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I am wondering what would be the right set up to record the sound of a pipe organ in a cathedral/church.

If this is the church:

                         +
                         |
  -----------------------|
 /                        \
/  ()                      \
|  ()()                    |
|  ()()=*                  ^
============================
   ^    ^Organist
   Pipe organ

The organist will not hear the same sound which is in the center the church. Also, there are the sounds of the keys and pedals being pressed.

I assume there should be a microphone somewhere in the middle of the church to capture the sound of the organ, without capturing the sound of the keys.

I have a studio microphone which I have used for recording human voice in a studio-like environment. Will that do the job?

What is the right microphone/setup to record the sound of the organ in the best way?

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Distance is your key. Do not record too close to the organ or it will sound very weak. The larger/louder the instrument, the further away you would want to place the mic array. You want to balance the distance so that you are getting an even balance of reverberant sound and direct sound from the organ.

Of course, if you were recording a chamber organ, then you could record closer, but most cathedral organs don't fall into this category.

You can get a decent recording with two mics, but I generally use 4 for a little more control in the mix.

Two mics will be directional - I find ORTF Cardioid works well. The other two will be omnidirectional and very widely spaced either side of the ORTF mics.

Try to use high stands if at all possible. Mine are large manfrotto lookout and lighting stands which get me about 10-12 meters high.

At the distance you need to record, the sound of the keys, stops and pedals won't be an issue.

Capsules used in this setup: MK4 (ORTF) MK2s (Wide spaced outriggers). Each pair panned hard L/R in the mix.

Considering your 'studio' voice mic - the frequency response of your organ mics need to be as flat as possible. Studio 'voice' mics generally don't exhibit a flat frequency response as they are tailored for voice frequencies and will likely have an attenuated lower end to cope with 'proximity effect'. Consequently they are not suitable for recording instruments at a distance, which you need when recording an organ.

Example sound is: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0yaqavubuur80xs/ANSCO-NOTREDAME-003_5.m4a?dl=0

Melbourne St Patricks Recording

  • That is really useful information! I am wondering, tho, if there is a more minimal/cheaper setup? I haven’t recorded yet, but will it sound bad if I record it with a mono studio microphone, placed on a microphone stand in the church? – Ionică Bizău Jun 16 at 12:36
  • Yes. It will sound shocking. The minimum possible setup is two condensor cardioid mics in ORTF. I can't even bear to think about what it will sound like with a single mono mic. I'll probably have an emotional breakdown. Organs are awesome instruments to record. Recording one with a mono voice mic would be like trying to drink a glass of 1965 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti alongside a McDonalds Big Mac. There are some things you just don't do. This is one of them. – Mark Jun 16 at 12:44
  • Gotcha! :) I need to find someone to record the audio for me then. 🙂 Thanks! – Ionică Bizău Jun 16 at 14:15
  • If flying me out from Australia is in your budget, more than happy to help! :-) – Mark Jun 16 at 14:39
  • Our of curiosity, how much would your work cost if I’d be in Australia (recording + professing etc)? I’m struggling to find someone good around... – Ionică Bizău Jun 16 at 15:43
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You say you "have a studio micro microphone". Does the microphone call itself a studio microphone, possibly using the attribute "professional"? Or does it have (documented) equivalent noise levels and frequency/directional characteristics that give some credence to its claim? The distance (if any) with which the microphone (of which you will need several anyway) can be used quite depends on this. Basically you get more reverb the more you move backwards from the organ. A placement within the first third of a church is usually called for to get a reasonable amount of direct sound.

Is there an actual audience? If it is, you want to rather get closer than if there isn't because an audience is noisy in itself. Microphone stands with sufficient height may allow you to record over their heads.

There usually is a significant amount of reverb from most directions. A cardioid microphone tends to offer the best way to balance the sound since it is insensitive at its back. If audience noise is a problem, a hypercardioid might offer better options of avoiding crowd noise, particularly when using high microphone stands.

If you are recording from closer up, be sure to get a sound check: organs can be super loud and you don't want to have microphone or recording equipment clip.

  • “Micro microphone” was an unwanted typo. That’s a good recommendation! – Ionică Bizău Jun 16 at 12:17

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