Dramatic soprano

GemmaAA1

New member
Hi I'm hoping someone can help. I tried local shops but I don't think they understand what I am after...

I'm a Dramatic/Wagnerian soprano (very loud) who would like to record pieces for auditions and my website - so ideally good enough to capture the colour in my voice.

The aim is to record me (very loud) and an accompanist on grand piano (playing loudly).

We will be in a large room (either church or school music hall) with good acoustics.

The equipment I have so far is a zoom h4n pro. I haven't tried this on it's own yet.

I'm wondering whether you think the zoom will be enough? Or whether you'd recommend extra mic(s)? If so, any suggestions? And where should they be placed? (I have only been recorded professionally before with full orchestra and several mics hanging from ceiling off stage). Also wondering where to stand in relation to the piano?

The software I have audacity.

I'm looking to keep it as budget at possible (the last year and a half has not been kind in terms of work...).

I'd be so so grateful for any help.

I'm also near Brighton area if anyone has any local recommendations or connections.

Thank you! Gemma.

(Apologies if this has been asked before, I couldn't find an opera singing post with the same requirements when I searched)
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Zoom as a device, but there are a few things to remember.It is a stereo recorder that captures the sound that it hears. Stereo is a balance and blend sound source. If it was replaced with a person, what would they hear? There are three things. You, the piano and the space. Too much or too little of any of them spoils the recording. The initial thing will be to move it around to get the placement right. Not too wet, (too much reverb from the space) or too dry (too little reverb). You also have to decide where you will appear to be in the stereo field. As the featured singer, you should really be in the centre - equally captured on the zoom's pair of mics. The piano will be off to one side, and then the room sound will be balanced nicely between left and right. You need a third person. It is impossible for you to sing and adjust placement without recording, playing, moving, recording, playing, moving over and over again. Ideally you need to find a knowledgeable person who can put in some good quality in-ear headphones or larger enclosed headphones who can move around till it's right.

This uses just your zoom. If you can borrow a microphone you could set up for you, the zoom could do the stereo, then one extra one will give a more belts and braces approach - with a track with mostly you, and if you could borrow another mic you could do the same with the piano and then blend these all together in audacity.

Your volume really isn't an issue - the mic will be far enough away for the Zoom to cope. It's going to be very difficult to do this yourself, without perhaps hours of trial and error.

The thing with zooms, freestanding, is that they record well balanced sound sources - and that is very difficult for you to do because you are one of them. Somebody skilled in this sort of recording would walk in, you'd start and they would wander around finding that special location where the balance is perfect. That is where the Zoom goes. They might want you to get closer to the piano, or move further away. There are other approaches, but they involve more sophisticated techniques and you definitely cannot do this and sing at the same time.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
I would definitely augment the Zoom with a single [good] mic that could be placed where it would pick up primarily your voice because the Zoom recorders I've had with built-in mics do tend to pick up everything well. It might be fine, but takes a good amount of time, as @rob aylestone wrote, to set up so it does that in a balanced way. With a single mic on your voice, you can place the Zoom so you are sure it captures the piano.

Make sure to have a stand adapter so you can put the Zoom anywhere. When I recorded our son's college audition (violin) a long time ago, I had a Zoom H2 just sitting on a music stand, aimed at the piano and that captured everything pretty well, but I had a single mic on our son, recording direct to my MacBook. Mixed them in GarageBand, and then put that audio with the video recording. (He got accepted at good conservatories, but then went elsewhere, deciding not to major in music - kids!)
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I only just realised the thread on my zooms is a camera size thread not a mic stand thread!
Precisely, the best stand is a good camera tripod. Otherwise you need an adapter to mount the H4n on a standard mic stand. A good camera tripod is usually more stable than the standard mic stands unless you get a really good one.
 

LazerBeakShiek

AKA Optimus Prime LEGO Vampire
A good camera tripod is usually more stable than the standard mic stands unless you get a really good one.
Yeah, why are they so shitty?

A wind gust will take one down. The shafts are breakable, threads strip, plastic pieces breaks off. Bends over with an LDC.

My old ones are steel. You could pry open a bank vault with it.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
You can still get good ones, you just don't get them for $20. We used to have all the round base Atlas stands back in the day. They were great until it got a bit top heavy. It's that old "center of gravity" issue. The wider and heavier the base, the more stability. My camera stands have about a 4ft stance. You probably need one of the 24lb triangular base units to get similar stablity. They run about $200 each.
Yeah, why are they so shitty?

A wind gust will take one down. The shafts are breakable, threads strip, plastic pieces breaks off. Bends over with an LDC.

My old ones are steel. You could pry open a bank vault with it.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
RE: the OP's post, using just the Zoom will probably not give you the result you are hoping for. I would start like Keith, using the Zoom's internal mics on the piano set up appropriately to get a nice balance, and then add an external mic for the vocals. As Rob said, it will take a bit of trial and error to figure out placement. Run in MTR mode, so you get individual tracks to deal with for mixing. If you can round up an extra external mic, set it up as the room mic. You don't HAVE to use that track, but it's there if you want it.

I would skip Audacity, and move to either Cubase LE (should come with the H4n), Reaper, Cakewalk by Bandlab or Ardour. They are much better designed for mixing and adjusting.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Hi Gemma and welcome. Now, I think some of the guys here get a bit fed up me saying this but I suggest you also ask at www.soundonsound.com Not only are they UK based but many of the forum members are ex BBC and have vast knowledge of recording classical music.... NOT! That I am denigrating anyone here! Just that SoS is handy. You might, I say just might get a visit!

