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Thread: What would be the best microphone to record opera?

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    Question What would be the best microphone to record opera?

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    Hi there,

    I'm a 19 year old mezzo-soprano/ possibly dramatic soprano and I want to start putting covers of songs on YouTube.

    The only problem is that when I record myself singing, whenever I go high and/ or loud the sounds cuts off and is sort of replaced by a buzzing. I have an extremely loud voice, especially when I sing high notes (I am not an opera singer, since I stopped training, but in terms of how loud I can be its very similar. My singing teacher thought I could have trained to be a Wagnerian singer, which is someone who sings above an orchestra without a microphone. No longer a possibility, but it does illustrate the problem I'm having). I have 2 microphones. The better one picks up more colour and texture in the voice, but it struggles to record high and loud frequencies, and so I can only use it when I am singing songs that require a very soft voice, and even then I have to be careful.

    The other microphone was much cheaper, but can handle louder singing. However I still cannot sing my heart out as there is a point where it too starts making a buzzing noise. Furthermore, because it is less sensitive to sound, the resulting recording is duller and much less rich than the recording of the other microphone. I want to put up the best covers I can, which would involve my loudest singing, but I think I need a better microphone that is able to cope with the size of my voice.

    I've tried putting the microphone further away from me, but it just makes the lower notes less audible and means that the tone and colour cannot be picked up very well. I have a rich but not very loud lower register and I'd like to be able to show the richness when I record.

    Are there any microphones out there that would be able to do this? Also I'd prefer it if they weren't very expensive, since I am a student.

    Side note: I am also using audacity to record. I don't believe the fault lies with this, but it may be partly to blame, so any advice on other applications I could use to record would be more than welcome.

    Thanks for the help x

    Edit: Just discovered the buzzing sound is called clipping, and the general suggestion is to have the microphone further away. This doesn't work for me as it still clips at a large distance, and it doesn't pick up the low notes. I'm starting to worry there isn't a solution
    Last edited by alyvia; 04-21-2019 at 05:08.

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    I suspect your thought process leads you to blame the mic, but in practice, microphones are rarely annoyed by loud voices. After all, they can cope with much louder sound sources than even Wagnerian Opera can produce.

    You mention mics, and Audacity - but you missed the vital part. What goes between them? My best guess is that you do not have a proper audio interface with gain controls, feeding into your computer's USB socket - and you're just plugging in the mic to the computer. If this is the case, I'm not surprised you are having issues - computer 3.5mm sockets are to all intents and purposes only good for very basic audio. Audacity, will be fine.

    What are your two mics? Condenser mics need 48V power, but a few work averagely from the 5V that comes out the 3.5mm socket - BUT - this can impact on their internal electronics and maybe cause the issues you have where it buzzes and bottoms out.

    Your quality though, will be determined by the microphone AND the room. If the room sounds good, so will your voice, but if it doesn't - having maybe lots of hard surfaces and noises, then nothing much can be done without sorting that too. You'll also find that you have other things to sort out.

    If you post us a link to 30 seconds or so, we will spot things very easily for you.

    Let us know EXACTLY what you have and how it is connected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alyvia View Post
    ...
    Edit: Just discovered the buzzing sound is called clipping, and the general suggestion is to have the microphone further away. This doesn't work for me as it still clips at a large distance, and it doesn't pick up the low notes. I'm starting to worry there isn't a solution
    What @rob aylestone said. We need to know the complete hardware chain and type of cabling used. Extremely unlikely to be the microphone introducing the clipping.

    For a very dynamic source that requires close micing, I'd probably want a good dynamic microphone (but probably not for a soprano!), or a condenser with a pad switch, if you really are on the verge of overloading it, though that's really a matter of microphone technique to even out what it is picking up, IMO.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Don't sing directly into the mic diaphragm.
    Use proper mic techniques (closer for soft, back off a bit for loud, further for real loud)
    use proper gain staging, It might be that your distortion is not mic related but to hot of signal in your chain somewhere causing clipping (distortion)
    if you have a lot of very soft to very loud volume changes you might want to break up the phrases and sing the loud parts separately from the soft parts, then mix them together. That way you can set the gain stage up for all the soft parts, then turn the gain down and sing all the loud parts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toastedgoat View Post
    Don't sing directly into the mic diaphragm.
    Use proper mic techniques (closer for soft, back off a bit for loud, further for real loud)
    use proper gain staging, It might be that your distortion is not mic related but to hot of signal in your chain somewhere causing clipping (distortion)
    if you have a lot of very soft to very loud volume changes you might want to break up the phrases and sing the loud parts separately from the soft parts, then mix them together. That way you can set the gain stage up for all the soft parts, then turn the gain down and sing all the loud parts.
    For a rock production I'd agree, but I think opera needs a different approach. I don't think working the mic or breaking up the takes is appropriate. I do think the performance should be made with the same settings and with the same positioning from start to finish.

    I do think that the acoustic environment needs to be either very dead with the reverb added artificially or have completely natural reverb with very minimal dynamics processing.

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    The demands of opera normally dictate more distant mic positions because the sound of the space is so important. An alternative is headset mics but they're still quite unusual for opera. Mic technique as decried above would be tricky for opera as they don't hand hold mics and most older opera folk are totally uninterested in mics. Their job being to just capture what they sing, with as much truthfulness as is possible.

    We really need to hear the problem to move on.

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    A friend of mine used to do all the recording at Glyndebourne - he used a pair of omnis, widely spaced, slung below the lighting bar over the audience.

    So an excellent pair of inexpensive omnis would be the Line Audio OM1 (anything better costs a lot more).
    Last edited by John Willett; 4 Weeks Ago at 06:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
    A froend of mine used to do all the recording at Glyndebourne - he used a pair of omnis, widely spaced, slung below the lighting bar over the audience.

    So an excellent pair of inexpensice pmnis would be the Line Audio OM1 (anything better costs a lot more).
    Well, yeah, if you're recording in an opera house, or big space that sounds good, perhaps. Then, honestly, almost any decent mics at a distance will yield usable if not very good results.

    I think many of us were under the impression the OP was doing something at home; but since @alyvia has not returned after post #1, we're all kind of pissing in the wind at this point IMO. (I really want to go on a Monday rant about how everyone just wants a quick "buy this" answer without actually having to spend a few minutes understanding *anything* anymore, but I'll save it for another day.)
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
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    when I went to uni, this is how it was done. I was in several vocal choirs and one opera. All the mics where hung down from the ceiling in a mid-size theatre. Depending on what they were recording would decide what mics. I was a sound geek at the time so I was always talking with the recording engineers. (UMKC white recital hall). None of the mics where within 15 feet of anyone and where overhead and slightly in front of us.

    Edit: I believe they used DPA mics.

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