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Decades ago I used to play clarinet in school. Recently, my wife and daughters took up violin and viola, and we were talking about instruments when the subject of my clarinet came up. I went to pull it out of the closet, and the kids looked at me with wide eyes as if to say "WHERE DID THAT THING COME FROM?" I played a few notes and my son said "I WANT TO PLAY THAT."

So now I've been practicing with him for a few weeks, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how well my muscle memory has come back. I haven't ever been the kind of musician to record live audio, always staying in the comfort zone of arranging midi, but I'm changing my mind now. I ordered a boom mic stand and a cheap dynamic mic (thinking it might be good enough, and if it sounds horrible I can save up for a nicer one). They should arrive within a week.

I'm wondering if anybody can give me advice on capturing live audio from the woodwind. My room doesn't have any sound treatment; I'm hoping that the cardioid pickup pattern on the dynamic mic won't pick up much ambient noise. From what little I've read, it seems like it would be best to place the mic above the middle of the instrument, rather than at the bell, and that I'll have to experiment with the distance between the two.

Eventually I would like to start recording violin and viola as well, once the ladies have some more experience, but for now I'll start with the clarinet.
Cardioid will help a lot! Yes, have it maybe 6-12 inches from the middle of the instrument, roughly parallel (if side address mic) or perpendicular (if end address mic). I can send you some pictures if you want!

Smaller the space, better it is to get closer, though watch out as Cardioids are susceptible to something called 'proximity effect'- a boosting of low frequencies when the mic is within ~12 inches of the source or closer. This can be both beneficial or detrimental depending on case.

What mic did you get, out of curiosity? SM-57 or 58 I guess, or knockoff? Solid mics, a bit high in noise compared to condensers, but both are quite decent sounding- actually started sampling on those originally way back in "the day" (a.k.a. 2013).

Of course, don't forget- you can always sample yourself. Wink
(10-18-2017, 08:57 PM)Samulis Wrote: [ -> ]What mic did you get, out of curiosity? SM-57 or 58 I guess, or knockoff?

I really wanted to buy the SM57, but I ended up deciding to go even cheaper than that. I read some reviews about a Behringer XM8500 mic that indicated that some people were surprised at how much they liked it considering how cheap it is. The frequency response isn't anywhere near as flat as the SM57 or 58, so it's a toss up whether it will make the clarinet sound good or bad, but like I said, if it sounds horrible, I'm not out much money and can try something else.

I'm curious about the possibilities in sampling, but to start out I think I'm just going to record live parts instead of individual samples. With that said, if I can get the audio to sound any good, and if anybody here is interested in clarinet samples, I'd be willing to give it a try. Specialty things like trills and runs might be fun to capture as samples.
After more practice on the clarinet, I finally got around to trying a recording last night after the kids were in bed (or at least supposed to be). After a few takes, I got one that I think sounded good enough to share:  https://instaud.io/1C15

I'm using a single dynamic mic about 10cm from the instrument in an untreated room. The mic gain was turned almost all the way up on my interface. I added a small concert hall reverb, mixed about 20% wet.

Since I'm so new to recording acoustic instruments, any feedback would be really helpful. It definitely has a "close mic" sound to it, so it might be a challenge to get it to mix well with an orchestral arrangement. I don't hear much noise in the recording, but I'm curious if I'm just not hearing it because I'm accustomed to the noise floor of my untreated room. Incidentally, my wife uses the other side of the room for crafts and sewing, so there are piles of textile materials, foam, batting, etc., which might actually help the room.

Additionally, I'm just starting to practice clarinet again after not doing it for about two decades, so any advice on clarinet technique would also be welcome.
Hi Michael,

Sounds great to me, but take that opinion with a grain of salt - back in school I was in the percussion section, and my ears are still ringing!  I was wondering if you could post that sample with no reverb/fx.  I'd be interested to hear a close-mic "raw" instrument without anything to color/smooth the sound.

Anyway, sounds beautiful as-is...

Thanks,
CH
Sounds pretty good, I definitely cannot play that much on a clarinet, haha! I looked at it under the spectrograph in Audition and the noise floor seems pretty low, good enough to do sampling with nothing more than a little denoising pass for sure.

Standard mic placement for all woodwinds is about 8-24" from the center, facing directly at the middle of the instrument at a perpendicular angle to the body of the instrument. You can try a few different angles and positions though, which may yield more or less desirable results depending on the instrument, mic, and space. Edit: with most affordable mics (which just so happen to be cardioid pattern), you will notice a large increase in low frequencies at distances closer than about 12", slowly ramping up as you get closer and closer. This is called proximity effect, and can be used beneficially or attempted to be mitigated by mic placement. A good distance is the "BBC Distance", as I call it, which is stretching out your thumb and pinky as far as they go from each other (like you are making a 'hand telephone') and holding that between you and the mic so your pinky touches the grill and your thumb touches your mouth or instrument. This typically gives a decent balance, particularly for voice, and also helps standardize the volume you will get when playing or talking across multiple takes.

I did a quick recording pass showing a few differences. I unfortunately don't have a clarinet on me, so a tin whistle will have to do (very different instrument, but the idea is still the same)... also, the neighbor upstairs was running their dishwasher... oh well. Clarinets don't have chiffs, but they do have reeds and finger holes (and the players have heads with mouths and noses that make noises), so position of the mic will have an effect of its own.

