Citation
Microphone techniques for acoustic instruments

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Title:
Microphone techniques for acoustic instruments
Creator:
Johnson, Frederick L
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xii, 52 leaves : ; 28 cm +

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Microphone ( lcsh )
Instrumental music ( lcsh )
Sound -- Recording and reproducing -- Equipment and supplies ( lcsh )
Instrumental music ( fast )
Microphone ( fast )
Sound -- Recording and reproducing -- Equipment and supplies ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 51-52).
General Note:
College of Arts and Media
Statement of Responsibility:
by Frederick L. Johnson, Jr.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
166253994 ( OCLC )
ocn166253994
Classification:
LD1193.A70 2007m J63 ( lcc )

Full Text
MICROPHONE TECHNIQUES FOR ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS
by
Frederick L. Johnson, Jr.
B.S., University of Colorado at Denver, 1984
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Science
Recording Arts
2007
r-


2007 by Frederick L. Johnson, Jr.
All rights reserved


This thesis for the Master of Science
degree by
Frederick L. Johnson, Jr.
has been approved
by
Date


Johnson, Jr., Frederick L. (M.S., Recording Arts)
Microphone Techniques for Acoustic Instruments
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Leslie Gaston
ABSTRACT
The purpose of this project is to provide a resource to the beginning recording
student, the seasoned professional, the performer or the educator who has been
confronted with the need to create an audition tape for an instrumentalist. While
there are many detailed sources for information on acoustics, recording equipment
and instrument design, there are very few places to go that discuss the actual
sound of the instrument This text and DVD combination is presented to give a
single place to find the basic knowledge of the sciences behind sound recording
and to hear examples of different types of microphones placed in different
locations around the performer. With these tools, the recordist can make
assessments as to what type of equipment and placement they should use in order
to achieve the results they need in their recording. It is not meant to be an absolute
listing and no judgment is made as to a selection being good or bad, rather the
audio samples and their descriptions given in the text are made to be a beginning


those who have never had the luxury of time to explore these possibilities for
themselves. The examples here are given as a starting point to help find that
magic spot that captures the quality, musical expression that we all strive for.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Leslie Gaston


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my wife, Debbie, who not only inspired me to go back to
school, but also encouraged and supported me, even when it meant taking time
away from her. I also dedicate this to all of the sound engineers out there who
must find a way to work in a new room, with an instrument they have never
heard, and yet must make it sound right the first time.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to thank the members of my committee for their time, effort and support of
this project. I also thank all of my colleagues, who encouraged me and confirmed
that there was a need for this type of compilation. Thanks to all of the people who
prayed me through the last two years and were able to see something in me worth
supporting.
Appreciation is also due to those people who helped logistically with this project,
especially those at the University of Colorado at Boulder, College of Music.
Thanks to Myra Jackson, Ronald Mueller and William Gustafson for arranging
my use of the space. Thank you to the CU faculty that performed: Andras Fejer,
Tom Myer, William Stanley and Michael Thornton. Thanks also to those faculty
that recommended students to play: James Brody, Michael Dunn, Erika Eckert,
Paul Erhard, Yoshiyuki Ishikawa, Christina Jennings, Oswald Lehnert, Terry
Sawchuk and Daniel Silver. And thank you to the performers: Jacob Beeman,
George Downing, Grant Larson, George Meskimen, Aaron Miller, Rebecca
Mindock, Michael Musick, Ismael Reyes, Kim Teachout and Jenny Wu.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures..................................................x
Tables...................................................xii
CHAPTER
1. RECORDING ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENTS......................1
Challenges for The Beginner........................1
The Purpose of This Project........................4
The Methodology Involved...........................6
2. BASIC ACOUSTICS......................................10
How Sound Is Created..............................10
How Sound Travels.................................11
How Sound Is Perceived............................13
3. HOW INSTRUMENTS CREATE THEIR SOUND...................14
The String Family.................................14
The Woodwind Family...............................16
The Brass Family..................................17
4. THE AUDIO SAMPLES....................................18
Observations On The String Samples................20
vm


Observations On The Woodwind Samples..........28
Observations On The Brass Samples.............38
5. CONCLUSION......................................46
APPENDIX.................................................47
GLOSSARY.................................................50
BIBLIOGRAPHY.............................................51
ix


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
1.1 ELECTRO-VOICE ND308 MICROPHONE..................7
1.2 AKG C460B MICROPHONE............................8
1.3 AKG C414B-ULS MICROPHONE........................8
2.1 ENERGY TRANSFER................................12
3.1 PARTS OF A VIOLIN..............................15
4.1 VIOLIN CLOSE MICS..............................20
4.2 VIOLIN DISTANT MICS............................20
4.3 VIOLA CLOSE MICS...............................22
4.4 VIOLA DISTANT MICS.............................22
4.5 CELLO CLOSE MICS...............................24
4.6 CELLO DISTANT MICS.............................24
4.7 BASS CLOSE MICS................................26
4.8 BASS DISTANT MICS..............................26
4.9 FLUTE CLOSE MICS...............................28
x


