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Recording Opera

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David Jones
Recording Opera
on May 5, 2008 at 6:49:47 pm

Hi All-

I'm going to be recording a female singer, singing (mostly opera) and I need some advice :o) Here's the set up: one singer on stage (high school-size auditorium) with piano. The mic I have to use for the singer is an AT-4050 going into my Wendt mixer, then to a hard disk (not sure what kind it will be). My questions are: where should I place the mic in reference to the singer, and how (and with what) should I mic the piano (assuming I have every type of This is one of those recording situations I've never been in, and I know it can depend on a hundred different things but, I'm just looking for some general guidence.

Thanks, Dave

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Peter Perry
Re: Recording Opera
on May 5, 2008 at 8:56:20 pm

Hi David,
What a loaded question!!
Some things you need to consider are:
Is the singer going to be stationary?
Next to or far away from the piano?
Are audience sightlines an issue?
How important is the piano sound? Are you looking for just a reference or do you need a nice stereo recording?
What is your budget?

If the piano and singer are stationary in the center of the stage and sightlines are NOT and issue, google "ORTF recording". There are many articles online on how to do this technique. You will record singer and piano in one stereo field. Your AT4050 alone won't cut it, though.

If your piano is off to one side of the stage and the singer is going to be moving around the stage, I would put a wireless mic on her, and run the cable up the back of her neck, and hide the mic head just inside her hairline, and in the center of her forehead. That way, no matter where she goes or how she turns her head, her sound will be consistent.
Then I would take your 4050 and put it on a boom stand, and stick it about 5 ft. in front of the piano at piano level.
If that piano micing technique is a little too bush league, (and it is), then renting a couple of 414's and spacing them inside the piano about 1/3 of the way in from each side and 2 feet above the strings is a better alternative. If you want better than that let us know, there are other techniques that are more time consuming and expensive to pull off.
If you go this route, consider having another mic (stereo?) on the lip of the stage or a little ways into the audience to capture some ambience because she will sound a little dry.
Let us know if you have any more questions.
I am sure everyone is going to chime in with their favorite techniques that will differ from these, just pick the ones that fit your budget and sound right to you. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

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David Jones
Re: Recording Opera
on May 6, 2008 at 9:07:53 pm

Thanks Peter-

Yeah, the singer will be stationary but probably not near the piano, and I don't think sightlines are an issue. I WISH I had a couple of 414's! I guess I was wondering, in using a mic like the AT 4050 (or some other condenser), how far away from the singer it should be; and if I have to use that for the singer, what type of mic I could get away with for the piano. This is not a paying (or critical) "gig" but something I was more-or-less doing as an experiment. The only wireless units I have are the HM 400's w/411a's and the dress she's waring provides no place to hid it. But, if I went that way, what type of lav mic would you recommend?

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Steven Beers
Re: Recording Opera
on Jul 2, 2008 at 3:32:04 am

If she is stationary and sightlines are not an issue, definitely go with the 4050 in front of her. Keep her AT LEAST a foot away from the mic. Engage the pad if she is like most Opera singers, because she can distort the capsule without much effort. I'd keep it a little below directly on axis with her mouth, and point it up at her as she sings. This will keep the breaths and direct bursts on the mic to a minimum, but still give you a great clean sound.

As far as the piano goes, most condensers can get you great sound. Shure makes their KSM series, which are surprisingly nice and round on a piano. 414's are great, and 4033's can be very nice too. It's like Peter said, there are a thousand different ways to do it. If you could get yourself a pair of Neumann U67's, you would have a Piano sound that would floor you. If you don't get that luxury, then start figuring out what you have, use your ears to place the mics you have in a good spot, and keep the signal clean. You will get a good sound.

P.S. While you are searching for ORTF, also look up a Decca Tree for the room, or M/S recording on the Piano. All very very cool techniques.

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