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First time recording live classical music. CLUELESS! Condenser Microphones
Old 28th January 2010
Gear Addict
jsbeeth's Avatar

Thread Starter
Question First time recording live classical music. CLUELESS!

Hey y'all. I'll soon be recording a classical violin/piano duo in a large church sanctuary, and I've never done anything like this before, as all my engineering exp to date has been in the pop realm -- overdubs, close miking, etc.

It's not a live concert, so it can (and hopefully will) sound something "like a record," but everything will be tracked live and simultaneously. What do folks recommend to capture the sound of the space? Some room mics I assume, but how far back? How many? Pointed where? Do I compliment/mix with close mics?

I have solid enough preamps, and the following mics: AKG 414, 2 SM81's, 2 old Shure BG4's (decent sdc's). I assume I won't want to touch any dynamic mics on this one, but I've got a 57 and 58 as well.

Any suggestions would be a life saver! Thanks.
Old 28th January 2010
Registered User

The simple answer is: Put two mics (in your case I'd grab the sm81's) in the room where they sound the best and hit record. ORTF is the hardest positioning to mess up if it's your first time doing stereo pairs. Further away for more room sound, closer for more direct. Since you have the mics, and I'll assume the available tracks, put some spot mics on them as well. The goal is to get a good sound with just the two room mics, but the more the merrier for your mixing pleasure. Also, don't be afraid to play with the placement of the musicians. You probably won't want to be moving around the piano, but try different placements of the violinist (if he/she will allow). Good luck, have fun, and welcome to the world of remote recording!
Old 28th January 2010
Since you are in a large sanctuary, getting to much reverberant may be an issue. I would try to get in close enough so you can get a distinct stereo image with an ORTF pattern and not just some echo-y room, and somewhat off to the side so the violin and piano are relatively equidistant from the mics.

Also, make sure the piano is on the full stick, pianists are usually afraid to play with it open because it might "cover" the soloist, but the sound will get muffled otherwise. You can always reinforce the instruments with spots
Old 28th January 2010
Lives for gear
d_fu's Avatar

Do you have an idea in your head how you want this to sound? Or have you heard similar repertoire on CD? Have you got any listening experience with classical music?

Can you come to terms with exchanging your usual approach (close mics plus ambient) with the opposite, a main pair plus spots? Will you have enough time to set up the main pair and find a good balance in terms of direct/ambient sound?

An ORTF or NOS setup with the 81s will be a good start, or something close to it (google it if you are not familiar with this technique). Start with something around 2 or 3 m in height and maybe as far away from the performers, and adjust to taste. Then place the 414 near the violin (cardioid or hyper) and set up the BG4s near the piano.

When mixing, start listening to the stereo pair first, then carefully mix in the spots, just enough to add some presence, without overpowering the main pair (keep lowering the volume again or muting channels to compare). Pan the spots where you hear the source on the main pair...

Feel free to upload mixes here, we'll tell you whether they sound "like a record"... heh

If you need to mix to stereo straight away, things will be more difficult and you should rush to to the nearest CD store to grab two or three CDs with similar repertoire to listen to...

Old 29th January 2010
Gear Addict
jsbeeth's Avatar

Thread Starter
Thanks for the replies! Just a dumb clarification -- "spot" miking is the same as close miking, correct?heh

d_fu -- yeah, I have tons of classical listening and performance experience (I'm actually the pianist on this session). However, I've haven't typically listened to classical records with the same analytical ear for sound/acoustics the way I do with pop records, so it's hard to say exactly what I'm going for.

Any of the Perlman/Previn duet records sound great to me... Emanuel Ax trio stuff... there's this record of Faure songs that has a great duo sound (though it's piano/vocal, not violin)... So I dunno, just "good" I guess
Old 20th February 2012
Gear interested
RickyRasper's Avatar

Place a good dynamic mic pointing at the middle C from a distance of about six inches, no more than a foot inside the piano. Place a second mic preferably a condenser pointing at the open sound soundboard from a distance no closer than three feet and no further than six. The BG4's sound really sweet with a violin. Set at a distance of four feet from the player. The mic's should be spaced five feet apart and focused on the players chest. Please ask the violinist to stand when she plays preferably standing on a small mat. Violins always sound better recorded in the standing position.
Old 20th February 2012
Lives for gear

I use a coincident mic pair (well, an MS pair to be more exact) placed so that it favours the violinist more than the pianist. Then a single spot mike at the tail of the piano not under the lid but only a foot or so back. Set the level of the spot to restore the correct balance, and pan it to the right (to taste) so that there is some stereo separation between the two (personally I like to hear the violinist sounding just a little to left of centre, and the piano sightly more to the right, which is not unnatural if the violinist is standing alongside the pianist rather than in the bow of the piano). The stereo mic should provide enough of the room sound - if it doesn't, it's too close to the violinist.

In other words, go for a nice balance between the violin and the room using the stereo pair, which will probably leave the piano sounding a bit unfocussed, then restore the piano focus with the spot (but not too much!).

Recording and playing is fraught with hazards - can you do both well without distracting yourself? - but if that's the only way to do it, well, that's what you've got to do!

Last edited by Ozpeter; 21st February 2012 at 12:39 AM.. Reason: Left/right confusion, thanks Panatrope ...
Old 20th February 2012
Lives for gear

If you need to mix to stereo straight away, things will be more difficult and you should rush to to the nearest CD store to grab two or three CDs with similar repertoire to listen to...
Or in this modern world, subscribe to a streaming music service like Rdio for a month, which will cost you about the same as one CD, and that will give you access to thousands of recordings to compare and contrast with!
Old 26th March 2012
Gear Head

Classical recording

I have used spaced omnis at a spread of 7-8 ft up 7+ feet. I have also used ORTF Rode NT1As as well and like that, especially I'd the hvac is noisy. I am now using monitor stands as mic stands to get height and for added mass for reduced vibration from one venue's suspended floor. I have put foam mic wind screens on the feet for better isolation. Vibration is vibration no matter what the source as the mic capsules know no diff. Just my 2 cents.

Last edited by Jim Tavegia; 26th March 2012 at 01:51 AM.. Reason: Spelling
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