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Tympany Spot Mic?
Old 21st April 2016
  #1
Tympany Spot Mic?

Okay, I get the idea of the tymp spot; the sound of the mallet hitting the head, the presence of the drum and all.

I recorded a small symphony orchestra recently and spotted the tymp, well, 'cause I had a free input, a good mic, and an extra stand. The one-meter rule was observed.

But I could find no way to use the track in a basic two-mic main pair recording (actually a Faulkner array). Nothing I did didn't bring the drum too far to the front and too present in the mix. Sounded pasted on. The main array sounded good, lots of tymp as expected, but I hear about the importance of micing the tymp, the harp, the celleste, and all, so the the "character" of the instrument is heard.

Can I now assume that this only works in a severely multi-miced orchestra? Or is there some trick to blending a spot into a main pair recording that works; gates with side-chains, extreme EQ, what?

You all know that I am a less-is-more engineer but I am sincerely asking if it's possible to use one or two instrument spots in the sort of recordings I make as a rule, and have it work? I am a firm believer that composers wrote their work so that all the instruments can be heard as intended, the quieter instruments having a space cut out to be heard by the audience. Why else would they be included in the score? I am not speaking here about solo spots; solo vocalists, concerto front-and-center instruments, the like. I am talking about those inter-ochestral instruments that I might like to have sound a bit more tonal than what I get in my mains.

Thoughts?

D.
Old 21st April 2016
  #2
Lives for gear
Hi Doug,

I don't know what the 1 metre rule is...but I've always spot miked a tympani (set of...plural) from about 6 to 9 feet up or a little more. Maybe with a single drum (is that your situation here ?) you could go lower...but that sort of increased height lets the mic 'look down upon' all 3 or 4 drums equally. From that sort of height you probably want a cardioid or a hyper...certainly not an omni.

I tend to want to enhance the 'attack of the thwack' rather than the sound of 'distant thunder rumbling'.... which the main pair can usually capture happily enough anyway. A tighter pattern cardioid (especially from that height) keep a lot of the other instruments out. I suppose if you really wanted it to be a dedicated spot you could even put a gate over it...or a limiter ?

A tymp spot is not mandatory...a lot will depend upon whether it has a reflective wall behind it to project its sound forward...or curtains which will tend to form a corner bass trap ?

Are you recording multitrack for later mixing, or live to 2 track ? I think of all the spot mics this is the one that's going to benefit most from delaying, as it's likely one of the furthest from the main pair, and also time of arrival is going to be noticeably faster than when it hits the pair, due to the transient nature of it. Fr this reason it lends itself more to a multitracking approach, where you can delay it to arrive...perhaps even fractionally after the mains.

It's also the spot mic that's going to have to have it's gain adjusted to cater for some of the widest dynamics of all instruments...from the barely audible distant thunder to the cannon-blast thwack ! Maybe gain riding this mic (if you're following a score) could be the best compromise..but it's probably the spot mic that deserves the lowest gain setting of all.

Repeating myself...the tymp spot is not mandatory, only use it if your mains are lacking something. You may want to accentuate the 'distant thunder'and nothing more...that's a perfectly fine reason to spot them, and to ride that gain selectively.

I agree with you that the musical score composition should make up for mic pickup deficiencies..and quite often the only thing I consistently want hear more of is a little extra woodwind. Often a simple outrigger pair in addition to the main pair will pull in all the additional tympani you could ever want, and negate completely the need for a spot !
Old 21st April 2016
  #3
Gear Head
 

Similar experience here to Studer58....I'd normally spot from 6-9ft up as well...I'd normally use something like a 414 (usually in cardioid) or a KM184 for this kind of thing...just for extra definition if the repertoire needs it.
Old 21st April 2016
  #4
Lives for gear
Here's an old Decca session photo which has been seen here before, with not a tymp mic anywhere nearby....BTW notice how high the woodwind mics are just in front of the tymps however.....they would undoubtedly be catching some tymp pickup as well.

