Recording Techniques

Quite a few recording techniques were employed in the production of the live recordings published on this website.

My favorite recording technique is “binaural” using small omni-directional microphones. High portability and flexibility and the ultimate realism of soundscape capture are considered among the big advantages of such approach. Microphones may be mounted on glasses, on collar or on some stable structure when available, like rack or a plain table.

Small dimensions of mic elements allow for placing them right up against surfaces like a table’s without fear of serious sound impact due to reflections. This is because the reflected sound wave is essentially the same as the incident one at the microphone which is almost the point of reflection (well, at least in sounds below 30 kHz). However, you should keep in mind that not all surfaces reflect all the sound frequencies equally, which actually can introduce frequency imbalance of up to 3 dB across the audible range. Sometimes this may be unacceptable as perfect equalization will be hard to attain, so other mountings may be preferred.

Mounting mics on the recordist’s collar seems to be an ideal solution in many situations: in contrast to eye-glasses mounts you retain larger freedom of movements (you can turn your head!) and better sighting experience (if you don’t wear glasses normally). Disadvantages compared to glasses mount are poorer channel separation and bigger susceptibility to cloth rustle. Also, as microphones are in a lower position your choice of recording spot has to provide that people in front of you don’t shadow the mics or you’re gonna loose much of the highs.

Whichever mic mount method you choose you almost always acquire a great deal of “live” sense in your recording, though at times it is desirable to capture artists performance cleaner and freer of audience excitement display and the venue acoustic effects.

This is where a recorder is fed from a mixing console. Whenever possible I try to make a good use of stereo pan controls in the console. This usually has little effect on the auditorium sound, but the difference in the recording is tremendous (listen for e.g. to my “dry but panned” recordings from ICA and then downmix to mono and listen again). Though it does not constitute the natural stereo image it is nevertheless perceived much more favorably than straight mono.

I’d emphasize that sound engineers who prefer to mix everything (except probably for effects) in mono in live performances make a good job as a rule thanks to the fact that the audience has an additional benefits of visual guidance from the stage and natural echo from the surroundings. By this simplification sound people can direct their efforts towards otherwise more important balancing of levels, frequencies, effects etc.

Generally being not a big fan of effects I regard these “sweeteners” adequate for making recordings a little bit more “wet” albeit the main use of effects is probably in correction of not-so-perfect room acoustics. Adding dimensions to a small room with reverb is a good example.

OK, enough about techniques for now, please go check the material (Recordings & Events sections)

Note, you may run across a number of low-bitrate recordings here. Some of them are low-bitrate encoded for storage/bandwidth efficiency reasons; some are protected in this manner from unauthorized use. In any case they are likely of satisfactory quality, with minimum sound degradation, presenting no trouble for general listening.

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