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Hi sounddesign community! (TLDR @ bottom. Also, If this is the wrong community to ask in, would you please direct me to a better suited place? Thanks!!) I’m a pretty amateur musician, and recently I’ve discovered a pretty accessible recording location with some great acoustics. They could probably be better, I’m no expert, but it’s much better than places I’ve played in before. (For reference, I really just play for my own pleasure, just trying to find places that sound pretty to play in) The room is fairly large, and mostly hard tile or glass, reflective type surfaces.

My question, is what type of microphone would be the best for recording my instrument, a violin, in this setting? Would I capture sound better with a violin pickup or condenser mic on my instrument, or would it be better to use an off-instrument mic? Also, if an off instrument mic would be better, what type, and what recording pattern? Sorry for all the questions, I’m fairly new to recording =P.

TL;DR On instrument pickup/condenser, or off instrument microphone for a decent sized reflective/live room to record a violin?

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Firstly, the best result will be one where the final product is stereo. Basically in an environment such as this you are actually going to be recording two 'instruments'.

  • The violin
  • The room

Both require consideration and treatment in the mix.

The easiest solution from a controllability perspective would be a spaced pair of omnidirectional microphones to pick up the 'room' and a single cardioid 'spot' mic a few feet away from the violin to focus the solo instrument in the mix.

This is often the solution I would use when going into an unknown environment and needing to get a good result quickly.

If you have a little bit more time on your hands and can spend time positioning the mics, you can get away with a single pair of omnidirectional mics and simply position the solo instrument at a specific distance from the pair so that the balance between the room reverberation and the direct sound from the solo instrument is satisfactory. This will take some trial and error, but once you get it right, you can simply mark the spots and reproduce at a later date.

If you are finding that the room is so reverberant that you need to tame the room somewhat, you will need to start considering using directional mics. A good place to start here is to use a pair of 'cardioid' mics in an ORTF pattern (17 cm spacing 110 degree angle) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORTF_stereo_technique). This will give you a good stereo soundstage and allow you to keep the room somewhat under control. Again, you will have to experiment with distance in order to achieve the correct balance.

Hopefully it goes without saying that with ORTF and a single solo instrument, you should position the solo instrument between the two mics so that it sits in the centre of the stereo soundstage.

  • Thanks a ton for the detail and information!! This part I can probably handle on my own through a bit of research, but do you have any suggestions as to whether any particular brand or model of mic picks up room/string sound better than another, or is it more of a what you pay is what you get thing? – StarkRights Jun 16 at 1:03
  • Definitely you pay for what you get. I prefer Schoeps MK4 or MK21 as string spots personally, although if I had any, original KM84 cardioid are excellent string spots. I have no idea what your budget is, but I am keen to try the new Rode TF-5 cardioids at some point when I have a lazy $1500 - which won't be any time soon! With strings you are looking for a warm sound. A lot of the cheaper cardioids will give you a harsh sound which won't be mitigated with position changes. Avoid the cheap cardioids as much as you are able. – Mark Jun 16 at 10:02
  • Please feel the urge to keep us posted on how you are going with this. Feel free to post recording clips - more than happy to give you constructive feedback on the result and help move your technique forward as much as possible - if of course you are happy to do so. – Mark Jun 16 at 10:03

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