4.10 FLUTE DISTANT MICS..........................28
4.11 OBOE CLOSE MICS.............................30
4.12 OBOE DISTANT MICS...........................30
4.13 CLARINET CLOSE MICS.........................32
4.14 CLARINET DISTANT MICS.......................32
4.15 SAXOPHONE CLOSE MICS........................34
4.16 SAXOPHONE DISTANT MICS......................34
4.17 BASSOON CLOSE MICS..........................36
4.18 BASSOON DISTANT MICS........................36
4.19 TRUMPET CLOSE MICS..........................38
4.20 TRUMPET DISTANT MICS........................38
4.21 HORN CLOSE MICS.............................40
4.22 HORN DISTANT MICS...........................40
4.23 TROMBONE CLOSE MICS.........................42
4.24 TROMBONE DISTANT MICS.......................42
4.25 TUBA CLOSE MICS.............................44
4.26 TUBA DISTANT MICS...........................44
xi


LIST OF TABLES
Table
A. 1 Microphone observations for strings....................................47
A.2 Microphone observations for woodwinds..................................48
A.3 Microphone observations for brass......................................49
Xll


CHAPTER ONE
RECORDING ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENTS
Challenges for The Beginner
In the field of audio recording there are many areas of study that allow for
specialized material. A person could spend a lifetime researching the response
characteristics of different types of tubes versus a solid-state device. You could go
into great depth comparing the effects of different compression codecs on a digital
data stream. You might spend numerous hours intent on discovering ways to
reproduce the auditory events we encounter every day for an artificial
environment. The ways that sound is generated, captured and perceived are
indeed part of our collective experience, and those special sounds we identify as
musical generally will demand our particular attention, care and interest. It is in
the area of music that the person that has chosen to become a recording engineer
will find perhaps the greatest challenge. In this arena, especially in Western
music, we have centuries of performances that have been cataloged, inspected,
analyzed and put before mankind. When the recordist approaches this body of
material, they immediately open themselves up to the approval or criticism of the
J


rest of the populace, because we know what we like, we have a perception of how
we expect it to sound and we will compare the recorded work to our own standard
in order to judge the success or failure of the attempted recording.
Pity, then, the poor beginning recording student, who must make their first
journeys into this realm where their every project will be inspected not only for its
commercial appeal and viability (if they are fortunate) but also for its artistic
value and its representation of the accepted models that we have developed. They
may be able to argue that their interpretation is a new, vital and experimental step
into a new consciousness, but in reality they will be held to perceptions of
technical achievement, professional standards and common acceptability. In the
course of their education, they may have great exposure to music performed by
their fellow students, with many opportunities to work with electronic instruments
that require only a cable to output a certain sound, level and timbre that is
repeatable and measurable. Often there are fewer opportunities to work with
acoustic orchestral instruments, and even less chances to record with
professionals. In these instances, the student is prompted to go on a listening
campaign to train their ears as to what is that good and perfect sound for the
instruments they will be working with.
In this regard, the literature and resources available are often confusing.
There are many sources for training in acoustics, but the real learning happens
2


when they stand in a room that has multiple reflections and long reverberation
times. You can find deep, intellectual journal articles on the wind turbulences
created in a trumpet mouthpiece, but the student needs to stand before a player
and use their ear to judge the resulting sounds. When told to look for recordings to
compare a particular instruments interpretations by different performers, they
may get caught up in looking for that one definitive standard, when in reality this
entire operation is highly subjective! To be a recordist requires the experiencing
of many different types of sound, so it is understandable that when they are
pointed toward a resource that is the standard they would be excited to
document how that recording was made. They will look for all available notes on
the type and placement of the mics, the size of the room, the media it was
recorded to and the processing involved. They will then attempt to copy this as
their own unique style. But in reality, that perfect clarinet recording may be the
result of a professional engineer using exotic microphones, of which they own
two of the six in existence. The consoles and studios used are generally far
beyond what the student can afford to work with, and the recording itself may be
the product of many, many takes and more the result of a skilled editor than that
of a particularly masterful recording engineer. So then the student is left, once
again, with a manufactured standard that may be beyond their reach, and the
encouragement to go and develop their craft through experimentation and
3


apprenticeship, while still being judged by the same standards as the established
professional. It is this process which, in some small part, allows for the
controlling of the population of recording engineers, by sending those who are
more faint of heart and feeble of fortitude off to fmd other careers!
The Purpose of This Project
In an effort to expand the available literature for those hardy souls who
would continue on in the Music Recording field, I offer this project. Let me start
by stating what the project is NOT. It is not the be-all, end-all, absolute only way
to record any instrument listed here; to claim to be such would immediately invite
ridicule, alternatives and would jeopardize my own career. Neither is it meant to
be exhaustive in providing every possible instrument used in an orchestra, though
it does offer some extra examples, such as samples of B-flat and E-flat clarinet, or
C and F tuba. What this project does give is a starting point, a way for the person
who does not have a great deal of experience or exposure to these instruments to
decide for themselves how to go about choosing a microphone and where to place
it for their own particular recording. It is a gathering of samples of trained
musicians in a single, controlled environment, where they offer some standard
examples of their repertoire. These have been captured by several easily
4


