The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
String orchestra: sound reinforcement Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 1st January 2011
  #1
Gear Nut
 

String orchestra: sound reinforcement

Hi there,

A few days ago I had the chance to listen to a string orchestra playing outdoors in a sort of small square. I have done a few gigs before like this and in this case not doing the gig learnt quite a bit about the problems that I have had before when being the person in charge of doing the job. The point is that the same problems occurred in this occasion and that the PA technician who did the job (a better professional than myself, presumably) didn't sort out these problems or didn't even hear them.

Maybe there is someone here who can give me some tips about how to solve these problems.

So that you have an idea, going to try to describe the setup.

Being outdoors and being quite a noisy place with people just walking by not paying attention to the concert, I think it was a good idea to spot mike and locate the mikes quite close to the instruments so to avoid all the noise around. That was good.

The string orchestra (12 people) played in a small stage with a sort of line array (not very good quality) and the microphones were condenser (behringer and the like) for all instruments except cellos and double-bass, shure 57 in this case.

The problems that I heard where the following:

- The sound in the violins, was crispy, harsh and metallic, for that reason, although maybe the sound in violas, cellos and double-bass was not that bad, the overall sound of the orchestra was hard, crispy, metallic, not nice in general.

- Also for the violins there was another problem that maybe was present for the rest of instruments but that was especially remarkable in their case: the sound was sort of out of tune. I don't know if I get to explain myself with that expression. I know that it's not a problem of the orchestra because I have listened to them before. The notes were sort of crashing among each other, creating a weird sensation of being out of tune. This was the most annoying aspect of the amplification work.

- Then, the dynamics were also problematic. Probably the fear of using compression in a "classical environment" is the problem. The sound of the orchestra in mezzoforte was reasonable (still crispy and all the rest), but in the "pianos" was not enough even taking into account that there was a lot of background noise, and then in the forte the sound was even crispier because it was far too loud.

- Finally, reverb. I have no idea if the reverb was not applied wisely, but it was awful. What sort of reverb and how would you use it? It's not an easy issue playing outdoors and with no structure above helping the orchestra.

Sorry for taking so much space to explain myself and thanks for any tip.

Best,

D.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #2
Gear Nut
 

Hi again,

I'm not sure if this is the right forum where to post my thread below. I was looking for a specific forum related to sound reinforcement and this was the closest I found. I did some search in old threads but they didn't exactly match all my doubts and concerns so I decided to open this one.

Any experienced professional with any helpful tips for my concerns??



Thanks!! Peace and music for the new year.

Dan
Old 3rd January 2011
  #3
Lives for gear
 
NetworkAudio's Avatar
There are a few guys on the forum who do this and know what they are doing (I am not one of them)
I have, however played a number of these and almost always leave pissed off.

I will comment from a large orchestra point of view (may not quite apply to your small group)
Personally, I feel that the word reinforcement is key.
If you simply keep the group sounding big like you would in a good hall you are on the right track.
Of you try to achieve the main portion of the sound from the speakers, it get tricky fast, and few know how to pull it off.

The best I have heard an orchestra amped while playing was a tour with igudesman.
Typical orchestral studio mics were used such as 4011 and 414 etc.
No mics mounted on any instruments.
Basically we sounded close to what we had in rehersals in a good hall, even in huge crappy sounding gymnasiums.
You would never know we were amplified though, until he turned of the PA, sort of how I like to hear LSRS in surround.
Old 4th January 2011
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Hi Klaukhalm!

Thanks for the answer and the help. It would be great to hear from the people you mention. I would even be willing to pay for worthy tuition!

In my opinion, the reinforcement can be subtle in closed spaces or in small spaces with a big orchestra. Outdoors, in an open space, you don't have any other option but to really amplify and try to achieve that sound you mentioned.

I checked on Youtube and had a look at some videos by Igudesman playing with an orchestra but didn't find anyone where the orchestra was amplified.

Regards,

D.
Old 4th January 2011
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Do a search, my friend... you will find plenty of threads on orchestral sound reinforcement. (I have personally done gig reports on several situations of orchestral reinforcement here)

In short, high quality mics are a must. High quality reverb is crucial, and positioning the mics away from the instruments will give you a natural sound whereas clipons become really difficult to sound natural. The DPA 4061 comes as close as anything in that category, but I still use them with overhead distant mics to maintain ensemble sound.

