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Recording a Singer-Songwriter in a Church
Old 7th September 2019
  #1
Recording a Singer-Songwriter in a Church

I've been doing location recordings for a few years now, but only occasional orchestral and choral gigs; my bread and butter is recording folk, rock & pop music in live spaces and shooting video to match. I don't see a lot of posts here in that niche (it is kind of a rare combination), so I wanted to share a video of mine and see what you all think of it. It's a very minimal mix so there wasn't a whole lot to do on my end, but I'd appreciate any feedback or criticism on the audio or video.

Here's a link to a blog post where I went into the recording process:

Behind the Scenes: Recording a Singer-Songwriter in a Church

And here's a straight link to the finished video:


Last edited by [email protected]; 4 weeks ago at 05:38 PM..
Old 7th September 2019
  #2
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
There are a fair amount if discussions about recording folk, rock & pop music during live music performances. You just have to look for them a bit deeper. Consider using the 'Popular Tags' at the top if the main page for the genre links.


Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
I've been doing location recordings for a few years now, but only occasional orchstral and choral gigs; my bread and butter is recording folk, rock & pop music in live spaces and shooting video to match. I don't see a lot of posts here in that niche (it is kind of a rare combination), so I wanted to share a video of mine and see what you all think of it. It's a very minimal mix so there wasn't a whole lot to do on my end, but I'd appreciate any feedback or criticism on the audio or video.

Here's a link to a blog post where I went into the recording process:

Behind the Scenes: Recording a Singer-Songwriter in a Church

And here's a straight link to the finished video:

Old 7th September 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I am involved in similar pursuits and I am glad you felt comfortable in posting this video for comment. The lighting and camera work certainly meet or exceed todays standards: the visual quality is strait forward and very appealing.
The audio portion however could be better IMO: there is a sonic disconnect between the guitar and the vocal. The guitar has a transparent, light touch, acoustic sound but the vocal is swimming in reverb. IMO they need to sound like they are occurring simultaneously.
The second and in some ways more important criticism of the vocal is dealing with a much kicked around question of style VxS substance. Most of the singer/song writers I have worked with understand the relevance between legibility and the attendant recognition factors that are paramount in selling lyrics.
I prefer to use a single tube mic in card pattern (Flea47 or AT4060) for acoustic guitar/vocal performance. 100 or more hours of monitoring with head phones will define the performers sweet spot in front of the mic. The mic will be in the visual capture window but should never be obstructing the face shot of the camera. Today it is very important to project a "live performance scenario" that is clearly not a pre recorded studio work over for the camera: if the goal is to attract live gigs.
Hugh
Old 7th September 2019
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
there is a sonic disconnect between the guitar and the vocal. The guitar has a transparent, light touch, acoustic sound but the vocal is swimming in reverb. IMO they need to sound like they are occurring simultaneously.
Hi Hugh, thanks for your feedback! I appreciate you listening, and I agree, there's much more reverb "on" the vocal than the guitar. However, I recorded this with a single AB stereo pair of microphones, so the guitar and vocal were captured together as a single source. Only the smallest touch of reverb was added in post, so I'd say 90% (if not more) is coming straight from the mics capturing the reverb in the room.

In the past, I've recorded people in this scenario with a single mono LDC, but the reverb caught by that mic was very flat and, well, mono. Adding enough reverb to get a decent sense of stereo depth and dimension usually ended up being too much reverb in the mix.

Do you think I could have better handled the disconnect you're perceiving by placing the stereo pair closer to the artist? That would cut down on the direct-to-reverb balance overall.
Old 7th September 2019
  #5
Lives for gear
 

I am well aware of the fact that it is not easy to influence a performer to work on a better technical protocol however that is exactly what I would recommend for the outstanding talent captured in this video. For starters the primary problem is the fact that the capture of his guitar work is much weaker than the vocal. Stereo micing is not helpful in this regard and for the record I much prefer a balanced mono protocol for a solo performer with a single card tube mic however this requires the performer to find their "sweet spot" with their personal mic of choice. I have six tube mics in my locker and for me the card only pattern of my Flea47next or AT4060 with a Mullard NOS tube are my favorites. I have several clients that much prefer one of my Pelusos (2247SE, P67 or P12).
If Kyle Donovan will set up a high quality card tube mic and directly monitor the shadings of his relationship to the mic as he plays and sings he will have identified a more important element in his performance than the guitar he plays. It is my opinion his skill as a singer, player and writer warrant the effort.

