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Advice for harpsichord and organ. Condenser Microphones
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Advice for harpsichord and organ.

I've got a live recording coming up which will include organ and harpsichord. The room is about 80x44ft, and the stage is about 21ft deep. I recorded the organ there once before, and was pretty happy with the room and my mic placement, using an MS pair high up above the front edge of the stage (21 feet from the pipes.)

I'm wondering what I'll need to do for the harpsichord. Depending on where they place it on the stage, I could imagine my main pair being too close or too far from it (I'm pretty sure I want to keep the same placement for the organ capture.)

Any general advice on harpsichord recording? This is my first!

Any specific advice on how you'd approach this? The two won't play together, so I could simply use two separate mic pairs, each placed for its instrument. I could run just the original main pair and take my chances on harpsichord sound. I could add a spot, either mono or stereo.

Unfortunately, only a very short rehearsal immediately before performance, so not much time for proper sound check. I need to go in with one or two ideas and decide very quickly. Any advice is appreciated.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Head
 

Two separate pairs, dealing with the organ as you see fit/have done in the past...
... and of course it's possible that your organ mics will accidentally serve nicely as optional room mics for the harpsichord.

With the lid on and up, harpsichords generally speak diagonally outwards as pictured.

AB omnis placed along this axis (optionally Faulkneresque fig 8s), unless the acoustic really stinks or the audience is especially consumptive, looking towards the back edge of the soundboard at the first lid hinge. Start with a not-too-wide spacing in the 30-50cm range - the potential for exaggerating the stereo width of the instrument is much as with pianos.

Flat omnis like MK2/OM1 would be the default. No need for HF lift. Certain ribbons or combinations of ribbons and SDCs can be very successful, but this doesn't sound like the occasion for experimentation.

Distances to the bentside between 4 and 10 feet - if you're in a rush, start at 5 or 6 and see how it sounds. Head height, or higher as you get further back. (You want to be high enough that you're more-or-less in the plane of the lid - or at least mostly getting direct sound from the soundboard, not mostly lid reflections.)

(Broadly, an approach not a million miles from the Decca tail piano technique, though not swung round anything like so far to the back...)

Good luck - speaking as a professional harpsichordist, I'll admit it's an instrument that can very easily be made to sound awful by players and engineers alike!
Attached Thumbnails
Advice for harpsichord and organ.-10000ruckersharpsichordplanviewhorizontal.jpg  
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Head
 

Also - if you're not already familiar with the instrument and its repertoire, listen to some good recent-ish hps recordings:

Pierre Hantai/Ketil Haugsand/Bertrand Cuiller/Skip Sempe/Pieter Jan Belder et al - fine playing, and a variety of approaches to closeness, 'realism' vs 'larger-than-life' Recordularity, not to mention the enormous tonal variations between hpss modelled on different historical periods and regional traditions of instrument making
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ithinknot View Post
Two separate pairs, dealing with the organ as you see fit/have done in the past...
... and of course it's possible that your organ mics will accidentally serve nicely as optional room mics for the harpsichord.

With the lid on and up, harpsichords generally speak diagonally outwards as pictured.

AB omnis placed along this axis (optionally Faulkneresque fig 8s), unless the acoustic really stinks or the audience is especially consumptive, looking towards the back edge of the soundboard at the first lid hinge. Start with a not-too-wide spacing in the 30-50cm range - the potential for exaggerating the stereo width of the instrument is much as with pianos.

Flat omnis like MK2/OM1 would be the default. No need for HF lift. Certain ribbons or combinations of ribbons and SDCs can be very successful, but this doesn't sound like the occasion for experimentation.

Distances to the bentside between 4 and 10 feet - if you're in a rush, start at 5 or 6 and see how it sounds. Head height, or higher as you get further back. (You want to be high enough that you're more-or-less in the plane of the lid - or at least mostly getting direct sound from the soundboard, not mostly lid reflections.)

(Broadly, an approach not a million miles from the Decca tail piano technique, though not swung round anything like so far to the back...)