It's viewable at: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/10982016-post17.html

Also see the session notes from the 1971 Royce Hall (UCLA) Mehta/LAPO recording of 'The Planets'...yes there seem to be 2 (eq'd) KM64 tymp mics used...and of interest is the "Remarks" column advice.
Attached Thumbnails
Tympany Spot Mic?-mehta-planets1971-decca-mic-notes.jpg  
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Here's an old Decca session photo which has been seen here before, with not a tymp mic anywhere nearby....BTW notice how high the woodwind mics are just in front of the tymps however.....they would undoubtedly be catching some tymp pickup as well.
Here's a much nicer, greatly enlarged version of the same photo for you

https://jaedaniel.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/decca.jpg
Old 21st April 2016
  #6
Oh yes there is a timp spot mic in the Decca pic. There are several mic stands on the percussion row. Look at the mallets, it is clearly visible. Then look back at the timps, you can find it. Not that clear, though.
Old 21st April 2016
  #7
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Here's what esteemed recording engineer for Decca in the Golden Years, Kenneth Wilkinson ('Wilkie') had to say about the Decca Tree and spot miking:

Kenneth Wilkinson is quoted as saying (in Michael H. Gray's, 'The Birth of Decca Stereo', in the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, November 1987, vol. 8, no. 1, page 7):

"You set up the Tree just slightly in front of the orchestra. The two outriggers, again, one in front of the first violins, that's facing the whole orchestra, and one over the cellos. We used to have two mikes on the woodwind section -- they were directional mikes, 56's in the early days. You'd see a mike on the tympani, just to give it that little bit of clarity, and one behind the horns. If we had a harp, we'd have a mike trained on the harp. Basically, we never used too many microphones. I think they're using too many these days."

Would you call his use of spots 'minimal' 'optimal'...over the top ?
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
Oh yes there is a timp spot mic in the Decca pic. There are several mic stands on the percussion row. Look at the mallets, it is clearly visible. Then look back at the timps, you can find it. Not that clear, though.
Yes you're right...there's a row of 3 low stands: one in front of the xylophone, one in front of the tympani, and one off to the far left of the photo, for percussion also. Very low for a tymp spot, but there it is.

There also seems to be an elevated piece of Dexion angle iron, shown directly above (but in fact behind) the tympani, with a pair of mics above and below it...I wonder what that could be pointing at (a chorus perhaps..or additional percussion such as tubular bells or a thunder sheet) ?
Old 21st April 2016
  #9
Hi Doug - Kudos on using your extra channel! I'm always up for that. In response to your question: spotting the timpani should be a response to the sound of the timpani in your mix.

If you have only a main pair, and the timpani sounds like it is under a blanket, very dark, indistinct, or distant, then it might benefit from a spot. Brighter is usually better, as you generally don't need to change volume of the instrument -- just the perspective (presence). If you have 30+ mics or if you have the bad habit of placing your mains too low, then the chances of needing a spot on timpani (and elsewhere) are increased.

The choice of mallet will greatly affect the sound of the timpani, and you have to be hip to what is desired. The size of the ensemble and hall will affect it too. A pair of timp in a chamber ensemble and might be 15' away from the mains in a small space. In a large hall and group, they might be 40' away.
Old 21st April 2016
  #10
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DaveyJones's Avatar
 

For me personally, I often use a Schoeps MK8 at about 8-9 feet off the floor with the 180 pickup going straight up in the air.

I find this gives a nice focused sound but also retains some air as the pickup going in 2 directions. It also helps block other orchestral sound by placing them in the null.

To help the sound not be too 'upfront' or direct, you can send the signal to some external reverb - this will help the timp sit back in the mix when faded up.


Dave
Old 21st April 2016
  #11
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
... I could find no way to use the track in a basic two-mic main pair recording (actually a Faulkner array). Nothing I did didn't bring the drum too far to the front and too present in the mix. Sounded pasted on.
This sort of work isn't my main thing, but I've done it enough in church situations to know what you mean. "Pasted on" is exactly it. For me, I was making the problem worse by using a transformerless main pair with spots that had transformers. The spots were always too "right there." Switching to TLM-type spots made them blend better.
Old 21st April 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
But I could find no way to use the track in a basic two-mic main pair recording (actually a Faulkner array). Nothing I did didn't bring the drum too far to the front and too present in the mix. Sounded pasted on.
Bringing in the tymp spot at any sort of level approaching ' audible' is just inviting a working, undesirable example of the Haas or Precedence Effect : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precedence_effect

and the only way to avoid this is either by diligent gain riding, delaying or other means of ensuring that it never draws attention to itself.
Old 21st April 2016
  #13
The "one-meter" rule says no mics or pair closer than one meter from the source. My tymp mic was about 8' above a pair of drums.

