job!
Yes, the hall is really nice. There is also a balcony. It has a really nice reverb and warmth that is very complimentary to performances and recordings.
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