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Organ recording - comments and criticism requested
Old 28th January 2019
  #1
Organ recording - comments and criticism requested

Hey everybody, it's been quite a while since I posted here, because I've been away from recording for a long time. Finally making some new attempts now.

Today I got to record a pipe organ, something I've only done a few times before. I didn't get much chance for soundcheck, so I tried a few different mic combos and techniques to maximize my odds of getting something good out of it, and also to learn about the resulting differences.

Without revealing what mics were used or which techniques were employed, I'd like to request feedback on these 4 variations. I'm open to any comments or criticism, but in particular I'm interested in hearing thoughts on stereo width, amount of room sound (to wet or dry,) and tonal balance (appropriate bass levels for an organ, etc.)

These are all rough mixes just to evaluate the differences between various mics and methods. I haven't applied any EQ, effects, etc. These are pretty raw right now.

Once I've gotten some unbiased feedback on what's good and bad about each sample, I'll reveal which mics and methods were used (and of course try to make new and improved samples based on your feedback.) Thanks in advance for any insights you can share.

P.S. It was a school recital, and there was a minor snafu that resulted in no programs being available. I believe this excerpt is from Zwei Choralphantasien, Op. 40 by Max Reger, but I may have that wrong.

***EDIT: Had some trouble uploading files (first WAV files were too big, then it wouldn't accept FLAC, even though it says it does... so now we're down to MP3 files.)
Attached Files

test1_16.mp3 (5.50 MB, 908 views)

test2_16.mp3 (5.50 MB, 872 views)

test3_16.mp3 (5.50 MB, 871 views)

test4_16.mp3 (5.50 MB, 870 views)

Old 28th January 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
jimjazzdad's Avatar
I prefer Test 4. Followed by Test 2 and Test 1. As a side comment, my small but orderly brain prefers a simple two-choice test, like being at the optometrist - this? or this? I find it hard to remain objective flipping back and forth between multiple samples. However, I do understand that you are trying to narrow down the field without subjecting us to batteries of tests...looking forward to all the deets.
Old 28th January 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
I prefer Test 4. Followed by Test 2 and Test 1. As a side comment, my small but orderly brain prefers a simple two-choice test, like being at the optometrist - this? or this? I find it hard to remain objective flipping back and forth between multiple samples. However, I do understand that you are trying to narrow down the field without subjecting us to batteries of tests...looking forward to all the deets.
You make a good point about simple AB comparisons vs. multiple choice comparisons. It's a good point for me to keep in mind when doing my own evaluations, and even more so when I'm asking others to help me out. Duly noted.

Thanks for taking the time to listen and respond. Much appreciated! I'll reserve further comment on the recordings and methods until others have had time to respond.
Old 29th January 2019
  #4
Hmmm, if no one else is interested in comparing and choosing among samples 1-4, maybe you'd be interested in just listening to sample 5? This is my own interpretation of what's best about samples 1 & 4 above, still with very little processing, but not none.

I'd love to hear feedback on what's good or bad about this recording:
Test5 16 by Beowulf Recording | Free Listening on SoundCloud
Old 30th January 2019
  #5
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
Hey everybody, it's been quite a while since I posted here, because I've been away from recording for a long time. Finally making some new attempts now.

Today I got to record a pipe organ, something I've only done a few times before. I didn't get much chance for soundcheck, so I tried a few different mic combos and techniques to maximize my odds of getting something good out of it, and also to learn about the resulting differences.

Without revealing what mics were used or which techniques were employed, I'd like to request feedback on these 4 variations. I'm open to any comments or criticism, but in particular I'm interested in hearing thoughts on stereo width, amount of room sound (to wet or dry,) and tonal balance (appropriate bass levels for an organ, etc.)

These are all rough mixes just to evaluate the differences between various mics and methods. I haven't applied any EQ, effects, etc. These are pretty raw right now.

Once I've gotten some unbiased feedback on what's good and bad about each sample, I'll reveal which mics and methods were used (and of course try to make new and improved samples based on your feedback.) Thanks in advance for any insights you can share.

P.S. It was a school recital, and there was a minor snafu that resulted in no programs being available. I believe this excerpt is from Zwei Choralphantasien, Op. 40 by Max Reger, but I may have that wrong.