So if I am not able to bring the mic level up to "audible" level does that mean that merely putting the mic up and never turning it on will help with tymp definition? Sorry, couldn't resist.

So other than gain riding, which I still don't think would solve the problem, there really is no use for a tymp spot in a minimal mic session. Seems like I had the answer before I ask the question.

Thanks all for your insight.

D.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
So if I am not able to bring the mic level up to "audible" level does that mean that merely putting the mic up and never turning it on will help with tymp definition? Sorry, couldn't resist.
Yes, precisely..because the mic's mere presence causes the tympanist to play more accurately and attentively than they would were it not present, thereby rendering it unnecessary to be sending any signal into your mix. It's called the Tourtelot Tautology
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #15
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Yes, precisely..because the mic's mere presence causes the tympanist to play more accurately and attentively than they would were it not present, thereby rendering it unnecessary to be sending any signal into your mix. It's called the Tourtelot Tautology
Added scrutiny. Makes sense. I guess that's why in "The Prisoner" we never saw Number Six pick his nose.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #16
For me, the timp spot is usually spot no. 3 in a live concert. So woodwinds would get couple, and if i though the timp was too far back from the main pair, I will give it a spot as well, and it certainly helps to have other spots in the mix.

The trick? Make sure the spot volume is below the main pair volume. You should never "hear" the spot, only let it add to what is already there. And, of course, pan the spot to where the timpani is in the main pair.

Sometimes if I think the main pair bass is too muddy, I'll mic the contrabass as well and cut the overall bass in the mains in post. It certainly helps add a little punch and clarity to the sound.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #17
Could it be a simple matter of too much direct a sound from the typani compared to the rest of the orchestra and could you delay the microphone to make it match the overall pickup?

Just an idea...
Old 22nd April 2016
  #18
Thanks Tom. I did delay it against the main pair. I just think that in a recording that isn't otherwise spot-mic'd, I was hard pressed to make the tymp spot fit in the mix.

I can see the need for spots in a session, I'm sure but this experiment didn't really work form me. I am not doing the sort of recordings that would benefit in any way from more than basic post production, so there is no way that I will spend any time eq-ing a spot into a two (or four) mic mix.

Thanks all for the input.

D.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #19
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just.sounds's Avatar
Most of the time i tend to delay 6 to 9 ms just to mix it in as a fake first reflection. Haas helps you a bit and let's you mix in a bit without it being very noticable.
Stereo spotting helps also to let you push it just a bit more. And some first reflections from reverb for even just a bit more ;-)
Old 23rd April 2016
  #20
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Don S's Avatar
 

If it sounds "pasted on", then it's placed too close. Spots don't always have to be extremely close to an instrument. I like a little air in the spot if I can get it, and it blends better sometimes as well.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #21
The Decca setup sheet (for a session on which James Lock was the lead engineer) specifies 2xkm64 tymp (timp) mics.

I like this sound myself. Just find yourself 2 km64s and you are golden!

I kid. But kidding aside,

I find that it works best to use a placement about 2 feet from the heads of the drums to give the best mix-able sound. You get plenty of the low part of the sound in your mains, and what you really need is the pop, the attack, the transient sound, to make it punch through, and a closer placement will give more of this.

The Decca guys would use 1 mic for a pair of tymps, 2 for 3 and 4 drums, 3 for 4 and 5, etc. point the mic at the place where both drums come together, with the mic itself sitting at the sort of "circumference" of the curvature of the outside of the drums, and about 5' off the deck. This should be about 2' or so from where the mics are pointed, though I admit I've never measured it with a tape measure. This is the Decca thing. I hope I've described it accurately! I like this technique, and it gives me the sound I'm looking for most of the time.

Christian said something which is very important, which is that the choice of mallets and drums makes a huge impact on the sound you will get.
Old 19th December 2018
  #22
Lives for gear
Maybe eq-ing some of the bass (say below 180) out of the spots will allow them to contribute more of the desired attack and less of the 'mud', which the mains tend to have no trouble capturing.

