Tracking Unusual Instruments

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:38 pm

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So this happened today. Pretty fun and a first for me. I’ve recored some unusual and esoteric instruments in my time - nickleharpa (I’m probably spelling that wrong), hurdy gurdy, water gong, grand marimba, steel pan drum, and a host of home made instrument/sculptures. It’s always a high light when someone comes in with something that I’ve never recorded before. This one was for an indie rock/pop tune. Sounded epic in the mix.

What’s the most unusual instrument you’ve recorded and what was the context?

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by kslight » Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:44 pm

I’ve used a corn shucker on a few songs. Chains sometimes. Dry ice can be cool...if you buy a block of it and hold an empty can to it it will resonate which can be sort of controlled.

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Nick Sevilla
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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:08 pm

A sarod, an actual medieval harp, firearms of different kinds, guinea pigs.
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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by losthighway » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:37 pm

Uilllean pipes- the smaller/less obnoxious bagpipe, harp, electric violin, bazouki, bodhran (frame drum), darabuka, and a host of African drums: dun duns, djembe, balafon and kora (string instrument).

Other than the drums my approach has always been point a condenser at the part that the sound comes out of a couple feet back, then go see if it sounds alright in the control room. 9 times out of 10 it worked out.

I had a really interesting conversation with a buddy who plays rock and roll, but he's also Lakota and has engineered field recordings of tribal songs performed at pow wows. It seems getting a gigantic drum played by a group of people sitting in a circle playing it while singing over it is a particularly challenging task for an engineer that he'd been experimenting with tackling.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:45 pm

losthighway wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:37 pm
Other than the drums my approach has always been point a condenser at the part that the sound comes out of a couple feet back, then go see if it sounds alright in the control room. 9 times out of 10 it worked out.
My method as well! Unless it’s a super bright thing then I reach for a D224 or a ribbon.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Fri Dec 14, 2018 9:06 pm

Nick Sevilla wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:08 pm
A sarod, an actual medieval harp, firearms of different kinds, guinea pigs.
You can’t say guinea pigs with out a Bandcamp or YouTube’s link. Context is everything.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by losthighway » Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:15 am

A.David.MacKinnon wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:45 pm
losthighway wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:37 pm
Other than the drums my approach has always been point a condenser at the part that the sound comes out of a couple feet back, then go see if it sounds alright in the control room. 9 times out of 10 it worked out.
My method as well! Unless it’s a super bright thing then I reach for a D224 or a ribbon.
That totally makes sense with some of the natural mids on a good ribbon, but would you believe this is the first I've heard of the D224 (the world's best dynamic microphone) (prompting me to research it)?

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:32 am

It’s an amazing mic but finding a working one is getting harder and harder as time goes on.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat Dec 15, 2018 8:24 am

A.David.MacKinnon wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 9:06 pm
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:08 pm
A sarod, an actual medieval harp, firearms of different kinds, guinea pigs.
You can’t say guinea pigs with out a Bandcamp or YouTube’s link. Context is everything.
Soon to be in a Disney movie... so be patient.
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by vvv » Sat Dec 15, 2018 9:45 am

Why, terlet, of course.
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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by ashcat_lt » Sat Dec 15, 2018 10:29 am

I make actual noise, so I've recorded some fairly unusual things.

A stainless steel bowl with some change, some water, and a pair of those singing exercise ball things with dynamic mic on either side while I swirled it around.

We once brought the corrugated steel sheet from the back wall of our carport (which we had kind of driven through) and some bricks into the studio and stuck a stereo mic in front of it while we threw beer bottles at them.

I once put a bunch of empty plastic soda bottles in a garbage bag and recorded myself stepping on it.

One time I put a portable recorder inside a file cabinet and recorded as I rolled it up my gravel driveway and back.

One of my favorites was when I put a stereo digital camera inside an old oven with a creaky door and recorded myself opening and closing and slamming and so on. The reverberation was just massive.

I could go on for about 20 years, though I guess none of it is all the far out for folks that are into sound design, foley, or experimental noise.

As far as actual music-type things I think the least conventional thing I've ever really stuck a mic in front of was like a hammered dulcimer. Unless a sax through some pedals into a pounding bass amp or a snare drum on top of a 5 gallon bucket count.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by drumsound » Sat Dec 15, 2018 10:30 pm

I've done a lot of found sounds things, including my folks old kitchen sink. I still have the sink. Brake drums, cases as percussion, dripping water, traffic, rubbing my hand on my shirt and other weirdness.

One of my favorites was working with a local college class. The band was doing a song about a tree on campus under which the singer liked to get high. :high: I used just about every mic cable I owned, daisy chained down the block, and around the corner to a tree. I put an EV 635a in the tree. I had one of the students (who were all out at the tree) call the studio phone. One was on the lookout for traffic. When it was clear, they were told to be quiet, and I recorded the tree for the entire length of the song, plus pre and post roll. I wanted to option to mix in the wind in the tree noise during the song, like the storm in Riders on the Storm.

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by vvv » Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:22 am

In the latest George Pelecanos book, The Man Who Came Uptown, "tree" is the characters' slang for that what they smoke to get high.

Didja actually get anything audibly usable? (As opposed to, say, psychologically or motivationally usable ...)
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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by losthighway » Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:05 am

drumsound wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 10:30 pm
One of my favorites was working with a local college class. The band was doing a song about a tree on campus under which the singer liked to get high. :high: I used just about every mic cable I owned, daisy chained down the block, and around the corner to a tree. I put an EV 635a in the tree. I had one of the students (who were all out at the tree) call the studio phone. One was on the lookout for traffic. When it was clear, they were told to be quiet, and I recorded the tree for the entire length of the song, plus pre and post roll. I wanted to option to mix in the wind in the tree noise during the song, like the storm in Riders on the Storm.
I love this story. Did the tree produce anything audible?

Also, what if you cranked the gain and detected something subharmonic resembling speech coming from the tree? Who man, whoa...

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Re: Tracking Unusual Instruments

Post by vvv » Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:54 am

losthighway wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:05 am
Also, what if you cranked the gain and detected something subharmonic resembling speech coming from the tree? Who man, whoa...
:high:


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