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Recording Strings in the Home Studio Washington DC

There is no replacement for what the instrument and room in combination have to offer, and finding the “sweet spot” to set up mics is a process of discovery that one needs to embark upon with an earnest approach.

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Recording Strings in the Home Studio

Many people think that recording violins, cellos, or for that matter anynon-fretted string instrument requiresspecial handling. They think that onemust have the correct room with theexact dimensions to cull the naturalflavor out of the instrument.

Well, this is not so. It is actually a vicious rumor spread by engineerswho specialize in classical recordings,because they need a good reason tojustify all of the money they spent on gear and how much they charge perhour. Okay, I admit I am exaggeratinghere—and I apologize to any wonderful classical-music engineers I mayhave offended—but I’m simply tryingto get home-studio musicians to stopfearing the practice of recording acoustic instruments. Trust me, you can get a great string sound in the comforts of your home studio.

 

General Guidelines

Find the sweetest sound. There is noreplacement for what the instrumentand room in combination have to offer, and finding the “sweet spot” toset up mics is a process of discovery that one needs to embark upon withan earnest approach. What does the instrument sound like from two feet away, three feet away, and so on? Move around the room, and find thesweet spots as the players play, and then set your mics in those positions.The distances given here are a rough approximation of where to start this process.

Go easy on the outboard gear. I am not going to discuss specific EQ or compression formulas with any of these techniques, because there are no real formulas set in stone. Every sound varies from player to player,and from instrument to instrument. As a rule of thumb, I keep my micpreampinput levels at about halfwayto 60 percent so I won’t blow anythingout, and I also want to keep the sound as pristine and authentic as possible with no preamp artifacts. Ialways adjust the mic position beforeI go near any outboard gear, because EQ and compression can compromise the integrity of the organic signal.

Everything needs to breathe. I havesaid it before, and I will continue toespouse the concept of “air as yourfriend.” Generally speaking, natural ambience makes all things warm andgooey. If you take it air away, theinstruments can sound odd, and youcan’t really duplicate a natural soundwith reverb processors. It’s best todocument the “air in the room,” orthe distance between the sound source and the microphone, by,once again, experimenting with micpositioning. If there’s too much distance from the source sound, the signalwill sound mushy. Too littledistance, and it will sound harsh. Buta blend that’s just right delivers amagnificent aural experience.

Specific Instrument Tips

Upright bass. Of all the string instruments,you would think this one requires the most room to breathe, but this is not necessarily so. I havefound that using a two-mic methodworks best for this instrument. I startby using a great low-end microphonesuch as an Electro-Voice RE20 or anAKG D112. I place it about bridgeheight, somewhere in between thef-hole and the bridge at a distance ofabout 12 inches. Of course, al...

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