obtainable microphones, in a variety of placements, and recorded on equipment
that is well within the budgetary reach of a student, a high school teacher or a
cash-strapped studio operator drafted by the local chamber orchestra. This
material will also be helpful to the performer, as it will give them some ideas on
the type of sounds that come from their instrument. They will then be able to
make judgments on their sound, improve recordings they may make of themselves
and assist in providing information to someone who is recording them. Many
performers spend a large portion of their lives learning how to present their craft,
practicing and studying how to play their very best. It would surely be an asset to
them to be able to listen and analyze their instrument from a microphones point
of view, since any performance they offer to the public will probably go through
the recording chain.
It is my hope that being able to compare and study the same phrase
through different signal streams will allow a person to make some choices that
will fit with the recording they are about to do, and to then give them the basis to
experiment with finding the exact combination of space, equipment and technique
that will work best with their project, while shortening the amount of time
necessary for trial-and-error.
5


The Methodology Involved
For the purposes of this project, I have tried to isolate the sound of each
instrument and to make it independent from the room or environment that may
color its sound. Most string instruments, for example, not only count on the
resonances of the body amplifying the vibrations of the strings, but they also use
the reflections and other acoustical characteristics of the room to complement
their sound. Woodwind and brass players are generally more comfortable having
the microphones placed at some distance from them, in order to not emphasize the
mechanical sounds that are inherent to the instrument. But in order for the
recording engineer to be accurate in their assessment of how their equipment will
respond to the sound being produced, it is important for them to have as a starting
point the actual noises and nuances of the instrument being recorded. I recorded
these performers in the Music Theatre of the Imig Music Building on the campus
of the University of Colorado at Boulder. I found that the treated floor and the
heavy curtains and legs on the stage, along with the higher ceiling, tended to
reduce the effect of the room and leave the sound of the performer a bit exposed.
I felt that it was important to use equipment that is readily available for a
limited budget, yet of a quality that will not cause the recorded result to suffer.
The equipment chosen was not the least expensive on the market, but is
6


comparable to what can be found in many outlets and will provide an acceptable
level of performance. For microphones, I chose some common examples of both
dynamic and condenser types. The dynamic mics are a pair of Electro-Voice
ND308s, early offerings in this product line but still considered workhorses.1
They have a polar pattern that is cardioid and a fairly wide pickup area, with a
capsule that swivels. They use a super magnet core that produces a crisp sound
at higher frequencies while being able to handle sound pressure levels that may
border on extreme.
FIGURE 1.1. ELECTRO-VOICE ND308 MICROPHONE
1 Dermont, Dave. Gone But Not Forgotten. Live Sound International, March,
2004.
7


I used two different pairs of condenser mics, both made by AKG and with
different sized diaphragms. The smaller pair was AKG C460-Bs, with CK 61-
ULS cardioid capsules.
FIGURE 12. AKG C460B MICROPHONE
The larger ones were a factory-matched pair of C414-B ULS mics, set for
cardioid pickup.
FIGURE 1.3. AKG C414B-ULS MICROPHONE
8


By using all of the mics on a cardioid setting, it helped with the quest to keep the
sound of the instrument isolated from the room as much as possible.
The pair of C414s was run through a Summit Audio TPA-200B Dual Tube
Preamp. The C460s and the 308s were run to a Mackie Micro-Series VLZ-1202
mixer and all of the outputs were recorded on a Tascam DA-38 DTRS recorder.
By recording each mic onto its own channel of the DA-38, the performer could
play an example once through and have it captured by all six microphones
independently. This eliminated the problem of having the performer play
something through six times exactly the same and made the identification of the
audio samples on the DVD possible.
Each performer was asked to play a two-octave chromatic scale, an
excerpt of repertoire for their instrument in their higher register and another
excerpt showing the lower register. For some instruments additional examples
were included, such as excerpts in jazz style they might perform or sounds and
techniques called for in contemporary chamber or orchestral compositions. There
are enough examples of each instrument given to allow the listener to compare
and gain an understanding of how a particular microphone or placement are
reacting to the sound of the instrument. With this information, the recordist can
make judgments on how to adjust for the project they are working on.
9


CHAPTER TWO
BASIC ACOUSTICS
How Sound Is Created
In order to properly study the response of our microphones and their
placement with respect to each instrument it is important to grasp some
fundamental basics of acoustics. Understanding how sound is created, how it
travels and how it is perceived gives us the foundation to be able to analyze and
make predictions on where to place microphones in order to be able to capture the
desired sound. Since there are many textbooks and resources that are able to
explain these parameters in detail and the reader may already have a thorough
grasp of these topics, only a summary is presented here.
In its simplest form, a sound is caused by something vibrating. An object,
like a string, a reed or a pair of lips with air passing over them, oscillates and this
motion sets up areas of compression and rarefaction in the air molecules around it.
If the vibration pattern is periodic, that is it repeats, then it sets up variations in
10