***EDIT: Had some trouble uploading files (first WAV files were too big, then it wouldn't accept FLAC, even though it says it does... so now we're down to MP3 files.)
It is the Choralphantasie "Wie schรถn leucht uns der Morgenstern" op. 40 Nr. 1 of Max Reger. As an organist I choose 3, because the direct and the indirect sound is the best in balance
.
Old 31st January 2019
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by dingenus View Post
It is the Choralphantasie "Wie schรถn leucht uns der Morgenstern" op. 40 Nr. 1 of Max Reger. As an organist I choose 3, because the direct and the indirect sound is the best in balance
.
Thanks! Getting an opinion from an actual organist here is a pleasant surprise. Thanks for the clarification regarding the name of the piece as well. Cheers!
Old 31st January 2019
  #7
Lives for gear
 
jimjazzdad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dingenus View Post
...As an organist I choose 3, because the direct and the indirect sound is the best in balance
.
One surprising thing I heard in conversation with an organist I know is how different the pipe organ sounds at the console in organ loft compared to the 'full blossomed' sound down in the nave. Of course sometimes the console is adjacent to the sanctuary or in other locations...but I wonder how the organist would ever know the sound in the middle of the congregation? Perhaps by listening in the audience when other organists play and then comparing? Organs are a great mystery to me
Old 31st January 2019
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
One surprising thing I heard in conversation with an organist I know is how different the pipe organ sounds at the console in organ loft compared to the 'full blossomed' sound down in the nave. Of course sometimes the console is adjacent to the sanctuary or in other locations...but I wonder how the organist would ever know the sound in the middle of the congregation? Perhaps by listening in the audience when other organists play and then comparing? Organs are a great mystery to me
Yep, you are right. Always listening while others play with your registrations. An other way is to use a direct listening system with 2 mics in the space on the right place with a closed headphone at the console. In the most big churches here in The Netherlands is that rule.
Old 1st February 2019
  #9
Well, I'd hoped for more responses before the reveal, but here goes. All the recordings are mid-side from the same spot in the chapel, roughly 20 feet away from the organ, maybe 10 feet or so up above the ground. I had an AKG CK91/CK94 pair as the main pickup, but also added my only omni coincident with the main pair so that I could use any combination of omni or cardioid mid when matrixing my mid side balance. The omni was (gulp) a Behringer ECM8000.

Since this was my first time recording a live gig straight to my laptop, I also recorded my trusty Shure VP88 mid side mic directly to an HD-P2 recorder as a backup. The VP88 was on the same stand, but 4-6 inches lower, so I wouldn't want to mix it with the others because of potential phase issues.

Here's the breakdown on mixes:
1) CK91/94
2) ECM8000/CK94
3) VP88
4) CK91/94, with 24dB/octave crossover mix, using ECM8000 for bass frequencies below 80Hz, and CK91 for everything over 80Hz
5) (added in post 4) CK91/94 with side 2(3?)dB down for a little less room, and +2dB at 30Hz to fill in the bass just a bit without needing the omni.

I'm quite happy with the concept of adding a coincident omni to a cardiod MS setup. It's working just as I'd hoped - I can tweak the amount of room up or down based on omni/cardioid balance. I'm not in love with ECM sound - l really want to get a better omni before I do this again - but the experiment has served its purpose.
Old 1st February 2019
  #10
Here are a few pics of the array and the chapel:

Killworth Chapel Organ - Google Photos

P.S. Don't worry! This was during sound check. Those cables got taped down safely as soon as I was sure of my mic placement.

P.P.S. I'd really love to have nice gear across the board, but in a way I also enjoy the challenge of doing the best I can with limited resources.

Last edited by Ebeowulf17; 1st February 2019 at 02:36 PM.. Reason: Added note about cables, trip hazard.
Old 1st February 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
P.P.S. I'd really love to have nice gear across the board, but in a way I also enjoy the challenge of doing the best I can with limited resources.
off topic: think you're bringing up a good point: i strongly believe that working with capable but not very expensive gear for many years made me work harder and maybe even contributed to becoming a better engineer - i don't mind working with high quality gear these days, but it's a privilege, not a necessity!

well, kinda: some projects, i simply couldn't do without my desk...

