After the early presentation and demonstrations at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz audio studio and lunch break, we setup a recording session in the large concert space at the school. The hall had a small stage with a couple of grand pianos and a harpsichord and an audience area containing about 300 moveable chairs. The plan was to record a jazz quartet demonstrating my miking techniques for the students.
Moritz and I went through their microphone cabinet and selected a variety of condenser and dynamic mikes includes some Schoeps MK 21s, Neumann 184s, a Sennheiser 421 for the kick drum, and a few AKG mikes. We selected 14 microphones to be deployed around a drum kit, acoustic bass, piano, and tenor saxophone.
The concert hall had tie lines connecting the main control room where Mortiz had an HD ProTools rig and a controller. I spent the next hour explaining to the students how to arrange the microphones around the instruments, why I chose the microphones, and why I place them as I do. Most of the students had no real experience setting up microphones and weren’t terribly comfortable with the whole situation…but we managed.
We started with the piano. I’ve written extensively on how and why I mike a grand piano as I do. Despite the contrary opinion of some amateurs, I’ve found the best sound…the most realistic sound…can be captured by placing two stereo pairs of microphones inside the instrument. I use a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics (a couple of Schoeps in this case) in an XY stereo configuration on the highest range of the piano and a couple of large diaphragm condensers in an ORTF configuration over the power part of the piano harp.
This guarantees an intimate sound and the flexibility to create mixes with both narrow and expansive spatial presentations. Choosing to use a single stereo pair at some distance from the piano limits options during the postproduction phase of a project. In addition, having the microphones “close up” means that the ultimate delivery system…the speakers…become the location of the piano. I prefer listening to a piano from about 10 feet away…other may prefer the sound sitting further. The students and pianist seemed to agree that the sound of the piano was particularly compelling.
I placed another stereo pair of large diaphragm Rode condensers on an ORTF pair in front of the acoustic bass just above the bridge. The use of a stereo pair opens the overall sound from a point source to a 3 dimensional sound image. When tracks were in limited supply, using a single microphone was a requirement…not anymore.
We used 7 microphones for the drums. The kick drum, high hat, snare, high tom, and floor tom each got their own mic and track (Sennheiser 421, KM-184s and an AKG 414 in order). A pair of Schoeps omni-cardioid MK21s on a long stereo bar were placed in a wide ORTF pattern over the top of the drummer.
Finally, a single Neumann U-87 was placed directly in front of the tenor saxophone player above the bell and about 18 inches away.
Several of the students plugged in all of the microphones according to chart Moritz provided and we returned to the control room for some initial sound checks.
To be continued.