So the purpose of this eq-ing is to restore some of the impact that's drained away due the the distance between main pair and tymps. Delaying could also help...the aim of both delaying and eq would be to allow you to use less level of spot to achieve the desired effect.

Just wondering if there's a case to be made for using a dynamic mic in place of a condenser as a tymp spot, as it would tend to pick up less spill from nearby brass etc ? Say an RE20 or MD421 perhaps ? A typical dynamic mic can be a bit 'gate-like', in terms of insensitivity to nearby off axis sounds, which is just what's desired in this case. I wonder what an orchestra spot miked with SM57s would sound like ?

Of course folks also use fig 8 condensers and ribbons, to gain more spot distance and allow the rear lobe to assist in spot:mains integration
Old 19th December 2018
  #23
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jnorman's Avatar
Doug - there are three things that can help push a spot mic back in the mix. Additional reverb, eq’ing out the upper frequencies, and lowering the volume will each work toward smoothing a spot into the main tracks. I think the one meter rule is quite appropriate here.
Old 19th December 2018 | Show parent
  #24
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Yannick's Avatar
 

I find this 1 meter rule a bit limiting.
If I can place a mic at 10 cm, and have it work better with less bleed at a lower level in the mix, than why adhere to this 1m limit ?

If you are looking for the clean attack, try placing a mic at 10 cm from the edge of two timpani, in between them, at exactly the height of the skin.

You will find you need much less level on that track than when you put a timp mic 2-3m above them.
Old 19th December 2018 | Show parent
  #25
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time versus phase alignment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
I find this 1 meter rule a bit limiting.
If I can place a mic at 10 cm, and have it work better with less bleed at a lower level in the mix, than why adhere to this 1m limit ?

If you are looking for the clean attack, try placing a mic at 10 cm from the edge of two timpani, in between them, at exactly the height of the skin.

You will find you need much less level on that track than when you put a timp mic 2-3m above them.
this!

even dynamic mics mostly do fine here. and one could use expanders (not gates!) to lower some of the constant low level ringing.

i only use a single somewhat more distant oh mic on timpany if there is something to balance with at the other side of the stage (but certainly not as high up as 2-3m). often, it's just some attack i want so i mostly high pass timpany mics on the way in.

___

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Okay, I get the idea of the tymp spot; the sound of the mallet hitting the head, the presence of the drum and all.

I recorded a small symphony orchestra recently and spotted the tymp, well, 'cause I had a free input, a good mic, and an extra stand. The one-meter rule was observed.

But I could find no way to use the track in a basic two-mic main pair recording (actually a Faulkner array). Nothing I did didn't bring the drum too far to the front and too present in the mix. Sounded pasted on. The main array sounded good, lots of tymp as expected, but I hear about the importance of micing the tymp, the harp, the celleste, and all, so the the "character" of the instrument is heard.

Can I now assume that this only works in a severely multi-miced orchestra? Or is there some trick to blending a spot into a main pair recording that works; gates with side-chains, extreme EQ, what?

You all know that I am a less-is-more engineer but I am sincerely asking if it's possible to use one or two instrument spots in the sort of recordings I make as a rule, and have it work? I am a firm believer that composers wrote their work so that all the instruments can be heard as intended, the quieter instruments having a space cut out to be heard by the audience. Why else would they be included in the score? I am not speaking here about solo spots; solo vocalists, concerto front-and-center instruments, the like. I am talking about those inter-ochestral instruments that I might like to have sound a bit more tonal than what I get in my mains.

Thoughts?

D.

regarding alignment: well, it ain't possible to properly align a spot mic to spaced pairs and even much less to a four mic array: the further the width of the main array, the more problematic TIME alignment becomes and instruments with lots of lf/which go very low are even more challenging 'cause they can only get PHASE aligned...

using hp on the spot mic can help to mask issues though and also to use a separate efx device on tracks from spot mics.

