Over the weekend of the 28th-30th of November I recorded two large orchestral ensembles in the hall. I write this post to document the mic set ups with the mix sessions following soon in a comment/other post (I say soon, this may be hopeful…).

The first night was the Edinburgh University Music Society’s Sinfonia. A large(ish) orchestra containing (as far as I could tell) pretty much anyone that wanted to play. A great initiative for players with the potential downsides not something I feel I should really comment on here… Anyway, these recordings are for my final year mustech project which will contain various mic set ups orchestra recording, hoping to draw useful comparisons and discover interesting perspectives from non-trained listeners through listening experiments which will be undertaken next semester.

As such, I chose to start off with the basic, tried and trusted method for orchestral recordings. The decca tree. Using the Schoeps omnis in a ratio of two across and one forward, making a t-shape approximately a meter and a half out from the front row of the orchestra and two meters up. I added a bit of a twist here in the form a mid-side pair (cardiod pointing forward, figure 8 pointing to the sides) positioned as close to the forward omni of the tree as possible. By doing this, I can compare the sound of the mid-side with the decca tree and also experiment with replacing the forward omni in the decca tree with the mid-side. Analysis of this to follow in the mix blog post.

One of the pieces had an extended brass section (3 tubas, hooray) and after sitting in on a rehearsal it became clear the winds would need some extra attention given their immediate proximity to these brassy beasts. The formation was horns and tubas stage right and trumpets and trombones stage left with the (doubled) wind section sitting right in front. The trumpets and trombones didn’t seem to be causing too much of a problem so I put up a KM140 cardiod facing as far away from them as possible whilst still pointing at the wind (so positioned just in front of the wind section pointing across and down. At the other side, the story was different. I decided to try out something I’d not done before in that I used a figure 8 schoeps pointed at the stage right winds and up into the ceiling. The reasoning behind this was to cancel the barrage coming from directly behind the winds in the figure 8’s null area. Of course there was some spill but in the end this seemed to work quite well with the winds clearly audible in the rough mix.

Lastly, there was a horn concerto so I thought I might as well try a close mic on the horn to mix in. Erring on the side of caution I went with the EV RE-20. Unfortunately, this mic had to be brought on and placed without much idea of where exactly the soloist would be standing (it was during concert so the soloist had to come on and play immediately, rather than wait for a mic to be placed). I would have just put this mic up for the whole concert but there was shuffling of chairs and such needed so it would have been in the way.

Given that this was my first big sessioin in the Reid, I was pretty overwhelmed with how amazing everything sounded straight off the bat (except the horn soloist spot… that may be end up in the track graveyard).

The second session was with the University of Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra performing a couple orchestral pieces and a piano concerto. Providing me with lots of joy and placement woes.

I used the same basic tree set up as last time with an ORTF pair replacing the mid-side pair. All in more or less the same positioning. Soon after, it transpired that the grand piano for the concerto would be placed almost directly beneath the tree which makes visual concert sense but did provide some interesting difficulties. As described by an undisclosed party, the lid of the piano was raised in a distinctly Nazi-esque fashion (all the way open). As such, the tree was bombarded with piano and while this wasn’t a great problem for the big orchestral sections, some of the more subtle accompaniment passages were being lost. Inspired by the results of my figure 8 wind spot two days previous, I put a couple of U89s up just beyond the piano towards the orchestra, spaced very widely (between 2nd and 3rd rows of violins). One end of each figure 8 pointed across the orchestra and the other into the wall/audience (not a major issue in theory though some coughs and sneezes came through, nice clear “whoops” during the applause too). The result of this wasn’t completely how I’d expected. They did the basic job, giving more orchestra when both piano and the rest were playing together but actually proved much more useful.  I noticed that when the tree was A/B’d with and without the extra U89s, when they were in, they lifted the sound greatly, adding more clarity, brightness and widening of the stereo image. I imagine in much a similar fashion to a pair of wide spaced omnis. Either way, with all mics in and the orchestra playing superbly well, the mix sounded incredible.

Next stop is another orchestral recording this week for which I’ll be experimenting more with wide spaced mic positioning.

Oh, I should also mention that I went from the stage box clean through the desk and into the myteks. Recording in protools with digital outputs 1&2 patched to desk channels 17&18. The mic inputs were put on the record bus with protools coming out the mix bus so I could monitor what was happening coming in and what was being recorded.

More to come from further recording/mix sessions.