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MSmartt

Recording Violin in Home Studio

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Hello All,
I am recording a violin and not pleased with the tone I am getting. I am seeking a richer tone as projected by the violin  Looking for suggestions concerning detailed mic placement, mono vs. stereo and actual mics preferred.

Currently I have the following equipment. Focusrite 18i20 interface, 2 Rode M5s, Rode NT1, and 2 Sterling ST170 Ribbon mics. Any microphone of choice to get the rich tone of the violin would be considered.

Your input is appreciated.

Michael

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My experience is that ribbon mics are the ticket for what you want.  But you have those Sterlings--don't they sound good?  I haven't used that particular mic, but I run my ribbon mic into a nice preamp, and it's great.  I put it about two feet away, above the violin.  When I have wanted stereo, I don't do two ribbons, though, I add a large diaphragm condensor mic and generally move it around, sometime off to the side, sometimes under the violin, to get more resonance of the room.  Or I use two small-diaphragm condensors in a stereo pattern, and keep the ribbon as a center channel. 

But for richer tone, I don't see how you can do better than a good ribbon/preamp combo.  Does the violin itself have a rich tone?  If not, there's your problem.

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If you can't get the sound you want with two Rode m5s configured in true stereo, placed about 12-18 inches above and out from the treble soundhole, the problem is the violin or the room.

The Focusrite Scarlett range is quite hyped, but I don't suppose the mike pre-amps are particularly warm.

If you can't change the violin or the room, generally a bit of post-production will get you where you want to be - in this case a bit of modest valve distortion and some sensible EQ - remove around 1.2kHz, add 3-400 and above 8kHz ...

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The problem with small-diaphragm condensors (Rode m5s) is that they can put an unpleasant edge on a violin, unless the room is exquisite.  And even then they can emphasize bow noise that isn't as much of a problem if you are ten feet away.  That's why I put the ribbon in there--this is home recording, so I'm not counting on the room, and in my experience a good ribbon mic will minimize the unpleasant bow noise.  The other EQ spot to examine for a little reduction is around 3.4kHz, if your problem is nastiness.

Years ago, with an array of microphones not unlike yours, I put everything up in my room, tried several locations, and another player and I tried everything we could think of, recorded it all, comparing.  Consistently the richest sound for a single mic was the ribbon a couple feet away, but it was going through an Avalon 737, so yeah, valve distortion... But anyway, Michael, have you put everything up and tried it?  What were your results?

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Sometimes a pig's ear can be pretty stubborn (I speak from long experience of self-recording). I believe the problem is far more to do with the room than the equipment or the instrument. Even in a grateful acoustic the microphone needs to be closer than you'd imagine, and surface reflections don't seem to be caught and integrated by the mic in the same way as they are by the ear. Arguably a completely dead space could be best; then you can tinker with artificial reverb to perfect contentment

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How would you guys mic the cellist and violinist in a trio with a decent sounding omni A-B pair?  I get a good result mic'ing the piano fairly close with an X-Y cardioid pair, still wondering about strings.  I recently picked up two pairs of Line Audio mics...one pair omni, the other pair cardioid, with an Audient interface; haven't had the chance to try these in a nice space yet, which is key.

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Thanks for all the suggestions.  Attached is a picture of the studio, which yes needs additional treatment.  I set the studio up in January of this year so it is a work in progress.  The floors are engineered hardwood dampened by an area rug.  I do have some concerns about the corners and bass traps.  I am thinking of building acoustic clouds to rid the corners and sharp angles.

I haven't completed my due diligence in mic testing at this point, hopefully will complete this weekend.  I will try each suggestion presented.

As far as the violin, the tone is rich and very will balance.  The main instrument I use is a David Chrapkiewicz, I also have several other violins to try in the test.

Thanks again for the suggestions.  Any input on furthering the acoustics of the room is appreciated.  As mentioned, this is a work in progress which can become a very addicting and expensive hobby!!