--Ben
Old 5th January 2011
  #6
Gear Nut
 

Thanks Ben for the comments. I did a search but didn't find much. I don't know if it's a problem with the keywords that I use. I'll try again. I'll look for your threads and gig reports.

Just one only question. Regarding this point I mentioned:

"- Also for the violins there was another problem that maybe was present for the rest of instruments but that was especially remarkable in their case: the sound was sort of out of tune. I don't know if I get to explain myself with that expression. I know that it's not a problem of the orchestra because I have listened to them before. The notes were sort of crashing among each other, creating a weird sensation of being out of tune."

Do you have any idea if that can be due to the comb effect? The 3:1 rule? Something like that?

Well, actually I had more concerns if you have the time. When you say overhead distant mics, you refer to one distant mic per section, distant mics like the stereo couple used for recording or several distant mics per section. Using spot mics like the DPA 4061 plus the distant mics, don't you have any phase problems or any other problems arising from using two mics for the same source?

Thanks again and regards,

Dan
Old 5th January 2011
  #7
Quote:
"- Also for the violins there was another problem that maybe was present for the rest of instruments but that was especially remarkable in their case: the sound was sort of out of tune. I don't know if I get to explain myself with that expression. I know that it's not a problem of the orchestra because I have listened to them before. The notes were sort of crashing among each other, creating a weird sensation of being out of tune."

Do you have any idea if that can be due to the comb effect? The 3:1 rule? Something like that?
It is very possible. Phase discrepencies will cause a very similar 'loss of presence' sensation as instruments playing out of tune.
Old 5th January 2011
  #8
Lives for gear
 
NetworkAudio's Avatar
Pitch will not be influenced by mic interaction. In tune is in tune, out of tune is out of tune regardless of mic position and mic count.
That being said, a large string group will generally sound more in tune at a distance than it does inside the section. Going close and loosing blend will highlight any pitch issues.
Old 5th January 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Was it comb filtering or was it an intonation problem? As mntioned before, intonation issues will be accentuated by close micing, but in the end, it is a player issue. Comb filtering is a mic placement issue- if you have multiple mics picking up the same thing at slightly different times, you'll have comb filtering.

I referred to a couple different techniques in my post- they largely are dependent on the venue situation where the amplification is happening. I'll tend to use the DPA mics when I have a situation where a louder sound is needed or a situation where gain before feedback could be an issue (look for my gig report on outdoor opera- I had my mains behind the orchestra pit so I needed the up close and personal sound to avoid feedback). When I'm doing sound that is more "classical" minimalist reinforcement (as opposed to amplificiation), I can go with a more distant and smaller setup (see my Ojai Festival reports). In both cases, I put mics several feet over the ensemble to capture as much ensemble sound as possible and then I fill in with the spots using reverb to blend. In the case of the minimalist work, I'll have 1 or 2 mics per section (depending on the size of the section) for a bit of texture and clarity. For the other end of things, either a clip-on per player or a mic per desk of players.

--Ben
Old 5th January 2011
  #10
Gear Nut
 

I wouldn't say it was an intonation problem. I have listened to them like 4 or 5 times without any amplification and they sound pretty in tune to me (not the best ear in the world anyways). It was an out of tune sensation but not really being out of tune. I guess it is pretty difficult to find out a solution without having a clear idea what the problem was.

Ben, I had a look at the outdoor opera report and it looks pretty awesome! It had to be a challenging job! Recently I had a Christmas gig indoors with a small orchestra in the pit (2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 piano, 1 double-bass, 1 clarinet, percussion and some 20 singers as a choir in the pit too), lots of people singing and acting on the stage and a kid choir. The venue was quite big so we had to amplify everything, but we didn't use so many mics. The big problem for me was not actually having eye contact with the orchestra. I know that listening should be enough but I have to admit that I really missed to see what the musicians were doing with my eyes.

I'll have a look at the other thread as it looks really interesting.

Thanks all for your help!!

