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ARSCLIST  January 2008

ARSCLIST January 2008

Subject:

Re: How not to mike an orchestra

From:

phillip holmes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 1 Jan 2008 23:55:52 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (93 lines)

Mike Richter makes the most important and pertinent point about how a 
musician views recorded sound.  Just take the most present Mercury 
Living Presence and knock up the presence about times 10 and that's what 
it's like sitting inside an ensemble.  You can hear all kinds of detail 
that not even the conductor can hear.  The conductor usually is getting 
a good dose of winds projected at his head, so he can't hear some of 
what a Bass player or Tuba player would hear.  There are times when 
things are so loud, all you can hear are the six-ten players immediately 
around you, especially if you are a brass/percussion guy.  SO, for them 
to hear 100 microphones all mixed down to two channels isn't going to be 
objectionable.   They hear the guy wheezing next to them and why would 
it sound out of place on a CD?

One thing that the couple could be talking about is the marked 
improvement in background noise levels since the '60s.  From the 
microphones, to the cables, to boards and electronics, everything is 
much quieter than in the '60s.  They might be comparing 
multi-microphoned Columbia recordings from the '60s to something similar 
from the '90s.  Because everything has a much lower noise floor, they 
perceive this as an improvement in recording technique, when the 
improvement has been in equipment and storage.   All the microphone 
techniques used today have been with us for a long time.  Because of 
modern materials, we can hear more detail (detail that an audience 
member can't hear).

Also, don't discount the fact that many players suffer from some amount 
of hearing damage (it's very prevalent in brass and percussion 
players).  I know trombone players who played in jazz bands that have 
tinnitus. 

Another thing about musicians is that they tend to project what they 
expect to hear over what they are actually hearing.  It's like our 
spouse hearing a "yes" when we clearly said "no".  That happens.  If 
they've heard a particular piece hundreds of times, and they've played 
it too, they stop listening to details because they're intimately 
familiar with it.  The recording is taken for granted.  They just hear 
things that are "out of the ordinary", like a note that's changed due to 
errata, or some extreme of tempo, or a dramatic change in 
interpretation, etc...  This is like our daily commute to work.  How 
many can say they actually pay close attention to their surroundings on 
their daily drive?

Another thing:  Maybe musicians are their own worst customers.  I can 
draw an analogy to a home contractor that has unfinished jobs at his 
house (holes that need repaired, carpet that needs replacing).  The 
musician plays music all day and doesn't really put that much effort 
into reproducing music. 

Most musicians don't listen mid hall when they're listening to a 
rehearsal.  I've noticed they get as close to the ensemble as possible.  
The mid-hall perspective is foreign to them.

Phillip Holmes

Mike Richter wrote:
> Bob Olhsson wrote:
>
>> I got hired around ten years ago to record a woman who turned out to 
>> have
>> played flute in both the NBC Symphony and the New York Philharmonic 
>> where
>> she met her husband who played clarinet. Before leaving, we sat down 
>> with
>> the couple and had a conversation about the recording and 
>> broadcasting of
>> those orchestras. After some wonderful anecdotes about Toscanini and
>> Stokowski, I was shocked to hear them say they believed "recordings 
>> improved
>> so much after the modern technique of using lots of microphones 
>> instead of
>> only one started to be used."
>
> What else would a flautist say? That is, she would probably have been 
> unable to hear herself in the ensemble with only one or two mikes. 
> When she has one all to herself - or to the winds as a group - she 
> would perceive her contribution more easily. Whether that microscopic 
> view and the resulting clarity of inner voices aids the overall effect 
> is up to producer, conductor and engineers (in no particular order).
>
> Note, too, that musicians may be poor judges of recorded sound; in 
> general, they are not looking for the same things that make a 
> recording effective to the home listener. In addition, they do not 
> know what the orchestra sounds like when they hear it from within the 
> group.
>
> I have had very good results with limited experience recording with a 
> pair of cardioid electrets crossed and mounted somewhat above the 
> stage, one-third back and horizontally centered in a small hall. But 
> whether that would satisfy the performers I cannot guess; it may have 
> sounded too 'realistic'.
>
> Mike

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