WTGR to Rich, I would avoid Cubase, not very intuitive IMHO. No DAW is easy but Reaper is about as good as they get.

Dave.
 

GemmaAA1

New member
Wow. This is so helpful thank you all so much. I will try my partner (no musician but good ears) to find the sweet spot.

If I get an external mic (sounds advisable) is there any that's recommended?

Thank you 💗
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Wow. This is so helpful thank you all so much. I will try my partner (no musician but good ears) to find the sweet spot.

If I get an external mic (sounds advisable) is there any that's recommended?

Thank you 💗
You've already said your vocal part will be loud, so you likely will want the microphone some distance away. Really, almost any good microphone with a cardioid pattern you can put your hands on will probably work. Just position yourself and the microphone so it is aimed at you, and the piano is behind the mic, as much as possible. That way the "bleed" of the piano into the vocal mic will be minimized, and it will give you more flexibility in balancing the piano vis-a-vis the vocal. (Same positioning applies to the Zoom that should priortize picking up mostly piano, in this kind of setup.)

Shure, AKG, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, on and on. If you have choices, list them and someone might make a call.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I have to disagree. Any really competent daw is tough to learn, and this is why the cut gown versions are a good starter. Cubase is with logic, the daws that rarely cannot do something. I’ve never needed any other product. But, like photoshop, you need to evolve into them and put effort in.
I‘d also say that I have never been let down by K&M stands, the European standard, and to be fair, the copies that share the common features. Heavy base and legs. Decent clutch and secure clamps. I frequently but small video cameras on them. I have probably 40? Even the oldest, tattiest ones will happily keep my expensive mics safe. I found putting a zoom on one of my video tripods because I forgot I needed an adaptors embarrassing!
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Hi Rob. The last thing I want to do is sidetrack the OP about DAW choice! However, I (we) have had Cubase LE and Ess 6 and found them more complex to setup (all those 'buses'!) Exporting is not as simple as for instance Samplitude. Sam is not readily available (but you can get the 30 day trial) but Reaper is a close second to my mind.

As you say however no DAW is very intuitive.

Dave.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The good thing about being a Wagnerian is that almost any microphone/preamp choice will be workable. The problems always come at the other end - the pale pink voices that have to be recorded at a distance. Most mics nowadays have amazing dynamic range capability, and either cover the range from oexrutiatingly loud to low and modest in one go, or have a pad switch. One of my mics is really too sensitive and needs the pad often to avoid being overloaded while other mics won't break a sweat. Same with the Zooms - some need the -20dB pad switch and others cope happily without.

The thing with the extra mic techniques is that the real point is to provide a clean signal with as much voice and nothing else in it, so it can be blended with the sound of the space, and everything in it. Some mics are also prettier than others. I did a recording last year and also shot it for video, and while the sound was lovely - the microphones were very out of place. I've some older AKGs that have the capability to unscrew the end capsule, and fit an extension tube. I bought a couple of these tubes, and they let you distance the tubular part of the mic, so any visuals look a lot nicer. For an audio recording that doesn't matter, but I bet you'll take a few phone pics, and a neat mic can be just more useful. A slim pencil shaped condenser would be my thoughts and they go from modest to scarily expensive, but even the cheapest will give you extra clarity.

The biggest snag with self recording is you cannot sing and tweak at the same time. So it takes longer. If you can use somebody else, it's a huge step forward.
 

dfackler

Member
Somebody skilled in this sort of recording would walk in, you'd start and they would wander around finding that special location where the balance is perfect. That is where the Zoom goes. They might want you to get closer to the piano, or move further away.
Excellent advice, this. Best of luck in your career. I'm a horn player and could die a happy man in an opera orchestra.

~d
 

ecc83

Well-known member
"The biggest snag with self recording is you cannot sing and tweak at the same time. So it takes longer." Good point Rob. The H4N does not have phone control but there is an optional wired remote.

Dave.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I think that this has been the only regular exercise I have ever had. For me, the ability of modern digital systems is that we're no longer chasing the close to 0dB but not over, old fashioned rule.

We'd ask a performer or player to give us their loudest bit, and then experience said how much louder they'd really play at, so we could guesstimate levels better - now we take their 'loudest' and set that way down, secure in the fact that even if that was their loudest - we'd have a noise and distortion free recording. I've noticed that in my undeveloped 'mastering' stage, I'm always adding a little level. Only maybe ten years ago, during this stage I was removing the occasional 0dB flat top!

I'm surprised now when the equipment I set up for a location recording is not right first time. So far this year for the real jobs since lockdown allowed, the biggest problem I am having in venues is the state of the pianos. Not being played for a year and a half has wrecked quite a few. The strings have become dull, the actions creak and felt pads have become squashed and un-spongy. As for the tuning? I have had some where the piano tuner hasn't even been thought of. I suggested for one that we really needed to re-record the piano and use the close miked track of the singer and do a play along on a decent instrument. This got rejected as 'cheating' - it always amazes me how many competent accompanists have no understanding of piano quality. The right notes, at the right time is the quest - blow what it sounds like. "Can't you fix that dodgy Bb string?" No - I can't. Even with all the clever software - pianos with three strings per note at some places defy repair when just one of them is out!
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Yay Robert! Just heard a rendition of Lady be Good by Gershwin himself on R3 and parts of the piano were bloody painful!

Borderline 'Eric Morecombe".

Dave.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Worse than piano are church organs where they are out of tune - I did one where it was wince inducing. There are quite a few cringeworthy tuning things. Beach Boys tracks are very difficult to play along to, because they got varispeeded and sit half way between two notes - horrible! I heard somebody playing piano to one of these tracks and it was painful!
 
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