P.S. I could do a gig report with my Christmas concert, just in case anyone can find it interesting (don't have any pictures, shame!).
Old 5th January 2011
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle View Post
positioning the mics away from the instruments will give you a natural sound whereas clipons become really difficult to sound natural. The DPA 4061 comes as close as anything in that category, but I still use them with overhead distant mics to maintain ensemble sound.
Shouldn't one be concerned about feedback when using omni condensers at a distance in sound reinforcement?
Old 6th January 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris319 View Post
Shouldn't one be concerned about feedback when using omni condensers at a distance in sound reinforcement?
Sure, but feedback is always an issue in live sound.

The trick is, you need to know your sound system and you need to have it EQ'd very well. When I'm running an orchestral rig with omnis hanging 8-10 feet overhead, the first thing I do is find my point where it feeds back. Then I make sure I never go over that point. heh

With omnis that are being used as a close mic (I'll use omnis on pianos, dpa clip-ons, headset and lav mics), life is a lot easier as you'll get a lot more direct sound into the mics from the source than you'll get ambient. As a result, you'll have a greater level of gain before feedback. Yes, sometimes it can bite you in the rear, but you just deal with it and get ready to EQ if necessary.

It isn't until June, but Chris- since you're in LA, you should come out to the Ojai Festival to see what I'm talking about if you're interested. I've got a great system out there and great musicians to work with. Drop me a line when it gets closer and I can set up a time to show you around.

--Ben
Old 6th January 2011
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Roland's Avatar
I can't really add much to the above, except that mike choice is important. Close up cheaper condensor's sound worse than good ones. Live sound will always be a compromise, you can't mike an orchestra like you would for a recording and then put it through a pa, it just won't work. Klaukholm was pretty much spot on when he said that it should be viewed as a Sound Rienforcement job, rather than a PA job.

I suspect if the strings sounded out of tune, they were, irrespective of how they were in rehearsal. There could have been many reasons for that, possibly they were not able to hear themselves as well as when they were in rehearsal, perhaps the PA level was so high it was interferring with what they were hearing.

DPA 4060's, 4099's are good ways to go and can produce good results, miking with condensers 1 per desk is usually better as it give a little more air to the sound, good choice of reverb and not too much is helpful, careful EQ and filtering will also enhance the sound, but you have got to know what you are looking to achieve, rather than wildly fiddling with the desk, finally balance, as stupid as it may sound is really important, even on big open air events I've attended, with serious, world reknown sound companies have fallen down over this.

When I was doing a date with the English Chamber Orchestra a couple of years back the orchestra manager was thanking me and commented that they did a lot of these events and more often than not the sound is not good or dreadful.

Like the apprentice, understand the tasks ultimate goal, know the problems and find a solution.

Hope this is of help.

Roland
Old 6th January 2011
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Hi again,

Thanks very much Roland for your tips. I'm getting a lot of ideas from all your comments. I hope to have the chance soon to try some of all this. If the venue/place is the right one I'd like to try a mic per stand approach.

Could I ask why using omni mics for close miking? I would understand to choose omni for distance miking so to get a bit of the reverb of the room or to get more of the ensemble sound of the orchestra but I don't get the point of using omnis instead of just cardioid mics when close miking.

Regards,
Old 6th January 2011
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by oncloudnine View Post
Hi again,

Thanks very much Roland for your tips. I'm getting a lot of ideas from all your comments. I hope to have the chance soon to try some of all this. If the venue/place is the right one I'd like to try a mic per stand approach.

Could I ask why using omni mics for close miking? I would understand to choose omni for distance miking so to get a bit of the reverb of the room or to get more of the ensemble sound of the orchestra but I don't get the point of using omnis instead of just cardioid mics when close miking.

Regards,

This can be a bit of a red Herring. The DPA 4060/61's are Omni's and in the way they are used for miking strings live, they are very close to the instrument where, potentially, a cardioid mic would exhibit too much directionality or proximity effect. With the 4099, they are engineered for this specific use so it's less of an issue. Using Omni's for orchestral pick up in a live situation is somewhat of a double edged sword and I can only speak personally, but I'm not generally in favour. For me you need more control, (particularly as regards to GBF). The benefit is that they sound less close in for the given miking distance, they are also less susceptible to wind noise. The disadvantages are they give much less balance control and they are likely to get to the feedback limit far quicker give or take the venue, speaker placement. this might sound like not too much of a problem, however, feedback going off on a classical gig is very definitely not something you want to be contending with, particularly with the amount of mics that are live! I also strongly advocate against tunning the rig to minimize these problems, this way you spend all your time chasing decent tonal quality, very noticeable with classical playing, it's similar to the problems with ringing out monitors, yes, you can get them to go incredibly loud, but they sound awful.

