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GlynB



Joined: 26/09/03
Posts: 4014
Loc: Lancashire, UK.
Recording organ in a church - tips?
      #1037728 - 12/03/13 11:43 AM
We're recording a church organ next week and just wondered if anyone had done similar and could share experience/advice please?

The equipment at my disposal on the night is limited consisting of:

Digital 16 track recorder;
2 x Red Audio RV10 Large-diaphragm Capacitor Microphones;
2 x Fostex MC10M Electret Condenser Mic
Noise gate unit (unsure of make).

I am sure mic positioning is the crucial thing here, so where is best to place them?
How far apart?
How far from the organ pipes?
High or low in the room?

My plan was to place a pair fairly close to the organ pipes L&R about 12 feet apart. The other pair way back and far apart from each other either side of the room. Afterwards mixing to taste.

Would that work?

we only have one evening to do this, so keen to get it right.

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22312
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1037738 - 12/03/13 12:23 PM
Quote GlynB:

I am sure mic positioning is the crucial thing here




As it is in all recording situations!

Quote:

so where is best to place them?




Where they deliver a sound that is acceptable. Sorry to sound patronising, but that's all there is too it. No one can offer any really useful advice because no one else knows the organ or the church acoustics -- and both affect the optimum mic placement dramatically.

The proper tonmeister way to do this would be to measure the Critical Distance (Dc) for the church acoustic in order to work out how far from the source the mics need to be for an optimum balance of direct/reverberant sound.

Knowing that distance provides a reliable starting point from which to explore the tonality and radiation polar patterns of the various organ ranks so you can then decide how to position and balance the appropriate number of mics.

The short-cut way is to assume that the organ was voiced to sound good to the congregation, and find a position amongst the pews where it sounds best to you... A lot of engineers record organs with the mics raised very high, and sometimes that is necessary to get the high-end balance right, but in general most organ builders voice them to sound good at seated or standing ear height, part way down the church.

Quote:

How far apart?




Tricky that... Some prefer coincident technique recordings which have the advantage of avoiding phasing problems, but you're typically looking at crossed fig-8s (or maybe crossed hyper-cardioids) to get a decent stereo image spread. Spaced mics will always lead to phasing issues to some degree, so placement is critical and you will need to check mono compatibility before hitting the record button!

Standing waves are often a serious problem with the organ pedal notes, typically building up across the width and/or height of the church in ways which affect the lower notes. It's not unusual to find with spaced mics that one mic ends up in a node at some frequency and so misses some notes, but at an antinode on others and sounds like a foghorn! it can take a lot of itteraticve trial and erro t omove sthe mics about until you find well balanced node/antinode-free positions!

Quote:

My plan was to place a pair fairly close to the organ pipes L&R about 12 feet apart. The other pair way back and far apart from each other either side of the room. Afterwards mixing to taste.




You could do that, and it will allow you to make the recording more reverberant... but you should be able to find the ideal balance with a couple of mics and just record it -- althoguh obviously that relies on having quality monitoring on site to be able to assess things properly.

If you don't have quality monitoring on site, then I would suggest the best solution is to organise a couple of rehearsal/test pre-recordings first in which you can try different mic positions and assess them afterwards on quality monitoring elsewhere. In this way you can develop and optimise an appropriate technique for the proper recording and guarantee great results.

If you can't do that, and you don't have good monitoring facilities on site, then you're just going to have to guess and hope for the best... and drown it in reverb if all else fails!

There are companies that specialise in organ recordings precisely because they are notoriously hard to do well!

H


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The Red Bladder



Joined: 05/06/07
Posts: 2586
Loc: . ...
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1037744 - 12/03/13 12:50 PM
Last time I did a church organ, it was with a choir and I used two M149s as crossed eights with the soloists and sections picked off with pairs of D202s and D222s. Lovely sound, lots of sexy bass!

In the middle of one of the pieces, a requiem, there was a one bar rest, during which, one of the larger sopranos very suddenly and very violently farted. It took about 20 minutes for everybody to calm down and dry their eyes after that one!