___


[for lots of work i'm doing, the decision of what to use (and what not) is not based on taste, but on technical requirements, for both signals on the way in and on the way out.

what you experienced when using a four mic array and a spot on an instrument which has lots of attack/transients plus that goes very low makes for a perfect case study as it is the worst combination one can think of regarding alignment... - not even a fair chance when using a sophisticated speaker controller with multiple allpass filters. the only (partial) remedy would be to use but the inner mics; possibly not the sound you're looking for.

pls note that this is not to critique you or the sound you are trying to achieve! it's a comment from someone who claims to have learned a lesson or two after having aligned close to 3500 speaker systems so far]

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 19th December 2018 at 05:12 PM.. Reason: edited
Old 19th December 2018 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
I find this 1 meter rule a bit limiting.
If I can place a mic at 10 cm, and have it work better with less bleed at a lower level in the mix, than why adhere to this 1m limit ?

If you are looking for the clean attack, try placing a mic at 10 cm from the edge of two timpani, in between them, at exactly the height of the skin.

You will find you need much less level on that track than when you put a timp mic 2-3m above them.
I think of spot mics as caricature or signature mics....in other words, their job description is to give us a facsimile of the instrument in question which will enhance or 'realise' the picture that the main pair paints of it for us....or more usually mitigates the failings of the latter (by making up for lost focus, or impact, usually)

Look at the indignities we impose upon them...all in the name of bending them to our will ! We filter them by rolling off bass, mids or treble respectively....we delay them, soak them in reverb, perhaps pan in extremis....all in the name of preventing them from drawing attention to themselves, and also from flattening stereo depth and perspective.

I'd agree with Yannick that prescribing 1m is too constraining ....use whatever distance gives you enough of that caricature or facsimile of the whole instrument(s) in question. If you were miking that same instrument in a solo capacity, then for a piano 1m could still be too close, but around ok for clarinet, flute, harp, trombone, horn etc. It also depends on how much leakage/spill/bleed from adjacent mics you are wanting to admit or exclude.

Yannick's piccolo at 10cms, though painful and just wrong if it were a solo instrument, could perhaps be just right in an orchestral context. Whatever assists in pulling off the desired illusion is right !

The usual wisdom that pertains with instrument (not spot) miking is that you need to give enough space/distance for the 'sound to develop'....but that is not germane to the spot production of the caricature/signature model I've advanced above.

1m....I guess 'it depends' ?
Old 19th December 2018 | Show parent
  #27
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Yannick's Avatar
 

I agree one should make a distinct distinction between group/support mics (for level balancing), and spot mics that are needed to make the image clear.

This second kind of spot mic often does not benefit from a really natural sound, which sometimes tends to fight more with the main array pickup. More so if the spotted instrument is already loud enough in the main array (as timpani most often are, just too blurred/distant to be precise).
Old 19th December 2018
  #28
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Larry Elliott's Avatar
Interesting thoughts in this thread.

Two comments:

I use cardioid mics quite close 500mm to timps for spots - always with LF cut - often one mic per pair of timps. Actually an SM57 has almost the preferred frequency response.

Ask the player to used harder mallets - these will give natural "bite" to the impact which in my mind is generally what is needed. There will always be sufficient "rumble" picked up by other mics.

Larry
Old 19th December 2018
  #29
Doug, if I'm reading you right, as you increase the volume your perception is that compared to the main pair alone you get:

Nothing (add gain) - Nothing (add gain) - Nothing (add gain) - Nothing (add gain) - WHOA TOO MUCH!

I have a similar problem sometimes when I take a DI from an electric piano (that has it's own speakers on stage) and add it to what's picked up by the main pair. My trick to give me that subtle enhancement of the percussive nature of the instrument is to EQ it drastically to get the bit I'm looking for, and then add that in at relatively low level.

So I'd suggest listening to the main pair alone, and deciding if you're missing anything on the tympani in the first place, and then if you are, don't be shy about butchering the spot mic sound to get just the elements you want (EQ, gating) and try adding that in. I also find that if I'm adding reverb to the overall mix at all that the spot mics can sometimes be sent JUST to the reverb to enhance the overall sound.
Old 20th December 2018
  #30
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FWIW, I'd go...

Nothing, add gain
Nothing, add gain,
Nothing add gain,
Wow, too much,
Split the difference between the last two.

Then try muting and see which is better. Quickly muting and unmuting helps you get a feel for the difference, and you'll have a better idea of which you prefer.

FWIW, the correct delay distance helps things snap into place. You don't need much of the spot mics, just enough that you can listen into the mix and hear each instrument (or section) clearly.

Chris
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