2 i
pressure above and below the normal pressure of the atmosphere. These
variations set up wave patterns of energy that radiate out from the source of the
vibration. If the repetitions occur between 20 and 20,000 times a second, a
measurement called Hertz (Hz), then we have a sound that is audible to humans
when the waves transmit the energy to the ear.
How Sound Travels
Most vibrating objects do not vibrate at one rate, or frequency, but are a
series of complex vibrations. If you could look closely at a plucked string in a
slow time scale, you would see a series of transverse waves traveling along its
length. As the peaks or valleys of these waves pass through the air around them
they create areas of energy that are more or less dense. The same thing happens in
a column of air captured in a tube. The vibrations cause a compressing and
reduction in the amount of molecules in an area, and the energy is passed along
the tube as the molecules bump into their adjacent neighbors. Picture a series of
balls connected by springs. As the first ball moves toward its neighbor, the spring
compresses and applies pressure to move the second ball. This in turn applies
pressure to the third ball and the energy is passed down the line. As the first 2
2 Eargle, John. Sound Recording, 2nd Ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
Company, 1980.
11


spring decompresses and pushes the first ball out, the second ball is pulled in that
direction also, which also pulls the third ball, causing a decrease in the energy
potential of each successive spring. In this manner, the wave moves along the
plane.
(a) ^#JVW-#JVVVV^JVVVL#JWVV#-
c
(b) #A/\/Vv-*J\#*A/VVv#JVVVv-
(o AAAA^'VV
FIGURE 2.1. ENERGY TRANSFER.
(a), (b), (c). Successive positions of a longitudinal disturbance traveling
in a one-dimensional medium.3
While actual wave travel is much more complex than a straight-line radiation, it
helps us to understand the propagation of sound radiating from a musical
instrument. Moving a string or blowing air down a column past either a reed or
the lips of the performer starts a type of vibration. The energy wave, occurring
repeatedly every second, is passed from the instrument to the surrounding air.
3 Backus, John. The Acoustical Foundations of Music. New York: W. W. Norton
and Company, Inc., 1977.
12


How Sound Is Perceived
The energy wave that is generated is collected by the outer ear, or pinna,
and concentrated down the auditory canal towards the eardrum. This membrane
vibrates in response to the changes in pressure caused by the wave and passes
these vibrations through a series of small bones called ossicles. The chain of
bones bridges the middle ear section and connects to the inner ear structure called
the cochlea. The cochlea is made up of two long fluid-filled chambers, separated
lengthwise by the basilar membrane. Some thirty-thousand nerve endings
embedded in the basilar membrane sense the disturbances in the fluid and pass the
information to the brain,4 where the impulses are compared and interpreted by our
experiences and memories.
4 Backus, John. The Acoustical Foundations of Music. New York: W. W. Norton
and Company, Inc., 1977.
13


CHAPTER THREE
HOW INSTRUMENTS CREATE THEIR SOUND
This project covers three of the families of instruments in the orchestra;
the string family, the woodwinds and the brass. Each group has its own way of
creating, shaping and transmitting their sound, but all are following the basic
principles of vibrations passed into air. It is how they accomplish this feat that
gives each one their characteristic timbre and tone.
The String Family
The string section consists of the violin, the viola, the cello and the string
bass. While varying in size and thus the frequencies that they produce, with the
larger instruments creating lower pitches, all of them are constructed in the same
manner. There is a top plate, ribs and a back plate, with two openings, called f-
holes, cut into the top plate and a bass bar glued to the top plate directly under one
foot of the bridge. Near the other foot of the bridge is a short stick called the
sound post, which connects to the top and back plates. The strings are attached to
14


the tailpiece, pass over the bridge, along the fingerboard and over the nut, and are
attached to the sound pegs.
FIGURE 3.1. PARTS OF A VIOLIN5
The vibrations of the strings, whether plucked or bowed, are passed by the
bridge to the top plate, and from there to the rest of the body. The instruments
construction allows for resonances or dampening to occur, which determines how
much of the vibration will be transmitted. In fact, the entire body of the
5 Rossing, Thomas D., F. Richard Moore and Paul A. Wheeler. The Science Of
Sound. San Francisco: Addison Wesley, 2002.
15


instrument vibrates and moves to varying degrees. This creates changes in the air
pressure in the body and these changes are transmitted out of the f-holes, setting
up a longitudinal wave.
The Woodwind Family
This group of instruments includes the flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone and
bassoon and while they are considered one family, they generate their sound in
different ways. The flute is played by blowing a stream of air across a hole at one
end of a closed tube. The clarinet and saxophone create vibrations by moving air
past a wooden reed attached to a mouthpiece. The oboe and bassoon use a double-
reed configuration. All of them set up pressure differences in a column of air that
is lengthened or shortened with a series of keys. The size of the bore and the
length of the air column determine the pitch that is being played, and using a
series of side holes or keys modifies this length. The sound is generally dispersed
in an omni-directional pattern, with the exception of the lowest note of the
instrument. This note, played with all keys closed to make the air column its
maximum length, is projected out the end of the instrument, a fact that can create
havoc for the inexperienced recording engineer who happened to place their
microphone at that spot!
16