"as is" sound clip (some denoising done to mitigate the dishwasher, other than that, untouched): https://instaud.io/1CnF
Normalized clip (so all the examples are roughly equal in volume, although it wasn't very scientific because I did it by hand/ear): https://instaud.io/1CnH

Just as the doctor ordered- good general balance of chiff and body/tone
[attachment=38]

Very chiffy/sharp
[attachment=39]

Warmer, rounder
[attachment=40]

Distant, somewhat strange sounding (don't do this for most ww's)
[attachment=41]

Try a few and see what you like! Or, post up what you get with the different positions and we can ruthlessly criticize- I uh, mean, offer our opinions on what we think sounds best.

Fun side-note- if you try putting reverb on my track, you'll hear the farther positions actually sound really bad/strange because of all the room tone. This issue is somewhat mitigated by recording in stereo (i.e. with two mics), I've found.
Thanks for the feedback. I have a new recording with a few new things that I'm trying. I put a duvet behind me as a poor man's sound treatment, and stepped away from the mic. I think this time the distance was about 30 or 40 cm. I'm trying to get better at playing the upper register notes (conspicuously absent from my last recording) without the "grunt" that is a global plague on clarinetists. I also mixed in a sampled piano, trying to work on the eventual goal of mixing live clarinet with multiple virtual instruments. I put both sounds through a single concert hall reverb, but other than that I didn't use any audio processing.

https://instaud.io/1FeB

The composition is original. As before, any feedback is welcome, since I'm working on a new skill.
I don't know much about sound treatment but I thought your composition was good. I would however dial back the reverb a little. The piano and clarinet sound to me like they are all alone in a large hall with no audience. As it is, the reverb is a little distracting for me. Otherwise, your clarinet playing sounded good. I had to laugh a little after the last note when I could clearly hear you release the keys. Yep, that's an up close live recording.   Big Grin
Thanks Paul and J Mcmillan!

Yesterday I did another experiment, this time mixing the live clarinet with a sampled piano, the pipe chimes that I sampled a couple of months back, and a subtractive synth pad:

https://instaud.io/1GhF

(01-20-2018, 06:40 PM)Paul Battersby Wrote: [ -> ]I would however dial back the reverb a little. The piano and clarinet sound to me like they are all alone in a large hall with no audience. As it is, the reverb is a little distracting for me.

Indeed, I'm still working on my understanding of the parameters available in my reverb plugin. There are a number of things that can be adjusted, and I'm not always certain which ones to use. Sam's prior commentary has been really helpful, so I think I'm getting closer. In this case, would you say that the decibel level on the reverb is too high, or is the decay time too long? My eventual goal is to blend in full orchestration; do you think that it's possible that my current settings would be suitable if I had more instruments filling out all of that space?

(01-20-2018, 06:40 PM)Paul Battersby Wrote: [ -> ]I had to laugh a little after the last note when I could clearly hear you release the keys. Yep, that's an up close live recording.   Big Grin

Ha! I'm glad to got a good laugh. As I review this one, I can actually hear the key work throughout. It's very subtle; I doubt that anybody else will really notice it, and I don't think it's unpleasant, so I've decided not to worry about it. As I go about trying to arrange more elaborate pieces with clarinet solos, I may end up cutting off the end of each take, since releasing all of the keys at once is a lot more noticeable as you pointed out.

(01-22-2018, 12:22 PM)jmcmillan Wrote: [ -> ]I think the tone sounds good. Just a thought...the track You Can’t Sit Here from the Forest Gump soundtrack has a clarinet part in the first few measures. Maybe try to recreate that as reference.

And now I know what a duvet is Smile

I must admit that I'm among the few who haven't watched that movie, but I listened to some of the soundtrack this morning. It has several really beautiful clarinet parts! I'll definitely have to continue reviewing it as reference material. I noticed that the clarinet solos aren't as "in your face" as my experimental recordings, so I will work on arranging more orchestration and see what I can do about making the clarinet sound a bit more distant and blend more with the rest of the sounds.
(01-22-2018, 04:17 PM)Michael Willis Wrote: [ -> ]There are a number of things [re: reverb] that can be adjusted, and I'm not always certain which ones to use.

Generally I just choose a hall reverb, then adjust the amount of signal each track sends to it. Even when soloed I try not to make the amount of reverb too obvious on a track. I'm not looking for a distinct echo, just a little ambience and depth.


(01-22-2018, 04:17 PM)Michael Willis Wrote: [ -> ]In this case, would you say that the decibel level on the reverb is too high, or is the decay time too long? My eventual goal is to blend in full orchestration

I don't mess with decay times. Just the percentage of the signal each track sends to the reverb.


(01-22-2018, 04:17 PM)Michael Willis Wrote: [ -> ]do you think that it's possible that my current settings would be suitable if I had more instruments filling out all of that space?

The danger is that adding together instruments that when soloed have too much reverb can end up in an amorphous blob of sound for a final mix.



(01-22-2018, 04:17 PM)Michael Willis Wrote: [ -> ]Ha! I'm glad to got a good laugh.

Not because of the performance or composition or anything like that but just because I could picture you, after the last note, simultaneously lifting all your fingers off the keys without realizing how well the microphone would pick that up.


(01-22-2018, 04:17 PM)Michael Willis Wrote: [ -> ]... releasing all of the keys at once is a lot more noticeable as you pointed out.

Yes, a more staggered approach, lifting one finger at at time, or waiting to provide an easily editable gap of silence before releasing the keys, might be better.