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Topic: OT: recording an organ

  1. #1

    OT: recording an organ

    I need to record an organ recital in a couple of days. Does anyone have any quick hints about how best to record the organ ? Multiple mics ? Placement ? Separate recording of the audience or back of the hall ?

    This isn't for a master CD, but I'd like to make it as good as possible.


  2. #2

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    Every building is different, every instrument is different so build in plenty of time to experiment with mic placing, but a coincident stereo pair say 10 to 20 meters from the instrument (keep checking those earphones) and a stereo pair way back in the hall/church to capture the ambient sound of the instrument in the hall plus the audience will be enough to get a good recording. Record these to 4 audio tracks. You can then mix these pairs to your pleasure once you are back in the studio to get a closer or more distant perspective for your taste.
    My personal choice would be to keep the ambient mics as far apart as possible, and a preferable situation would be to keep all these mics as high as possible. You often see mics in a church or cathedral strung on wire from the triforium or somewhere similar, or on really high stands.
    Don't be tempted to put mics inside
    Others will no doubt come in with other ideas, but this will work I promise.


    It just occurred to me to add that you could get a perfectly good recording with just the first pair of mics if that was an issue, but you'd want to be very careful about the distance from the instrument whilst setting up to get it 'just right'. You might also want to go a bit closer on a small instrument - let the ears decide!

  3. #3

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    Thanks Barrie ! That certainly helped for the sound check today.

    The hall seats about 1000 people and has a vaulted roof.

    I had one pair on a balconey immediately to the left of the stage, and another pair at the back of the hall. The balconeys won't be open to the public on the day so that's where I'm setting up.

    I had thought the sound at the front would be best (even though I'm off-centre), but I think the pair at the very back of the hall had a much better sound. The front pair were picking up some pedal noise and other "clicky" ambience. The back was very smooth but not too distant. It's a very old hall and I think the acoustics have been well engineered.

    The venue manager suggested recording directly behind the organ in the guts of the machine (where they've apparantly recorded before), but the pedal noise was terrible. ( I also didn't fancy being trapped in their with the only exit directly onto the stage ! )


  4. #4

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    Sounds like you've got it sussed - these instruments are designed to fill the acoustic space they are installed in so capturing the ambient acoustic isn't a bad thing at all - now let me think...can you imagine buying a flute with a permanent reverb attached?


  5. #5

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    The event was pretty good, but unfortunately there was some sort of truck parade on a nearby road ! Lots of revving engines adding bass rumble. That spoiled some of the very soft pieces (I'm sure none of these were played at the sound check). But the medium to loud pieces worked out very well.

    Next time I think I'll place a pair right up front specifically to get the soft stuff only.

    By the way Barrie, at the risk of asking the obvious, why avoid getting in too close to the organ itself ?

  6. #6

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    It all depends on the instrument and venue but organs tend to be a big sound source so getting too close might not benefit the stereo image, but that's why you have the 'room' mics as well, and I would have suggested you kept your balcony mics up and recording because even a tiny amount of these closer mics mixed in could help to sharpen up the overall image from the 'audience' mics.

    Then there's the dynamic range of the instrument, you could easily find yourself in the red when the organist pulls the pedal reeds and tuba mirabilis! And there's always the issue of mechanical noise - there's a lot going on under the hood even without the steady hiss of escaping air!!

    You can tell I speak as an ex organist (if you can be an ex-organist...perhaps, like Catholics, you never cease to be an organist, you just don't practice any more) - I've had the pleasure of both playing and recording recitals - but rock-n-roll won out in the end!!



    ...and trucks and traffic noise in the quiet bits? Don't start me on that - I think they are just drawn subconsciously to organ and choir recordings..

  7. #7

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    Yes, I could have done with a closer, cleaner pair. The nearest mic was probably about 10metres away, but still didn't seem close enough. The overall recording is just a touch reverb-heavy for my taste.

    My best mic was almost unusable in the end because it was just too sensitive ! Picked up every little sound - even the sheet music pages being flipped turned into this sort of "slicing swish" noise !

    It's a lot more difficult than I first imagined.

  8. #8

    Re: OT: recording an organ

    I think location recording is a permanent learning curve isn't it?

    You just have to set up belt and braces and some more and hope you have everything covered - studio recording is much less stressful!



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