___


on topic: i'm always using a blm to capture the lowest notes of the organ. other than this, it's mostly a stereo main pair (or a soundfield) and a distant ambient pair - imo recording an organ is as much about capturing (the sensation one gets upon listening in) the room/hall/church as the instrument by itself.

i hardly ever feel the urge of going up very high with my mics - if so or if aiming at a more direct sound, i put the mic stands on the balcony for both main and ambient mics (with mains then more likely in very wide a/b).
Old 2nd February 2019
  #12
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Which setting for the "S" signal was used on the VP88? I stick with my choice of Test #4 . I think you need some omni LF response to get the best capture of an organ...YMMV.
Old 2nd February 2019
  #13
Arrow

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
Which setting for the "S" signal was used on the VP88? I stick with my choice of Test #4 . I think you need some omni LF response to get the best capture of an organ...YMMV.
The VP88 was set to MS output, recorded with equal gain, and matrixed with even levels during mixing. What I didn't realize, until your question prompted me to look closer, is that the side cartridge is 1.6dB more sensitive than the mid cartridge. So I thought I was doing 50/50 MS, but I think the sensitivity difference means I actually made a mix wth side 1.6dB higher than mid.

As for equivalent VP88 stereo settings, I *think* this is an exact match for their "wide" setting but I'm not totally positive if their descriptions of dB levels for various widths are including the sensitivity difference or not, so I could be wrong.

[***EDIT: I'm deleting the paragraph that was here about filter slopes and crossover errors. I simply mis-read something this morning. The settings were all correct after all!]

I'm also personally leaning towards Mix4, or at least some close variation of it.

The original performer liked Mix2 (omni mid,) citing the extra room sound, but I'm hesitant to use it, cause I don't like the tonal balance in the mids and high mids as much. I really like the overall sound of that CK91!

The organist who responded earlier in this thread chose the VP88 for the direct/room balance (which was apparently 1.6dB more side than mid,) so it seems organists are wanting a bit more room than my Mix4. I'm thinking maybe I'll try Mix4 with just a little more side mic (and the crossover correction) to see if I can get the room they want with the tone I want.

I don't have the experience to back it up, but based on my first experiment here, I'm inclined to agree with you about the omni bass response.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #14
Here's an updated version of Mix4, but with 2dB more side mic to give it just a little more room and width. I'm playing with this idea to satisfy the organist's desire for more room, but I'm not sure how I feel about it myself.

I've attached an MP3 copy, and here's a link to it on Soundcloud, where I was able to upload higher resolution:
Attached Files

test6_AKG-plus-sub-wider.mp3 (5.50 MB, 406 views)

Old 4th February 2019
  #15
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ebeowulf17 View Post
Here's an updated version of Mix4, but with 2dB more side mic to give it just a little more room and width. I'm playing with this idea to satisfy the organist's desire for more room, but I'm not sure how I feel about it myself.

I've attached an MP3 copy, and here's a link to it on Soundcloud, where I was able to upload higher resolution:
This is the best one in my ears. Why an organist wants to hear more space is, in my opinion, situated in the fact that a well intonated organ pipe is acoustically coupled with the space in which he sounds. (That is not about reverberation!) You can hear that by listening to the tone that sounds throughout the room when you release the key. This works even in relatively dry rooms. If the sound is gone immediately, not resonating in the room, the pipe is not properly intonated. So, if you make a too dry recording you miss a part of the sound. Conversely, if you have too little direct sound, that is true too.
Old 1st March 2019
  #16
Many thanks for all the help! I've finished work on the recording and I'm pretty happy with the results. I'm sure there are a million ways it could be better, but I'm so out of practice that I'm just glad to have done as well as I did.

The final mix is the same balance of mics as in the previous example, with just a little bit of EQ on the mid channel so that it doesn't get too flat when collapsed to mono, and with some gentle compression and track-to-track level adjustments.

I was a little unsure about how much(if any) level manipulation should be done, but got lots of good advice in another thread here and finally just went with what my ears told me. I just got feedback from the performer, who had originally said he would prefer no level adjustments, but when presented with both versions ended up saying he really liked the adjusted version and that the changes were tasteful. I was pretty nervous, so I'm thrilled to have gotten positive feedback!