The Brass Family
The brass section is made up of the trumpet, French horn, trombone,
euphonium and tuba. The performer creates vibrations by passing air through his
lips, which are held at tension to make a buzzing sound. These instruments
make use of a cupped mouthpiece to direct the air pressure changes into a conical
tube, which ends with a flared bell. Its length sets up a series of modes, that is
notes in a harmonic series that can be sounded by changing the vibrational rate of
the lips. The flared end helps to make use of the higher modes without extending
the length of the tube to an unmanageable distance. Further pitch changes to other
modes are achieved by changing the overall length of the tube, either with a slide
in the case of the trombone, or by a series of valves which route the air stream
through additional sections of pipe. Because the air column is directed down the
tube with no use of side holes, like the woodwinds use, the sound propagation is
quite directional.
17


CHAPTER FOUR
THE AUDIO SAMPLES
The text of this project has been primarily for the purpose of establishing
the groundwork for the audio samples prepared on the accompanying DVDs.
While a summary of principles and directions to more complete research in the
areas of acoustics or instrument design is beneficial to a beginning student, it is
the samples that will be most useful to the established recordist or to a performer.
These are the tools that allow for comparison and analysis.
The DVDs are grouped into the three major families that have been
discussed; that is the string, woodwind and brass instruments. In each group, the
user can select the instrument they wish to listen to and will then be presented
with a menu of microphone and location choices. Each pair of microphones was
split, with one being placed in a close location to the instrument and the other
moved away to a distance of twelve feet and a height of six feet. While the close
positions varied from instrument to instrument, the distant mics were kept in the
same location.
18


When a microphone and location are selected, you will be shown an image
of the mic you are listening to and its placement. You may then choose a sample
to listen to, either the chromatic scale or one of the excerpts. Navigating within
the menus allows you to compare the same selection on different types of
microphones or at different locations or both, though not all of the combinations
are on the DVDs. To help in your analysis, the following sections list some
observations about the samples for each instrument, and tables are provided in the
Appendix to use as quick references while listening. In addition, I have included
descriptions of microphone placements that are more common and do not appear
on the DVDs. The descriptions are not exhaustive, but do give a general comment
on the type of sound captured by the microphone at that location. These can be a
starting point to your own conclusions.
19


Observations On The String Samples
Here are some comments on the samples for these instruments.
Violin The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The close C414 and ND308 were placed 18 above the bridge. The C460, with its
smaller diaphragm accenting higher frequencies, would not be pleasing in that
position, so I tried placing it out beyond the neck, aimed along the length of the
instrument.
FIGURE 4.1. VIOLIN CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.2. VIOLIN DISTANT MICS
C414 close you hear mostly the string itself with less of the resonance of the
instrument. Sounds a bit thin. There is a lot of articulation on the fast sections but
20


you also hear the breathing of the performer and the mechanical sounds of the
bow and the fingers on the fingerboard.
C460 close with the smaller diaphragm and being aimed up the neck of the
instrument, the sound is very shrill on the upper frequencies.
ND308 close this obtains a nice, bright sound without the edginess. Also has
very clear attacks in the fast sections.
C414 far this location gives a wanner tone, with more fullness to the sound and
less of the strings. The attacks in the fast excerpt are less pronounced and the
room noises are more noticeable.
C460 far clear sound and clear attacks in the fast section.
ND308 far a full tone quality without the edge.
21


Viola The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The close C414 and ND308 were placed 18 above the bridge. The C460, with its
smaller diaphragm accenting higher frequencies, would not be pleasing in that
position, so I tried placing it out beyond the neck, aimed along the length of the
instrument.
FIGURE 4.3. VIOLA CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.4. VIOLA DISTANT MICS
C414 close a bit of string sound, but a frill tone.
C460 close you hear more of the strings, though the overall sound is clear.
ND308 close a bright sound with distinct string tone. Not as much fullness as
the other mic choices.
22


C414 far smoother sound overall. The strumming excerpt has a more blended
sound.
C460 far a bit of a nasal quality to the sound. Also edgy or scratchy at times.
ND308 far a bright sound with less edge.
23


Cello The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The C414 mic was placed low, at the end of the body on the performers left, with
the ND308 mirroring it on the right. The C460 was placed above the performer, 2
to his left, aimed down toward the body of the instrument.
C414 close full tone with some string edginess. Mechanical and breath noise.
C460 close edgy string sound. Thinner tone.
ND308 close bright with some string edge. Less low frequencies.
C414 far smooth tone with less string edge.
24


C460 far very even, warm tone. Lots of breathing noise.
ND308 far bright sound with string edge, though less.
25