The entire question dealing with the pros and cons of of stereo micing a solo performer is long way from a settled issue.
Hugh
Old 8th September 2019
  #6
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Yes, the vocal outshouts the playing by a lot. Nothing unusual about this -- people these days have guitars with pickups and expect the imbalance to be correctible, so it's not something many of them even think about.

With either one mic or two, I would probably have found it hard to get both a good balance and good presence without my mic(s) being in the shot.

The good thing about using one mic in a situation like this is that when you use compression in either tracking or post (which I probably would), the gain reduction of the vocal and guitar are the same, and you don't have to contend with constantly-changing bleed.

Last edited by Brent Hahn; 8th September 2019 at 02:41 PM..
Old 9th September 2019
  #7
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swafford's Avatar
 

Hey Daniel - I'd agree with Hugh that if your artist works with a single mic and monitors his performance, he'll discover the balance between his guitar and his vocal much quicker. I generally have the opposite issue - when flatpicking, my playing can be much stronger then my voice and the only way I have found to achieve a proper balance is to work on that balance with a single mic and headphones. I prefer a big ribbon (AEA44), but sometimes use a tube mic (Horch RMJ2). Depending on the session, I sometimes revert to a two mic set up, which I suppose might be a visual issue for video.

When it is time to hit record, I ditch the headphones.

Regardless if I use 1 or 2 mics, I'd still use a stereo pair in the room 6-8 feet away to catch the natural reflections and blend that to taste.

I love working on location in rooms and natural spaces, especially ones that have history. I've done some recording in a cave near Soddy Daisy, Tn., the parlor of the house my dad grew up in in the Sequatchie Valley Tn. and I've been trying to get the little church he went to as a child to let me record in there, but they've been a bit hesitant. Unfortunately, the stuff I have done was always done quickly, so not always the best capture.
Old 10th September 2019
  #8
Thanks for all the feedback, it's much appreciated! So it's sounding like the main issue is the vocal & guitar balance, and that this is best remedied by having the artist play the guitar with more volume, then finding the sweet spot with the microphone.

I'm not opposed to having a mic in the shot as long as it doesn't block the performer; occasionally people ask me if I've recorded my videos live (they think it's lip sync) so that could even add to the realism. And moving it closer to the performer would give a more direct sound, so I wouldn't need to worry as much about the stereo spread of the reverb.

Has anyone experimented with MS stereo for a situation like this? That would seem to strike an ideal balance between a solid center and a little width on the sides.
Old 10th September 2019
  #9
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swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Has anyone experimented with MS stereo for a situation like this? That would seem to strike an ideal balance between a solid center and a little width on the sides.
Of course you should try it yourself, and lot's of people use M/S on singer/players, but my own experience is the guitar balance sounds unnatural.
Old 10th September 2019
  #10
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elswhrco's Avatar
 

It's so hard to record a singer/guitarist singing and playing at the same time. I've really struggled with it in the past, and I think what you've accomplished here is way more than good enough, particularly for a "live" video.
Old 10th September 2019
  #11
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whippoorwill's Avatar
I have done a lot of singer songwriter recording in churches.
I have experimented with every array possible on them.
M/S is a good option in a lot of ways but limited in that it can sound meh on instruments unless you use fig 8's or omni m/s.
Here's an omni m/s recording: Rens Heijnis schoeps mode

Here's a close spaced wide cardioid recording: Cassette on location with AD comparison

now I would mix a fig 8 vertical blumlein with a narrowly spaced room pair if I didn't have much time or do a narrowly spaced wide cardioid approach (possibly with a distant pair)

Last edited by whippoorwill; 10th September 2019 at 03:18 PM..
Old 10th September 2019
  #12
Gear Nut
The engineer I learned from always used an XY pair of RE20 in this situation - adjust the angle to shade the balance. A big dynamic can help obscure am overly live room if that is ever a concern.

Just another log for the woodpile.
Old 10th September 2019
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Hi Daniel,

I enjoyed the video/recording, found the blog post useful, and have no particular quibble with the audio. In terms of the video, I would like to see some wider shots showing the singer in the chapel and see no reason to avoid showing mics.

