How to Record

Technical requirements

  1. provide us with 48kHz 32Bit recordings (if you record at 24 bit, convert the files to 32 bit float)
  2. record each musician onto a unique, dedicated mono track
  3. use a close-mic position (please see our suggestions for mic placement below)
  4. minimise the contribution of reflections 
  5. if two or more musicians are recorded simultaneously in the same acoustic space, then there must be an absolute minimum threshold of 10dB separation between instruments, with a minimum average separation of 12dB
  6. all musicians should tune to A440 
  7. export as uncompressed .wav files

Special Recording Tip!

After ensuring that you have met the requirements of our Stem Service, you may wish to add one or more microphones in conventional placements in order to capture your musician(s) with the focus on quality of sound. This will enable you to blend that recording with the final mix, which may add another helpful colour to your palette.

Session production requirements

Profile Recordings

  1. ensure the profile has a minimum 12dB dynamic range between musician’s ‘piano’ and ‘forte’ scales
  2. ensure the musician’s playing is exceedingly smooth and even, without dynamic variation
  3. ensure the musicians play in tune
  4. ensure the musicians play in close sync with the click/metronome
  5. re-record and edit individual notes when necessary (without applying any gain changes to individual notes – each note must be on musician’s original dynamic level, in piano and forte scales)

Music Recordings

  1. all tracks must be in sync, and start at the same time
  2. all tracks should have the same level input
  3. all tracks must be level in relation to each other before bounce & export if they were not levelled on recording
  4. ensure the musicians play in tune
  5. ensure the musicians play in close sync with the click/metronome
  6. re-record and edit when necessary

Tips, Tricks and Notes

Isolation-Tip

If separation between instruments is difficult to achieve, then sound barriers and absorbers between players can help.

If you wish to make your own barriers, one effective method is to glue a 50mm thick sheet of X5376ND acoustic absorption foam to a 150mm thick (or more) sheet of Basotect. Both items are available from CustomFoams in the UK – a member of the Vitagroup (Custom Foams, Units 2/17 Deans Road, Wolverton Industry, Milton Keynes, MK12 5NA, UK +44 1908 312 331). Similar products are available around the world.

Tuning-Tip

To ensure tuning is correct when recording profiles, the musician (and/or you) can use a good-quality Tuner to monitor the playing. 

Do not change the tuning artificially (using a tuning correction/autotune software) – profile recordings must have musicians’ original tuning.

Note: we have no commercial interest or relationship with any of the companies whose products we mention here. We offer these suggestions solely to help you choose suitable microphones. This is not a recommendation or a requirement that you use these products. 

We recognise that our choice of microphones and placement is uncommon for studio recordings. This is due to the requirement for close mic placement with high-isolation. 

We have had good results using the Shure PGA98H and the Shure Beta98 ranges of microphones, particularly for Brass and Woodwinds. 

We have had good results with the Neumann cardioid microphones, but greater attention and care must be taken to ensure placement reduces reflections and favours the dry instrumental sound.

We have had good results with the DPA 4099 Instrument microphone. 

Microphone Placement

For effective use of the Symphonova Stem Production Services, microphone placement is a factor to consider when two or more musicians are recording simultaneously in the same acoustic space.  

Microphone placement becomes a major issue when, for example, brass instruments are recorded simultaneously and in the same acoustic space as strings. The suggestions given below have been tested, and achieve the requirements for our system. They remain suggestions, however. You may well have alternative methods for achieving the necessary results.

 

Woodwind’s Microphones and Placement

Suggested Microphones and Parts

Flute

Either the DPA 4088 (or 4188 if you prefer the flex headset) or the DPA 4099 in combination with the universal mounting accessory for WW

Note: we have found that some flautists have a loud key-noise, and additionally, that bleed-in from other instruments when recording in an ensemble is particularly difficult to reduce when recording flutes. Although carefully rolling off the bottom of the mic input can dramatically reduce the key noise, we have found the simple solution of asking the flautist to wear the microphone can solve all problems without extreme digital interventions or physical barriers.

Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon

DPA 4099-DC-1-101-U CORE microphone (this is the standard 4099 supercardioid CORE microphone with the universal mounting accessory for WW)

Flute, Oboe, Clarinet

Adapter for micro-dot to 3 pin XLR DAD4099

Bassoon

Adapter for micro-dot to 3 pin XLR DAD6001

Woodwind Mic Placement

Flute

If the microphone is a headset, then the mic should be directed to point straight down the keys along the axis of the flute. If the microphone is to be mounted on the instrument, then it can be mounted onto either the body or the head joint and pointed straight down the keys along the axis of the flute.

The best placement choice between body and head-joint will depend on the flute, player and piece, so it is worth experimenting. The head joint tends to have the advantage of quieter key noise, but can be more distracting for the flautist and sometimes captures too much airflow if not positioned carefully.

