Recording Basics

Introduction

For several reasons, hearing a performer in a concert hall and hearing them on a CD are two very different experiences. The perception differs because on stage, people are influenced by a performers movements, colors, and facial expressions. On a CD, a performer must rely on technical precision, tone color, and phrasing. But technique, perfect intonation, and perfection in phrasing will not guarantee a fine recording. Factors such as the distance from the microphone, the type of microphone being used, and acoustics of the room, will greatly effect a recording. The first in establishing recording knowledge and skill is to have a concise overview of the physical properties of sound.

Sound

The most important concept for a recorder to understand with respect to sound, is pitch. A pitch is a series of compressions and rarefactions, which produce a sound wave. This 'frequency' must complete a certain number of cycles within a certain period of time (second). This creates a certain pitch.

A=440h is the standard in the modern era of tuning. This 440 refers to the number of cycles per second. Scales are based on the ratios of cycles, and indeed one octave above 440, is 880. Likewise, one octave below 440 is 220. This concept is important to know, because string players are not bound by the limits of equal temperament tuning (where everything is in exact ratios). We are able to make leading tones slightly higher to resolve into the tonic, and enharmonic equivalents need not be synonymous.

In science class people may have learned that sound is very similar to the wrinkles in water. While this bears truth, it creates the impression that sound is 2-D. The fact is that sound is 3-D, and must be treated as such. When we hear a pitch, such as an 'A', it is the ''fundamental tone''. This is actually a composite of several other tones commonly known as the overtone series.

Microphones

The production of sound on a stringed instrument, is affected by tuning, wood, the bow, humidity, rosin, and strings. Microphones have been produced in accordance to these factors. There are three kinds of basic microphones:

1). Omnidirectional

2). Bi-directional

3). uni-directional

Uni-directional microphones are unique in that they only record sound if it hits the front of it. Bi-directional microphones record sound from the front and the back. The third type of microphone, the omnidirectional, records sounds from all locations.

One important thing to keep in mind is how high or low, in terms of hertz, your instrument can go. It is important to pick a microphone that is within your range.

The best microphone to use is a professional stereo microphone, which is characterized by two omnidirectional microphones. One omnidirectional and one bidirectional microphone can also be a great blessing.

Some tips

1). Vibrato – When recording, vibrato is often too dull or narrow. For it to be successful, it must be on the wide end.

2). Volume – It is not suggested that a wide dynamic range disrupts the actual quality of sound by moving the microphone.

3). Distance – One mistake often made by earlier recording artists, especially Jascha Heifetz, was that they were too close to the microphone. When this happens, 'extra' sounds are heard, and can come across as mistakes. About 3-4 feet away from the microphone allows the tonal pallet of your instrument to be fully explored.

Good luck on the endeavors of recording!

About BKhon

My name is Ben Khon. I'm a copyright reviewer over at the IMSLP wiki, and a site administrator on the IMSLP journal. If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me at Benkhon@hotmail.com My interests include classical music (composition, history, musicology), art, literature, and tea.

5 thoughts on “Recording Basics

  1. Evidently a play on the current Pope’s style — “Bene” = good, “Male” = bad, and XVI (16) uses three of the six Roman letters that give DCLXVI (666)!

    Oh dear, this is completely off-topic. Sorry all. PML

Comments are closed.