And the singer-songwriter recording issue resonates with me: in a few sessions scattered over the last year I have been working with a guitarist/vocalist on an album (not finished yet), recording in an early C18th chapel with an excellent acoustic and no traffic noise. After many tests, I settled on a parallel pair of fig 8 LDCs for the guitar (tipped forward so the nulls cancel the vocals) and another fig 8 LDC for the vocals (with its null towards the guitar): personally, I do like the guitar in stereo, and like the flexibility in post afforded by almost complete separation of the guitar and vocal tracks by the nulls (not least with a vocalist who has an extreme range in dynamics).

Cheers,

Roland
Old 12th September 2019
  #14
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
I've been doing location recordings for a few years now, but only occasional orchstral and choral gigs; my bread and butter is recording folk, rock & pop music in live spaces and shooting video to match. I don't see a lot of posts here in that niche (it is kind of a rare combination), so I wanted to share a video of mine and see what you all think of it. It's a very minimal mix so there wasn't a whole lot to do on my end, but I'd appreciate any feedback or criticism on the audio or video.
Wow- great Job!

Very professional production value- from audio to video. Also checked out your website and all of your videos look and sound amazing (imo). This is the kind of work that really helps artists get the point across- it's real (live takes), but it looks and sounds killer!

Cheers from a new member....

ps- I'm curious who else here is doing this kind of work (live recording- audio and video)? Getting both from one engineer is super convenient.
Old 12th September 2019
  #15
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edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Has anyone experimented with MS stereo for a situation like this? That would seem to strike an ideal balance between a solid center and a little width on the sides.
I use M/S a lot. It's nice to be able to adjust the "focus" of the image, and to also be able to adjust the amount of "room" or "reverb", along with the stereo "spread" to a degree. And all mostly in phase.
Every situation is unique of course, and M/S does not give you 100% control, but it can still be a very useful technique for this general type of recording situation, as far as it goes. IMHO. Good luck.

Last edited by edva; 12th September 2019 at 04:06 PM.. Reason: +
Old 12th September 2019
  #16
Here for the gear
 

Very high production values on both video and audio. Bravo! This performer is really good so it probably made your job a pleasure. I would change very little here and the only time the vocals really stand out above the guitar is on his vocal crescendos. I like the mic choice and placement. A little soft compression to reduce this might be all that is needed.

A+
Old 12th September 2019
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by whippoorwill View Post
I have done a lot of singer songwriter recording in churches.
I have experimented with every array possible on them.
M/S is a good option in a lot of ways but limited in that it can sound meh on instruments unless you use fig 8's or omni m/s.
Here's an omni m/s recording: Rens Heijnis schoeps mode

Here's a close spaced wide cardioid recording: Cassette on location with AD comparison

now I would mix a fig 8 vertical blumlein with a narrowly spaced room pair if I didn't have much time or do a narrowly spaced wide cardioid approach (possibly with a distant pair)
Hi whippoorwill, thanks for chiming in! I really enjoyed your post about recording a singer-songwriter to cassette, that was the first time I'd seen someone else applying a single stereo pair to that genre of music here (although I'm sure there have been some posts I've missed, as Remoteness noted).

Your recordings are lovely and I appreciate your input regarding polar patterns. It's way out of my price range right now, but the Josephson C700S seems like a great mic for this purpose, as it has both omni and figure-8 capsules for MS application. That said, I really do like the spaciousness that AB stereo gives to whatever reverb it picks up. If I was recording in MS, I might try setting up some figure-8's in a wide spacing behind the artist to pick up some decorrelated reverb signal.
Old 12th September 2019
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolksoundman9 View Post
Hi Daniel,

I enjoyed the video/recording, found the blog post useful, and have no particular quibble with the audio. In terms of the video, I would like to see some wider shots showing the singer in the chapel and see no reason to avoid showing mics.

And the singer-songwriter recording issue resonates with me: in a few sessions scattered over the last year I have been working with a guitarist/vocalist on an album (not finished yet), recording in an early C18th chapel with an excellent acoustic and no traffic noise. After many tests, I settled on a parallel pair of fig 8 LDCs for the guitar (tipped forward so the nulls cancel the vocals) and another fig 8 LDC for the vocals (with its null towards the guitar): personally, I do like the guitar in stereo, and like the flexibility in post afforded by almost complete separation of the guitar and vocal tracks by the nulls (not least with a vocalist who has an extreme range in dynamics).

