recording strings


Well-known member
Right, I'm pining away here hoping for someone to answer my other question in this forum, so I'll pass the time by posing another burning question. It looks like I'm going to be recording a cello soon. Am I right in thinking it's like recording any other non-electrical sound source: you put the best mic you can on the job, and experiment with mic angle to find the best result? I once knew an incredibly attractive girl from the Canary Islands called Cello who kept saying of herself, "I'm useless," and I toyed with the idea of trying to prove her wrong. This of course has nothing to do with my question but I'm experimenting here to see if posts with a pretty girl in get more attention than ones with just mixers and cables and stuff.
As a place of reference, start the questionable mic positioning 1-3 ft in front and pointing toward one of the sound holes or at the bridge. Most likely, your best bet would be a large diaphragm condenser.

One of the best sounding and most creative position I've done is to tape a PZM nose down on a wall and have the cello played facing the wall about 3 ft back with the bridge face to face with the PZM.

I ended up trying this because I got best results miking a violin with a PZM taped to a wall nose up about 3 ft above one of the sound holes with the right-handed violist's left shoulder a few inches from the wall.

Well, I guess the pretty girl worked!
What's a "PZM nose down"? What's a "wall nose"? Naw, just kidding. :) Thanks for these ideas, they're very useful. Somebody actually gave me a cheap Realistic PZM mic, and when I looked at it, I thought it would only be good for micing grand pianos or conference rooms. Now let's see, where's a nice section of unoccupied wall in my place...
When you tape one of these buggers to a wall, does it make any difference if you isolate the mic from the wall somewhat by taping it against some sort of foam cushion? It seems that a mic would pick up any door closing in the whole structure being so closely coupled to the wall.
drstawl - well, this ain't experience talking here, it's the user's manual - it seems that the PZM uses the wall (or the floor, or the table it's put on) as part of the device:

"When the sound waves strike (the PZM's plate), a "pressure zone" is created in the space between the electret element and the boundary. In the pressure zone the direct and reflected sound waves are coherently in phase and reinforce each other. The electret capsule detects the changes in pressure in the pressure zone, rather than the moving sound waves... For best frequency response, especially bass response, the PZM should be mounted on a hard, flat surface at least four feet square."

So, yeah, a slamming door would probably come across like a clap of thunder. Don't order any pizzas before you start to use one of these.

My question: is a PZM mic just a big, flat contact pickup? Think I'll tape it to my chest and try some vocals. LOL

[This message has been edited by dobro (edited 11-01-1999).]

[This message has been edited by dobro (edited 11-01-1999).]
not to get crossways with Recording Engineer, i would comment that i have had better luck using small diaprhagm condensers on stringed instruments - harps, acoustic guitars, violins, and even grand pianos. my large diaprhagm mics seem too warm in those applications, and i do not like to have to use much EQ when i mix.
Hmm - large diaphragm, small diaphragm - I think rather than worry about it, I'll assume you can get okay results with either. The PZM option's out for the time being - the unit I was given doesn't work (probably why it was given to me!).
A girl named Cello and a talk of diaphragms? Uh nevermind..

A PZM mic is a big contact mic. The old Realistic PZM mics are very good. Large (16 to 25 square inches) metal (superior to plastic) a hole for a screw (no tape needed) and a very long cable included.

Very flat response. Excellent sound. Best for loud sound sources (saxophones, drums, cellos etc).

I suggest using at least two mics recording the solo cello in stereo. It will have a much fuller realistic sound.

Don't worry about crossways here with me. This is a discussion group and we all participate in it to share each other's experiences and opinions, and learn from them.

I couldn't agree with you more that there are plenty of small-diaphragmed mics which are great. For example, one of my favorite mics for picking up a upright bass is an AKG C1000. Imagine that considering I have a few large-diaphragmed mics most people feel would be better for the job.

However, I've heared some people say that small-diaphragm is the only way to go for any stringed instrument (of course piano and upright bass are left out in that statement). I'm not a subscriber to this myself especially since I've bought a matched-pair of Neumann TLM 103s.

If I can't use my PZM technique for violins, then I'd most definanely use a small-diaphragm instead. Although, I've heard some nice results with ribbons on violins as well; but I don't have any ribbons (yet). In fact, the only reason why I suggested a large-diaphragm was because cellos (having some mid-low range) being the in-between of a violin and an upright bass.
I forgot to mention about a new ('97) PZM microphone company from Holland called HOPPROD (not expensive). Check out the website at

I'm having a stereo set of them sent to me this week to try them out.

The person's name I e-mailed (president/ designer/builder of the company) is Eddy Hopman. He told me he originally built them because he could not get Crown PZMs in Europe. He says he likes his better then Crown's because his have a better high-end response.