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Screech
Old 27th November 2018
  #1
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Screech

This isn't really about remote recording, but it's about string players so I figured the folks here would know the most about it. Mods, please move if you want.

Early on in my career, I recorded a ton of medium to large string sections in medium to large rooms, and quite a few solo string recitals and quartets in various halls and such, and never thought much about it.

But in the last four years or so, I've had this weekly gig that regularly has me recording solo and duo and small-group strings in my small, dead room. And I've come to learn that sometimes, there's a lot of screech to deal with. And sometimes not.

And sometimes, like last night, there's the concertmaster of a famous symphony right next to another almost-as-heavyweight violinist. They're playing a duet which I'm capturing with one mic. The player with the V1 part is pretty mellow, the V2 player is a screechfest. V1 is supposed to mostly have the ball, so to speak, but V2 is a total distraction. Nightmare.

So what makes screech? The instrument? The bow? The strings? The rosin? The player? Not that I'm in a position to remedy any of it, I just want to know my enemy a little better.
Old 27th November 2018
  #2
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Well, your post title got my attention - where I come from, Screech is something you drink!
Old 27th November 2018
  #3
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I hope your kind of Screech is smoother than mine.
Old 27th November 2018
  #4
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

I don't care who's playing it, solo violin in a small, dry space is torture.

Try a ribbon, it helps.
Old 27th November 2018
  #5
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
Try a ribbon, it helps.
Used a 77, as always.
Old 27th November 2018
  #6
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Izotope RX is your friend!
Old 28th November 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Folkie View Post
Izotope RX is your friend!
It's great software, I used it recently to remove a wee bit of mic preamp distortion on a piano transient. It was a godsend.

Brent could also try something like filter freak (soundtoys), or fab filter, a gently rolling off of the highs can work wonders, with FF, you can do it dynamically, too - find the sweetspot and it'll react with whatever envelope you choose.
Old 28th November 2018
  #8
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I appreciate everyone's suggestions for dealing with it, thanks. I always manage to live over it.

But I was more interested in learning why a renowned player with stellar international credentials and a fiddle made in 1689 sounds like that.
Old 28th November 2018
  #9
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I appreciate everyone's suggestions for dealing with it, thanks. I always manage to live over it.

But I was more interested in learning why a renowned player with stellar international credentials and a fiddle made in 1689 sounds like that.
How old is the player? It may be that he's lost just enough hearing in his left ear he no longer hears it - a common problem for violinists. :(
Old 28th November 2018
  #10
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
How old is the player? It may be that he's lost just enough hearing in his left ear he no longer hears it - a common problem for violinists. :(
It's a she. I'm guessing 45-ish. And she's had the same tone for the four years or so that I've known her. But as I said, she's one of several. Violists and cellists, too.
Old 28th November 2018
  #11
Some highly-skilled string players are simply not used to playing chamber music. In a large hall, the nearest listeners are far away, and the annoying high frequencies go right over their heads. So what you and your microphone hear as "screech", the player may simply consider necessary "projection". Remember that what a violinist hears is radically different from what the audience hears. All violins sound screechy under the ear.

Sometimes it's possible to tactfully invite the player into the control room for playback and explain that "recording is different" and they might want to adjust their tone a bit.

Personally, I can't abide an "accurate" recording of a mandolin. I have a set of cheap Audio Technica ATM33R SDC's that I keep around in case I'm forced to close mic one. They probably have 12 mil thick diaphragm sputtering; they dull things down just enough to be tolerable, but not so much that the player complains.
Old 28th November 2018
  #12
I am not an expert, but I notice if I'm recording close to the violin source, there is a lot more scratchiness than I would hear ten rows back. I have two pairs of SDC mics I generally use, and one of them picks up the scratchiness much more readily than the other. I have a string player in my immediate family, and there are a lot of variables that produce that sharper scratchier sound up close, but not so much a bit further back -- which strings are being used, what hair was used on the bow, the rosin, and most of all, the instrument itself. These variables are more rounded out in a hall, but in a small room, you're always up close.

I invariably use the mics that pick up more of the scratchiness, and I make a cut to the frequencies around 6K hz until the two sets of mics are not sounding so different. I would never tell the players to attempt to modify their playing to suit the recording.
Old 28th November 2018
  #13
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Early21 View Post
I am not an expert, but I notice if I'm recording close to the violin source, there is a lot more scratchiness than I would hear ten rows back.
You're certainly right about that. But I have to play the cards I'm dealt. And from the center of my live room, 10 rows back would be in the middle of the street.
Old 28th November 2018
  #14
Right, so I'm advocating use of eq to reduce it, given the circumstances, rather than trying to get the players to make changes to the way they play.
Old 28th November 2018
  #15
The type of strings a violin player uses and the rosin they use when are big factors when it comes to how much screech one hears coupled with how close the microphones are to the player. I did a lot of recordings for the New Hungarian Quartet. The first and second violin players would always rosin up their bows and then really play their instruments hard and then clean their bows and retune before we started recording for the day. It seem to work as we never go much screech in any of their recordings.

FWIW
Old 28th November 2018
  #16
Thomas is spot-on about rosin. String players often have strong opinions about which brand and grade of rosin yields optimal tone and response on their instrument. As a player, I avoided the "bespoke" brands for many years -- "It's just boiled tree sap!" -- but once I finally dropped $35 on a cake of the fancy stuff, I could never go back.