If anyone's interested in hearing the results, it's all on SoundCloud at the link below. Of course I welcome all comments or criticism on both the level manipulation and the sound in general. I know I have a lot to learn, and this forum is a great resource. Personally, I especially like the sounds in the track named "Cooman 04..."

Wyatt Smith Kilworth Chapel Jan 27, 2019 Level-Comp-2 by Beowulf Recording | Free Listening on SoundCloud
Old 1st March 2019
  #17
Gear Head
 

A nice end result! What I do not understand is why you take into account any possible playback in mono. Someone who listen to this in mono is probably using such a moderate equipment that by definition it will sound bad.
Old 1st March 2019
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by dingenus View Post
A nice end result! What I do not understand is why you take into account any possible playback in mono. Someone who listen to this in mono is probably using such a moderate equipment that by definition it will sound bad.
Thanks!

I have a couple reasons for my anachronistic mono considerations. The first is simply that it was drilled into me during my education. I was lucky to study with several professors who I respect and admire deeply, but one in particular stands out. Bill Porter (Elvis, Roy Orbison, etc.) taught us a lot about how to listen and how to make the biggest improvements with rather subtle changes. He was also adamant about mono compatibility, for all the usual reasons (FM, TV, PA playback, etc.) He wouldn't evaluate any recording without checking it in mono, and he demonstrated time and time again in his own work that you can achieve stellar stereo results without sacrificing mono compatibility. I don't claim to live up to his standards, but I'm still largely guided by his influence. If I ever thought I was really sacrificing my stereo quality for the sake of mono, I'd have to reevaluate, but as long as I can work towards optimizing both, I'll continue trying to do so.

The second is my personal hearing problems. In a cruel twist of fate, a few years ago, and shortly after admitting that my overall hearing loss was bad enough to justify hearing aids, I got some sort of infection which suddenly destroyed much of my left ear. I have effectively no hearing above 1.6kHz or so in my left ear. For someone with a passion for audio, this was crushing. I was depressed, hopeless, and also disoriented for quite a while, but eventually learned to live with my situation and decided not to give up on audio.

As a result of my situation, music with instruments panned hard left falls apart. I can't listen to most Beatles or Hendrix recordings, nor most modal or post-bop jazz, unless I switch to mono. As such, I've got a habit of spending a lot of time (including my >3hr/day commutes) listening to music in mono.

I fully understand, and in many ways agree with, the logic that says mono doesn't matter... but for me personally it actually still matters an awful lot!!!

As for this particular recording, it was switching back and forth to mono that made me realize the mid was much duller than the sides, but after I found EQ settings I liked for the mid I spent a LOT of time A-B'ing the EQ change, both in stereo and in mono before committing to it. Much to my surprise, although the difference in mono was quite large (and welcome,) it was very subtle in stereo. What little change I did perceive in stereo seemed to add clarity, presence, or perhaps even sparkle, but not to detract or harm anything, so I committed to it. If it had a negative impact on stereo I probably wouldn't have done it, or at least would've used less of it.
Old 1st March 2019
  #19
Gear Head
 

Thank you for your detailed explanation. Here in The Netherlands we say, 'Every house has its cross'. But that is going on all over the world, I think. (I'm a professional organist with haevy Fibromyalgia) Strength with your hearing problems. Maybe, there may be hope for your hearing. A few weeks ago I read about a single injection in the ear that can resore the internal hearing. (Somewhere on the The Good News Channel https://www.gearslutz.com/board/the-good-news-channel/ )

Good luck!
Old 2nd March 2019
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by dingenus View Post
Thank you for your detailed explanation. Here in The Netherlands we say, 'Every house has its cross'. But that is going on all over the world, I think. (I'm a professional organist with haevy Fibromyalgia) Strength with your hearing problems. Maybe, there may be hope for your hearing. A few weeks ago I read about a single injection in the ear that can resore the internal hearing. (Somewhere on the The Good News Channel https://www.gearslutz.com/board/the-good-news-channel/ )

Good luck!
Thanks! Best of luck with your fibromyalgia too. I can't imagine what that must be like. I appreciate all your help here, and hope you're able to continue playing for a long time, despite your troubles.
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