Bass The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The C414 was placed in front of the stage left F-hole and the C460 was placed in
front of the stage right F-hole. The ND308 was place low, aiming up at the bridge
of the instrument.
FIGURE 4.7. BASS CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.8. BASS DISTANT MICS
C414 close reveals a lot of friction sound on the strings. The timbre and
loudness changes as the pitch goes higher. The jazz section has clear definition to
the tone.
C460 close not much low end with this smaller diaphragm. You hear the
mechanical noises of other strings being hit.
ND308 close there is some string edginess to the sound. Somewhat bright, but
mellower in the low register.
26


C414 far less string sound and a rounder tone. Not as much change in timbre
going to the upper register but you hear some extra resonances. Jazz excerpt
shows less attack and more tone.
C460 far lots of string sound and very thin tone. Jazz excerpt has more noise
and less defmition.
ND308 far has a full tone plus some string edge. Jazz excerpt shows lots of
room noise.
27


Observations On The Woodwind Samples
Here are some comments on the samples for these instruments.
Flute The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The C414 was place 8 above the end of the flute, while the C460 and ND308
were both placed 18 in front of the mouth position.
FIGURE 4.9. FLUTE CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.10. FLUTE DISTANT MICS
C414 close bright tone with lots of air noise.
C460 close bright sound, but somewhat edgy in upper register. Air noise.
28


ND308 close even sound through whole range. Less air noise.
C414 far smooth tone with less air noise.
C460 far even sound across range of instrument. Less air noise
ND308 far even sound through whole range.
29


Oboe The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
The C414 was placed low, aimed at the end of the instrument The C460 and
ND308 were placed 2 feet away, slightly above the mouth position, aimed at the
middle of the body of the instrument.
FIGURE 4.11. OBOE CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.12. OBOE DISTANT MICS
C414 close a thinner, brighter sound. Some key and breath sounds, especially in
the lower register.
C460 close like the C414 sound, but thinner.
ND308 close bright sound with some key noise on the attacks. Full sound in the
lower register.
C414 far less of the mechanical noises and a fuller sound.
30


C460 far bright, thinner in the upper register. Lower register adds some body to
the sound.
ND308 far overall smooth, but less definition.
31


Clarinet The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. The C414 was placed 3 in front of the performer, above and to stage right
and the C460 was placed above and in front of the performer. The ND308 was
placed low in front of the performer.
For the bass clarinet, the C414 and the ND308 was placed above and to
stage left of the performer. The C460 remained above and in front.
FIGURE 4.13. CLARINET CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.14. CLARINET DISTANT MICS
C414 close a bit thin and shrill on the top notes, though less with the E-flat
clarinet. Lots of breath sounds.
C460 close B-flat clarinet is bright, with some key and breath sounds. E-flat
clarinet is smooth. Bass clarinet is edgy, with less of the fullness and more of the
key sounds.
32


ND308 close B-flat clarinet is bright and full without much mechanical noise.
E-flat clarinet can get edgy at times. Bass clarinet is clear sounding.
C414 far more body to the sound with less of the mechanical sound, especially
with the bass clarinet.
C460 far sound is thin with some edge to it and a bit of key clack. Upper
register is bright. E-flat clarinet can get shrill on the top notes. Bass clarinet
sounds nasal.
ND308 far B-flat clarinet is bright and full with no key sounds. E-flat clarinet
stays bright, but no shrill.
33


Saxophone The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. For all three instruments, the ND308 was placed at the bell. The C460 was
placed above the performer and to stage right for the alto and tenor sax, but above
front and aimed at the middle of the instrument for the soprano sax. The C414
was placed at the bell of the tenor sax, but for the alto was moved to a position of
45 degrees to the performers left, at a distance of 6.
FIGURE 4.15. SAXOPHONE CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.16. SAXOPHONE DISTANT MICS
C414 close tenor has even tone, but some edge on attacks. Alto smooth with
definition. Soprano is bright in upper register.
C460 close alto sax has very even tone.
ND 308 close tenor is edgy and shrill on top notes. Alto even throughout range.
Soprano gets edgy in midrange area.
34


C414 far less edge and mellower sound from tenor. Alto has less definition.
Soprano smooth over whole range.
C460 far tenor is full throughout range. Alto sounds round and warm. Soprano
is shrill on top notes.
ND308 far tenor is bright and edgy. Alto is smooth. Soprano is bright, but even.
35


Bassoon The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. The C414 was placed to the performers right, at a distance of 2, aimed at
the upper body of the instrument The C460 and the ND308 were placed 2 above
and to the left of the performer at a distance of 4.
FIGURE 4.17. BASSOON CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.18. BASSOON DISTANT MICS
C414 close even sound throughout the range of the instrument Some key and
mechanical noise.
C460 close thinner sound with a lot of the key noise.
ND308 close full sound with an openness. Less of the key noise.
C414 far less key noise and even sound. Less defined on the multiphonics.
36


C460 far clear tone. Some key noise and air edge.
ND308 far mellow tone with some key noise.
37