Cheers,

Roland
Hi Roland, congrats on finding a chapel with no traffic noise! In the Denver area, all the best churches seem to be right on main intersections. Boulder's a little better, but you have to wait until at least 8pm for traffic to die down. I'd love to hear some stems from that recording; would you be open sharing? I'm most interested in how much of the guitar/vocal you were able to cancel out using the nulls.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BluesTrain View Post
Wow- great Job!

Very professional production value- from audio to video. Also checked out your website and all of your videos look and sound amazing (imo). This is the kind of work that really helps artists get the point across- it's real (live takes), but it looks and sounds killer!

Cheers from a new member....

ps- I'm curious who else here is doing this kind of work (live recording- audio and video)? Getting both from one engineer is super convenient.
cajundaddy, BluesTrain, elswhrco; thanks for the kind words! I do agree with the earlier posts that the vocal could be better balanced with the guitar, but I'm glad to hear you all enjoyed it.

There are several members here on the forum doing both audio & video; I'm guessing I'm not the only one who took this path, but I started out with audio and added video when my clients kept asking for it. I might get some heat for this, but I believe that audio is more of a challenge than video; or, it's much harder to get great audio than it is to get great video. I think this comes down to the fact that we're a more visually-oriented species/culture, so it can take some time to use your ears as a primary sense. That said, I'm far from mastering either and I have great respect for the people at the top of their class in both fields.
Old 12th September 2019
  #19
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Daniel,

My only suggestions are as follows.

I would have had some establishing shots, and wider angles introduced within this clip. On the audio side, I would pulled back the vocals, so they were more balanced with the guitar. I would have also reduced the vocal reverb volume. Seems a bit to much for my "ear," especially since the guitar doesn't sound as wet to me.

All in all, I enjoyed your production. The bottom line: you did a great job. I love the look of the video and the sound is clear and present.

Well done!
Old 13th September 2019
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Hi Roland, congrats on finding a chapel with no traffic noise! In the Denver area, all the best churches seem to be right on main intersections. Boulder's a little better, but you have to wait until at least 8pm for traffic to die down. I'd love to hear some stems from that recording; would you be open sharing? I'm most interested in how much of the guitar/vocal you were able to cancel out using the nulls.
Hi Daniel,

Rural chapels and churches of all sizes with quietness aren't much of an issue in rural Norfolk here in the UK: in the one I use most regularly, the biggest problem is the clock ticking (have to climb up and stop it) and the odd fly buzzing!

The recordings proper are still in progress, but here are some brief snippets from an early and rough take of one of the songs (so no need of a critique from anyone!). These comprise: the guitar and vocal combined, the guitar-only track and the vocal-only track. Should give you an idea of the bleed. The singer-songwriter is short, plays sitting down and fairly hunched over (i.e. mouth about as near to the guitar as you can imagine, so a worse-case scenario!). In more recent recordings I have reduced the bleed of guitar of the vocals a little more (and have used a better suited mic), but have stuck with the guitar approach (spaced pair of fig 8s, 30cm apart).

Anyway, very rough though it is, it should give you an idea of the nulls, which I find useful, along with the fact that the spaced pair on guitar gives stereo (as opposed to the commoner use of fig 8s for singer-songwriters: i.e. one on guitar and one on vocal).

Finally, note I'm not suggesting that this would be better than how you are already doing things!

Cheers,

Roland
Attached Files

Test - both tracks.wav (3.63 MB, 254 views)

Test - guitar.wav (3.63 MB, 249 views)

Test - vocal.wav (3.63 MB, 250 views)

Old 14th September 2019
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post
Daniel,

My only suggestions are as follows.

I would have had some establishing shots, and wider angles introduced within this clip. On the audio side, I would pulled back the vocals, so they were more balanced with the guitar. I would have also reduced the vocal reverb volume. Seems a bit to much for my "ear," especially since the guitar doesn't sound as wet to me.

All in all, I enjoyed your production. The bottom line: you did a great job. I love the look of the video and the sound is clear and present.

