Discreet acoustic folk music recording at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

All Things Audio
Everything Audio, from acquisition to postproduction.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old September 24th, 2014, 10:39 AM   #1
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,359
Discreet acoustic folk music recording

Some folks I know have been trying to record acoustic folk music performances (almost always solo or duo, mostly guitars for accompaniment), and are hoping to get better results.

These performances take place in a room that's roughly 30' x 30' with a peaked ceiling that's about 10' at the walls and 15' or more at the peak. Walls and ceiling are plaster, floor is wood. No carpeting, no absorption. Even with a full audience (on folding chairs) the room is quite live. Absolutely no PA is used.

Since there is a lot of reflection, these folks have tried miking as closely as possible. But then the difficulties begin.

If they put the recording mics in typical "PA position" -- i.e. perhaps a foot from the performer(s) -- then the audience (or organizers) complain because it's supposed to be an "acoustic" performance and the mics "look wrong." I wish this weren't the case, but I'm told this situation can not be changed. (You can't teach a pig to sing, nor can you explain acoustics to some folks.)

If they set up a more distant mic array -- e.g. crossed pair five feet out and slightly overhead -- then there is much too much reflected sound in the recording.

I would like to help these folks if I can. (By the way, there is absolutely no pay involved in this recording project.)

I have considered using some choir mics, positioned very close to the performer(s) ... maybe just two feet out and up, which would keep them out of sightlines. We'd probably have to mark the stage floor, to keep the performer(s) positioned correctly. And rigging in this venue would be a very big challenge, both logistically and politically.

I'm wondering about using some much smaller mics (i.e. lav size), possibly on a custom-made thinner stand, in order to stay close to the performer(s) without creating so much visual "annoyance" for the audience. Has anyone here ever used lav size mics, on a stand, to record acoustic soloists (or duos)? If so, what mics did you use? Trams? Countryman? What models?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions for this strange challenge.
Greg Miller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 11:10 AM   #2
Trustee
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: New York
Posts: 1,844
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

You could put contact mics on the acoustic guitars (if they have no internal pick-ups already) and/or lavs on the vocalist/players. A stereo pair (room mic) can be mixed in to add some 'life' to it and pick up audience response.
I wouldn't advise mixing this on the fly though.. multi-track record and mix in post.
Note: The Countryman EMW Isomax sounds good on instruments.. you'll have to experiment of the best placement on each particular instrument. Another option is the DPA instrument mics, they ain't cheap though.
Rick Reineke is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 11:28 AM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

It sounds like there are multiple, low-key performers, so individual lavs are probably out, but just to think for a moment along those lines...

One challenge with a traditional lav would be that a "3rd button" placement would be behind the guitar/mandolin, which would make the instrument boomy and possibly too loud vs. the vocals. A solution could be to use the theater approach, which is to hide the lav in the hair or a hat. Common practice for acoustic guitar recording generally includes a directional mic pointed at the 12th fret (or so). A small lav mounted to the instrument right around the 12th fret - or even on the performer's knee if seated - could be a solution. (I'm assuming omnidirectional lavs.)

But if this is more of an open mic format, that's totally impractical.

I'm wondering if a box on the floor (or ceiling, if practical) might do the trick. The box would be acoustically treated and a directional mic used. Ideally, there would be an acoustic panel opposite the mic to minimize immediate reflections. That could be tough for living room shows. A couple of C-stands, arms, and moving blankets might help the sound, but they won't help the look.

Another approach would be to make some acoustic, free standing panels. Build some frames with 2x2 lumber, put acoustic wool or equivalent in them and cover with dark, acoustically transparent cloth. Add some feet/stands and place these strategically around the edges of the room. They would be out of the sight lines and would reduce the overall reflectance, but you might still have poor immediate reflectance, depending on the mic location and where it's pointing.

Not an easy set of requirements for a non-paid gig!
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 11:38 AM   #4
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,359
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

Thanks, Rick. In an ideal world, I agree with all of that, taking into account Jon's caveat about lav placement. Somehow I can't see lav-in-hairline as an appropriate option for this situation. My impression (having been asked about this only recently) is that these are mostly livingroom / coffeehouse performers who normally use no electronics whatsoever, so I suspect a hairline mic would really distract them from their normal performance.

We are not shooting a movie / video here, just making the best possible archival recording, but one suitable for typical loudspeaker playback. (I would gladly place a spaced pair of omnis, get a really good binaural recording, and listen on cans. But that's much too esoteric for this situation.)

Yeah, certainly it needs to be mixed in post.

If a duo is performing, they'd need two contact mics, two lavs, and they might have access to a Zoom H6.

My only reservation concerns the fact that the performer(s) is(are) different every time. What if someone shows up and doesn't want to be tethered to the mics? What's the fall-back option?