Good luck - speaking as a professional harpsichordist, I'll admit it's an instrument that can very easily be made to sound awful by players and engineers alike!
This is awesome! Thanks for a wealth of information. As with any recording, my intent is to listen carefully and adjust during sound check, but it's nice to have opinions on a reliable starting point, especially from a harpsichordist's perspective!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ithinknot View Post
Also - if you're not already familiar with the instrument and its repertoire, listen to some good recent-ish hps recordings:

Pierre Hantai/Ketil Haugsand/Bertrand Cuiller/Skip Sempe/Pieter Jan Belder et al - fine playing, and a variety of approaches to closeness, 'realism' vs 'larger-than-life' Recordularity, not to mention the enormous tonal variations between hpss modelled on different historical periods and regional traditions of instrument making
Many thanks for these too! I'll definitely look them up. The instrument isn't completely foreign to me, but most of my memories are distant at this point, so having some good references to get my ears used to what I'm listening for will be really helpful.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
I'll simply throw this in now...though it is not germane to the particular project as described. Esteemed Decca engineer Tryggvi Tryggvason described thus the problem of getting sufficient harpsichord presence in a recording which featured that instrument as part of a larger ensemble (but was not the main instrument ):

"Harpsichord continuo presents an interesting problem; correctly balanced, it is barely audible – it has been said that one should not hear it but, if it were missing, one should miss it! For this reason, it is best positioned towards the rear of the strings, possibly near the basses with which musical contact is often important. A cardioid spot microphone, placed under the body of the instrument, can be used for fine control of quality"

I can hear the howls of "Sacrilege !" from harpsichord players and others...but remember the author is describing how to correctly integrate the instrument into the context of the wider ensemble, so that it has sufficient (neither under-nor-over-represented) presence...and this is a suggested means to that end..... he's writing of the 'big picture' here ie the success of the whole recording, not of highlighting each instrument such that they all shine like friggin' cheap rhinestones, ok ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
I've got a live recording coming up which will include organ and harpsichord. The room is about 80x44ft, and the stage is about 21ft deep. I recorded the organ there once before, and was pretty happy with the room and my mic placement, using an MS pair high up above the front edge of the stage (21 feet from the pipes.)

I'm wondering what I'll need to do for the harpsichord. Depending on where they place it on the stage, I could imagine my main pair being too close or too far from it (I'm pretty sure I want to keep the same placement for the organ capture.)

Any general advice on harpsichord recording? This is my first!

Any specific advice on how you'd approach this? The two won't play together, so I could simply use two separate mic pairs, each placed for its instrument. I could run just the original main pair and take my chances on harpsichord sound. I could add a spot, either mono or stereo.

Unfortunately, only a very short rehearsal immediately before performance, so not much time for proper sound check. I need to go in with one or two ideas and decide very quickly. Any advice is appreciated.
Hi, I give you this link what I think is a very nice recording. YouTube He did use Rode NTR with very nice results in my ears. setting: parallel AB 20cm diagonal to bentside harpsichord at c.2m distance and 1.8m high, tilted to soundboard
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dingenus View Post
Hi, I give you this link what I think is a very nice recording. YouTube He did use Rode NTR with very nice results in my ears. setting: parallel AB 20cm diagonal to bentside harpsichord at c.2m distance and 1.8m high, tilted to soundboard
Sounds quite nice to my ears too. Thanks for sharing!

My first impression is that the low notes don't sound quite as full as I expected based on some of the recordings mentioned in the comments above, but of course I don't know if that's the instrument, the room, the mics, or... quite possibly just my imagination!

Regardless of that little detail, it sounds really nice overall, smooth and round, not harsh or aggressive. Thanks for sharing the details of the mics and method. That's a great point of reference.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
Sounds quite nice to my ears too. Thanks for sharing!

My first impression is that the low notes don't sound quite as full as I expected based on some of the recordings mentioned in the comments above, but of course I don't know if that's the instrument, the room, the mics, or... quite possibly just my imagination!

Regardless of that little detail, it sounds really nice overall, smooth and round, not harsh or aggressive. Thanks for sharing the details of the mics and method. That's a great point of reference.
I hear that too, but think that the recording shows it correctly. The instrument is very old and has not been restored to a new state. The lowest note does not have the resonance you hope for but that also has a certain charm, it says 'I'm very nice but really antique'.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Addict
 

Many thanks for all the tips and reference recordings! I did the recording yesterday and I've got rough mixes of snippets of both the harpsichord and the organ.

