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Old June 13th, 2010, 09:54 AM   #1
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More separation required - any other suggestions?

I've been asked to work on a project to record a number of solos songs performed with organ accompaniment in my church. I've had a couple of short rehearsals/test recordings and have developed the setup a little after listening to the tests.

So far, I've been recording in three channels with a Zoom H4N, using the built in mics to record the organ in stereo (from a height of about 2m and a distance of about 15m) and a Rode NT1A with pop shield to record the voice. The singer is sitting about 10m behind the Zoom's internal mics. While I did anticipate the need for as much separation of voice and accompaniment as possible I was thinking more of balance than anything else, but it has become clear that I will have to do some pitch correction on the voice (the soloist has a fine voice but is in his eighties) so maximum separation is now critical.

I should mention that I am also playing the organ and need the soloist reasonably near me so I can follow him. It's a fairly small 2 manual instrument so it probably doesn't need quite the distance to the mics that a larger instrument would.

I could really have used a Reflexion Acoustic Baffle Thingy but don't have the budget for this. Do you think if I moved the heavy wooden lectern in front of the singer's mic it would help increase the separation? I also have some heavy duty foam sheets available which normally get used to cut down vibrations between the floor and mic stands.

I suppose it would always be possible to multitrack the recordings but the performance would probably lose a lot in the process. Rough plan of the business end of the sanctuary attached.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 11:45 AM   #2
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If you could get the lectern high enough, completely blocking the face & mic from the organ case/sound source, that could reduce some of the direct mid and high frequencies, however not much bass and reflections off walls, floor, ceiling and other hard surfaces. Get the vocalist as close to the mic as possible.
Overdubbing or putting the singer in another room with a monitor system may be the only way to gain adequate separation . Personally I would multi-track the session, which would allow multiple takes, punch in/outs and comping of the vocals.
BTW, nice graphic!
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Old June 21st, 2010, 06:22 PM   #3
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Thanks for that, Rick. I'm keeping my options open and pre-recording some organ accomps in case we go for multitracking. Not sure how comfortable the soloist will be with this however.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 07:39 PM   #4
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Plug the organ into the recorder direct.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 10:44 AM   #5
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I would agree Chad, but I would assume by the diagram, it's an 'analog' church organ, (pipe or otherwise) and a DI is not an option.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 11:27 AM   #6
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I figured that since the organ console was seperate from the organ case, there would be a line carrying the sound to the case. So it's still possible.

Basically if you put the zoom right by the speaker, it won't pick up the voice. You may have some organ in the vocal track, but you won't have voice in the organ track. Autotune can deal with some background sound in the voice track. I've tuned live vocals from a band recording, and it does pretty well.

As long as you get the 2 mics as far from each other as possible you'll be OK. I would do a practice run first still.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 11:30 AM   #7
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Additionally, if you set the Zoom to "Low" gain on the internal mics, you will be less likely to blow out the recorder when you're close to the speakers. Those mics are sensitive too, so don't put them so close the air moving from the speakers causes wind rumble. Use the foam mic covers on the zoom.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:03 PM   #8
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Thanks for the suggestions.

I might try the Zoom a little closer to the organ. It's a real pipe organ, and was trying to record it from a respectful distance because the natural reverb of the building is part of the sound and also if you get too close when trying to record in stereo there can be unwanted effects caused by the placing of the ranks of pipes - notes going up the scale can come from far left and right alternately. This is not normally noticed when recording from a distance but it could be a problem if the mics are too close to the organ case. There is also the possibility of mechanical noise coming from the works, although we have had a new blower fitted recently and it makes a lot less noise than the old one. I still like the idea of recording it in stereo because it gives a natural depth to the recording.

You've made me wonder if I couldn't do something to move the singer further away by monitoring the vocal track through headphones rather than have him right beside me at the organ console. I think this might work better than imposing mutitracking on the singer at this late stage in his vocal career. It's a skill that requires some practice to do really well and I know for a fact he has never tried it before.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:27 PM   #9
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Col .. beware taking the players out of their comfort zone.

Headphones on an 80yr old singer is fraught with danger right from the start same with multitacking.
Even doing a second take will mess with their heads .. most work up to a performance where they don't do things twice. Aim to get it on the first take .. been there done that. Cheers.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:34 PM   #10
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No matter what you try, here are some realities.

There's not a mic that can record anything other than the sound presented to it's diaphram.

So as to putting a "baffle" or lectern, or anything else in a position to "block" sound from reaching the mic - just put your HEAD where the mic will be and try that first. If YOU can hear the organ - so will the mic. Period. End of story.

In order to make a recording of the voice that does NOT have the overwhelming sound of the organ mixed in, you're going to need to ISOLATE the voice. This is very difficult.

The best way in your situation is to record the organ separately. Then play that back for the singer via headphones and record the voice by itself. That will allow you to "tune" the voice without affecting the music.

You could try using an acoustically isolated mic like a Coles lip mic to record the voice, but I suspect that since organs are both loud and penetrating, that you would STILL get too much bleed from the environment and then applying any pitch correction to make the voice better will throw the environmental organ sounds OUT OF PITCH by the same amount.

Ssound, like paint - is not "unmixable." Once you dump the yellow into the blue to get green, you can NEVER get the Yellow OR the blue back.

Sorry.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:35 PM   #11
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Allan, I agree - though the headphones were for me at the organ, not the singer. Still not ideal, but I've done it before on various instruments. That way he and his mic could be further away from the organ and we can still do a live performance. For a once off performance, I would just try and stay with him but for recording, I would want to hear him very clearly - hence the cans.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:38 PM   #12
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Maybe just let the old guys performance stand on it's own two feet, and forget the tuning. Then you can just worry about getting a nice 3 track recording. It's still good to get him away from the loud organ, but maybe he'll sing OK.
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