Another question: how closely does the sound from a contact mic compare to what people will actually hear acoustically? I think we'd want to avoid having much coloration introduced by the guitar mic.
Greg Miller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 12:13 PM   #5
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,359
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

Jon, I appreciate your considering this from a viewpoint of acoustics.

Here are my (somewhat uninformed) thoughts about your suggestions.

The performer normally stands or sits within three or four feet of the apron. Assuming the performer is playing a guitar, I would think a mic in a floor box would favor the guitar over the vocal. But a clean vocal is what we mostly need to pick up.

A ceiling box is out of the question. Aside from the fact that the ceiling is about 15' above center stage, I'm sure the owners of the venue would be opposed. (And there is nothing like a ceiling slot for lighting.)

Given the dimensions of the room (as stated above) it would take a heck of a lot of absorbent panels to significantly reduce the reflections. At that point, we would change the room from being a beautiful live room for acoustic performances, to a very dead one where reinforcement was probably needed. People like the warmth and liveness of the room, so I don't think they'd be at all receptive to our doing anything that changes the acoustic. So I don't think we can "fix" the recording by changing the room.

But please feel free to brainstorm and toss out any other ideas!
Greg Miller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 01:53 PM   #6
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Raleigh, NC, USA
Posts: 677
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
If they set up a more distant mic array -- e.g. crossed pair five feet out and slightly overhead -- then there is much too much reflected sound in the recording.
What mics are they using for this?

The problem with bad acoustical spaces is that they are bad acoustical spaces. The traditional way to handle bad acoustical spaces is to get closer to the performer, and use increasingly directional mics. If they won't let you get sufficiently close, about all you can do is to pick your best two cardioids or hypers, put them in ORTF or NOS using a stereo bar on a single mic stand, about 3m high, pointing down toward the performers (and not toward a wall, particularly the wall behind them). If the venue is hyper-picky, you might have to boom the stereo bar out over the performers from behind them -- use lots of sandbags; alternatively you might be able to fly the bar and loose the mic stand altogether. Play with the distance back from the performers, and the height. You'll likely find a sweet spot that gives you the best results you can get from a bad situation, and it likely won't be where you expect, so be open and really listen to what the mics are capturing.

This will get the mics out of the line-of-sight for the audience, put the mics in a "sweet spot" and block as much first reflection "slap echo" as you can.

I hesitate to refer you to another board, but this board is primarily video, and this other one is really about location audio recording. You might get more specifically useful answers there since that's what they are all about. And if I've done wrong, I'm sure the mods will react appropriately by modifying this post and schooling me, as they should.
Bruce Watson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 03:07 PM   #7
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

I'm wondering how picky the audience really is. Yes, if large mics are near the performers and pointed at them, they will look like performance mics. But what about, say, small mics hung from the ceiling or small mics on goosenecks on stands? The mics might only be a bit further from the performers, but might say "recording mic" rather than "performance mic" to those in attendance. Consider how differently people perceive a station wagon vs. a minivan vs. an SUV - while they have 99.9% in common and can pick up lumber from the hardware store equally well!

Maybe the trick is to setup an old reel-to-reel recorder next to the mics. Nobody would say, "the mics look wrong." They'd say, "look, this is being recorded - the way they used to do it!" :)

(I knew I was hanging onto my old Revox A77 for something!)

http://www.hifiengine.com/images/model/revox_a77.jpg
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 07:22 PM   #8
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Burlington
Posts: 1,961
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

When working in a very reflective space and having to record at a greater distance than I would like, the results from a pair of very-small-diaphragm Earthworks SR71 cardioid mics in a coincident pair was satisfactory to me. They seemed to capture the environment very kindly, like our ears and brain do. The off-axis sound was there but sounded natural rather than exaggerated.

I think something like those Earthworks, or small hanging choir mics (but perhaps on short, slender stands rather than hanging if that is too much for this venue) would be your best bet.

Having really clean preamps and a good recorder will be important too with very small diaphragm mics at a greater than normal distance, but with a live audience the self-noise of the mics won't be a terrible problem.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; September 25th, 2014 at 06:38 AM.
Jay Massengill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 07:50 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 848
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

How well would an M-S configuration work in this situation using a hyper for the mid and something like a ribbon mic for the side?
Jim Michael is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 09:00 PM   #10
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,359
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

I thank you all for your additional comments up to this point. I'll try to address most of them in semi-random order.

Bruce:

I am fairly sure, but not 100% certain, that they've been using a pair of SM81s. I've sent an EMail for confirmation but no reply as of yet.

I agree that getting closer should help. The organization would prefer that we don't get close with conventional mics because of the visual impact. That's why I originally asked about using some good quality lavs (or something equally small). I think we could get significantly closer without being visually intrusive.

