Recording live classical music performance to Mac -- basic help please

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by DCTenor, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. DCTenor macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2010
    Okay. I'm a classical vocalist and need to lay down some demos with a pianist (and later a chamber orchestra). I have a MacBook Pro, with the basic garage band program. I have a Blue Icicle USB mic converter and am borrowing a good XLR mic.

    I'd like to simply place the mic and computer somewhere between myself and the pianist in the hall and record. Will this work? Is there a way to configure garage band that would be best? Call me stupid, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to use garage band.

    Alternatively, I have an old minidisc player, but it does not have USB. Not sure how to transfer those files to the MAC.

    Or I could go buy a portable digital recorder, say Edirol R9 or Tascam DR-2d, and do it that way.

    Any advice? Which setup would likely sound best.
  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    There is not reason at all to buy a portable recorder. None of them work as well as a MacBook. But you will find that trying to record everyone with just one mic will not work very well. Also the "space" maters a lot. what kind of room will you be recording in?

    What are you goals for audio quality. (1) only that some one can hear the sound and know that you can stay on pitch? (2) A listenable CD, even if there are obvious audio defects. (3) Quality comparable to what you'd find on a major label CD.

    The first thing is to define the goal. That will set the budget. I think #3 is "out" if you have to ask anything here.

    You will get the best sound if you use one microphone for each source of sound. AND if that mic is properly placed. For example a vocal mic should be very, very close, certainly within 12 inches. If you are going to mic a piano that is very hard to do right. A digital piano will sound better. See if you can find a good digital piano then you can avoid the problem and run the piaon's sudio output straight into Garage Band whithout need of a microphone. You will get dramatiically better sound. OK if you must use an Acoustic where to put the mics depends on the size of the studio

    Singing into a mic is a skill that vocalists must learn. Most of them have preferences as to which mic they think makes them sound best and how it should be placed. Clasical vocalist tend to keep the mic far away, maybe a foot while more pop oriented vocalist use a closer mic, or 1/2 to 1/3 that distance. "Pop filters and windscreens are needed in any case to keep "plosives" and berath sounds off the mic.

    Also you do not have to do it all in one take. You can lay down a vocal track after the instruments are recorded. You would listen to them play in headphones while you sing. This a MUCH easier to get right and gets you the chance to make multiple takes. It also lets you use fewer microphones

    Yes you could simplely place one mic in the center of the group and every one experiment with distance from the mic so the loudnesses blend and record it all in one take. That is a valid recording method if the goal is #1.

    One other option: There are many small recording studios around. Some will work very cheap. Some as low as $100 per hour.

    You might want to read up on home recording. If you only spend a few hours with an introductary test you'd know 1,000 times more than you do now. Most of what you need to learn is not about what equipment to buy. It is technique. Beginners in every field always think "if only I hade that $2,000 camera or a Steinway, I'd be a o much better photographer or pianist. But no. those more skilled can do great work with junk yard equipment. Same applies to recording.

    Recording is a tough skill to learn and you are planning to jump right in on one of the hardest tasks (recording an acoustic piano and vocalist) It is best to practice each part. Learn to record just a vocal track. Learn about mic placement, room treatments and how the various mics sound. Then move on the piano. DOn't expect the first attempt (or the fifth attempt) to sound good.

    One thing you will find you need right away is a good audio interface for your Mac. There are hundreds on the market. Think about how many microphones you will need to record simultaneousness. Two is a minimum for a piano. and then if you have a small chamber orchestra it can get complex very quickly. For that you'd want to hire an engineer and a studio unless you can learn yourself but the learning curve is steep and takes months or years. But you could handle a two mic setup with something like these
  3. hakukani macrumors regular

    Feb 9, 2008
    Sorry Chris, but this is a classical singer, not a vocalist, so I disagree with your technique.

    I'm going to assume that you will be recording in a church or a recital hall.

    If you're going to use a single microphone (two would be better), it would be best to record with the microphone six feet or so in front of you, and two or three feet above your head.

    Do a check to see if the sound is balanced between you, the piano, and the sound of the hall, and move the microphone accordingly.

    You would probably get the best sound from using a stereo pair, especially with the chamber orchestra. For your application, the best technique would be a near coincident pair, as described here:
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Like I said, the first step is to assess your goals for sound quality. Then move from there. can't do anything until the OP says what she is looking for.
  5. hakukani macrumors regular

    Feb 9, 2008
    It's poor form to record classical music using overdubs, and usually the end result is not very good musically. Editing, yes, overdubbing, NO.

    Use one of the stereo miking techniuqes--middle/side, ORTF, Blumlein pair, jecklin disc, and record 'live' in a nice sounding hall.
  6. ImpostorOak macrumors member


    Dec 27, 2009
    Yeah, close mic'ing every sound source is definitely not how classical music is recorded. Most of the time, at least two mics (stereo pair) are used to obtain a stereo image, but I suppose that's not necessary just for demos. Although it would sound better if you had many more people than just the singer and pianist.

    What kind of mic will you be using? This is important in figuring out how far away to place it. The volume of the room will also be important. You want to find a good ratio of direct sound (the sound coming out of your mouth and from the piano) to reverberant sound (those first sounds being reflected off of the surfaces in the room). The distance will depend on if the mic is cardioid (rejects sounds coming from behind it) or omnidirectional (picks up sounds from all around it). It will also depend on the size of the space. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the bigger the space, the farther away you can place the mic.

    But I agree with the previous poster that said you will want the mics at least six feet away and a few feet above your head. Just listen to the mix between piano and voice and adjust as needed. If you double the distance from the sound source, the volume will be cut in half. Likewise, if you cut the distance to a source in half, the volume will be doubled. So you can move yourself closer or farther away if the piano is drowning you out.

    I hope that cleared some things up. I'll check this thread again later. Right now, I actually have to leave or I'll be late for my classical recording class lol

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