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Thread: Recording a Symphonic Orchestra

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    Recording a Symphonic Orchestra

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    Just for curiosity... I would like to know if anyone have experience with symphonic orchestra recordings... I'm talking about live events. What kind of microphones are required? Where they're positioned? How much mics? And then: such a recording it's a 2 track or multitrack session??

    I would like to know also about non-live orchestral style recordings, for example Vangelis - Mythodea...

    MaxB

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    Hey Max,

    I'm certain someone here can help you out far more than I'll be able to, BUT I used to work for a 3500 seat opera house that would have dress rehersals recorded for NPR type broadcast...

    All I ever saw them use were a few (Can't remember how many, maybe just two) "Pencil" type condensors (I don't know what they were exactally) in the pit (I believe one was near and above the bass drum and percussion and the other near the string sections), then two on stands how about mid house (like 40 feet from the pit) on the main floor and like 7 or 8 feet high into just a little Mackie 8 channel mixer.
    I never recall seeing the engineer with more than maybe a 10 space rack, so he likely had a few DAT machines.

    The broadcast recordings (Of course) weren't anything like a studio, but they were great in their own live capture way.

    Sorry I couldn't offer any specifics.

    Last edited by BillyFurnett; 09-18-2003 at 00:07.

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    My favorite was always a Decca Tree, with a few spot mics as needed. You start by listening to a rehearsal (just listening) and think about what you think will need to be spotted, generally soloists and quiet instruments. Next, you record a rehearsal, using your Decca Tree and the spots you believed you would need. Listen back, and find out where you are week, where you are strong, and figure out how to fix it. I like to listen to this with the conductor, if he is willing, so he can give me input as to what he is concerned about (remember, it is his artistic vision, which is why he is called maestro). If you want to find out more about the Decca Tree, look HERE.

    In a Pops type situation, it is common to mic every section, in addition to a Decca Tree (or other primary mic setups), with each of the string sections miced, and frequently each woodwind instrument or pair of woodwind instruments mic individually.

    Just what worked for me, but I have not done any of that kind of work for years now.


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    Billy and Light: thank you for your replys, I really appreciated.
    I found very interesting the Decca Tree method.

    Thanks!!

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    I record symphonies quite often

    While they are semi-professional orchestras, I have ended up with some fine recordings.

    To capture the Orchestra proper I prefer the ORTF method over the Decca tree. I have tried both, it's a personal taste kind of thing. Plus it is very simple to run.

    If they are having a soloist it is nice to have an extra mic place near him/her.

    I use small diaphram condensers for the ORTF pair. They have a very nice, flat response. I used to put out spot mics, but have found I seldom add them to the mix. I like recordings that accurately represent what the conductor hears.

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    Re: I record symphonies quite often

    Originally posted by sloop
    To capture the Orchestra proper I prefer the ORTF method
    Duh? Can you explain the ORTF method, please?

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    Re: Re: I record symphonies quite often

    Originally posted by MaxB
    Duh? Can you explain the ORTF method, please?
    Sure,

    This technique uses two cardioid microphones spaced 17cm between elements, angled outwards at 110 degrees. This technique often gives a greater sense of space than coincident techniques due to the microphones being ear spaced and thus capturing phase information as well as intensity information.

    Its main advantage, since it uses cardioids, the microphones can be placed further back from the source without capturing too much of the reverberation that most other techniques do. This often makes for a better blended balance than techniques requiring the microphones be a little closer. Also, the use of cardioids enables you to use it in over reverberant acoustic areas where other techniques would capture too much of the reverberations.

    I find for symphonies, placing the mics 8 to 10' up and about 3' behind the conductor gives you a very accurate spacial sound of the orchestra. Basically, you are recording what the conductor hears, which is the optimum sound.

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    Just to chime in. I've recorded a few top notch symphonies in a performance. I used a DAT machine and a pair of 4033's. I find that with decent mics and a great sounding house it is almost impossible to get a bad recording. I put the mics about 10 feet up and about 10 feet apart and really liked the results.

    Sloop. Did you have any balance issues front to back? For example did the french horns or small percussion get at all buried by the strings. (maybe on louder passages?)

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    The Decca Tree and ORTF Methods can be used for choir recordings too?

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    No, the height seem to be the key to this

    Originally posted by dean1964
    Just to chime in. I've recorded a few top notch symphonies in a performance. I used a DAT machine and a pair of 4033's. I find that with decent mics and a great sounding house it is almost impossible to get a bad recording. I put the mics about 10 feet up and about 10 feet apart and really liked the results.

    Sloop. Did you have any balance issues front to back? For example did the french horns or small percussion get at all buried by the strings. (maybe on louder passages?)
    By having the mics above the rest of the orchestra, the French horns etc come through very cleanly. If they are a bit short on french horns for a piece, we place a table on its side behind them to reflect their sound out.
    Percussion has never been a problem. Everything comes through cleanly. The only thing that occasionally will get buried is the harp. When that happens, the audience can't hear it either. Harp player tend to play a bit timidly. By having good mics near the conductor--what he hears is what the mics pick up.

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