 

Michael

studio.jpg

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The floor rug is a good idea.  One of the problems of most rooms is that the walls and the floor and ceiling are generally parallel, so you can get weird resonance from standing waves, especially if they are hard surfaces.  There are of course many fancy and expensive items you can use to obstruct those waves and corners of your room that unnaturally pump up the bass, etc.  But I have good luck with rugs, furniture, and of course, rugs ON furniture.  I like your blinds (I have similar ones--these appear to be the sort with chambers in the accordion fold and they are pretty absorbent acoustically), but I would be hanging some rugs on those bare walls.  While I am into the tribal rug thing, there are a variety of textiles that are worth trying, quilts perhaps?  Burlap is weirdly effective.  When I record I sometimes isolate the player a little with a few chairs around them with rugs draped thereon.  I have been known to put a chair on a table and drape the whole thing with a big rug--you keep listening and trying things until it's right.  I have two rooms, but my smaller room with the gear is not unlike yours actually.

KizilStudioRedesign.jpg

It might help to hear a few recordings in your space, even through computer speakers, to get a sense of what problems you're facing.  I suspect that if you put a mic a couple feet away from the violin in your room that you would be hearing a fair amount of reflections coming off of those walls, and that would interfere with the rich tone you seek.

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I don't do any recording, but the official suggestion from the NY Phil for their audition tapes is a condenser mic 8 ft off the ground, 6 ft in front of the fiddle, pointed directly at it.

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On 7/23/2019 at 11:30 PM, palousian said:

The problem with small-diaphragm condensors (Rode m5s) is that they can put an unpleasant edge on a violin, unless the room is exquisite. 

This is true if you're working in mono. In mono the specific characteristics of the mike become very important, since it's nigh-on impossible to recreate with a mono input the richness of sound that a violinist hears while playing.

True stereo (proper configuration of overlapping capsules at 100 degrees) will eliminate all these problems, since you are giving each ear a different sound, and you are capturing some of the phasing nuances of normal hearing.

Mono is good for getting a bit of extra focus for one instrument in a stereo ensemble, and it's good for pop.

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Thanks again for all the great feedback.  I can eliminate the instrument based on the fact of recording in other studios with a great response.  The adjectives i would use to describe the tone I am hearing are Raspy, Thin - lacking depth with a bit of bow noise.  Granted the tone is not terrible, just not what I am hearing when I and others play the instrument.  I am planning extensive mic testing this weekend.  Your feed back has confirmed my suspicion of wall treatments.  Since I have access to materials at cost from my work, I am now researching and making plans to build acoustic wall panels and clouds.  Based on my cost, I am confident I can build all panels needed for less than $ 250.  Do any of you have experience in building these treatments?

Regards,

Michael

 

 

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23 hours ago, martin swan said:

True stereo (proper configuration of overlapping capsules at 100 degrees) will eliminate all these problems, since you are giving each ear a different sound, and ...

So, you are assuming that the recorded material will be listened only by using earphones? ...... :)

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On 7/24/2019 at 5:14 PM, Bill Merkel said:

I don't do any recording, but the official suggestion from the NY Phil for their audition tapes is a condenser mic 8 ft off the ground, 6 ft in front of the fiddle, pointed directly at it.

Bill that's what I was wondering about - multiple recommendations here for much closer miking.  I expect it's partly a function of what microphone is used...my cardioid pair's low-end response drops off unless close.  Also wondering if you're recording two or three strings players if you still want to use a single pair fairly close, or if the NY Phil approach works better in that case.

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I don't think there's much connection between what a player would like to hear of themselves and what the NY Phil wants to hear from them.

The NY Phil recommendation is for a warts and all undoctorable approach, designed to let them hear someone's playing, and specifically not to enhance someone's sound. The opposite of what the OP needs ...

The only way a serious recording engineer would use this approach would be if 1. the mike quality and signal path were of the highest quality, 2. the recording was taking place in a very large space with minimal and neutral ambience (such as a very high end classical recording studio) and 3. the item being recorded was unaccompanied and required no individual treatment or separation.

