Meeting Topic: The Art of Recording Strings
Moderator Name: Jeremy Wegrzyn
Speaker Name: Tom Bates
Meeting Location: Durgin Concert Hall, Lowell, MA, USA
The Art of Recording Strings
The University of Massachusetts Lowell would like to thank Tom Bates for coming to give a talk on classical string instruments and micing techniques.
"It's part science and part art."
Mr. Bates began his talk with an history of violin construction and the people who revolutionized it. He discussed the process of construction and how it affects the sound of the instrument. This led seamlessly into a detailed account of what sounds of string instruments exist in what frequencies (string noise generally sits around multiples of 1.5 kHz, for example) and the techniques Mr. Bates uses to record these instruments.
"There are wrong ways, but there is more than one right way."
In talking about the process he goes through to record strings, especially live string ensembles, Mr. Bates told the audience that we should ask ourselves, "what do I want to achieve and how do I get there?". He recommended that we all acquaint ourselves with the specific strengths and weaknesses of certain configurations. He mentioned certain exercises he has done in testing stereo mic arrangements which quickly gained interest in the crowd, at least among the students present. He also went through his system for choosing the right spot in a hall for microphone placement, a process involving an intensive walk towards the stage, while listening carefully for the reverb/direct balance.
To help reinforce this advice, he played several examples of his work and detailed what microphones he used as well as their arrangement. These examples ranged from Mozart piano quintets played by the Moscow String Quartet to songs by Joni Mitchell.
At the end of the presentation, Mr. Bates took questions from the audience. A wide range of topics were discussed. Mr. Bates gave some tips on reverb, equalization, and compressions, specifically dealing with classical strings. He also delved into some techniques for recording pianos in different styles such as classical, pop, and jazz.
We concluded with some late night refreshments and some critical listening in the Critical Listening Classroom.
-Jeremy Wegrzyn, Secretary, UMass Lowell Student Section of the Audio Engineering Sociey