A pair about 4+ meters high has been tried, but I suppose getting down to 3m or less would give us some improvement. Since the performer(s) won't be singing "into" the mics, it might eliminate the perception that they're PA mics. Your point about not pointing at the wall behind the singers is well taken. Perhaps if I can carpet the stage floor, and install some sort of absorbent panel on the lower part of the wall, that would help somewhat. (But again, I don't want to cover the entire wall behind the performer(s) because I suspect that would noticeably change the nice warm sound of the room.)

Hanging is difficult, with a 15+ foot white plaster ceiling. The folks who control the venue are fairly resistant. We surely can't plaster and repaint after every show, then come back in a few weeks or a month and do it all over again. I would gladly try some choir mics, if the situation were different, but that's what we have to live with. So I'm looking for a practical set-up / tear-down scenario. A very large boom behind the performers would be very interesting, and I can ask whether anybody would want to make that sort of investment and commitment.

Thanks for the link to another board. Tomorrow I may sign up and peruse that some more.

Jon:

Yes, I was hoping to get some recommendations for appropriate quality small mics. I recall many years ago AKG made some very thin-tube extensions for the 451 family, which were installed between the preamp/body and the capsule. I wish I had bought some, because I have several 451s that we could try. (Then again, I'm not sure I'd trust these folks with my 451s, nor do I want to get involved with doing [i]all[i] the recordings, once we find a satisfactory solution.)

Jay:

I hadn't thought of the Earthworks mics. Looking at the brochure, I'll bet their small heads on one of the long, flexible stands would solve the aesthetic problems. Basically a choir mic that's floor-mounted rather than hung. Offhand I like the idea. Maybe a bit out of reach for these folks' budget, though. But perhaps there's something similar at a lower price point.

Jim:

I don't think I'd get involved with M/S. I think that's a little too esoteric, and has too many potential pitfalls, for these folks. Besides, I suspect that they may end up mixing the performer to center (or if it's a duo, then mix them slightly off to opposite sides). They'll need to use a stereo pair back in the house for a room mic, as Rick suggested earlier.

All:

Thanks again for your thoughts so far. Please don't hesitate to expand if you feel so inclined. Please give some consideration to my idea of using fairly good lavs, on a thin stand (or two), if you can think of any mics that would be appropriate.

In closing, I guess I ought to mention (if it's not already clear) that this whole concept is somewhat related to the theory that "A hundred dollar mic in the right place will sound better than a thousand dollar mic in the wrong place."

Thanks again for all the input!
Greg Miller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 24th, 2014, 10:30 PM   #11
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Southern, CA
Posts: 198
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

"A hundred dollar mic in the right place will sound better than a thousand dollar mic in the wrong place."

So true but they're not allowing you to put anything in the right place.

I've had requests like this but I declined the fools errand when the stipulations were unrealistic.

When I had the liberty to do the job correctly I used a pair of DPA 4011s on a bar hung from a boom stand over the audience. Arrangement to suit the room and get the sound stage correct.

The Audience sat down, looked at the mics one or twice and then forgot they were up there once the performance began. Out of sight, out of mind. Successful recording.
Kirk Candlish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 25th, 2014, 04:08 AM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Oxfordshire, UK
Posts: 974
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

How about a stereo pair and a reflection filter?

The reflection filter should tame the room a bit and enable a simple recording.
__________________
John Willett - Sound-Link ProAudio and Circle Sound Services
President: Fédération Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons
John Willett is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 25th, 2014, 07:06 AM   #13
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Burlington
Posts: 1,961
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

While searching for info related to this thread, I ran across this stand mount adapter that I had never seen before:
Audio-Technica AT8438 Surface Mount Adapter for Lavalier AT8438

It's designed to hold choir mics and some larger lavalier capsules on a mic stand. Could be useful for $20 although a DIY solution along the same lines is possible too.

The stand adapter above now comes standard with hanging mics like the Audio-Technica U853R with a street price of $189.

DPA, Earthworks and Sennheiser all have hanging style mics with better specs but at a much higher price. These could be adapted to slender stands with a similar mount or even the AT mount if the dimensions worked out.

Or for $2699 you could get a matched pair of these with their 7 foot integrated stands:
BH (Links)

Last edited by Jay Massengill; September 25th, 2014 at 07:44 AM.
Jay Massengill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 25th, 2014, 02:38 PM   #14
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,126
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

Most guitars have pickups nowadays, and even if not, fairly inexpensive ones can be bought fairly cheaply. I'd record the guitars and lav mic the performers - with an acoustic performance, the audio would edit quite nicely afterwards. I'd avoid any form of distant miking, too uncontrolled.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 25th, 2014, 04:54 PM   #15
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: Discreet acoustic folk music recording

I also considered the pickup solution. The difficulty is that, being an open mic format, not all instruments are likely to have pickups (probably a minority for bluegrass players), and adding a pickup and wire would likely bother the acoustic purists.

Not that it's a bad way to go for audio, of course.
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:51 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network