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In just playing around with a recorder, I've noticed if you don't listen to your recording for a couple weeks and then listen again, it improves the recording dramatically!  I think what happens is you forget what you were fixated on and you don't notice it if it was minor.

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As I see it the simple reason for close miking is so that the recording emulates the source, rather than what you hear at a distance. In practice of course, since most people's listening room doesn't have a very grateful acoustic and a lot of listening is done through headphones most recordings compromise by incorporating some acoustic information too. "Binaural" is the most truthful way to go!

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6 hours ago, matesic said:

As I see it the simple reason for close miking is so that the recording emulates the source, rather than what you hear at a distance. 

Yes kind of ...

The reasons for close miking are either to eliminate ambience or to eliminate crosstalk from other instruments.

In you have a fantastic sounding space and are not fighting against other instruments, then distance miking will always give a more truthful sound, even in mono.

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57 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Yes kind of ...

The reasons for close miking are either to eliminate ambience or to eliminate crosstalk from other instruments.

In you have a fantastic sounding space and are not fighting against other instruments, then distance miking will always give a more truthful sound, even in mono.

You're right about crosstalk, but I'm thinking of a single instrument. If we're listening through headphones, close or distance miking should be equally truthful since what the the two poles of the mic detect is pretty much what gets relayed to the ears, left and right directly. The binaural technique takes this approach to the limit by simulating a human head in order to create a realistic sound shadow and interaural time difference. But when the recorded signal is put out through speakers we hear the output of both speakers though both ears so any real interaural time and intensity information is almost completely lost. With any combination of instruments the engineer's skill lies in creating the right kind of mix in order to get a stereo sound stage which isn't necessarily "truthful" but convincing. Using a single mono mic on the other hand we can presumably get a very similar experience to a one-eared listener on the spot.

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How many one-eared listeners put their one functioning ear 3 inches out from the treble f-hole of a violin?

The player gets a very powerfully stereo image, coupled with the bone conduction which recorded sound can't possibly communicate.

 

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It got a bit late. In short, what I think I'm saying is that if you want to make your speakers produce a sound as similar as possible to your violin you need to close-mike (or record in a completely dead acoustic). But if you want to simulate an enjoyable listening experience in a hall, that's another matter

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On 7/26/2019 at 10:11 AM, mbrancalion said:

So, you are assuming that the recorded material will be listened only by using earphones? ...... :)

I would only be making that assumption if everyone's hifi or studio monitors ran in mono ..... :P

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MSmartt started out by asking why s/he wasn't satisfied with the recorded sound of their violin.

Of all the instruments we might play or record, the violin is the one where the sound source sits closest to the player's head. Indeed much of the sound a player hears reaches the brain through bone conduction. But even setting that aside, for the player, the experience of monitoring their own playing is about as profoundly stereo as it can get, with totally different information being fed to each ear.

In my experience (as someone who has recorded for a living for at least a couple of decades, both my playing, that of others, and every other instrument besides), the single most significant thing you can do to make a recorded violin sound more like a violin to the player is to record in true stereo.

Take it or leave it ...

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3 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Take it or leave it ...

I leave it ..... :)

Sometimes i like to record in stereo, sometimes in MS, sometimes in mono, sometimes with 4 mics with an added condenser clip. Every system has its space and reason to be, as far as i've seen.

Absolutism is never an option....... ;)

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Given the OP has a very specific issue, and has the equipment to record in XY, I thought it was an obvious thing to try, but I'm sure the OP would appreciate your input.

It's not absolutism, it's more that we know what sort of recording they are doing, what the room is, what gear they have, what their monitors are like, and what their concern is. Of course it's not the appropriate solution for every recording situation.

 

 

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Hello all,

Here is an update on the studio treatment.  I have put the mic testing on hold until I complete the room treatment.  Based on your feedback, I have decided to treat the room properly.

I am starting with base traps and have all the vertical corners ready to install.  Next will be all vertical 90 degree angles to complete the project.

Afterwards, the mic testing will begin.

Just wanted to give an update on all the great feedback received.

Regards,

 

Michael

20190808_211752.jpg

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