guerilla string session- advice needed

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the brill bedroom
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guerilla string session- advice needed

Post by the brill bedroom » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:47 pm

well, i've really done it now. i have a celiist, viola player and violinist coming to my home studio for a couple hours on Sunday. I'm not aiming for perfect, gorgeous strings, but i'd like to do a decent job of micing them.

i've only got an M Box at home, so two inputs- a stereo setup. here are my mic choices, i could use some advice on placement and which ones to use.

My "best" mic is an ADK Vienna- a large diaphragm condensor that is full sounding with an airy vibe, but it's a bit directional. It's got the omni sign on the capsule, but I've noticed that it really favors whatever is right in front of it

next is an AKG C2000 which is just a great all- around condensor mic.

Those would be my normal choices, but I also have this thin, long Optimus condensor that I got at Radio Shack years ago that I've used to record acoustic guitar (it's usually my fingerboard mic) taht has a nice bright sound to it. i also have a beta 57A which sounds good on everything.

So, what do you all think? How should I position them (the players and /or the mics)? probably record them with no compression, right? I also have the Sony Stereo mic I bought for $99 with my minidsic recorder, so maybe I'lll run the minidisc as well just as backup or for a different sound.

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Post by Phiz » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:12 pm

I've never done anything quite like that, but here is what I'd try first. Have them circle up around a single mic, sort of bluegrass style. Move individual players forward and back a little bit until you get a balance between the instruments. Make your second mic a room mic back off somewhere. Setup the stereo pair in the minidisc a few feet back off the musicians such that you get a nice mix of direct sound and room reverb.

Hopefully they will be patient, so that you can play around and try stuff out.

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Post by drumsound » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:26 pm

Tell us more about the project please.

Its really hard to give advice without knowing what the music the strings are recording is. The string on Georgio Moroder's 70s disco hits is very different from the strings Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin used on "Dusty in Springfield." A group recording classical string quartet music will require something different all together.



BTW, The Brill Bedroom is the absolute BEST screen name EVER!

:D

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Post by GrimmBrotherScott » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:27 pm

Wouldn't this be THE session to use ORTF ( ORTF - Office de Radio-Television Francaise - two cardioids angled 110 degrees, spaced 170 mm.)?
Last edited by GrimmBrotherScott on Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:30 pm

drumsound's got it dead on.

The biggest issue I've always had recording strings cheaply / quickly is the balance. You can't just close mic everything and play with the levels later (well you can, and I have, but I don't suggest it unless you're really trying to make them sound like they're from outerspace).

Just remember that the Violin and Viola are going to be projecting their sound up, while the cello will be projecting closer to the floor and straight out. If you're recording them to layer over a rock band, or other non-clasical music, you may be better off micing the cello by itself (so you can accentuate the low end a bit).

Good luck!
-marc

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Post by the brill bedroom » Thu Nov 10, 2005 5:41 pm

It's acoustic oriented Beatley pop with light drums that i've done on my 1/2" 8 track and now I'm in pro tools for overdubs and mixing. That's an intersting perspective; I had assumed that the thing to do was stereo mic, but I can see how it might be smarter to try to get a balance on the violin and viola and mic the cello seperately. i can still use the minidisc for stereo vibe if I want, but since almost everything else on the recording is in mono (including drums), I might be better off not worrying about a stereo spread (since I think i don't really have the right mics for that approach).

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Post by GrimmBrotherScott » Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:35 pm

Just as an FYI, the ORTF was used extensively because it translated so well to mono. You may want to do a search for it and read a little about it. I think it might save you a ton of time. Typically, classically trained musicians understand that their performances individually need to "sum up" as a whole, so you wouldn't need to mix them yourselves, they do that for you.

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Post by drumsound » Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:58 pm

Can you borrow a pair of mics from a buddy? Are you anywhere nere central IL? I'll hook you up if you are. M/S, ORTF, XY might all be cool. If it's a pop thing you might want less room sound compard to classical. Do go too dry though. Strings need a little space to not sound harsh and scratchy. Again because its pop compression might be OK.

I think if all the other tracks are mono, stereo strings could be cool. A little contrast is a good thing.

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Post by the brill bedroom » Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:17 pm

Thanks for the offer, but i'm in Boston (my heart is in Urbana, though, or wherever the guys from Velvet Crush, The Shoes and Material Issue are from- what's up with all the great Illinois pop bands?). I think I'll have to use the mics i have- they have served me well with other acoustic instruments.