As engineers, we cannot ask a violinist or cellist to change rosin, nor to change strings. (Interesting how we routinely suggest that guitarists do the latter!) One thing we can suggest is that they clean their strings at the start of a session. Having the player wipe her strings down using a cloth dampened with 70% isopropenol will remove excess rosin, and change the resulting frictional coefficients. (CAUTION: Never drip alcohol on the instrument finish!)
Old 28th November 2018
  #17
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick View Post
Thomas is spot-on about rosin. String players often have strong opinions about which brand and grade of rosin yields optimal tone and response on their instrument. As a player, I avoided the "bespoke" brands for many years -- "It's just boiled tree sap!" -- but once I finally dropped $35 on a cake of the fancy stuff, I could never go back.

As engineers, we cannot ask a violinist or cellist to change rosin, nor to change strings. (Interesting how we routinely suggest that guitarists do the latter!) One thing we can suggest is that they clean their strings at the start of a session. Having the player wipe her strings down using a cloth dampened with 70% isopropenol will remove excess rosin, and change the resulting frictional coefficients. (CAUTION: Never drip alcohol on the instrument finish!)
I said I wasn't going to do anything proactive. But maybe I'll make up a little gift basket with a bottle of wine, some nice cheese, and a printout of Thomas' and David's posts. Then I'll put the basket on her front porch, ring the doorbell, and run.
Old 30th November 2018
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Im a fiddler, not a violinist so take these with a grain of salt, they may be different. Ive done a LOT of experimenting recording fiddles, lots of different players of various ability levels.

Instruments and players are the biggest varibles. One thing in common I know, on axis to the f holes gets much more bow noise. Closer of course gets more scratch and screetch. Violins are designed to be heard at a distance and I think classical techniques are geared to that. So micing farther away is usually needed. If the bow is too noisy and I need to mic close, I often mic the opposite side of the bow arm from the top down, or over the headstock pointed at the players chin. This last one is how I mic myself.

Ribbon mics to me are essential for fiddle. The bow noise is very much rolled off but a high end ribbon mic (like my current fav, Royer SF12) can be eq'ed to add back in top end just fine.

I am in line to purchase the new AEA KU5A. After hearing the samples of violin recorded on it, I had to try one. Plus cardiod pattern and extended high end.

By the way, I use the SF 12 on mandolin players too with great results.
Old 1st December 2018
  #19
It depends on the player and some can be relatively close miked and some can't be.

Some players dig in with the bow and get a lot of surface noise - others play with a more legato and delicate bow arm. It's a combination of the room, the mic distance from the player, and the way the player attacks his instrument. Personally I don't think rosin really makes that much difference, although the amount of rosin on the bow does make a difference as to surface noise. Some bows can also bring out a rougher sound.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
Here for the gear
 

I'll offer a couple of tricks. I'm a fiddler now for 50 years and have recorded quite a bit. I learned from a friend in Nashville to use less rosin in general. I always wipe the excess rosin from the strings with a dry clean cloth. It will remove scrape sounds. You can also wipe the bow as well and it will help. Some players tend to use a lot of rosin. Mic choice is critical. You need a mic that has a very flat response or even a cut in highs. My favorite mic is my RCA varacoustic set on 1. I also place the mic almost directly over the fiddle about a foot above the bridge and aim it to hear the space to my left. Other mics I would choose would be Neumann U89, Neumann 193 or AKG 414B-ULS. If you place the mic pointed at the strings, place a second mic (KM84) under the fiddle recording the sound of the back of the instrument. The 2nd mic will sound horrible by itself but will even out the sound of the 1st mic. Mix in as to EQ. I also love manley tube pres. Hope this helps.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Lives for gear
Do you flip the polarity of the’underneath’ mic...like one does routinely when close miking a snare ? If not, rather than evening out...wouldn’t the 2 mics tend to null, or at least partially cancel and/or comb-filter, rather than ‘improve’ from the addition ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shelby View Post
I'll offer a couple of tricks. I'm a fiddler now for 50 years and have recorded quite a bit. I learned from a friend in Nashville to use less rosin in general. I always wipe the excess rosin from the strings with a dry clean cloth. It will remove scrape sounds. You can also wipe the bow as well and it will help. Some players tend to use a lot of rosin. Mic choice is critical. You need a mic that has a very flat response or even a cut in highs. My favorite mic is my RCA varacoustic set on 1. I also place the mic almost directly over the fiddle about a foot above the bridge and aim it to hear the space to my left. Other mics I would choose would be Neumann U89, Neumann 193 or AKG 414B-ULS. If you place the mic pointed at the strings, place a second mic (KM84) under the fiddle recording the sound of the back of the instrument. The 2nd mic will sound horrible by itself but will even out the sound of the 1st mic. Mix in as to EQ. I also love manley tube pres. Hope this helps.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Here for the gear
 

I listen to the 2 mics and determine whether the polarity needs to be inverted. It's pretty obvious. I read about this and then recorded in Virginia in an acoustic (bluegrass) studio and that was the setup they used. I used it on many recordings before I found the varacoustic.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Maniac
 

One more thing on fiddle mics. I recently got a Samar AL95. Best fiddle mic I've ever heard, plus very inexpensive at $400.00.
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