Clarinet

Mount the microphone onto the bell (approximately 10cm from the end), pointing straight up the keys along the axis of the clarinet.

Oboe

Mount the microphone onto the bell (approximately 5cm from the end), pointing straight up the keys along the axis of the oboe.

Bassoon

Mount the microphone at the top of the bell (approximately 20cm from the end), pointing straight down the keys along the axis of the bassoon.

Brass Microphone and Placement 

Suggested Microphones

Shure PGA98H. If you use the PGA98H-XLR, then you will be able to connect it directly to phantom power. If you use the PGA98H-TQG, then we recommend you use the Shure RPM626 In-Line preamp accessory.

Trumpet, Trombone and Horn Mic Placement 

To place the microphone on any of the brass instruments, clip it to the bell and point the microphone into the throat of the instrument. This placement of the Shure microphone is in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation and industry-standard practice. 

Caution! Ensure the rotation is correct, and the head of the mic is indeed pointed in the right direction or you will effectively be attempting to capture the instrument at 180 degrees with a cardioid microphone that has a high degree of off-axis rejection.

Strings microphones and placement 

Suggested Microphones and Parts List

String Instruments
DPA 4099 + VC4099, CC4099, BC4099 clips for string instruments or DPA 4060 (or 4660) microphone + Symphonova strings mic-holder

Violins and Violas

DPA adapter for micro-dot to 3 pin XLR DAD4099

Cellos and Double Bass

DPA adapter for micro-dot to 3 pin XLR DAD6001

 

Strings Microphone Placement

If the recording is of each musician in full isolation, then a DPA4099 will provide a satisfactory recording. Placement of the microphone should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s and industry-standard practice. 

For live recordings of the musicians playing simultaneously in a shared acoustic space, and/or with other instruments of the orchestra, we recommend using the mic holder and placement designed by Symphonova (see below).

Violins and Viola

Cello and Double Bass

Mount the microphone at the top of the bell (approximately 20cm from the end), pointing straight down the keys along the axis of the bassoon.

How to make the Symphonova Strings Mic Holder

The mic holders can be purchased from us. Alternatively, you can easily make them yourself.

Parts List

  1. Find or cut any soft closed-cell foam into the shape of a disc, hexagon, or square with the following dimensions:
 
  • violin: 5mm thick, 20mm to 25mm diameter 
  • viola: 5mm thick, 25mm to 30mm diameter 
  • cello: 10mm thick, 40mm to 50mm diameter 
  • double-bass:  10mm thick, 60mm to 70mm diameter 
 
  1. Find or cut any soft, open-cell foam into the shape of a cylinder with the following dimensions:
  • viola: 15mm diameter and 20mm long
  • cello: 20mm diameter and 40mm long
  • double-bass:  40mm diameter and 70mm long
 
  1. An awl or similar tool to poke a 1mm hole in the foam
  2. A DUA0560 Windscreen found here (Link)
  3. Cyanoacrylate glue, or any other ‘super’ instant glue

Preparation: Violin

  1. use the awl to poke a hole in the centre of the foam disc 
  2. push the mic through the hole in the foam disc
  3. mount the DUA0560 windscreen onto the mic
  4. carefully apply the glue to the end of the windscreen nearest to and facing the foam disc (without getting glue onto the microphone wire)
  5. press the foam disc against the windscreen and hold for a few seconds

 

Preparation: Viola, Cello and Double Bass

  1. use the awl to poke a hole in the centre of the foam disc. 
  2. push the mic through the hole in the foam disc
  3. starting at the small end of the cylinder (not the side), poke a hole through the centre of the foam cylinder
  4. insert the microphone into the foam cylinder so that the top of the microphone is at the end of the cylinder, but not sticking out beyond the end
  5. carefully apply glue to the end of the foam cylinder nearest to and facing the foam disc  (without getting glue onto the microphone wire)
  6. press the foam disc against the foam cylinder and hold for a few seconds

 

Symphonova Mic-Holder Placement

  1. each instrument-specific microphone holder is inserted into the end of the F hole closest to the finger-board, and on the side of the low string of the instrument
  2. the microphone should be inserted fully, until the foam disk meets the surface of the instrument
  3. gently pull on the mic wire; if it is resistant and remains in place, the microphone is correctly placed

If the mic easily comes out of the instrument when pulling on the mic wire, then re-insert the microphone and gently slide it until the sides of the F hole grab the microphone sufficiently to prevent it from falling out.

Mic Placement: How does it sound?

Some recording engineers and many musicians will not be familiar with the sound of exceedingly dry and close microphone placement. It is a sound that could legitimately be described as thin, unpleasant, raw, uncoloured. To help prepare you for the sound you should expect to hear, that will work well with our system, we have assembled a set of recordings that are illustrative of the sound-quality you may encounter. These are provided as a guide only, and should not be used as a target.

Questions?

You can get in touch by emailing support@symphonova.com or you can contact one of our collaborators who would be very happy to assist you.