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Post by drumsound » Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:32 pm

the brill bedroom wrote:Thanks for the offer, but i'm in Boston (my heart is in Urbana, though, or wherever the guys from Velvet Crush, The Shoes and Material Issue are from- what's up with all the great Illinois pop bands?). I think I'll have to use the mics i have- they have served me well with other acoustic instruments.
Illinois is all about the power pop. Don't forget Cheap Trick! They're from Rockford. The Shoes are from Zion. Material issue was from Chicago. They're drummer in now playing with The Ladies and Gentelmen along with Skid Marks formerly of Box-O-Car and The Charming Beggars. I'm in Bloomington and my band Wiplot is a bit off kilter power pop.

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Post by jajjguy » Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:46 pm

here's one idea:
put the cello in the middle, violin and viola on either side. put the ADK 2-3 feet in front of the cello at about bridge height. put the AKG right above the ADK, maybe 6 feet off the ground, aiming down (in omni, if that mic has omni).
this way both mics are roughly the same distance from all the instruments, but the bottom mic will get a strong beefy cello sound and sorta muffled violin&viola, while the upper mic should get strong clear violin&viola and sorta thin airy cello. might make a good stereo picture.
if it isn't perfect right off the bat, try swapping the mics.

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Post by Professor » Fri Nov 11, 2005 6:37 pm

So far, I gotta say I'm liking jajjguy's idea the best, though I also liked marc's suggestion of micing the 'cello separately.
My first vote would be to just simply record each instrument individually so that you then have three channels to spread around or bring together in your mix. If all the stuff is scored and they are just playing with the track there's no reason that shouldn't work. Then all three can be miced at their sweet spots, and with your best microphone.
But if that is for some reason not an option and you must go all with everyone playing at once, then you should really consider how this needs to sit in the mix. The violin, viola and cello together will generally mimic the voices of a sorano, alto and tenor so you should consider whether these strings should favor the highs, mids or lows to sit well in the mix. That is, will they be out front and on top of the rest of the band, more subdued and hanging behind, or somewhere in the middle. The answer to that question can tell you which instrument gets place in the middle of the trio if they will be captured by only one, somewhat directional, omni microphone.
My gut instinct tells me to place the cello in the middle with the viola on the left (from the mic perspective) and the violin on the right. This is different than a typical classical setup, but will subdue the violin enough that it hangs back in the mix, brings up the viola which will typically be the weakest projection of the three, and focuses on the cello. That would, of course, be for a string section that is going to hang behind the band and under the singer. Of course, if you have a singer with a low-tenor or baritone voice, then perhaps having such a 'cello heavy sound would cloud the vocals too much.
Either way you slice, distance will likely be your friend in getting a nice sound. Similar to Doug Henderson's comment in the "50's Recording Techniques" thread, you wouldn't be likely to listen to a violin with your ear stuck inside its f-hole. Mostly the problem with close micing strings is the scratchy sound of bow-hairs pulling across catgut, and the fact that different frequencies project in so many different directions (like some low cello frequencies project stronger out the back of the instrument). So you should pull away at least a few feet, maybe 3 or 4 feet above the violin or viola and 4 feet or so in front of the cello as the closest, and further out if your room allows.

Probably no need to compress on the way in, just check the levels for the loudest parts they'll play and leave them some headroom. Then you'll have the largest range to play with in mixing.

Hope that helps to get you started.

-Jeremy

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Post by JGriffin » Fri Nov 11, 2005 8:13 pm

Not to be anal, but there was never a "The" in Shoes' name.
"Jeweller, you've failed. Jeweller."

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be aware of your room

Post by dracofhc » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:33 pm

Seeing as how your recording in a basement, I would be very weary of uing a stereo pair or any microphone pulled back from the instruments. Certainly try them but have a backup plan. I would recommend micing the cello a foot and half to two feet away with a cardiod mic placed at bridge level, but 15 degrees off center pointing at the f hole. That way you avoid all the scratchy bow sounds which seem to come in a straight beam off of the bridge. The move the violins away from the cello (but so they can still see each other if they need to) and place a mic between a little bit farther away adjusted to get a nice blend. If you still want room sound, which sounds great on strings, consider finding a nice sounding church or so and setting up a chamber reverb. Otherwise digital verb could be useful. Either way, unless your basement is really nice I am a little skeptical that any real room sound you get will be benificial.

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Post by jajjguy » Sat Nov 12, 2005 7:30 am

in my opinion, the only good reason to record the instruments separately is if they are having performance trouble. it can be more efficient to give each individual person a few shots at playing it right than waiting for them all to play it right at the same time. but if they all seem to beplaying well without any trouble, then i'd still stick with recording them together. if they are good players and have any sense of ensemble playing, then they will make a little magic together that they couldn't make alone. of course, there are sonic reasons for recording separately, as jeremy said, but i think ensemble trumps all of that.

also, consider tracking the whole thing several times and using all the takes for a big thick string section sound.

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