I tried a slightly different arrangement for my main pair this time. Last time I did MS with a cardioid mid, but then also added an omni which could be blended in to capture more room, or could be filtered and used just to add bass. This time the first mid was bi-directional, and the omni was upgraded from the ECM8000 to a Line Audio OM1. With the bi-directional CK94 and the omni OM1, I can actually blend them to taste in post production to make a virtual mid which is effectively anything from bi to omni, passing through hyper, super, cardioid, wide, etc. along the way. It's a nice bit of flexibility to have. Theoretically, I can decode this to the equivalent of any XY pair of mics, with whatever virtual mic angle and mic patterns I want. I haven't gone too crazy with it yet, but it's pretty fun being able to get a variety of sounds from a single mic placement. I realize this isn't exactly uncharted territory - I've basically just made a poor-man's C700s. Still, for someone who can't afford the Josephson, I'm enjoying this new setup!

I did also add an MS stereo spot on the harpsichord, about 5 feet out and 5-6 feet up, at roughly the angle indicated in the diagrams provided earlier in this thread. I'm really glad I did, because the sound from the main pair 10 feet up is really not good at all by itself, although it works nicely for adding a little extra room. The sound in the harpsichord sample is more spot than main pair.

Compared to many of the harpsichord recordings shared above, mine seems to be lacking in thickness on the initial attack of each note. It seems more airy, washy, indistinct. I know basically nothing about harpsichord, but it's the sort of thing I would attribute to using a really thin, floppy guitar pick instead of a thicker, more rigid one... or perhaps the difference between thinner strings at lower tension vs thicker strings at higher tension to achieve the same pitch. Anyway, I don't know if it's something lacking in my recording method or if I've just captured the sound of this particular harpsichord.

Also, I apologize in advance for the ridiculous amount of noise. There was some sort of leaf blowing (or vacuuming?) landscaping equipment running just outside the chapel. We tried to tactfully ask them to take a break for an hour, or work a different part of the campus, but to no avail. So, lots and lots of noise. Anyway, here are links to my first attempts:



Attached Thumbnails
Advice for harpsichord and organ.-img_7845.jpg   Advice for harpsichord and organ.-img_7829.jpg   Advice for harpsichord and organ.-img_7837.jpg   Advice for harpsichord and organ.-img_7842.jpg   Advice for harpsichord and organ.-img_7844.jpg  

Old 1 week ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
Compared to many of the harpsichord recordings shared above, mine seems to be lacking in thickness on the initial attack of each note. It seems more airy, washy, indistinct.
Question is, how did it sound in reality? Was there a fuller sound in the hall? Some keys/notes seem to produce an ugly noise in the attack, which is not uncommon and probably is a property of this certain instrument. The position of the mic might make this even more obvious. Maybe a 1969 William Dowd is not yet as nice as a later one, I guess...

So MS all the way? The beginning of the harpsichord track really sounds almost mono to me, and in general there is some space missing to me in both tracks. But the MS evangelists may see this differently...
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulrich View Post
Question is, how did it sound in reality? Was there a fuller sound in the hall? Some keys/notes seem to produce an ugly noise in the attack, which is not uncommon and probably is a property of this certain instrument. The position of the mic might make this even more obvious. Maybe a 1969 William Dowd is not yet as nice as a later one, I guess...

So MS all the way? The beginning of the harpsichord track really sounds almost mono to me, and in general there is some space missing to me in both tracks. But the MS evangelists may see this differently...
I wish I could go back and hear it in the hall again, now that I've heard the recording next to others. I don't remember it sounding any fuller, but I also don't remember it seeming too thin or wispy. I'm inclined to think it's just the sound of the instrument, but I'm not totally confident.

It's interesting what you mentioned about an ugly sound on certain notes. I hadn't noticed that, but will listen back for that and see if there's anything l can do to soften it.

As for MS, I wouldn't call myself evangelical, as I'm not trying to convince anyone else, but I am definitely a fan of the method. I generally like the sound of it, and I put a higher emphasis than most on mono compatibility. Having said that, I'm fairly happy with the sense of stereo on the organ, but I'll admit the harpsichord is a bit mono, even for my tastes!
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