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GlynB



Joined: 26/09/03
Posts: 4014
Loc: Lancashire, UK.
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1037753 - 12/03/13 01:28 PM
Thanks for those responses, both helpful AND amusing :-)

I have now acquired the use of 2 x PZMs to throw into the mix, so with three pairs of mics to play with we should hopefully get the job done.

I should have pointed out that we have sole use of the church, so we can experiment with mic positioning until the organist has had enough.

I am prepared for the fact that after all this effort a home recording using the Yamaha on 'church organ' setting swamped with reverb might sound just as good, but thought we'd give the 'real thing' a blast first.

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22312
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1037754 - 12/03/13 01:57 PM
Quote GlynB:

I have now acquired the use of 2 x PZMs to throw into the mix, so with three pairs of mics to play with we should hopefully get the job done.




Again, I would countenance against the use of additional mics. More mics generally mean more phasing problems and less definition.

hugh

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matt keen



Joined: 07/01/06
Posts: 1863
Loc: Northants, England
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1037839 - 12/03/13 08:04 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote GlynB:

I have now acquired the use of 2 x PZMs to throw into the mix, so with three pairs of mics to play with we should hopefully get the job done.




Again, I would countenance against the use of additional mics. More mics generally mean more phasing problems and less definition.

hugh





My experience too
Last time at St Matthew's in Northampton I used spaced OMNI's and ended up about 35 to 40 feet away and about 9 feet off the ground. That particular organ had some substantial 16ft bass pipes and you simply dont pick that up close
By that distance, though obviously organs can be very loud, that particular church had a lot of ambient room noise
I dont know why some spaces have more ambient noise that others - Hugh probably does though

--------------------
Matt
www.krcollective.org


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Trevor Johnson



Joined: 15/05/10
Posts: 111
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: matt keen]
      #1037863 - 12/03/13 11:42 PM
I hope you don't mind if I add my two pennyworth as I play the organ, and record it sometimes too.

Quote:

If you don't have quality monitoring on site, then I would suggest the best solution is to organise a couple of rehearsal/test pre-recordings first in which you can try different mic positions and assess them afterwards on quality monitoring elsewhere. In this way you can develop and optimise an appropriate technique for the proper recording and guarantee great results.




Also, let the organist listen to the test recordings to enure that they, too, are happy.
Organ music typically has a wide dynamic range and a single work may have very quiet and very loud passages, so the recording level is clearly important, so your test recordings should include both quiet and loud passages.

A typical small 2 manual instrument will have at least one 16' pedal stop (rank of pipes) and the lowest note on the pedal board, bottom C, will be 32Hz (approx). However, a large instrument may have a 32' stop(s) which is 16Hz (approx).

Not only are pedal notes low frequency but they contain a lot of energy. Years ago, aged about 18, I was preparing for a concert and practising the Langlais Hymne d'action de grace, Te Deum, on a large instrument. The last two pages are rather dramatic and I had the whole artillery out, including pedal 16' and 32' reeds: not only that but the score requires you to use both feet to play two pedal notes, ending in fifths, producing lots of interesting harmonics. I looked down when I had finished and a voice piped up and said "could I play something different as I was shaking the windows out of his coach".

The acoustics of a church (or any other space) are affected by a number of variables, including surface reflections, temperature, relative humidity and the number of, or absence of people, which can make performing, as well as recording, different, in the same building on different days. Incidentally, be careful recording in summer unless the instrument is tuned either on the day or the day before, because sudden temperature changes, particularly heat, will knock out the tuning of the reeds.

Anyway, I am sure you will have fun and hope it goes well. Just keep it simple!

Trevor


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GlynB



Joined: 26/09/03
Posts: 4014
Loc: Lancashire, UK.
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1038846 - 19/03/13 11:49 AM
Went very well. What an experience...

I was somewhat surprised to find that the organ was situated not at one end of the church, but on a side wall close to the alter near the 'Apse'. As it turned out this became an advantage. Rather than the sound travelling all the way down the church, it is reflected back from the wall opposite and contained mostly within a smaller part of the church building. the organist said this is a real problem when accompanying the choir because they can drown out the sound of the organ, the choir projecting forward towards the congregation, whilst the organ sound remains trapped in the apse (oo err missus, etc).