Observations On The Brass Samples
Here are some comments on the samples for these instruments.
Trumpet The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. The C414 was placed 2 above and 1 beyond the bell, to the performers
left at 30 degrees. The C460 mirrored that placement to the performers right. The
ND308 was placed 2 in front of the bell of the instrument.
FIGURE 4.19. TRUMPET CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.20. TRUMPET DISTANT MICS
C414 close a bit shrill on the high notes. Lots of breath sounds.
C460 close bright sound with some airy, breath sounds.
38


ND308 close full tone with bright high notes. Air noise.
C414 far less edge to the sound through whole range.
C460 far bright sound with some air noise and edge.
ND308 far full tone. Some edge, but less air noise.
39


French horn The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. The C414 was placed 4 behind the performer and aimed at the brick wall,
so capture the reflected sound. The C460 and ND308 were placed behind the
performer, aimed at the bell.
FIGURE 4.21. HORN CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.22. HORN DISTANT MICS
C414 close full and mellow tone throughout the range of the instrument.
C460 close a thinner sound with less low resonance.
ND308 close bright and even tone.
C414 far even tone, but with less attack on notes.
40


C460 far a bit heavy and muddy in the midrange. Tone consistent.
ND308 far bright tone, even throughout range.
41


Trombone The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6
high. Both the C460 and the ND308 were placed 3 in front of the bell of the
instrument The C414 was placed 30 degrees to the performers right.
FIGURE 4.23. TROMBONE CLOSE MICS FIGURE 4.24. TROMBONE DISTANT MICS
C414 close smooth tone over whole range. Some edge on hard attacks,
especially at higher volume.
C460 close thinner tone. No low resonance.
ND308 close thin sound. Edginess on top notes.
C414 far less edge to tone. More body to sound.
42


C460 far tone not as full. Gets edgy on top notes.
ND308 far bright and thin sound.
43


Tuba The distant mics were in their standard placement, 12 away and 6 high.
For the F tuba, the C414 was placed 3 in front and 4 to the right of the
performer, aimed upward to capture reflections. For the C tuba, the C414 was
placed 2 behind the head of the performer, aimed at the instrument For both
horns, the C460 was placed low and 3 in front of the instrument and the ND308
was placed above the bell.
FIGURE 4.25. TUBA CLOSE MICS FIGURE 426. TUBA DISTANT MICS
C414 close Lots of breath sound, but less when placed behind the performer.
C460 close focused sound with less low end.
ND308 close lots of air and attack noise. Tone has less resonance and sound is
prone to distort on loud passages.
44


C414 far less breath sounds with a more even tone.
C460 far clear attacks and air sounds. Less full tone.
ND308 far some breath sounds, but a full round tone.
45


CONCLUSION
Let me repeat that this project is not meant to be the absolute and final
authority on placement and mic selection! There are many experienced recording
engineers who have spent the greater portion of their careers looking for new and
different ways to approach capturing the sound of each instrument. The practice
involves not only science, but also art, and the use of the ears and subjective
reasoning are every bit as important as a piece of hardware. Those who have
succeeded in creating definitive recordings did so through hours of trials and
tests, and, as Im sure many would testify to, a bit of luck and timing. But that is
the appeal of our trade, to be able to spend the time to explore the nuances and
subtleties of expression both by the performer and the instrument, and to capture
that faithfully. My hope is that this resource helps to make you more aware of the
possibilities and pitfalls that can be encountered and to help you in your pre-
production planning. By spending time with these examples, you will be able to
spend less time trying to find what sound is presented and more time adjusting
and fine-tuning your product to the best representation you can get!
46


APPENDIX
TABLES OF MICROPHONE OBSERVATIONS
Table A.l Microphone observations for strings
Violin C414 close Thin. Strings and mechanical sounds. Good articulation.
C460 close Shrill in the upper frequencies.
ND308 close Bright, but not edgy. Clear articulation.
C414 far Warm and full. Less attacks, hear the space.
C460 far Clear sound with good attacks.
ND308 far Full with no edge to sound.

Viola C414 close Some string edginess. Full sound.
C460 close More of string sound, less full.
ND308 close Bright with string sound. Not as full.
C414 far Smoother sound. Well blended.
C460 far Nasal sounding. Edgy.
ND308 far Bright and smooth.

Cello C414 close Full sound. Mechanical noises of bow and performer.
C460 close Edgy and thin sound.
ND308 close Bright sound. Less low frequencies.
C414 far Smooth sound. Less edge.
C460 far Even tone, warm sound. Some performer noise.
ND308 far Bright tone. Some edginess.

Bass C414 close String edge. Timbre change over scale. Defined attack.
C460 close Not much of low frequencies. Mechanical noise.
ND308 close Bright with mellower lows. Some edge.
C414 far Round, full, even tone.
C460 far Thinner tone. Less defined.
ND308 far Full tone, some edginess. Room sounds.
47


Table A.2 Microphone observations for woodwinds
Flute C414 close Bright tone. Mechanical/air sounds.
C460 close Bright tone. Some edginess.
ND308 close Even tone. Less air sounds.
C414 far Smooth tone overall.
C460 far Even sound. Less air sounds.
ND308 far Bright, even sound.