I've seen many different approaches advocated, particularly in these forums, some are good, some are just plain bad ideas. Live orchestral sound is always going to be a compromise, the trick is to make the right compromises so that the sound limitations are minimal and to the audience it just sounds good.

Don't get too caught up in the theory of this type of mic as against that type, deal with the practical issues, learn what the limitations are and restrict yourself to achieving the best result within these, and good luck!

Regards


Roland heh
Old 6th January 2011
  #16
Lives for gear
 
NetworkAudio's Avatar
This might sound weird, but the best thing you can do is to familiarize yourself with the idiom as it is intended (i.e. acoustic performance in a good hall) Listen to recordings and go to some concerts.
IMO those who understand what sound to go for have much greater odds than those who have never set foot in a classical concert.
You can smell the rock PA people with zero classical background to stand on from a mile away and they never do well.
Old 6th January 2011
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by klaukholm View Post
This might sound weird, but the best thing you can do is to familiarize yourself with the idiom as it is intended (i.e. acoustic performance in a good hall) Listen to recordings and go to some concerts.
IMO those who understand what sound to go for have much greater odds than those who have never set foot in a classical concert.
You can smell the rock PA people with zero classical background to stand on from a mile away and they never do well.

Wise advice in a nutshell!

Roland
Old 7th January 2011
  #18
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
This can be a bit of a red Herring. The DPA 4060/61's are Omni's and in the way they are used for miking strings live, they are very close to the instrument where, potentially, a cardioid mic would exhibit too much directionality or proximity effect. With the 4099, they are engineered for this specific use so it's less of an issue. Using Omni's for orchestral pick up in a live situation is somewhat of a double edged sword and I can only speak personally, but I'm not generally in favour. For me you need more control, (particularly as regards to GBF). The benefit is that they sound less close in for the given miking distance, they are also less susceptible to wind noise. The disadvantages are they give much less balance control and they are likely to get to the feedback limit far quicker give or take the venue, speaker placement. this might sound like not too much of a problem, however, feedback going off on a classical gig is very definitely not something you want to be contending with, particularly with the amount of mics that are live!

Thanks Roland for the explanation! It's much clearer now. I have the feeling that there's just not an only way to do things and every technician has got his own book depending on his background and previous experience.


Quote:
This might sound weird, but the best thing you can do is to familiarize yourself with the idiom as it is intended (i.e. acoustic performance in a good hall) Listen to recordings and go to some concerts.
IMO those who understand what sound to go for have much greater odds than those who have never set foot in a classical concert.
You can smell the rock PA people with zero classical background to stand on from a mile away and they never do well.
Yes, this is basic. Also, some technician thinks that classical music must always sound like the famous Carmina Burana bit and that's what they are looking for in any concert no matter what. "Classical music" is just so wide and so varied that we have to be aware as technicians of those differences and have the musical background for not working sound in the same way if you are doing Gershwin, that if you are doing some Italian baroque music, Schubert or some weird contemporary XXth century composer. It can be just so different!! Nowadays, the amount of music produced is huge, but there's so much interesting music in the previous twenty centuries!
Old 8th January 2011
  #19
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
It isn't until June, but Chris- since you're in LA, you should come out to the Ojai Festival to see what I'm talking about if you're interested. I've got a great system out there and great musicians to work with. Drop me a line when it gets closer and I can set up a time to show you around.
Thanks for the kind invitation, Ben. I may just take you up on that.

I will be recording my youth symphony around that time. You are likewise invited to our concert in Seal Beach for a good laugh or cry, depending. My setup is definitely austere compared to most.
Top Mentioned Products
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
jglamar / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
13
Audiowizard77 / So much gear, so little time
7
menestrello / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
18
Westmalle / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
10
guerillamixer / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
20

Forum Jump
Forum Jump