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Old May 29th, 2011, 01:38 AM   #1
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Bag Pipes

I am shooting a graduation and the grads come in following bag pipes. What would be the best way to mic the pipes. I have a sennhieser G2 wireless as well as one shot gun mic but he walks across and entire arena floor and we wont have an audio guy. I was thinking of putting a lav on the piper but I don't know where would be a good location. Thanks.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 02:21 AM   #2
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Re: Bag Pipes

For Bag Pipes the best results will be with a mike at least half a mile away?

Seriously, maybe consider putting the lav mike behind the piper. You may have a problem with the signal strength, depending how large the arena is. A better option may be to attach a portable recorder to the piper. Also record the sound with your camera using your shotgun mike, at least you will have two sound tracks. The two sound sources can be joined using Plural Eyes software.

Good luck

ps I did do a recording of a bagpiper a few years back and just used the cameras built in mike

YouTube - ‪MDV.mov‬‏

Ooops, sorry I forgot, I took out the sound track, but the bagpipes were OK, just had to turn the audio gain right down.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 07:32 AM   #3
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Re: Bag Pipes

Bag pipes are very very loud and have a narrow frequency range so the comment about a mic half a mile away is not as comical as it sounds.

They reverberate around everywhere so I would not put a mic too close as it may well overload and distort, if you are shooting in a room then why not pre rig a mic that is in a fixed position so that you can get the ambient sound in the room and then add this to whatever sound you get from the camera mic or the presentation mic if you have one.

As they are so loud you could probably just use the camera mic but beware that they are so very loud so watch you levels, I presume with this being a presentation that you will be in a fixed position for the pres area so it may be that just keeping it simple and have a room mic (camera position?) for the ambient sound on one track and the pres/lecturn or radio mic on the stage for any audio there.

One other option is to rig a stereo recorder to get the ambient room sound and then this could be added to your main sound track in stereo, once again levels will be the key thing here but you may be lucky and get to set a level before the main event.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 07:40 AM   #4
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Re: Bag Pipes

Ive actually recorded a fair amount of bagpipe when I was an engineer/producer at a studio in new York. The last thing you want to do is get a mic anywhere near the bagpipe!
It really is an outdoor instrument meant to have it's sound carry for miles.
Camera mic wouldn't be a bad choice.
Trust me, even with the piper walking across the stadium, getting enough sound won't be a problem!


We used to use a pair of u87s as a spaced pair (following the 3-1 rule) about 10 feet from the pipes and 30 feet apart! That was outdoors! The stereo micing was to pick up the echo off of anything the sound hit. Indoors in our studio, we'd normally use 1 mic about 10-15 feet away as the room had very little echo.
We would put it in a space in post with EFX.
The thing is the sound eminates from the whole instrument. To get a proper balance between the drones and chanter, it requires space.
Same mistake is made all the time with woodwind instruments like sax, flute, clarinet and even stringed instruments like violin, cello, and acoustic guitar. Instruments in general are meant to project sound.
The reason people mic them too closely all the time is to compensate for crappy environments. With bagpipes, 10 feet is close micing!
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Old May 29th, 2011, 09:09 AM   #5
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Re: Bag Pipes

Recently got this email from a friend.....

My neighbour knocked on my door at 2:30am this morning,
can you believe that 2:30am?!
Luckily for him I was still up playing my Bagpipes.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 11:17 AM   #6
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Re: Bag Pipes

Bagpipes were invented by the Scots to scare the opposing army into retreating before any fighting had started. They are perfect for this application.

+1 the previous comments: you do not want to mic them closely because of the level, and because it is not really a point source.

OTOH in a large arena, if you mic them too far, I fear the sound of the instrument itself may be overwhelmed by reverb as well as noise from the crowd... graduations are usually quite enthusiastic.

If your camera is perhaps 25 or 30 feet away, that might be a good distance. Otherwise Vincent (who should know) may have a good suggestion about a lav behind he piper, feeding a portable recorder.

Any chance you could try a test with the piper beforehand?
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Old May 29th, 2011, 11:40 AM   #7
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Re: Bag Pipes

When I was in the army (Welsh Guards Band) our barrack room was next door to the Scots Guards Pipers, and although they used practice pipes first thing in the morning (a lot quieter) they would use the full works from 8 am onwards. I still have nightmares of them to this day.

I retract all my advice and advise you to use a SHOTGUN preferably a 12 bore and put everyone out of their misery.

ps. you didn't mention if this was an outdoor or indoor arena, either way a mike on the edge of the arena should do the trick.

:-)
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Old May 29th, 2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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Re: Bag Pipes

There is one good way of making sure that the pipes are never heard, just fill the piper up with scotland's best whisky!

