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Tips for recording a cello

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Tips for recording a cello

Postby Tal » Thu May 26, 2011 6:25 pm

Hi,

I need to record a solo cello part in a week or so. The session will take place in a non-acoustically treated room in my apartment, and I'll try to get by with blankets and stuff to keep reverberations low. I'm looking for advice on mic placement and usage. The only serious mic I have is an AKG C4000B which is fed into my RME Fireface UC's preamps. Is it suitable for this sort of work? Or should I rent something like a TLM103 or a U87 for the day? Should I double-mic with something else? Any ideas about distance, angles etc? I will be having a tough time making choices by listening and making lots of tests, because we'll be in the same room and I won't be able to easily distinguish between the live and the return sound — and I can't record a test sound every time I move the mic stand two millimeters to the left...

Any piece advice is more than welcome. Thanks a lot.
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Davedave93 » Thu May 26, 2011 7:43 pm

Acoustic strings can be quite a loud source so I'd mic a foot or two away, depending on what kind of sound you're after. I'd say mic closer if you want a more raw rosinny sound and further back for a smother tone.

I'm quite the amateur myself but I would think you could get a decent sound with the single C4000 if it were an accompaniment instrument in the mix, but as it's a solo recording, I would try and get hold of a matched pair of small diaphragm condensers with a decent low and mid response particularly and use stereo A/B.

Just my thoughts, anyone else feel free to tell me if I'm totally wrong, I'm still learning!


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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby The Korff » Thu May 26, 2011 8:03 pm

Hrm... I wouldn't say categorically wrong, but as far as these things can be judged without actually walking into the room, that's not the approach I would take. Stereo recordings are all well and good if the room is contributing a pleasant sense of ambience, but an untreated room in an apartment is unlikely to do so!

Personally I'd try and hire another mic - possibly a ribbon of some kind, or a posh large-diaphragm condenser - and probably chuck it between two and three feet away. Avoid pointing straight at the F-hole; maybe go for a point somewhere between the bridge and bottom of the neck, and perhaps a little off to the treble side.

I'd also try and deaden the room as much as possible, so duvets, pillows etc are a good idea (I've even up-ended sofas before when recording in living rooms and such!). If you go for a ribbon, remember to chuck something absorptive behind it, as the rear lobe will be as sensitive as the front. And remember, a decent reverb on a dead recording will likely sound much better than captured living-room boxiness.

Good luck!

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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Tal » Thu May 26, 2011 8:46 pm

Thanks a lot people. I don't think I'll be going down the stereo road since I don't like not knowing what I'm doing... I could try a ribbon mic but I heard they are very fragile and sensitive, I'll see if I can get a recommendation from the mic renting shop. Otherwise I'll just get a large condenser.

The idea of putting a sofa up-ended is the single most useful idea I've heard in a long time. Absorb and break up waves at the same time, on a large surface, for zero money and huge placement flexibility. I've already started contemplating investing in another sofa... Brilliant.

I'll post a link when the thing's finished if you like

Cheers!
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Wils » Thu May 26, 2011 9:05 pm

I've found using a x/y stereo pair like a Rode NT4 2m away and a good condenser like a Rode NT55 up and over the front of the cello (positioned to taste). Its important to let the sound develop and aim for a rich warm tone and not that nasal honk that can happen to close to the bridge, deaden the room with what you have and place the piece in a lush reverb

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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Mixedup » Thu May 26, 2011 10:04 pm

depends entirely on the piece and on the sound you want. The 'cello has quite a range and the dispersion characteristics vary according to frequency. Useful thread, including advice from Hugh Robjohns, here
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 27, 2011 12:11 am

In terms of microphone, I'd suggest either a ribbon or a nice condenser which doesnt have a high frequency lift, which rules out most large diaphragm condensers you'd use for vocal work. So perhaps hire an MKH40, AKG C414 B-ULS, TLM170 or 193.

As important is a decent set of isolating headphones as you'll need to audition the mic placement accurately, something like Sennheiser HD-25s give good isolation.

The response of a cello varies hugely depending on your angle of incidence, especially when you're working close to it, which you'll probably need to do in that acoustic. So the key with be to move the mic around auditioning on headphones until you find a sweet spot.

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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Tal » Fri May 27, 2011 8:03 am

Thanks to everyone again.

@Mixedup: the Robjohns article is a godsend — obviously SOS have dealt with pretty much everything already... The article even mentions the mic I already have ("The larger professional studios would typically opt for large-diaphragm mics on string sections, such as the Sony C800G valve microphone, the Neumann U47 and U87, or the AKG C414ULS. At the project end of the market there are several large-diaphragm mid-price microphones which would be equally suitable, such as the AKG C4000B, the Rode NT1 and the Audio Technica AT4033a, for example.")

Cheers.
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Fri May 27, 2011 8:25 am

Keep a little distance in a good room 12-15 inches plus would be a good move.

As far as mic I suggest a decent LDC, difficult to say what, the AT4033 will do a decent job, something honest, I am incredibly underwhelmed by U87 myself. And you may find it picks up more room than some other mics which may or may not be a goal.To my ear the cardioid is a pretty wide cardioid. An SE2200A would probably make a decent job of it as well for a budget mic.(listen for hiss though, same if you use a ribbon mic) I have tended to favour the right side (right side looking towards the player) just above the
reflex ports, lol, F hole. Make sure your mic is not in the way of the bowing action by getting the player to play first.

Make sure you route any headphone cords behind the player if they are earing cans.

If in doubt cover 1 ear and ask the player to play and then move your ear around for a likely looking sweet spot and plonk the mic there.

Hit -15dBFS on loudest peaks at 24 bit.

cheers

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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby John Willett » Fri May 27, 2011 9:37 am

Tal wrote:Hi,

I need to record a solo cello part in a week or so. The session will take place in a non-acoustically treated room in my apartment, and I'll try to get by with blankets and stuff to keep reverberations low. I'm looking for advice on mic placement and usage. The only serious mic I have is an AKG C4000B which is fed into my RME Fireface UC's preamps. Is it suitable for this sort of work? Or should I rent something like a TLM103 or a U87 for the day? Should I double-mic with something else? Any ideas about distance, angles etc? I will be having a tough time making choices by listening and making lots of tests, because we'll be in the same room and I won't be able to easily distinguish between the live and the return sound — and I can't record a test sound every time I move the mic stand two millimeters to the left...

Any piece advice is more than welcome. Thanks a lot.

Be aware of how the cello radiates sound at different frequencies. This should help:-

Image

And listen with your ears as you place the mic.

But it's all down to listening with your ears, as the room will greatly affect the sound - there is no hard and fast rule; listen and put the mic. where it sounds best to you and gives you the sound you want.

I hope this helps.

Good luck.
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Tal » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:11 pm

Thanks a whole lot to everyone again. We recorded today, with a AKG 414B XLII and an up-ended sofa and the result is wonderful (there was also, well, a wonderful cello player...)

Cheers!
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Re: Tips for recording a cello

Postby Daniel Davis » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:22 pm

Pity I missed this one - but for anyone in the future I was going to recommend getting a single-sided headphone. Normal ones often bang against the neck of the cello either causing noise, or annoyance to the player.
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