Advice on how to record a classically-trained singer with cheap equipment?

xfce

New member
Hi, everyone,

I am tasked with recording a classically-trained soprano with a pair of half-decent SE7s hooked up to a H4n Pro. (I've used them before to record some solo instrument performances and was relatively happy with the results for the price.) She'll be singing to a pre-recorded piano accompaniment in a church with pretty decent acoustics.

Does anyone have suggestions as to how to go about recording her performance? I do not know much about recording singers at all and don't have any money to spend on new equipment as a broke student. Currently, I am planning to use both of my mics as a stereo pair positioned six feet away. Should the mics be positioned slightly above her head?

Thanks,
xfce
 

Massive Master

www.massivemastering.com
[1] You're at the mercy of the space. Don't let the acoustics control you.
[2] I've found the built-in mics on the Zoom H4N & H4N Pro to be quite capable on their own of picking up "the real" with pretty decent quality.
[2b] I've found the preamps to be horrible and noisy. So try both, but you might find the "naked" recorder does the better job.

Or at least, put serious effort into positioning of that unit and recording it along with the other mics.

Getting the vocal is obviously the priority - but depending on where the "piano" is coming from, you may need to move around the room to find the right balance. If you're bringing a set of speakers for that, you've got an advantage. If it's coming from a set of built-in mounted speakers up high in the space, that's going to dictate where you can find that balance.

It's easy to think that churches have good acoustics, but make sure you do (slate, clap, book-slams, etc.) to find the problems that may otherwise be masked by the wonderful sounding blossoms that attract your attention -- Many spaces have terrible comb filtering from parallel surfaces and/or very tightly focused reflections from angles and rounded areas.

[E] Try to record a slate on the piano track - give it at least 6 or 7 seconds from the slate to the start so it can disappear. You can use that to mix in the recording of the piano later if it's too washy in the space.

[8] To that end, if the vocalist is comfy recording with cans, that wouldn't be the worst thing ever either. Then you can concentrate on the vocal and it's clear, clean verb and then do the same with the piano playback track later AND use the raw piano track. #Options.
 
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xfce

New member
Thank you, John.

Yes, I forgot to mention that she'll definitely be recording with headphones—I think she might actually prefer recording with headphones over speakers. The speakers in the church are in very odd locations, anyway, and I don't have good enough portable speakers.

I will try recording with the Zoom's built-in mics and separate microphones, as you advise. I agree that even the "better" preamps on the H4n pro aren't great either, but I found the built-in mics to be quite noisy as well, which is why I ended up purchasing the SE7 mics when I needed to record some piano and harpsichord.

Anyway, now that I've cleared up my situation a bit, is there anything about mic positioning I should be aware of? I am not sure if she has the patience for me to experiment, as she's just a high school student (albeit with a very lovely voice and decent projection).
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
What you need is use the multichannel facilities on the zoom - so use the stereo mics to capture the room, use one of your mics closer in to record the singer and feed the track she sings to to the fourth channel so you can align the piano track with the other three. Then you can start with the track and the solo mic and balance those, then add in the church sound to give the realism. That would be how I do it.
 

dfackler

New member
Sounds as though the headphones will be the best solution. Perhaps suggest that she keep her 'good' ear open-- uncovered so she can hear herself better. I wouldn't use speakers(in the space) at all during recording.

I agree with the stereo pair for the space and a solo mic(with a pop screen!) 12-14" in front of her, at face level.

You may end up using only the accomp track and solo mic with some nice church reverb convoluted in later.

You have lots of flexibility with this setup.

Some "short takes" to determine mic placement my be helpful. You don't want to mic so far out that she sounds 'small'.

Above, all have fun!

~dk
 

xfce

New member
Many thanks to both! If I follow this multi-mic setup, I assume I will be using the 4CH mode on the Zoom? How can I feed the piano track (a wav file) into the Zoom while recording her singing? (I originally thought I would primitively match the two up on a DAW.) When I use the Zoom's microphones and an external mic, how should I position them to eliminate any phase issues?

Sorry for all these newbie questions; I have never recorded anything like this before!
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
You just make up a lead. You don’t really need any quality, just for aligning the tracks. Ignore phase issues, they wont intrude.what are you using to send to her headphones? You could also put a count in click on the piano track that would help tremendously. The stereo track will either sound gorgeous, or it wont. Not all churches have acoustics better than some reverb plugins you might have. In my Cubase setup, I have a reverb called reverence. Lots of church presets, and many are better than the popular church venues near me here!
 

xfce

New member
Thank you, Rob. (Sorry for the late response as well.) I'll just be using my laptop for her to listen to the piano track, which is why I am a bit unsure how to synchronize everything directly on the Zoom!
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
The H4n has a full 4 channel multitrack mode. If you are using a recorded piano track, you could have the track on the Zoom, and just record it the same as any other multitrack recorder.
 

PTFPhoto

New member
Hi, everyone,

I am tasked with recording a classically-trained soprano with a pair of half-decent SE7s hooked up to a H4n Pro. (I've used them before to record some solo instrument performances and was relatively happy with the results for the price.) She'll be singing to a pre-recorded piano accompaniment in a church with pretty decent acoustics.

Does anyone have suggestions as to how to go about recording her performance? I do not know much about recording singers at all and don't have any money to spend on new equipment as a broke student. Currently, I am planning to use both of my mics as a stereo pair positioned six feet away. Should the mics be positioned slightly above her head?

Thanks,
xfce
VERY curious how this worked out. I've recorded sopranos. At full volume, and if you try to mic them like a pop singer, they will distort your microphone at best, and at worst can blow the capsule. If you HAVE to do this with a close mic, place the microphone about chest high, about 2-3ft back and aim up toward the chin. Do NOT let the capsule be in the direct path of the mouth.
 
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