Well done!
Thank you Steve! Really appreciate your feedback. I agree, we could have set up a wider shot to establish the scene; Kyle wanted the aesthetic of a true single-shot video, but that's always a good tool to introduce a video.
Old 14th September 2019
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolksoundman9 View Post
Hi Daniel,

The recordings proper are still in progress, but here are some brief snippets from an early and rough take of one of the songs (so no need of a critique from anyone!). These comprise: the guitar and vocal combined, the guitar-only track and the vocal-only track. Should give you an idea of the bleed. The singer-songwriter is short, plays sitting down and fairly hunched over (i.e. mouth about as near to the guitar as you can imagine, so a worse-case scenario!). In more recent recordings I have reduced the bleed of guitar of the vocals a little more (and have used a better suited mic), but have stuck with the guitar approach (spaced pair of fig 8s, 30cm apart).
Thank you for sharing, Roland! A WAV file is worth a thousand words. And the song is beautiful, please feel free to send me a link once the recordings are finished.

To be honest, I'm surprised at how much bleed was in each track; both are well isolated given the fact that it's live, but I feel like I've gotten a similar amount of isolation with hypercardioids (haven't worked much with figure-8's) so I was just expecting something closer to a studio/booth level or isolation. That said, I couldn't detect any phasing issues once the mics were combined, so it's really a moot point; you've got great control over the mix in post, and no artifacts! Well done, especially considering that the artist wasn't making anything easy for you.
Old 14th September 2019
  #23
Gear Maniac
 

Hi Roland
I like your recording very much. I just don't understand, how the mics were positioned. Can you explain that again or maybe you have a session photo, that would be great.
What mics did you use for that session?
Greetings
Ronald
Old 14th September 2019
  #24
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RFrommann View Post
Hi Roland
I like your recording very much. I just don't understand, how the mics were positioned. Can you explain that again or maybe you have a session photo, that would be great.
What mics did you use for that session?
Greetings
Ronald
That's the information you'll find on his blog.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post

Here's a link to a blog post where I went into the recording process:

Behind the Scenes: Recording a Singer-Songwriter in a Church
Old 15th September 2019
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

In thi s case I was asking Roland for the details. Sorry for being unclear.
Old 15th September 2019
  #26
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RFrommann View Post
In thi s case I was asking Roland for the details. Sorry for being unclear.
In thi s case, you're asking Roland to tell you what he already told all of us. I thought he was being clear.
Old 15th September 2019
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Thank you for sharing, Roland! A WAV file is worth a thousand words. And the song is beautiful, please feel free to send me a link once the recordings are finished.

To be honest, I'm surprised at how much bleed was in each track; both are well isolated given the fact that it's live, but I feel like I've gotten a similar amount of isolation with hypercardioids (haven't worked much with figure-8's) so I was just expecting something closer to a studio/booth level or isolation. That said, I couldn't detect any phasing issues once the mics were combined, so it's really a moot point; you've got great control over the mix in post, and no artifacts! Well done, especially considering that the artist wasn't making anything easy for you.
Hi Daniel,

Thanks. As I said, I have reduced the guitar bleed in the vocal mic since, but the vocal bleed in the guitar remains the same as in this test. It is, of course, a balance between bleed/isolation and dryness/wetness (and being wary of proximity effect) all set in the context of the proximity of the two sound sources (in this case, extremely close). I like the approach, but it is only one of many.

Cheers,

Roland
Old 15th September 2019
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
In thi s case, you're asking Roland to tell you what he already told all of us. I thought he was being clear.
Thanks Brent,

So did I!

Cheers,

Roland
Old 15th September 2019
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RFrommann View Post
Hi Roland
I like your recording very much. I just don't understand, how the mics were positioned. Can you explain that again or maybe you have a session photo, that would be great.
What mics did you use for that session?
Greetings
Ronald
Hi Ronald,

Thanks. As I said, 2 ldc fig 8s on the guitar, 30cm apart as spaced pair (i.e. parallel) tipped downwards so nulls angled to mouth. Vocals were single ldc fig 8 null angled to guitar.

Cheers,

Roland
Old 15th September 2019
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks Roland, I got that so far.
I still can imagine two different ways to set up the mics:
1. Parallel, Vertical, tilted downwards, so the null of the top comes into play
2. both mics mounted horizontally Head to head in one line with the distance of 30cm, rotated, so that the capsule points towards the guitar and the null against the mouth.

I just don't know, whether the null on the side is more effective than the top.
So you went for version 1? Which mics did you use and what mic came into play, when you changed your setup?
Thanks for clarification. Maybe it's not my geometry day today
Greetings
Ronald
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