Although having thought about that it may cost you an awful lot of money and not be effective but actually make him play with more enthusiasm!
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Old May 29th, 2011, 01:03 PM   #9
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Re: Bag Pipes

Vincent, I feel your pain. I have always felt that hell is filled with bagpipes and/or accordions... hopefully not playing in ensemble.

Assuming that whiskey is a good pain killer, perhaps you should fill up everyone within earshot.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 02:22 PM   #10
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Re: Bag Pipes

I loved the responses! Very true about the pipes they are loud. It is a 6000 seat hockey arena and the pies walk around the outside of the rink and I am in a fixed position at centre ice. I am sure my on camera mic will work but I just thought I'd see if anyone else has done this before. When I worked at the local TV station before it shut down the legion was a few blocks away and sometimes you could hear the practice on the 6 oclock news.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 03:29 PM   #11
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Re: Bag Pipes

For dialog, we want to mic close and avoid reverb. For acoustic instruments, you want to balance the sound of the instrument and the sound of the space. French Horns are a classic example. Mic them close and they sound thin as paper. Let them fill a space and they can be amazingly powerful.

For simplicity, you might go with an x-y pair or a mid-side setup. Both will let you capture a stereo field from a single location. Mid-side has the advantage of collapsing to mono without phase issues. Then again, most all delivery and playback is stereo these days. I have a friend who swears by using omni mics 50cm apart, which can also be done on a single stand.

Placement is the challenge. Too far and it's mushy. Too close and it's thin. Some spots might resonate with too much or too little bass. If you can't rehearse and test, it will be largely up to luck.

With them walking by, you will get phase changes no matter what. The omni pair would be the best if you leave it stationary. The mid-side might be best if you pan the mics to follow the action. Moving an x-y pair would probably be the ugliest from a phase change point of view.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 05:11 PM   #12
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Re: Bag Pipes

Actually, if the pipes are walking the entire 360 degrees around the outside of the rink, that will be a challenge. Cardioids might be problematic, because you'd lose a lot of level and HF information when the mics were behind you. If you recorded M/S with an omni for your main channel, you would get a consistent stereo image. A pair of close spaced omnis would also work, but I tend to think they would have very little separation/directionality if the piper is 100' or so distant.

I have to admit that I have never recorded bagpipes in a hockey arena. Every now and then I get lucky. ;-)

('Though, actually, I would love to have a chance to try it.)
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Old May 29th, 2011, 09:05 PM   #13
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Re: Bag Pipes

Now now now - Accordions can sound wonderful. The first time my wife and I went to Italy we actually visited several accordion factories - even had them show us how they tune them (YES you can tune an accordion) and she wound up having one custom made. The Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor really sounds good IF the accordionist is up to it.

And I like the pipes as well although they are LOUD!

More than you want to know about tuning an accordion

You tune them by making a slight scratch with a file near the base of each reed - it alters the pitch slightly but it you overdo it you have to replace the reed and start over. Tuning a large accordion is a full day job for an experienced worker. The best reeds are still hand made.

I have no idea how you tune a pipe other than changing the alcohol level of the player.

Q How does a piper change a light bulb? A Stand on a chair with the light bulb held overhead and drink until the room spins
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Old May 30th, 2011, 12:41 AM   #14
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Re: Bag Pipes

Accordion tuning (sic) sounds a bit like tuning the reeds on an old-time harmonium or pump organ.

As I recall, if the reed is sharp, that means the reed is too stiff, so you remove a bit of metal from the reed, near where the reed joins the mounting block. That makes the reed a bit more "floppy" so it will vibrate a bit more slowly.

OTOH if it's flat, you can't put the metal back, so you then think in terms of the reed having too much mass. In that case you remove a bit of metal near the tip of the reed, reducing its mass and thus allowing it to vibrate a bit more quickly.

A few years ago, I met a lady who sang native Ukrainian folk songs (which were originally sung, usually, a cappella) and accompanied herself on an Indian (as in the country India, not native American) harmonium. A very interesting sounding combination... and she was an extremely expressive singer. Unfortunately she was very protective of her material and performance and would not allow any recording. I thought rather highly of her, or I might have been tempted to bootleg...
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Old May 30th, 2011, 12:57 AM   #15
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Re: Bag Pipes

Exactly - where to scrape is important. Makes me think of an interview I saw with a Mohel - the guy who performs ritual Jewish circumcisions. He was asked how he knew how much to take off and he replied that this was the wrong question - the right question was how he knew how much to leave on.

Sorry - I couldn't resist.I promise to be good!
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