Oboe C414 close Thin tone. Bright.
C460 close Lots of mechanical noise. Thinner sound.
ND308 close Bright high frequencies. Full low frequencies.
C414 far Fuller sound. Less mechanical noise.
C460 far Thin upper frequencies, more body to low range.
ND308 far Smooth tone. Less definition.

Clarinet C414 close Thin, shrill high frequencies. Breath sounds.
C460 close Bright. Bass clarinet edgy. Key sounds.
ND308 close Bright tone, clear. Less mechanical noise.
C414 far More body to tone. Less mechanical noise.
C460 far Thin tone, edgy. Key noise. Bass clarinet nasal sound.
ND308 far Bright tone, but not shrill.

Sax C414 close Soprano bright. Alto smooth. Tenor even.
C460 close Alto sax very even across range.
ND308 close Soprano edgy in midrange. Tenor shrill in high range.
C414 far Soprano smooth. Tenor mellow, less definition.
C460 far Soprano shrill. Alto round, warm. Tenor full.
ND308 far Soprano even. Alto smooth. Tenor bright.

Bassoon C414 close Even sound across range. Some key noise.
C460 close Thinner sound. Lots of key noise.
ND308 close Full, open sound. Less key noise.
C414 far Even tone. Less defined.
C460 far Clear sound. Some mechanical noise.
ND308 far Mellow sound. Some mechanical noise.
48


Table A. 3 Microphone observations for brass
Trumpet C414 close Shrill high frequencies. Breath sounds.
C460 close Bright sound. Breath sounds.
ND308 close Full sound, bright highs. Lots of air noise.
C414 far Less edge to tone.
C460 far Bright sound. Some edge to tone.
ND308 far Full sound. Less air sounds.

French Horn C414 close Full, mellow sound.
C460 close Thin sound. Less low frequencies.
ND308 close Bright, even tone across range.
C414 far Even tone. Less attacks.
C460 far Heavy, muddy tone in midrange.
ND308 far Bright, even tone.

Trombone C414 close Smooth tone. Some edge on attacks.
C460 close Thinner sound. No low resonance.
ND308 close Thin tone. Edginess on higher frequencies.
C414 far Less edge to tone, more body.
C460 far Not as full sounding. Edgy on high notes.
ND308 far Bright and thin tone.

Tuba C414 close Breath sounds. Better from behind.
C460 close Focused sound. Less low frequencies.
ND308 close Lots of air sound. Less resonance. Distorts.
C414 far Even tone. Less breath noise.
C460 far Clear tone. Less full overall.
ND308 far Some breath sound. Full, round tone.
49


GLOSSARY
Blended tone even in going from note to note, with no sharp attack.
Body a fullness to the tone; frill range clear with extra in the low-midrange.
Bright more high and high-midrange content, with good definition.
Edgy some upper distortion, grating or gravelly sound.
Focused good midrange content with less highs and lows.
Full even across the entire range of the instrument.
Heavy lacking in higher frequencies, lots of low-midrange.
Mechanics the sound of keys, valves, breath noises or other extra sounds.
Mellow more low-midrange frequencies and less high frequencies.
Muddy less of the high-midrange, making the sound less defined.
Nasal emphasis on upper-midrange, with less low frequency content.
Open clear throughout the range, with more high-midrange definition.
Round even tone with a slight emphasis on the low-midrange.
Shrill extreme emphasis on the upper frequencies.
Smooth no emphasis on any one frequency in the instrument range.
Thin less low and low-midrange content, making for a weak overall tone.
Warm more midrange content.
50


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Backus, John. The Acoustical Foundations of Music. New York: W. W. Norton
and Company, Inc., 1977.
Beament, James. The Violin Explained: Components, Mechanism, and Sound.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Benade, Arthur H. and D. J. Gans. Sound Production In Wind Instruments. Edited
by Earle L. Kent. Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, 1977.
Benade, Arthur H. The Physics of Brasses. Edited by Earle L. Kent. Stroudsburg,
PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, 1977.
Campbell, Murray and Clive Greated. The Musicians Guide to Acoustics. New
York: Schirmer Books, 1987.
Dermont, Dave. Gone But Not Forgotten. Live Sound International, March,
2004.
http://www.livesoundint.com/archives/2004/april/retro.pdf (accessed March 21,
2007)
Eargle, John. Handbook of Recording Engineering, 4th edition. Boston: Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 2003.
Eargle, John. Sound Recording, Td edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
Company, 1980.
Fletcher, Neville H. and Thomas D. Rossing. The Physics of Musical Instruments.
New York: Springer-Verlag, 1991.
Gibson, O. Lee. Clarinet Acoustics, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,
1994.
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Meyer, Jurgen. Acoustics and The Performance Of Music. Frankfurt: Verlag Das
Musikinstrument, 1978.
Rossing, Thomas D., F. Richard Moore and Paul A. Wheeler. The Science Of
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