Anyway, I decided to try positioning the two main condensers (RV10s) about ten feet away from the organ at about 6 foot off the ground, on an omnidirectional pattern setting, both facing somewhat inwards towards each other and facing the organ pipes.

The PZMs I placed further back higher up on the facing wall. Propped up facing the organ.

I had an issue with the other two small diaphragm condensers, one of them blew one of an input on my 16 track recorder, subsequently found out the lead was faulty so must have shorted the pre-amp :-( Permanently damaged now.

So the remaining one good mic we decided to place 'inside' the organ cabinet itself where all the mechanicals take place, just to see what we'd get, another option.

Tried a test go, then listened back on headphones, all seemed ok, so went for a take. Couple of probs with overload/clipping later in the tune as the organist pulled out all the stops (literally!) and sent things into the red. Couple more takes and with some manual riding of the gains and another few aborted goes... managed to capture an excellent take.

The outcome exceeds our expectations. It sounds amazing and well worth the effort. The instrument is Victorian, so was quite a thrill to hear one of our tunes belting out of something so historic....hair on the back of the neck moment!

Was also fun to have a close look at the inner workings of such a beast.

Before going into the church I must admit I expected a very muddy overly reverby sound, but I suspect because of the layout and organ positioning as previously described, that wasn't the case at all. We got just a very sweet sounding level of natural reverb without being too much.

The two RV10s provided the main full-bodied meat and potatoes sound, but surprisingly the PZMs sound really nice too when added together in the mix (no phasing issues at all) they add in some higher frequencies and a liveliness lacking from the RV10s alone. The solo mic in the organ compartment (we're talking a space large enough for two men to stand in here!) adds some nice mechanical artefacts to the mix, obviously not to be overused, but really nice to have to play with afterwards right in the centre of the mix.

Thanks for the advice from the Forum members, very much appreciated.

Now to add the 'choir' to the song = lots of overdubs in the studio!

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mjfe2



Joined: 11/10/09
Posts: 618
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1038892 - 19/03/13 04:10 PM
Quote GlynB:

I was somewhat surprised to find that the organ was situated not at one end of the church, but on a side wall close to the alter near the 'Apse'. As it turned out this became an advantage. Rather than the sound travelling all the way down the church, it is reflected back from the wall opposite and contained mostly within a smaller part of the church building. the organist said this is a real problem when accompanying the choir because they can drown out the sound of the organ, the choir projecting forward towards the congregation, whilst the organ sound remains trapped in the apse (oo err missus, etc).




I never cease to be amazed by the bad design of church/organ/choir arrangements -- from an acoustical and performance point of view (mirrors for conducting, lack of early reflections for singers to 'monitor' themselves with etc)! Also, it's all very well assuming that the nave is a good starting point for a respectable organ sound but you know before you've started that you'd never capture all the intricate lines of something by Bach. But then the choir balance that Bach would have heard up in the organ loft is surely not what he had in mind when composing his music. It's almost like the arrangement was made for recording (which is the only way to combine multiple perspectives)....with the small caveat that the music predated multi-track recording by 200 years!


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twotoedsloth



Joined: 26/01/08
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Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: GlynB]
      #1039084 - 20/03/13 03:54 PM
I know that I'm late to the party here, but just to drop my 2 cents (which, thanks to the Canadian Government, rounds down to nothing), I record organ quite frequently. As others have mentioned, it depends on the organ. If it is a tracker organ, all of the pipes will be in one place, but some churches have ranks of pipes all around the sanctuary. I've had very good luck using an AKG C422 in a crossed figure of eight pattern. With tracker organs I like to use two DPA 4006 omnis, spaced about ten feet apart.

Adding more microphones has not proven useful to me.


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GlynB



Joined: 26/09/03
Posts: 4014
Loc: Lancashire, UK.
Re: Recording organ in a church - tips? new [Re: twotoedsloth]
      #1039261 - 21/03/13 04:13 PM
Quote twotoedsloth:



Adding more microphones has not proven useful to me.




yes i was surprised that including the PZMs in the mix made any improvement, as it went contrary to all the advice. That said, i think it's more than likely I didn't quite position the two condensers correctly, and the PZMs are adding back what the two main mic's missed.

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