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Old May 21st, 2011, 01:59 AM   #1
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Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

I have an upcoming job where I'm going to be recording some music instruction demos. Want to get clean sound and avoid any potential problems. This kind of recording is new to me, so bear with me if some of this stuff seems pretty obvious. My camera is a Sony EX1R. There will be four sessions: electronic drums, stage piano (digital), acoustic guitar, and electric guitar. I'll be using a wireless lav on the instructor for all of them.

I think I'll be OK for the electric guitar (SM57 right up close to the speaker cabinet face) and will use the SM57 or my Senn. ME66 for the acoustic guitar on a mic stand about 40cm away from the sound hole.

The real questions are with the digital drums and the stage piano. They both have two 1/4" jacks for stereo output. Of course my camera will only have one XLR input available, since one will be used for the instructor.

I'm thinking of two options.
(1) Renting a digital field recorder and recording the stereo output separately from the stage piano and drums then sync it in edit.
(2) Using my portable mixer, running the stereo outputs into it, and then just taking a mono out and running that into Channel B of my camera. I could pan both channels to the right, and just take the right side of the main output from the mixer.

Any thoughts? Would I run into any phasing problems taking the stereo output and summing it into mono? Thanks for any ideas, want to avoid any "gotchas" and get nice clean audio.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 06:44 AM   #2
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

I would go with the digital recorder and sync in post for the drums and piano. The SM57 on the electric guitar amp will be fine, but I'd look at another mic for the acoustic guitar. Ideally, I'd use a small diaphragm condenser on acoustic guitar. Whatever mic you use, take some time to get the placement right. If you aim right at the sound hole, it will probably be too bass heavy.

Generally for acoustic I aim an SDC at the twelfth fret, and try to position the mic about 9"-12" from the guitar. That's my starting point, and I adjust from there depending on the guitar and performance style. On an acoustic guitar, small changes in mic position can change the sound pretty drastically.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 08:09 AM   #3
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

If you don't mind mono - then a cheap DI box and stuff it into the spare XLR socket. Both stage pianos and the drum module have L/M + R outputs, so just using a jack to the DI box from the left channel gives you a proper summed mono output. To be honest, I'd do it in stereo in post myself, electronic drums and stage pianos have pretty decent stereo emulations and it's a shame to not use them.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 09:54 AM   #4
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

Thanks for the responses. Andy - I have a Sennheiser ME66 consenser so I'll try it with the placement you suggest for the acoustic guitar. . It's a mic I use for ENG work, but I could also rent another small diaphragm condenser for the job. Paul - I'll check into the DI box idea and/or the field recorder I like that idea of recording the proper stereo output.

Getting this figured out is going to be good! I'd like to be able to offer music performance videos as a standard part of what I do.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 10:50 AM   #5
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

I've never recorded any music with the ME-66, but it will most likely do much better than an SM-57 for acoustic guitar. If you plan to get into recording music performances regularly, you'll definitely want to invest in some mics dedicated for that purpose, and have a way to record a good many more inputs (maybe about 8 for starters).
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Old May 21st, 2011, 05:10 PM   #6
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

Thanks Andy we'll test it and see how the ME66 sounds. I agree about recording music, and I think what I would do for more complicated jobs is hire an audio engineer who has that specialized experience and gear. I'm OK with learning how to record a musician performing solo.

After another chat today with the audio guy at the rentals place, came up with a plan that doesn't involve an external recorder. He suggested:
instrument cable from Left/Mono 1/4" output of stage piano and drum controller
use a passive DI / Direct box to convert the unbalanced signal down to mic level with balanced XLR out
XLR cable into Ch-2 of my camera
Then in edit, double the track, and create a pseudo-stereo effect by panning the two tracks L and R

That way there are no sync issues and everything is in the camera for much easier editing. No it's not "mastering quality" with real stereo, but should be just fine for a short demo. I'll do a test this weekend and post results.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 06:07 PM   #7
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

I've never recorded a piano of that kind, but I know with the drums you'll be losing a lot of the stereo effect that way. You can't fake stereo with two mono tracks. It will just sound like two mono tracks panned differently. No substitute for true stereo.

Sync in post isn't a problem with music (especially drums), and definitely no problem with software like Plural Eyes. That being said, I can't tell you how many music videos I've seen where the drum hits don't match up AT ALL with what the drummer is actually doing.

In short, you'll probably get decent sound with what the audio guy told you, but it will surely leave a lot to be desired. If you really want to put your best foot forward, don't skimp on it, and record the piano and drums in stereo.


ETA: You might have phase cancellation issues if you just hard pan a mono signal like that...

Last edited by Andy Balla; May 21st, 2011 at 06:11 PM. Reason: Added comment about panning...
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Old May 21st, 2011, 09:54 PM   #8
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

Thanks for that post Andy. Exactly right — it's not a substitute for true stereo. I recorded a simple test using a Korg SP-250 stage piano I rented for a few days. Used a DI/Direct Box from the mono output. It would have been nice though to have a piano player handy!

www.vimeo.com/24063344

Unfortunately I was booked on very short notice and it's a long weekend — will be recording the piano demo on Tuesday. So just trying to get through this with "satisfactory" results. The drums and guitars won't be until the end of the week so will have some more time available to get the gear together to record in stereo.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 10:47 PM   #9
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

I wouldn't worry about either acoustic guitar or electric guitar being in stereo. Mono is fine for either of those. Drums should definitely be stereo, as well as piano. If you can't pull it off in the time frame needed, no worries. Just get the cleanest sound you can. If its clean mono, no one watching it is going to bitch, I think.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 03:48 AM   #10
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

There's a really easy trick to 'convert' a mono piano feed into psuedo stereo. Record as usual in mono. In the edit duplicate the track and apply a graphic eq to both tracks. On the left hand adjust the individual 1/3 octave bands to add a little to the bass end, and gradually tail off each fader towards the HF end - this becomes the left channel. On the right channel, start with bass rolled off and gradually increase towards the HF. As the player moves up and down the keyboard - the output is biased towards the right place. A tiny bit of reverb and it sounds remarkably real.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 01:31 PM   #11
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Re: Recording electronic drum kit & stage piano

Thanks for that suggestion Paul, that's clever! I will give it a try. Client has listened to the demo I made and is very happy with how it sounds.
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