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String Quartet Recording

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String Quartet Recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:27 am

I'm about to embark on a string quartet recording, on location, but no audience. We had a successful technical rehearsal last night, but the quartet mentioned something which got me thinking.

They like to rehearse in 'the square' facing each other and wondered if they could be recorded this way. I remember reading an article somewhere about recording a vocal ensemble in 'the round' with a stereo pair of mics in the middle of the group.

So I'm just wondering what would happen if the quartet rehearsed as usual, facing each other, but perhaps with 1st violin and Viola a little further apart than 2nd Violin and Cello, then miking from above using perhaps a Jecklin disc arrangement or near co-incident pair.

I'd imagine the mics would be too close to be workable.

The concept seems odd, but I thought I'd put it out there!

Bob
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Mike Senior » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:34 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:They like to rehearse in 'the square' facing each other and wondered if they could be recorded this way. I remember reading an article somewhere about recording a vocal ensemble in 'the round' with a stereo pair of mics in the middle of the group.

Yup -- I think Eargle mentions something like that, although he also includes a third mic to pin down the cello in the image.

So I'm just wondering what would happen if the quartet rehearsed as usual, facing each other, but perhaps with 1st violin and Viola a little further apart than 2nd Violin and Cello, then miking from above using perhaps a Jecklin disc arrangement or near co-incident pair.

Or just a spaced pair, using intensity as well as time differences because of the close spacing. If you're using omnis, I don't think the close spacing should be too much of a problem from a sheer tone perspective, as they'll still have a good deal of clearance between them in their rehearsal setup, I'd have thought. However, you might well need some artificial room sound if there are no other mics in the overall rig. Personally I'd try to set up another pair further back (or higher up perhaps) and blend the two, but that's just me.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:47 am

Thanks Mike. Sounds like it might be worth experimenting. I would use a spot mic (ribbon) on the cello and a couple of room mics which ever method I use.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby tacitus » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:31 pm

Not totally analogous. I know, but I've recorded conducted ensembles with a pair of spaced omnis on a single stand just in front of the conductor's music stand. Admittedly when there's no other feasible option (e.g. I'm playing and recording), but the results have been better than I expected. Usually I've put the mics on a K&M boom stand - not sure which model - sold to me as a drum overhead stand and taller than the normal K&M boom stand. MIc spacing is usually 18-24" as that's what I can easily rig. I don't see why you couldn't get quite a decent sound in the right room and with time to get the height right.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby uphillbothways » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:12 pm

No answer to your question, but I imagine a binaural recording would sound sensational.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby twotoedsloth » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:15 pm

If you don't mind looking at a severed head, the Neumann KU-100 is excellent for binaural recordings.

I would still put the quartet in the formation that they perform in... usually a semi-circle with the two violins on the left, the cello in the center-right and the viola on the outside right.

Some quartets like to put the cello next to the first violin (center left), try to discourage this if you can, even if just for the recording.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Persuazion » Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:22 am

You know what... I've recorded a few, with great results but I have never known the 'proper', traditional arrangement in the stereo field..

I've always aimed for Cello centre but the rest has just been where they fell on the day.

What is the traditional setup?
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Jeraldo » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:35 am

Viewed from above, it's not so different than the usual quartet arrangement with the open "side" toward the "front"=mic's, but the balance and presence may be better because the depth issues are less prominent, assuming you'd like to stay with essentially a stereo image presentation.

You have TLM193's. I'd put a pair of those over the center of the ensemble looking straight down in a quasi ORTF or perhaps a reasonably narrow spaced pair.

Add a pair of mc's for room tone, and perhaps an anchor mic or not.

I would explore the idea of them being on carpet just large enough to reduce floor reflections, that could with carpet pieces under each player, or carpet under the whole ensemble, with different results. The use of reflection reducers may elminate the need for a cello anchor mic.

My favorite "straight up" style recordings of string quartets have all be done with a single TLM193 pair, albeit looking at the quartet from the front.

Things may be a bit on the bright side when mic'ing directly overhead.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:55 am

Thanks everyone, interesting comments!

The quartet are playing in standard configuration L > R 1st Vn, 2nd Vn, Vc, Va - haven't heard of the cello and 2nd violin changing places, but have seen cello and viola change.

The acoustic is a very large wooden church, with little ambient noise to worry about and the stage area is carpeted.

The quartet auditioned the technical rehearsal material and they are thrilled. As expected the preferred choice was an ORTF pair of TLM193s plus a little room from a pair of KM183s.

We've decided to have another technical rehearsal to explore fine positioning of the ORTF pair and may use that as an opportunity to explore a more overhead position.

A few years back I experimented with a near co-incident baffled omni pair in this same venue (Thread Here ) so I may try that configuration again. Not quite binaural, but could be interesting.

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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Guy Johnson » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:12 pm

I've liked the results from using a crossed pair of figure eights. Might be worth a try.

I'd like to try two omnis too, one lower and one higher.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:04 am

Another technical rehearsal and decided to move the ORTF pair in closer and more overhead and it's sounding very good, intimate and not too bright with the option to add room from the room omnis.

But! I also decided to explore a binaural solution too and made myself a 'Schneider Disk' today. Used two KM183s either side (pointing at the ceiling), positioned just above the quartet. Sounds stunning! And seems to translate well onto speakers.

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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby p.dakin » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:38 am

I've had very pleasing results with a Decca tree, using spot mics to help emphasis the stereo image and for any possible solo's. I had a ORTF setup up closer, but the Decca tree sounded far more open and natural.

However in the Square the Decca tree could prove tricky, yielding a biased stereo image... If you've the channels/mics/pre-amps something extra to experiment with?
As with most of the techniques, you need your tape measure out and a lazor sometimes makes live even easier! (there you excuse to go buy a LAy-Zor in true Austin Powers fashion).

Could they be talked out of the square setup? Obviously its great for a performance/audience perspective, but from a recording one??? Depends on the music and the interaction. I worked with one 'folk' quartet and they had to perform in a circle/round as there was a large element of improvisation and eye/bow contact was essential. It was a while ago.. think I set up a ORTF overhead pointing down, but at a distance enough to just blur the stereo image favourably.
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Re: String Quartet Recording

Postby Jeraldo » Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:25 am

Peter Dakin wrote:
As with most of the techniques, you need your tape measure out and a lazor sometimes makes live even easier! (there you excuse to go buy a LAy-Zor in true Austin Powers fashion).

Could they be talked out of the square setup?

Austin doesn't groove with squares
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