Back at my desk

Mixing desk, that is.

I own a lot of recording kit, and in the past I attempted to set up a home recording business. It never took off, and in the end I only used it a handful of times, and to record some music with my then flatmate.

Since then, it’s sadly sat around gathering dust.

But this weekend I was asked to record the Passiontide Sequence evening choral service at St Mary’s church, Fishponds, based on an order of service called The Way of the Cross. It was pretty short notice and I was fairly disorganised (such as remembering on the afternoon that all but two of my microphone stands are in my parents’ attic!).

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed tinkering and playing with the kit, and I’m extremely pleased with the outcome. Click the icon below to hear a sample – Trisagion VII from The Way of the Cross.

Trisagion VII

I haven’t recorded this choir or organ before, or done any work in the church itself. In the end I decided to use an XY crossed pair of small-diaphragm condensers in front of the choir stalls, and a single large-diaphragm condenser on a tall stand a few metres away from the organ pipes (above the door at the opposite end of the church).

Lessons learnt:

  • Small-diaphragm condensers can be quite sibilant
  • Small-diaphragm condensers are not great at picking up the lower frequencies (bass and tenor singers). Next time I will probably use a crossed pair of small-diaphragm condensers and a crossed pair of dynamic microphones to pick up the full range of frequencies and worry about blending the signals later.
  • The organist suggested that the microphone was a bit too close to the organ and would probably be swamped by the high sound pressure level. As it turns out, SPL wasn’t a problem, but in future I will place the microphone a few feet further back to collect a more even and colourful image of the organ. Of course, pipe organ’s aren’t supposed to be listened to at five metres’ range, or your head will explode.
  • I may try replacing the single large-diaphragm condenser for the organ with a pair of dynamic mics, to get the organ recorded in stereo too.
  • Pipe organs make a lot of hissing from air leaks, which shows up in the recording as background hiss. Be prepared to do a some kind of intelligent noise reduction (rather than just cutting out all high frequencies, which also removes the letter S).
  • Buildings like churches are always bigger than you think. I thought that a 10m cable would reach to the organ microphone, but I had to join 2 x 10m cables together. I will buy some 20m cables for next time!

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